Written by James
Our kitchen isn’t quite finished, as with a lot of the house (sorry Catrin!). But we are already very proud of it.
We wanted quite a specific look and decided it needed to be bespoke. That immediately created budget issues. So the fairly easy decision was taken to make our own.
If we had got our units made for us it would have come in at around £3k. But we managed to get them all made for just under £600 with only a basic amount of my carpentry skills needed. Not bad!
How did we do this? Well it starts with a choice of material. Catrin and I love the look of bare wood but were more keen on a block colour for the units. This led to a compromise of having the bare wood look on the insides. With this in mind I chose to go with birch plywood to make the unit carcasses and moisture resistant MDF for the doors, drawer fronts and side panels.
Birch plywood is a beautiful material and we especially love the laminated (striped) edge profile. You can buy this from timber merchants for around £55 per sheet if you haggle the price down to trade prices. The moisture resistant (green) MDF is around £25 per sheet. For standard kitchen units 18mm thick sheets are best. I also used 4mm plywood for the backs of the units.
I’m not going to get into too much detail about dimensions. The great thing about making your own units is that you can make them any size you like! Just bear in mind the widths that worktops are sold in and any appliances you will want to integrate into the units. The standard worktop height is 920mm and kitchen unit legs are around 150mm high so work back from those dimensions.
We decided on four base units 800mm wide which would all contain three sets of drawers. The wall units are 500mm wide and on the island we had an 800mm wide belfast sink unit and two 600mm wide units either side.
I went with a simple box design for the units, as shown with the wall unit below. Once you have decided on dimensions you can either cut the pieces yourself, if you have the tools, or give the timber merchants a cutting list so that all the pieces come to you ready to assemble!
Putting the units together (once the pieces have been cut) is pretty simple. You just screw the butt joints together, accompanied by gluing for extra strength. To do this you will need a drill, wood glue, all-in-one countersink and pilot bit, and MDF or chipboard screws with appropriate screw bit to screw them in. Use three screws on each joint. Once the box frame is made, make sure they are square and then nail the backs on to keep them square. To check if they are square, measure both diagonals and these should be equal.
If you are making drawers, like us, these are made in exactly the same way, you just need to ensure the width of the drawers is smaller than the internal width of the unit by the thickness of the drawer runners.
The doors and drawer fronts are simply cut from the moisture resistant MDF to the outside dimensions of the units, minus 2mm on each edge.
All the surfaces and edges of units, drawers, doors, etc need a light sanding before finishing. For all the finishing I tend to use a mini roller with gloss (foam) head. For the birch plywood I used two coats of a polyurethane varnish to bring out the wood grain and protect from the usual kitchen messes.
For the MDF I used a wood and metal paint from B&Q that was colour matched to Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue. The tricky part of finishing MDF is to get smooth edges. What I find works well is to do three coats of paint, sanding back each time (once completely dry) with 120 grit sandpaper. After the final coat I then applied two coats of the polyurethane varnish.
The doors were all hung on standard, soft close concealed hinges and the drawer fronts were simply screwed to the front of the drawer boxes from the inside. The drawers are then hung on ball bearing, soft close runners. We used a lovely, elegant copper handle.
The base units all need four (or six if they are big) legs screwed on the bottom. With these, just make sure the front legs are all the same distance back from the front edge as the plinths/kick boards with be attached to these. These can be bought for around £2 for four legs.
The last parts are the side panels and plinths, which need to be cut to size as required once the units are all fitted.
We spent £405 on birch plywood, £75 on moisture resistant MDF and £95 on fixtures and fittings. A grand total of £575. To buy the equivalent of what we have off the shelf would be around £1,500, and as discussed earlier a bespoke kitchen like this would be more like £3,000 so I think we’ve done quite well on the budget!
I intend to go into more detail on some aspects, such as fitting drawers, later as I’m conscious I don’t want to create too lengthy a post.
We’ll be posting some pictures of the finished kitchen, with a few more details about other materials used, later, so watch out for them!
Feel free to ask some questions about making a kitchen and fitting it. I know I haven’t covered everything in here but I just wanted to show you it is possible to get a stylish looking kitchen for not too much money.