A kitchen extension can do wonders for your home, making the ideal solution to an awkward or small space. Whether you're looking to create a large open-plan room for more cooking, dining or even entertaining, anyone thinking of extending a kitchen should take careful steps to ensure that you're on track for success from the word go.
The practical bits of building a kitchen extension are, of course, about appointing a builder or architect and getting planning permission, but before you start, you really should get a feel for how large the extension will be and you can do this by working out what you need from it.
Jump straight to the section that interests you
To understand and come up with your ideal design and the best use of your space, consider your existing surroundings and what you have to work with. Think about how you want to use the extension once complete, what the room's layout could be, the best ways to bring in more natural light and so on.
You should also take into account the times of year when you'll use the space the most, and if you need to change certain aspects to make sure that you're well set up in all seasons. Will you have the doors open in summer for example, and what should your garden access be like? From there, it's all about the budget and we have plenty of advice on managing costs below too.
Take a look at our kitchen extension ideas and advice below to make sure that yours is designed and planned properly from the start. Be sure to use our ultimate guide to extending a house for further practical planning advice and costing information.
Planning a kitchen extension
The amount of space you need for your kitchen extension will depend on how you plan to use it, so start here. There's no point in spending money on an extension that is too small. Too big isn't always a bonus either – a room that's out of proportion to the rest of your home or mostly empty (and therefore soul-less) isn't an asset either.
Generally, the kitchen is the heart of family life and the room we spend most time in — cooking, eating, socialising, working and relaxing — and an open-plan (or semi-open-plan) space is often the best way to use the new extension.
The key to creating the perfect open-plan kitchen is getting the space and the layout right first, before deciding on kitchen units, design details and decoration later. Find out more about how to design an open-plan kitchen extension to get the interior layout right.
Read more below about designing a kitchen within an extension, but before you do, write a list of all the features that you already have in your kitchen, then add the features and appliances that you wish to add to the space.
Kitchen extension essentials:
- Kitchen as proportion of extension
- Kitchen island unit
- Breakfast bar
- Dining area as proportion of extension
- Seating area as proportion of extension
- Walk-in larder
- American-style fridge-freezer
- Range cooker
- Washing machine
- Separate utility room
- Store room
- Bi-fold doors
- Outdoor dining area immediately outside
Decide where to place the kitchen extension
If you’re looking to create an additional space for a large, open-plan family kitchen, the first step is to assess which area of your home will benefit the most from an extension.
You could extend at the rear or side of your home to gain extra space; in a terraced house, a side return extension might be all you need to be able to create the kitchen of your dreams. In a townhouse, it may make sense to do a basement conversion, with a light well leading up to the garden.
Small extensions to a house may not need planning permission if they fall within the definition of permitted development. Larger extensions, or additions to a flat, always need planning permission. Alterations to a listed building always require listed building consent, whether or not the work is permitted development.
Extending to the rear of your property? No extension should overly compromise the garden, so try to find a balance between creating a workable space indoors and retaining as much outdoor space as possible.
A good architect will help and advise with this, but if you're unsure, try to visit as many homes with extensions as possible to see what works, and what doesn't. Check out our feature on creating an indoor outdoor living space, too.
Take an overview of surfaces and finishes
If you’re intending something spectacular instead of a standard finish on surfaces make the decision early on – design mistakes are costly and a retrofit is a real headache. Extending the indoor/outdoor vibe can be achieved using the same bricks and tiles for internal and external walls, and some porcelain floor tiles can be laid from the kitchen straight out to the patio. Consider an alternative to a plastered ceiling. Design-wise, slatted wood appears to elongate the space and the timber brings warmth to cabinetry in cooler shades.
Find a good architect for your kitchen extension
Subscribe to Real Homes magazine
Love your daily dose of Real Homes? Then why not subscribe to our magazine? With our fantastic offer you can subscribe for just £18.50 for six issues of the magazine and receive a free Ted Baker manicure set, worth £35. Packed with fabulous readers' homes, trend features and project advice, you'll wonder how you lived without it.
Once you’re decided where you’d like your extension to be located, consult a RIBA-registered architect to find out what can be achieved.
You will need plans and construction drawings for the builder, and to show compliance with building regulations.
Work with an architect or architectural technologist to provide these. ‘They can also inspire you with design solutions that you may not have considered,’ says Hugo Tugman, founder of Architect Your Home. 'Hire someone who specialises in homeowner projects and get them to do a small amount of paid-for work, such as a sketch design, to see if they are the right person for the job.’
Decide how much involvement you want them to have. ‘Some only offer a full service, also overseeing construction,’ says Alan Cronshaw of Acronym Architecture & Design. ‘Others offer a partial service, ending ties after planning and building control approval are gained.’
Put the kitchen extension out to tender
With the plans in place, you can go ahead and find reliable building contractors to tender for your extension work. Consider personal and professional recommendations, as well as through trade bodies such as the FMB (Federation of Master Builders).
Arrange to meet at least three contractors and, to obtain estimates, send them the plans, construction drawings and specification documents, plus the contract you want to use, so they can quote as accurately as possible.
Do you need planning permission for a kitchen extension?
If the work is classed as permitted development, you won’t need to apply for planning permission, but you may wish to apply for a certificate of lawful development, which proves the project is legal. If you do need planning permission, you will have to apply to the local council, and may need additional reports. Whichever route you are taking, you will need building regulations approval. It may be necessary to issue a party wall notice if you are building on or close to the boundary with a neighbour.
How long should a kitchen extension take?
It really depends on the scale of the project, difficulties accessing the site, how bespoke the kitchen extension is and how well run your schedule is... but expect the average kitchen extension to take between 10 to 12 weeks. Some will be quicker, others slower.
Designing a kitchen extension
Designing a kitchen extension is all about the detail, and for this you might need help: from an architect, a builder and, without doubt, a kitchen designer. But don't just think about looks – design your kitchen extension equally for functionality. Here's how.
Prepare a detailed kitchen extension design brief
Let your designer know what you want. ‘A common mistake is to brief your architect with a set of constraints without talking through the possibilities,’ explains architect Hugo Tugman. ‘When I work with a homeowner, I discuss the brief and sketch designs around their kitchen table, to involve them and ensure that what I am creating fits their needs and lifestyle.’
A good architect will come up with creative ideas and solutions you might not have thought of. For example, the usual bi-fold doors could be replaced with a single door, and drama created with a huge window that soars up into the apex of the roof, and a slot window with views onto the garden.
Linear kitchen (above), from £20,000, Harvey Jones.
How will you access your kitchen extension?
‘As one of the principal spaces in your home, the kitchen should ideally be accessible from the main hallway and not through another room,’ says property expert Michael Holmes. ‘Typically, extensions are added to the side or rear of a property to maximise links with the garden as well as create extra space internally.'
Ideally, this transition should be as seamless as possible, something which can be achieved by good layout planning, and matching interior detailing and materials, including flooring and skirting boards, for example.
You may be able to achieve the best space possible by remodelling the existing interior layout, perhaps removing internal walls to link two rooms together, or by converting and linking an integral garage.
How will you access the garden from the kitchen extension?
The transition from inside your new kitchen extension needs to be as seamless as the transition from the original part of the house to the new room. This means putting exterior doors to the garden in a place that looks natural and is practical, both from inside and out.
Bi-fold or sliding doors that lead straight on to a patio or deck will help you make the most of the indoor-outdoor relationship within the space, creating a more successful finish.
Think about the visual transition between the two spaces, too. Whether you have swathes of fixed glazing or install folding sliding doors, ensure you situate them to make the most of the views of the garden.
Consider the kitchen extension's glazing elements
With its location, and access from inside and out sorted, consider how much glazing you want to include. This will help you make the most of light, but should be done in conjunction with planning your different zones for cooking, dining and living, plus any utility space, since the more glazing you have, the less wall space will be available.
Consider the extension's orientation, too. If it's south-facing, you might want to consider limiting the glazing.
Consider a conservatory kitchen extension
This is a popular way to bring lots of light into a kitchen extension. What to bear in mind, other than ensuring you comply with planning laws and building regulations? Ensure the glazing is up to the job – both in winter and summer – of keeping the kitchen at the right temperature; if you're going to have remote controlled blinds fitted, bear in mind that they will gather dirt and grease from cooking over time so need to be easily cleaned; leave enough solid wall for fittings and fixtures to hang off; make sure any entrances and exits to the room aren't going to interfere with the cooking zones; and give the best views over the garden from any dining or living space.
Think about the kitchen extension's exterior
Consider, too, how your planned extension will look from outside. Just as you might match the detailing and materials inside to those of the original house to create a seamless transition from the existing space to the new, choosing materials that match those of your home's exterior will make the new extension blend successfully. Or, perhaps you might like to site your new kitchen in a traditional-style orangery, or go for contrast, such as with a glass box extension, for a contemporary finish?
Where to put the kitchen within the extension
Ideally, the kitchen/cooking area will be in the darkest part of the new room. This might seem counter-intuitive, but ideally you want the living and dining areas nearest the garden, at the far end of the room. Those are the important zones for taking advantage of natural daylight – plus it makes more practical sense for the cooking/prep zones to be well away from kitchen doors (particularly if kids will be whizzing in and out of them.
Putting the kitchen at the end of the room that's nearest to the original part of the house gives you some scope for incorporating a utility room behind it. Divide the old room up to create a narrow utility hidden behind the kitchen, the save the space in the new extension for living and dining. The bonus? Not only have you gained a utility space that's value-adding in every sense, you've taken some of the noisier appliances out of the open-plan space.
See our utility room ideas for more inspo.
Plan the kitchen layout
Once you have the space that you want designed, you can start thinking about the kitchen layout – our ultimate guide to designing a kitchen is a helpful starting point. It is worth consulting two or three experienced kitchen designers for their ideas. Make sure you give them a clear brief of what you are trying to achieve, but listen to their advice in terms of layout to suit the space, such as designing a galley, L-shaped or U-shaped layout. Or introducing a kitchen island or appliance wall.
Generally, though, as we've said above, it's best to site the kitchen towards the back end of the extension, nearest the original part of the house, with living and dining spaces nearer the brighter, garden end of the space.
Other things to consider include:
- Will you have floor to ceiling cabinetry to hide away a small utility space or will you factor in a separate utility room?
- Will building cabinetry within an adjoining hallway to match that of the run of units into the kitchen allow for useful under stairs storage or a concealed under stairs cloakroom?
- Will you choose integrated, hidden appliances for a streamlined look or will they be on show?
- Will you use the extension as an opportunity to incorporate features such as rooflights or a vaulted ceiling, or both?
As for practicalities, a good designer will understand the importance of function (ergonomics) and incorporate all the appliances you have specified. Once the basic layout is agreed, you can finalise details like the style of the kitchen cabinets (see our gallery for ideas) and drawer fronts, worktops and splashbacks. You can also get down to final details, such as the sink and taps.
Don't miss our feature on interior design know-how for kitchens to get these last details just right.
When you have finalised your layout and chosen your supplier, the designer will be able to produce detailed wiring and plumbing plans so the builders can put the services in place during the building phase. You can then have the plastering and decorating work done and the flooring laid, ready for the kitchen installers to arrive.
Budgeting a kitchen extension
With plans in place, you can work out how much you can afford to spend on each element of your kitchen extension, and make alterations to plans if your budget won’t allow for certain design elements. Prices will vary depending on the work you carry out, but as a guide:
- Building work: plan for between £1,200 – £3,000 per m² and upwards;
- New kitchen: expect to spend between £17 – £200 per m²;
- Painting and tiling the walls will cost between £50 – £100 per m² if you use a contractor;
- Flooring will cost between £25 – £100 per m².
- Building regulation costs depend on what work is involved and the over all area of the proposed project, but expect to pay upwards of £200.
Want more detailed advice on pricing your kitchen extension project? Check out our expert guide: how to cost your kitchen extension, and use our free extension cost calculator to get an idea of how much your project is likely to cost.
Are small kitchen extensions worth the investment?
Planned carefully, a small kitchen extension can have a major impact, allowing you to rejig the layout of your existing space just a little to create a whole new room, with space for dining and living where once there might not have been.
Our guide to side return extensions is a good place to explore how you might expand and extend sideways, like in the kitchen below; a small single storey extension (check our comprehensive guide on that, too) to the rear of the house can give you flexibility, too. The key is to get the kitchen's layout just right.