The array of different design styles and specifications for the wide range of kitchen appliances available today can be bewildering.
However, selecting the right products for your kitchen is an essential part of the planning process. Which is why I have compiled a helpful list of hints and tips to help guide you through the latest developments.
For advice on everything. From new styles and colours to energy saving and safety features. I have comprehensive information on the following:
Energy efficiency is of paramount importance, not only to save money on electricity bills. But also to help reduce power station emissions that contribute to global warming. Look for brands with low energy consumption (energy efficiency ratings will be displayed in the showroom). Levels are now as low as 1.05kW/hr on some slim-line models. Largely because of reduced water consumption. A delay timer can help take advantage of cheap overnight electricity.
Huge inroads have been made into dishwasher water economy in recent years. With consumption levels typically being around 18-20 litres for most programmes. Down to as little as 11 litres on some slim-line models. A few models use fuzzy logic to determine the level of soiling in the wash. Varying the amount of detergent and water accordingly. An economy cycle or half-load button will result in further savings.
A concealed heating element reduces the risk of lightweight plastic items melting onto it after becoming dislodged mid-cycle. Lime-scale build-up is also prevented. Some manufacturers now produce models with the concealed heating element coiled around the water inlet pipe for further energy efficiency.
Don’t put up with intrusive machine noise in the kitchen.
Most dishwashers are now whisper quiet, 45-49dB being typical. You should still be able to watch the television or hold a conversation whilst the machine is operating.
Look for models with adjustable baskets and flexible internal layouts for varying load requirements. For example, a tilting upper basket allows large 30cm diameter plates in the lower basket. And extra flaps can be raised or lowered to cater for small items or large pans.
Also, decide on the look you want. The newest freestanding models are clad in contemporary stainless steel as a design statement. And help to co-ordinate with stainless steel ovens, extractors, hobs and even washing machines. For a totally unobtrusive appliance, choose a fully integrated model with the control knobs situated on the door edge. There is also a trend towards siting built-in dishwashers at waist height for ease of unloading.
Check the capacity. ‘Standard’ 60cm wide dishwashers can take 12, 14 or 16 place settings. Whilst slim-line 45cm models may only cater for 7, 8 or 9 place settings. Compact dishwashers tend to be 45 cm wide and can be placed on the worktop or built in, depending on the model. These may take 4, 5 or 6 place settings.
Although most dishwashers are very reliable, a water cut-off feature will give extra peace of mind. It prevents the risk of flooding and machine damage by stopping the water flow and the programme cycle.
FOOD WASTE DISPOSERS
With today’s busier lifestyles and increasing demands on our time. We are all keen on labour-saving devices that can help us enjoy our leisure time to the full. Whilst at the same time creating a clean and hygienic environment in the home.
Installing a food waste disposer is an ideal way to let you spend more time doing the things you want to do around the home. And less time worrying about what to do with your messy unwanted food waste. With putrescible waste (kitchen food scraps) accounting for 25% of household waste, using a food waste disposer not only means fewer trips to the wheelie bin but also results in a substantial reduction of waste going to landfill.
Food waste disposers remove waste quickly without the use of knives or blades.
The food waste is ground down into fine particles and is then flushed away through the normal waste pipe system. This process can also aid recycling as the waste is transformed into a soil conditioner once at the treatment plant.
Installation of a food waste disposer is straightforward. Either in a new or existing kitchen. But I would advise you look for brands that simply lock into place. Food waste disposers are also extremely durable and a good quality manufacturer will offer warranties of up to five years.
Style is probably one of the most important considerations – do you want a freestanding or a built-in model? If you want your fridge to stand out as a style statement. Choose one of the coloured, retro-style or stainless steel freestanding models. There are even some with designs such as the Manhattan skyline printed on them. Opt for a built-in or integrated style if you’d rather the fridge was an unseen workhorse. Or space is a problem.
Do you want a fridge/freezer, or a separate freezer and fridge? Extra-wide freestanding cooling appliances are now available as well as the standard 60cm models. Whereas built-in appliances tend to be 60cm wide to slot into a standard cupboard width. Configurations and capacities vary enormously with the freezer on the top or the bottom. Depending upon preference.
Large side by side American fridge freezers, with the freezer on one side and the fridge on the other, are becoming increasingly popular. And can be integrated with decor panels to match kitchen furniture.
By law manufacturers must disclose the energy efficiency of their appliances, rated A to G.
These are usually displayed prominently in showrooms. The better the rating, the more energy efficient the appliance is. Good for both the environment and your pocket.
A large number of freezers have eliminated defrosting by continually circulating the air inside the freezer compartment. Thus avoiding frost build-up. A feature well worth paying a little extra for.
Added features such as ice making and drinks dispensers can all add to the appeal of certain models. Ice making is an option on many American style fridge-freezers. Sometimes available without opening the door. As are cold water dispensers. Zoned models offer several storage areas. All at different temperatures, designed to keep a variety of foods fresher for longer. Most manufacturers now offer adjustable shelf heights and storage units which simplify food storage.
No new fridge or fridge/freezer should contain CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) or HFCs (hydroflourocarbons). These have been linked to the “Greenhouse Effect”. However your old fridge may contain them, so please dispose of it thoughtfully. Your local authority should be able to give you some advice and guidelines.
A hob is an essential part of your cooking arsenal. You can do without an oven, but regular cooking, if your hob fails, is very challenging.
Once hobs were merely functional, with a choice between electric and gas, brown and white. Now electric hobs have improved using halogen or the ingenious “induction” method (both have a similar performance to gas). With induction, the metal pan completes the circuit, giving fast heat and prompt switch off when removed. Gas has become better still with lotus shaped burners for a better heat spread.
Hobs are becoming a style point in modern kitchens.
And are accordingly available in all colours, materials such as stainless steel and interesting designs. Wide hobs, multi-fuels (electric and gas) and five or six ring burners offer flexibility. But consider your usage before choosing. If your kitchen accommodates more than one cook at once, position the hob away from the oven. That way you won’t get in each other’s way.
If you enjoy eastern cuisine, you can buy a speciality hob with a wok burner. Similarly, if you are a BBQ fan, choose a BBQ grill. If you are left handed, go for front rather than right-hand side controls as this eliminates the risk of reaching across the heat. If you cook for a large family, more than four rings may be useful. And if you have young children it may be worth considering paying a little extra for a hob guard. Or in the case of gas, choosing an automatic re-ignition or cut off device should the flame ever blow out.
The majority of ovens are fuelled by electricity, because of its superior evenness of temperature. Especially fan assisted electric ovens. Traditionally, gas ovens have zoned heat, with the hottest section at the top. And the coolest shelf at the bottom. But fan assisted cooking has evened this out. The most popular combination these days is a gas hob and electric oven.
Decide on the style you require. Single and double built-in ovens can be at eye level for easy grilling and less bending. Some models are combined conventional and microwave ovens. A separate hob is required.
Built-under ovens may be single or double cavity and also need a separate hob. Double cavity ovens are essential if you want to cook one dish and grill another at the same time.
Design and finish are high on most people’s list of priorities.
Fashionable stainless steel is here to stay for a while. And comes in ultra-modern designs with electronic touch controls or more conventional knobs. Brushed finishes avoid the problem of sticky finger marks. Anthracite, a dark grey, is also emerging as an avant-garde choice. Coloured appliances are popular. From classic racing green, blue and claret (usually traditionally styled, often with brass trim) to pale pastels. White, however, is the enduring favourite.
Keen cooks may want to take advantage of multi-function ovens – usually aimed at the top end of the market. As well as traditional cooking, fan or fan-assisted cooking and grilling, these ovens offer up to nine further functions. These include: Top element only (browning), bottom element (final cooking of pastry dishes or pizzas), fan and bottom element (delicate cooking), fan only (thawing).
The standard 60cm oven has been joined by various other sizes. Now consumers can choose from 60, 70 and 90cm wide built-in single ovens. Always check the internal capacity shown in litres as well as the external dimensions.
Ease of cleaning is well worth considering at the outset. Stay clean liners resist dirt build-up but pyrolytic cleaning is the ultimate. It burns off all baked-on debris at 500°C. So all you have to do is sweep out the resulting ash. Look out for ovens with a steam cleaning facility, too. And remember that some ovens have removable inner doors that are easier to clean.
There are many things to consider before buying a new range cooker. And the first is probably how it will fit in with your kitchen layout and design.
Range cookers are perfect for all styles of kitchen and complement both traditional and contemporary furniture. But it is important to choose a model that looks ‘right’. Go for a slightly more classic design if you have a country or period kitchen. Feel free to choose something ultra modern too, if your kitchen is very much 21st century.
What about colour? Again, the cooker needs to be in keeping with your overall kitchen design. But it’s worth remembering that stainless steel is still the most popular colour for range cookers. Having said that, gloss black is also tremendously popular. And it can prove to be very eye-catching as a kitchen focal point.
Some manufacturers offer hoods in matching styles and colours.
Again, make sure the hood you go for is in keeping with your kitchen style.
Dual fuel or all electric? Dual fuel is the most common choice. Providing the versatility of multi-functional electric cooking and the quick reaction of gas burners. All electric is an excellent option if no mains gas is laid on. However, you may also want to consider LPG. Some manufacturers will adapt a range cooker for LPG and this saves you the hassle of arranging it yourself.
What size range cooker should you opt for? Consider your kitchen layout carefully before you make any decisions. Some cookers will protrude whilst others will have the same depth as your kitchen cabinets. And this is purely a matter of personal preference. You also need to check that the cooker can be adjusted to the same height (or slightly higher than) your kitchen cabinets. Sometimes extra high feet are offered, which is useful when you have cabinets of 96cm, for instance.
So many things to consider! Stainless steel? All electric or dual fuel? Only you can decide, with the help of your KBSA-approved appliance retailer.
A sink can be a focal point of the kitchen or an unobtrusive, practical workhorse, depending on its design. A traditional Butler’s sink with brick supports sets the tone for a country kitchen. Whilst under-mounted stainless steel bowls allow a worktop to steal the show. Integral sinks made from the same material as the worktop are also becoming more popular. And can be of stainless steel or a solid surfacing material.
The choice of sink materials is huge. Stainless steel is self-healing, hygienic and co-ordinates with the latest trend in appliances. Fireclay or ceramic sinks are solid and traditional looking. With the latter being available in a core range of colours. Such as blue and green as well as white.
The popular composite sink materials come in a large range of colours including speckled granite effects.
Manufacturers have given consumers an extensive choice of different bowl configurations too. From standard single bowls with drainer to vast double-bowls flanked by two drainers. A half bowl between the main sink and drainer. Or forming part of the drainer in compact versions, is a valuable addition for vegetable peelings or rinsing foods. Ensure that your largest pan can fit into the main bowl easily. Take it into showrooms if necessary!
Consider which accessories might be beneficial. Many models can be supplied with a draining basket, chopping board and strainer bowls. A drainer extension can also be useful for sinks without a drainer where worktop space is limited in a small kitchen.
All sinks will need regular cleaning with a suitable proprietary product. In the past ten years composite materials have improved considerably. And now offer excellent impact and stain resistance, even in the paler colours.
A well-designed kitchen does not need to be stuffed full of identical cupboards. Creative designers can use a selection of colours and styles in a single room. To produce a kitchen that is both interesting and a delight to work in.
Glass fronts, open shelves and grid hanging systems are all popular alternatives for wall cupboards these days. And pan drawers are a far more efficient way of storing heavy items than a regular base unit. Clever pull out corner units also allow use of dead space in the corners for pots and pans. In a country-style room, wicker vegetable drawers can offer a more rustic alternative.
Recent introductions include full width pan drawers and top-hinged wall cupboards as well as stainless steel panels, plinths and back splashes. Mid-way units make use of the space between the wall and base units. And a hanging rail is an excellent, practical use of this “dead” space.
Under-sink drawers for cleaning solutions and materials are also a clever use of available space.
In larger kitchens, cupboards of varying heights are another clever way to introduce variety into a plan. And to separate the room into distinct areas for washing up, food storage and cooking. Many people are opting for the unfitted look, with stand-alone cupboards for food or crockery.
The kitchen mixer tap has become quite a sophisticated appliance. Both in terms of design and function. There is an extensive choice of styles and finishes available to suit contemporary or traditional kitchens. You can also choose from dual-flow models for straightforward hot and cold water delivery. To tri-flow taps that additionally supply purified water and taps with a pull-out spray rinse.
There are sleek, minimalist style taps to complete the look of contemporary, semi-professional kitchens. And there are a wide choice of period reproduction designs – from Victorian to Art Deco. For more traditional kitchens.
Because stainless steel is the most popular sink material.
There is a wide range of complementary metallic tap finishes to choose from. Nickel, pewter and silk effects provide alternatives to the high gloss of chrome. Taps in coloured finishes are available to match the colours of composite sink materials.
Dual-flow mixers provide independent hot, cold or mixed water after leaving the end of the spout. They can be deck-mounted on the sink or pillar/bridge-mounted for a more traditional look. Alternatively, choose a monobloc tap. Which has a single-hole fitting that usually has two handles for hot and cold water supply.
Continental-style single lever taps combine the on/off function and temperature adjustment using one lever control. Move the lever up and down for on/off operation and from side-to-side for temperature adjustment. Choose from top lever, side lever or ‘joystick’ designs.
Three-way or tri-flow taps with built-in purification system provide a stylish, convenient and cost-effective alternative to bottled water or a jug filter.
And complete a fully integrated kitchen. As with all taps, models are available in contemporary, classic or traditional designs. And in a wide range of finishes.
The three-way tap delivers hot and cold water independently or mixed just like a normal kitchen mixer. For purified water in some cases, the centre lever or handle on the tap body is selected. And cold water is diverted to the purification unit which is fitted neatly away under the sink. After purification, the water is channelled through its own waterway inside the tap. To deliver purified water at the point-of-use. Alternatives to this delivery system are also available.
If you want a sink with large bowl dimensions to cope with big pan washing-up. It is worth considering a tap with a pull-out or pull-down spray rinse. This gives you water anywhere you need it around the bowl area.
With such a broad spectrum of taps available, it is important to give consideration to your specific requirements. Thus avoiding any costly mistakes later.
It used to be quite cool to tell people that you only drank bottled water. ‘We don’t drink tap water, we prefer mineral water’. But whilst it may have been cool, it certainly didn’t keep you cool, humping home huge bottles of water from the supermarket. And taking up much of your fridge space, week in week out! Neither is it very economical.
Of course the market for bottled water is still massive. But you might be interested, even surprised to know that one of the largest growing sectors in water consumption at home is in the installation of water filter systems. That provide virtually unlimited quantities of pure water, straight from the mains.
And vitally, at a fraction of the cost of the bottled stuff!
Few people buying a new kitchen, do so today without a water filter system being a part of the deal.
Water filters are taking the country by storm. As the man and woman in the street discover that they can have the luxury of pure, clean-tasting water in their kitchens. For far less than the cost of a pint of milk a day! The water filter systems knock the costs associated with bottled water for six. Especially when you have virtually unlimited quantities of the stuff, pouring from a tap in your kitchen!
You can have it chilled from the tap as well. And choose either a dedicated tap or a three-way tap that provides your normal hot and cold water. Along with a supply of chilled, filtered water, all from the same tap over your sink in the kitchen. Things are really looking up!
So whilst it won’t exactly be farewell to bottled water or to those ‘fiddly’ filter jugs, the new water filter systems are taking off in a big way.
And will, we expect, soon be as popular here as they are in the USA.
The way they work is very simple. The water filter system is attached to the mains water inlet pipe. Close to the rising main. And a supply of that water makes its way through the ceramic filter that is attached inside the cupboard under the sink. Before making its way through a dedicated tap usually situated by or close to the sink. These water filter systems remove upwards of 95% of impurities. And leave you with pleasant tasting, clear water with no nasty smells or cloudy deposits. Whilst most people actually accept gratefully that their tap water is as safe as a water supply anywhere in the world, filtered water quite simply looks, tastes and smells better! It’s time you found out more!
Around 60 percent of people in the UK live in hard water areas and suffer the problems that go with it. Some immediately obvious. Scale in the kettle, elements in dishwashers and washing machines scaling up. Scum in your tea, limescale marks in toilets and washbasins and shower heads blocking up. Others less so but potentially more expensive. Boilers and heating systems clogging up with scale. In particular, boiler heat exchangers, hot water cylinders, radiators and their connecting pipework.
There are lifestyle problems associated with hard water too of course! Hard water requires more soap, shampoo and detergent to get a decent lather. It tends to leave washing – particularly towels – feeling hard and rough to the touch. It’s not good for hair or skin and it can actually make skin complaints like eczema and psoriasis worse.
So while hard water is not directly harmful…
Water companies have no legal requirement to soften the water they supply. Hard water can take its toll on your plumbing, on your purse and your skin. And it means that you could be, quite literally, pouring money down the drain.
Heated hard water forms a scale of calcium minerals (limescale deposits). Which can clog up your pipework, reduce the effectiveness of your heating and hot water system. And contribute to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances.
If scale builds up on an element, it has to heat the scale before it heats the water. In terms of heating efficiency, just 1.6mm of scale in heating systems causes a 12 per cent loss in heat transfer from the energy source (gas, electricity) to water,
Select the thickest worktop you can afford. Thicker worktops are in trend at the moment, with people opting for 50-70mm thicknesses. As opposed to the usual 30-40mm thickness.
Worktops in natural materials have also recently increased in popularity. Mainly due to their durability and hard wearing qualities. But also because consumers are becoming much more environmentally aware.
Also, more unusual materials such as glass and stainless steel are currently very popular. In line with the trend for more contemporary and stylish kitchens.
Wood is also making a comeback in worktops and units, whether that be real wood or laminate.
When choosing a worktop, ask about different brands.
Formica is the most readily recognised laminate worktop brand. And Corian is the most widely known solid surfacing material. But there are many other brands including Orama, Perstop, Luxore® and Swanstone®.
Comprising of natural quartz, Luxore® is a range of engineered stone. It’s non-porous, consistent in colour and highly resistant to heat and chipping. Swanstone® is a reinforced solid surface material. Which offers seamless joints and sinks, it’is also non-reactive to moisture and requires no fabricated edges.
Bear in mind that fitting a worktop is a skilled job. Most worktops need to be professionally fitted which will add to the overall cost. If you are fitting a laminate worktop yourself, consider the Pro-Joint system from Orama. Its pre-shaped ends simply fit together to form a neat corner joint. Without the need for mitring or old school jointing strips.
Vibrant colours and designs can add drama to an old kitchen.
Look at some of the more avant-garde choices such as gloss laminate or stainless steel for an instant face lift.
Work surfaces don’t have to run in straight lines. For a more adventurous curved design look to solid surfacing materials. These are thermoformable (moulded into different shapes). Or opt for a natural material such as granite, slate or stainless steel.
Bear in mind that some materials are easier to clean and maintain than others too. Spills such as bleach or fruit juice need to be removed immediately from laminates and timber. But stains or burns on solid surfacing materials can be gently scrubbed away.
Granite is particularly easy to care for, whilst timber may need regular oiling. Scratches on stainless steel are self-healing and the material is naturally hygienic.