OR A Tale of Over Forty Years of Dimensional Co-ordination in UK Kitchens
An article in the recent UKMA newsletter by the Editor on renovating his kitchen has prompted one of our regular contributors, John Frewen-Lord, to relate his own recent experiences doing the same thing, and how the use of metric units has saved enormous amounts of time and money in the process.
The UK construction industry converted to SI units of measurement around 1972, and by the mid-1970s, pretty well everything was in metric, including kitchens. Although I cannot find any specific references saying as much, I seem to remember that all manufacturers of kitchen cabinetry in the UK (as they did in Canada when it went metric) agreed to common standards and dimensions – not only widths, heights and depths of cabinet units, drawers and doors, but including things like hinge fixing points, drawer track location holes and the like. Has it made life easier? Indeed it has (and certainly cheaper as well), and I have two recent examples to prove this.
The first example relates to a tenanted house my wife and I own. It was bought with tenants already living in it, and so we had no opportunity at the time to improve it. Recently the tenants moved out, and it was obvious the kitchen needed some major TLC, with the chipboard (particleboard) cabinets disintegrating in places, doors hanging off their hinges, and so on. The house was built in 1976, and some preliminary investigation showed that it was timber stud framed (having lived for so long in Canada, something I am very comfortable with), with studs at exactly 400 mm on centre, and most dimensions in nicely rounded metric increments.
With new tenants ready to move in, we made the decision to install a brand new kitchen, and noticed that B&Q had a range on offer at very good prices. I sat down with their kitchen planning department in my local store, and, having given them the dimensions of the existing kitchen (in mm of course), they came up with this rendering on their planning software of what the new kitchen might look like.
What was particularly gratifying was that, even though the arrangement of cabinets was being extensively changed, everything (once assembled – it all came flat-packed) fitted into the existing spaces created 40 years ago to the precise millimetre, and all based on an exact 100 mm module. All cabinet units came in 300, 400, 500, 600 and 1000 widths, with doors to the same nominal dimensions (actual door dimensions were 3 mm less, and two 500 doors were used in the 1000 cabinets). Doing all the calculations and setting out using purely integer millimetres took a fraction of the time it would have taken using cumbersome feet, inches and fractions of an inch. At no point did I have to modify any cabinets, or have any gaps left over (well, there was one place where a cabinet was out by 1 mm for some reason). The following pictures show before-and-after views. As can be seen, the reality (all installed by myself single-handedly, and still not quite complete when these photos were taken) is pretty close to the software rendering above.
We liked the design of the cabinets so much that we decided to refresh our own rather dated kitchen in the same style. In this case, our cabinets themselves were in excellent condition, and only the doors and drawer fronts needed replacing. This kitchen, so the previous owners of the house had told us, was installed in 1981 or 1982, making it around 34 years old. Would the new doors, etc., fit?
Again, the foresight of standardising kitchens all those years ago using a hard metric module (in a Britain that was only starting to embrace metrication) shone through. Almost (but not quite) everything was a straight one-for-one replacement. There were however a couple of minor issues:
- The pre-drilled hinge sockets on the new doors were differently located compared to the old doors. However, it turned out that the hinge brackets on the cabinets needed only turning through 180 degrees to align with the hinges on the new doors – i.e. one of the existing mounting holes was still good, with one new hole required, for each bracket.
- The pre-drilled pilot screw holes for the hinges on the doors (designed of course for B&Q’s own hinge product) differed by 2 mm from the screw holes in the existing hinges that I took off from the old doors. With 24 doors, that meant a total of 96 new pilot holes to be drilled! The hinges themselves fit perfectly into the pre-drilled sockets.
The following pictures show a few before-and after views.
In the ‘before’ shot above, the 390 mm high door above the oven unit with a filler panel between it and the oven unit was not available in the new style. I had to move the oven unit down by 10 mm and remove the filler panel to get a new standard 450 mm high door to fit.
The top 160 mm drawer front was a straight replacement. The lower 160 mm and 390 mm drawer fronts were replaced by two 275 mm units. The total height remained exactly the same.
B&Q didn’t do a 300 mm wide wine rack – but they did do a 150 mm one. Two of those screwed together fit perfectly in the exact same space – width, height and depth to the fraction of a millimetre.
Finally, I added soft-close closers to the cabinets. They each fit perfectly with two large grub screws screwed into holes already pre-drilled into the cabinet sides – holes drilled some 34 years earlier!
Very different styles, totally different manufacturers, and 34 years between them. Yet it all fits together almost completely seamlessly, and all to that magic 100 mm metric module. In my own kitchen, that saved me a huge amount of time, and cost as well – if nothing had fitted, then the entire kitchen would have needed replacing, for many times what it actually did cost. That surely shows the very positive economic value of going metric, in a world that today is 95%+ metric.