Planning a kitchen
By Liz Ransome-Croker
Article 2 of 10
Kick off your kitchen planning by measuring the space you have to play with and noting what can and can't be moved.
If you'd prefer to get professional help with the planning of your new kitchen, a number of the big kitchen companies offer planning services and tools. When making initial enquiries, it's still best to arm yourself with measurements.
Our best kitchen brands review reveals the kitchen companies rated highest by their customers, plus details of each brand's planning services. It also includes information on our new lab-based kitchen unit assessments, which saw three brands scooping a Best Buy. One brand got an impressive score of 88% for one of its units.
You can use the links below if you want to head straight down to a specific piece of advice.
- How to measure your kitchen
- Essential kitchen planning checklist
- Kitchen owners' regrets to avoid
- How to consider kitchen storage
- Typical kitchen unit measurements
- Appliance dimensions
- Buying and storing kitchen appliances
Map out your current kitchen layout (or empty kitchen if you plan to start from scratch) on graph paper using metric measurements, as this is what kitchen manufacturers use.
Take a look at the images below for an example of how to measure your kitchen. The first shows an overhead plan of the whole room.
The image below shows how to measure your walls and plot the location of windows, cupboards and appliances.
The image below shows a 'kitchen triangle', which helps you plot out the distance you need to leave between key locations in your kitchen.
Ceiling and floor
Take measurements from the ceiling to the floor and across each wall. It's worth taking the measurements of the same wall or floor at a few different points, as rooms can be slightly asymmetrical and not completely square at every point.
For the width across the walls, measure along the floor, half way up the wall and near the ceiling. For the ceiling, measure at three points across the wall from the floor to the ceiling. It's a good idea to note down the measurements for each wall individually and name them, for example 'wall one, wall two etc'. Make a note of any architectural features, such as cornices.
Windows and doors
Note the location and size of windows and doors. Add in the distance between them and the floor, as well as between each other. When measuring windows and doors, you should include the door or window frame (sometimes called the trim) in the measurement, so measure out from these.
Also make a note of which way they open and how much room they will need to open fully. Name all the windows and doors too, for example 'window one' and 'window two'.
Existing kitchen units
If there are any kitchen units you want to keep, add these to your plan with their measurements – width, height and depth – and distances between them and the walls and floor where it makes sense to add this. For example, if a unit is on the floor in a corner, you would only measure the distance to the other wall, or if it's a unit fixed to the wall, you would want to include measurements to the floor and other walls.
Electric sockets and waste pipes
Highlight where the electric sockets are, the cable routes from them to the relevant appliance, and where the plumbing and waste pipes are - moving these will add to the costs, so plan to keep them where they are if possible. If you can, measure the height, width and depth of these too, and ideally how far they are from other walls, the floor and ceiling. Make sure you note anything else that is a fixed feature, such as radiators.
If you have a boiler in the kitchen, highlight where and what type of boiler it is. If you're upgrading your boiler, see our boiler reviews and boiler buying guides.
Mark which kitchen walls are external or internal.
If you want to add detail to your measurement plan, or use an online planning tool, it's worth keeping these factors in mind:
- Keep the work triangle distance (see the image above) between the sink, fridge and cooker at 7m or less. This makes cooking easier, as you’ll have shorter distances to travel.
- Allow for a 40cm clearance between an open kitchen door and the nearest opposite unit. Aim for at least 120cm clearance between parallel runs of kitchen units, so that two people can move around at once.
- Most unit doors open up to a maximum of 60cm. Dishwasher doors usually open by 60cm and oven doors by 50cm. A typical worktop height is 90cm, although this will not be ideal for everybody. Ensure that elbow height is a few centimetres above kitchen worktops.
- Standard 60cm-deep units will be a tight squeeze if your kitchen is less than 180cm wide from one wall to the other. Solve this by looking for slimmer 50cm-deep units.
- Leave at least 40cm clearance between the worktop and wall-mounted cupboards.
- Make sure you include space for end panels (where necessary) when calculating the dimensions of your units.
- Check the height of wall units to ensure you'll be able to fit the cornice (the section of wood fitted along the top of wall units to give them a finished appearance).
- Work out the number of door handles and the amount of cornice and plinth (the section that runs along the bottom of base units) that you'll need. You may want to order extra to save time and hassle if any are damaged during delivery or installation.
Two thirds (66%) of the kitchen owners we spoke to said that they didn't have any regrets with their kitchen. However, more than a third (33%) did.
We wanted to find out what issues frustrate them, to help you avoid making the same mistakes. Subject to space constraints, all of the gripes listed by kitchen owners can be dealt with if you plan your kitchen design correctly.
Log in or join Which? today to see what people's most common regrets were and read their insider tips. You'll also get access to our kitchen reviews, as well as thousands of product and service reviews.
Storage requirements will be central to any kitchen design.
Assess your needs:
- What do you need to store and how much storage space will you therefore need?
- What do you use regularly and what do you use less often?
- Of the things you use regularly, where would make most sense for them to be stored?
For example, if you like to try new recipes and experiment with spices, having cookbooks and a spice rack to hand near the hob would be useful. Or if you’re a seasoned baker, storage for baking utensils and ingredients might be best placed by the area where you’ll do most preparation.
Once you’ve thought about what you want to store and where it makes most sense to place things, have a think about the different types of storage available: kitchen islands, open shelves, pull-out units, corner storage racks, hooks, freestanding units such as dressers, floor-to-ceiling cupboards, plate racks and wine racks (built-in or freestanding).
Make sure you allow space for the bin and recycling too.
Kitchen unit and appliance dimensions
Using the dimensions of your kitchen you’ve mapped out, take a look at the typical kitchen unit dimensions in the table below to see how much you can fit into your kitchen and where things will need to go.
A lot of the big-name kitchen brands sell kitchens pre-assembled, ie to the standard measurements below. If you have the budget, you could consider getting storage made to your home's exact specifications.
|Kitchen unit dimensions|
|Sizes||Base unit||Wall unit||Worktops||Sinks|
|Height||72cm plus plinth||72-90cm||2-4cm thickness||15-18cm|
|Width||30-60cm||30-60cm||2.5m, 3m or 4m and cut to fit||76-95|
|Depth||Up to 60cm||30cm||Depth of cabinet plus 3cm overhand||44-50cm|
|Appliance dimensions (HxWxD)|
|Cooker||Fridge/Freezer||Dishwasher (full/slimline)||Washing machine/tumble dryer||Built-in oven|
Even if you don’t opt for bespoke design, many kitchen companies have design services to help you come up with the best design for you and your lifestyle, including which types of storage could work best.
You can click on the kitchen brand names in our kitchen brands guide to see what services each firm provides.
If you have a particularly small kitchen, it's worth visiting our small kitchens page for more ideas on how to make the space work best for you.
You can see more information about the typical types, measurements and costs of kitchen appliances, such as cookers, fridge freezers and dishwashers by visiting our kitchen appliances page.
Keep these measurements in mind as you plot out how much you can fit into your kitchen, as well as how many power sockets you'll need.
Think about the electrical goods in your kitchen currently and whether you want any more. Consider how often you use, or would use, these items and how they should sit in your kitchen.
You might want to keep some of these on the work surface. In this case, think about whether you will have enough plug points or workspace free – and if you could do with any additional shelves or built-in storage for appliances such as microwaves, toasters and food processors.
Most people have a kettle, toaster and microwave in regular use, so these should be easily and quickly accessible. Are they currently in the best place in terms of how you use the kitchen?
Other kitchen gadgets to consider are breadmakers, coffee machines, food processors, stand mixers, hand blenders and mixers, grills, jug blenders, juicers, slow cookers and steamers.
Make sure you kit out your new kitchen with the best and right gadgets for you by taking a look at our kitchen appliance reviews section to find Best Buys that don’t cost the earth. In this section, you will find everything from cookers and fridge freezers, to toasters and blenders.
Discover the top rated kitchen brands in our fitted kitchen guide and see which won our coveted Best Buy status for its kitchen units.