When the new kitchen furniture was due to arrive in a week or so it was time to get on with the preparations. The first job was to paint the ceiling, the upper half of the walls and a couple of shelves that I had made shortly after we moved in. “Brilliant White” was the order of the day and our kitchen, which had looked clean and bright beforehand, suddenly became positively dazzling.
Next came the larder, a 3 x 2 foot cupboard in the corner of the kitchen where it had a sloping ceiling because it was under the stairs. My wife moved the contents of the larder into the dining room where every flat surtface was soon filled with groceries. I dismantled the old shelves with care as they would be cut down to make new ones. Various small holes in the walls together with any other nooks and crannies that I could find were filled and the whole larder was given two coats of the aforementioned “Brilliant White” paint and two sets of shelves were installed as shown in the picture (please click on the pictures to enlarge them). This job could have been done in less than half a day but for the need to wait for the emulsion paint to dry on the walls and the gloss paint on the shelves.
I had almost forgotten about the rest of the kitchen when the Ikea van arrived with the new kitchen units. Now the fun was about to begin. Three aspects of this job had given me some cause for concern and had tempted us to bring in professional installers. But bearing in mind that all they were required to install were the sink unit and adjacent corner unit plus worktops over both and plumbing connections, and that the furniture had been bought and paid for beforehand, when we were quoted between £1,000 an £2,000 for the installation work I decided that such prices were nothing short of ridiculous.
For me the problems would be plumbing in the new sink unit (I knew nothing about plumbing), cutting out the worktop to accommodate the sink unit, and then manoevring that worktop into place on top of the new units yet underneath the existing wall tiles if possible. The finished worktop was over eight feet long, two feet wide and nearly an inch and a half thick, and all timber. It was heavy. It would have to be cut with my ancient, hand-held electric circular saw and there was little room for error. Furthermore, it will be some months yet before I have any indoor workshop space. Therefore, despite the wettest August for 100 years I needed dry weather so as to work outside on any part of the job that would create a lot of dust.
By way of a warm-up exercise I assembled and fitted a new, glass-fronted wall unit. Space for this had been created when our old central heating boiler was replaced by a new one a couple of months ago and the new boiler was fitted in the corner of the room instead of the middle of the wall. During this job I amused myself by imagining the sort of braindead halfwits who were responsible for having the original boiler installed in the middle of a wall, in a kitchen which was already somewhat limited in terms of wall space for cupboards and shelves.
My wife and I were a bit worried about synchronising the next part of the job with the arrival of a plumber to connect the new tap fittings to the original water supply pipes. Obviously we didn’t want to be without a water supply for however long it took to get a plumber, especially as the entire water supply for the whole house was controlled by a single stopcock. We needn’t have worried. As things turned out, I dismantled everything that I could short of disconnecting the plumbing, which left me with about half a day’s work to do in preparation for the plumber. Then, shortly after 8am the next day (a Friday) I telephoned The Local Plumbers, a firm chosen more or less at random from the Cardiff edition of the Thomson directory, and an appointment was made for a plumber to come at 4pm the same day.
By 4pm, with a great deal of help from my daughter, Jennie, I had switched off the hot and cold water supplies, disconnected the existing plumbing and cleared the area as shown in the picture above We assembled the new corner and sink units and put them in place, and we even managed to manoeuvre the worktop into place without destroying a nearby gas pipe. The worktop had been cut and the sink trial fitted the previous day – when even the weather was on our side for a couple of hours.
Now, as shown in this picture, we were ready for the plumber who was prompt, efficient and, unlike many tradesmen, perfectly willing to explain the technical bits of the job. All I asked him to do was to connect the new combined tap to the original hot and cold water pipes and to have a look at the plumbing fittings that had been supplied with the sink and suggest how they might be persuaded to connect the sink, plus a washing machine, to the original drain pipe. As regards the latter, he admitted to being as puzzled as me and wished me luck! In the end I managed to connect everything and even got it right at the second attempt.
So far as I was concerned the worst was now over though there was still plenty to do. Jennie assembled the three-drawer base unit with real help from my four-year-old grandson, who displayed a great talent for sorting and counting all the little fixtures and screws etc., that are supplied with self-assembly Ikea furniture, and then passing the correct items to her on request. What a useful helper! But that was just a warm-up. They also assembled a large wardrobe upstairs, complete with several drawers and shelves and mirror doors. While that was happening I was cutting two smaller worktops, one to finish covering the corner unit and the other to cover the drawer unit. I was also assembling and installing a carousel in the corner unit to ensure that all the contents of that unit could be brought to the front when needed.
All that remained now was to replace a few of the original small tiles that had come away with the original worktops, then fill the narrow gap between the worktops and the tiles and fit some extra shelves between two existing wall units. Meanwhile, we had found a metal storage rack on castors that could be fitted into the space between the cooker and the corner unit. This would be more suitable than the wooden one that I had intended to make and it was an unexpected discovery. Unfortunately it was half an inch wider than the available space so the cooker had to be moved that much to the left and the worktop above the rack needed to be wider. This was easy enough as I had some spare worktop that could be cut as required. While waiting for the rack to be delivered, I started to fill behind the worktops with a white filler, and to fit some racks and rails to the walls etc. and a curtain rail above the window. The floor, where the proposed rack would stand, was bare concrete but Jennie, who is brilliant at tiling, soon tiled it with surplus white tiles from her bathroom.
Now my work was finished and it was my wife’s turn. The worktops needed repeated doses of a surface treatment before they would be fully usable and curtains had been earmarked for the kitchen. The whole job took far longer than expected but my wife says that the kitchen is now “user friendly” – so if she is happy, it has been worth it.