We are often asked many questions about the best ways to approach designing and installing new kitchens, so we thought it would be a good idea to list a few of them here:

Q: We have a very small kitchen and are looking for ways to make the most of the limited space we have, can you help?

A: All good kitchen designers relish the challenge of small kitchens and take pride in creating space while incorporating generous storage facilities and all the appliances you want.

Quality kitchen manufacturers make a huge range of cabinet sizes especially to customer order so there is no need to waste precious inches with filler panels. Ingenious internal fittings give easy access within cabinets and again ensure that every inch of space is available for use. Wall cabinets can be extended to reach the ceiling to accommodate rarely used items and reduce dust traps. There are even special cupboards and hardware for cutlery, spices and implements between the floor and wall cabinets. The wasted space at plinth level can be fitted with drawers or even heaters.

Special slimline appliances give modern facilities in a reduced space. Cooling and laundry appliances can be stacked and you may even select a double oven that fits under the worktop. A two ring hob will allow extra worktop surface and glazed wall cabinets will make the kitchen feel less hemmed in. Choose light colours such as whites, pastels, pine or limed wood effects to give an illusion of space. Worktops have a strong visual impact and they too should be light, giving a mild contrast to your choice of cabinet. You can go for stronger contrasts with your choice of tiles.

Q: My sink has become quite badly stained with tea, coffee etc – is there any way of removing these?

A: Always wipe the sink down with warm soapy water and a cloth. This will remove everyday stains from your sink.In hard water areas limescale deposits can build up on the sink over a period of time. The limescale can become strongly coloured by such liquids as coffee and red wine. To remove limescale we recommend the use of mild acids as lemon or vinegar.

If stains become ingrained in the bowls, a 30 minute soak using diluted bleach or diluted biological washing powder (1 part cleaning agent to 10 parts water ) should remove the marks easily. Rinse the sink with water afterwards.

Q: How do I remove limescale-marks (and/or other stains and scratches) from my Granite worktop?

A: Firstly, try cleaning the granite with any branded lime-scale remover; there are several available from most supermarkets and general goods stores. Apply on a small area to test first just in case there is an unwanted reaction; some products are particularly strong. Then wash the worktop with clean warm water with a small dash of washing up liquid added, using a microfibre cloth and dry off immediately with paper kitchen roll.

Finally, buy a tin of Wax furniture polish; not spray polish, apply using a circular motion and remove with a clean soft duster and then buff to a shiny finish. This will require plenty of ‘elbow grease’ but should restore the high shine of the granite surface. Do a small area at a time. To prevent lime-scale build up, clean your top regularly with clean warm water and a drop of washing up liquid, rinse and dry immediately with paper kitchen roll. Do this regularly and your tops should stay in pristine condition.

An occasional re-wax (every 12 months or so) is perfectly acceptable and will not cause you any problems. However, do not prepare food directly on the granite until the wax polish has had chance to ‘soak in’ and will not contaminate any food placed on the worktop.

To prevent lime-scale occurring permanently, there are several small innovative inhibitors and electronic methods available. Some use ‘magnetic principles’ that prevent the lime particles passing through the system whilst others keep the particles ‘afloat’ and prevent them from adhering to the pipes and surfaces. Larger water softening and treatment systems for domestic installation are also widely available. Costs can vary but if you have particularly hard water with lots of lime-scale build up, it is well worth the investment. A Google search for lime-scale removal should give you plenty of hits to explore at leisure or contact your local kitchen specialist – preferably a KBSA member, for advice. Plumbers and bathroom specialists should also be able to supply information and carry out any installation necessary.

Q: How far does a high level kitchen cabinet have to be away from a cooker hob?

A: For electric hobs, there are no mandatory regulations – i.e. legally enforceable – regarding clearances. Common sense determines good practice. For example, leave sufficient clearance left and right to have pan handles sticking out, away from the heat of adjacent rings, so that they do not get too hot to handle. Nevertheless, avoid such pan handles sticking out into a space where people walking past might knock them, e.g. next to a doorway or walkway. Do not put cupboards above the hob, or immediately adjacent to it, at a height where frequent steam might affect wood or chipboard construction of the cupboard or the material covering the door.

For gas hobs, all the above common sense stuff applies, although it still is not mandatory. BUT, there are mandatory regulations concerning the proximity of a gas hob to combustible material, i.e. anything which might catch fire and this not only includes the obvious, like wood based cabinetry, but also the grease filter of an extractor hood above – even if the filter is metal; an accumulation of grease is itself combustible.

The regulations are enforceable on the gas installer who must be a person deemed competent by the Health and Safety Executive. That means an installer registered with CORGI, the Council of Registered Gas Installer, since that is the only class of person the HSE will recognise as competent.

Kitchen style diagramTo put it simply, the installer must not connect a gas hob if it is too close to combustible material. But how close is that?

It is the manufacturer of the gas hob who determines that. To do so, he must perform prescribed tests to determine the distance from the hob that materials must be to avoid their surface temperature rising by a given number of degrees. He can then put these satisfactory clearances into installation instructions. They may appear in pictorial form as below or be in written form sufficient for the installer to establish such a layout. These manufacturers’ instruction override any others. And they will differ from model to model.

The area above the hob enclosed by the dotted lines must be clear of combustible material.

If the manufacturer provides no instructions, cannot provide the installer with the dimension or, in the case of an old hob, no dimensions can be found, then the installer must ensure that a clear “box”, as in the illustration below, exists above and around hob.

Note that the 760mm clearance is between the top of the burners and combustible material and not from the worktop. In practice, since the burners are usually 30-40mm above the level of the worktop, this means the clearance is effectively 790-800mm.

It is also important to note, that manufacturers of extractor hoods often give minimum clearances from the hob below in their own instructions. These do not override the gas regulations and the installer must comply as above, regardless of what the hood manufacturer says.

It is clear that finding out the clearances at the last moment, when the hob has been delivered and the kitchen is designed and ready to be installed, is too late. The area of the kitchen above the hob cannot even be designed without knowing the precise model of gas hob and its clearances. Your retailer should be able to give these clearances, either from his own records or by enquiry to the manufacturer. If they cannot or will not, don’t buy.

Q: If I purchase an induction hob, do I have to change my pans?

A: It depends on the pans you have. An induction hob has an electro magnet (induction coil) positioned below the glass. When the hob is switched on the coil will cause a magnetic (induction) field and heat the pan placed on its surface.

The pan must be made of ferrous metal (iron or steel) for the heat to be transferred. If you are unsure about the suitability of the pans test the base with a magnet. If the magnet sticks, the pan is suitable.