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15 Feb 2022

What to consider when creating a new open plan kitchen– Ask Anna Question of the Week

General Kitchens Walls
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Dear Anna,

What are the requirements for creating an open plan kitchen?

An open plan kitchen is a great way to open up your living space and have more versatility. Open plan kitchens are a very popular home improvement project and can create an airy, bright, and sociable living space.

If your current kitchen is small and you are thinking of knocking down a wall to merge it with another room, you will need to consider a few factors.

What should you consider when creating an open plan kitchen?

To create your open plan kitchen, you will probably need to demolish all or part of an internal wall. First, you need to establish whether that wall is loadbearing or non-loadbearing. A structural engineer, architect, or builder should be able to advise you which type of wall yours is.

If you are taking down a loadbearing wall you will need to make a building regulations application and provide calculations for the beam and supporting padstones from a structural engineer before you start work.

If your wall is non-load bearing and so does not take any load from above, such as from walls or floor joists from the storey above or from the roof, in most cases you do not need to notify building control. If you are making structural changes in your kitchen you will need to submit a building regulations application.

You’ll also need to consider ventilation. This includes openable windows and doors and also background ventilation and mechanical extraction. Mechanical ventilation fans or cooker hoods should extract directly to the outside and remove warm damp air and water vapour, as well as cooking smells. Without this ventilation, condensation can form creating mould spores and staining. If the room was already a kitchen there is no legal requirement to install mechanical ventilation if there was none provided previously, but existing fans must be retained or replaced with an equivalent fan. Good ventilation is key to maintaining a pleasant environment, and the ability to extract cooking smells is especially important when you are creating open plan living spaces.

You’ll also need to think about the fire safety of your new open plan kitchen, especially the means of escape in case of a fire. You must also consider how this affects the protection from and means of escape in case of fire from other rooms in your house. If your new kitchen will then open directly onto a staircase you will need to submit a building regulations application and install alternative fire safety features like a sprinkler or mist system or fire curtains, as well as heat and smoke detection systems.

Electrical work in a kitchen should be carried out by an electrician who is qualified and registered under a Competent Persons Scheme who can self-certify and issue you with certification, otherwise, these works will require building regulations approval.

Finally, the layout of your existing drainage must be considered when planning your new kitchen. Unless you are keeping your waste pipes and drains in the same location, you’ll need to obtain building regulations approval for these changes. Some drains can be moved relatively simply but drains must fall to manholes with sufficient gradient so it may not be possible to relocate your sink, dishwasher, or washing machine without considerable expense and upheaval.

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