Kitchen Makeover: Removing Brick Doorstep and Modifying Wall by the Backdoor
This isn’t about modernising a kitchen or replacing the kitchen cabinets; I did that six years ago when I renovated the kitchen and fitted high-end units with solid wood oak doors.
The aim of this project is to make some minor (but significant) alterations in the kitchen; and then make good with painting and decorating.
Specifically, the changes I make in this project are:
- Relocate the light switch in the kitchen for the outside light.
- Levelling the wall above the backdoor.
- Removing the internal doorstep.
- Replacing the ceiling tiles.
- Lowering the shelf above the window, and
- Replacing the old spice rack with a bespoke made to measure one.
Purpose of Makeover
The reasons for making these changes are:
Relocate Light Switch
The original switch is a fused switch for a security light just outside the backdoor. The prime purpose of the security light wasn’t for security, but for convenience e.g. the light would automatically turn on at night whenever anyone uses the kitchen backdoor.
However, because the security light is above the backdoor and the side passage to the back garden is narrow, the sensor had difficulty in detecting movement immediately below it; so it rarely worked when we needed it.
Therefore, I decided to replace the security light with a conventional light, and relocate the switch to a more convenient position for ease of use.
Make Wall Level With Lintel of Relocated Backdoor
When we previously renovated the kitchen we relocated the backdoor to the side wall to make better use of the available space e.g. because the original backdoor was right in the far corner of the kitchen it created a lot of dead space. Therefore by relocating the backdoor it freed up an entire back wall for kitchen units.
The one minor issue with relocating the backdoor is that as the house isn’t a standard brick build (built in the 1930s) the walls are inch thinner than the norm e.g. the bricks for the interior wall were laid upright rather than flat.
Normally on a UK build the bricks for both the interior and exterior walls are laid flat, with a 4 inch gap in between (cavity wall). The standard width of a house brick is 4 inches, and the height about 3 inches. So by laying the bricks upright on the interior wall it means the wall is only 11 inches thick rather than the usual 12 inches.
Therefore when we fitted the new door the lintel was an inch too wide on the inside. At the time we just decorated over it, but as part of this makeover I wanted to bring the plaster out on both sides of the door to be level with the lintel.
The reasons for wanting to level the wall with the lintel were:
- Visually, it would be more aesthetically pleasing.
- It would allow me to make better use of the wall space.
Removing Internal Doorstep
Originally I didn’t want a step; I wanted the kitchen floor to go right up to the backdoor. However, because the internal bricks are laid upright they didn’t line up with the bricks on the outside; so at the time we just built a step over them.
However, it was one of those little things that bugged me, so as part of the makeover I decided that I would rip the step up, remove another row of bricks on the inside and back fill with concrete so as to level the floor off to the door.
Replace the Ceiling Tiles
When we bought the house the kitchen had a suspended ceiling; which we liked, but the tiles were some lightweight material that wasn’t suitable for kitchens e.g. water damage from steam. Therefore we replaced them with plastic ceiling tiles that could easily be cleaned, however being thing sheets of plastic they easily crack; as one or two had done in recent years.
So as part of the makeover I sourced new plaster ceiling tiles with a plastic surface and foiled backed. The plastic surface not only looks good but also makes them suitable for kitchens e.g. resilient to moisture and easily cleaned; and the foil back reflects heat back into the kitchen, helping to conserve energy and keep fuel bills down.
Lowering Shelf Above Window
When I renovated the kitchen I fitted a shelf, above the small kitchen window, to be level with the top of the bridging unit above the cookers extractor fan. Over the years, this has proved to be quite useful.
However, as part of the makeover my wife and I decided we should lower the shelf predominantly to give slightly easier access. Especially as we’re not tall people and have to use the dalek (step stool on wheel) to reach the top shelves.
Replacing the Old Spice Rack
As nice as the old spice rack is, my wife wanted me to make a new bespoke one to fill the available space. However, making the new spice rack is a separate project which I did after the makeover and the kitchen had been painted and decorated.
Therefore I shall be covering this in detail in a separate article.
Do you shop around before buying your DIY supplies and materials?
There are lots of local DIY stores in Bristol (more than I could list here), plus of course the option of online shopping, including Amazon.
When planning a DIY project I always make an itemised list of what I require and then shop around looking for the cheapest and best deals; obviously using the websites rather than physically walking around the stores.
Although all DIY stores stock a wide range of supplies at competitive prices; we do have our favourite for specific items e.g. Bendrey sawmills when we want to pay extra for quality wood and Gardiner Haskins for more expensive but high quality British made kitchen units.
However, for the bulk of our requirements we usually end up buying most of our supplies from ScrewFix, and if they don’t stock it then B&Q. ScrewFix is a subsidiary of B&Q who stock most (but not all) of what B&Q sells. However, most of what B&Q which is also available in ScrewFix tends to be half the price in ScrewFix than it is in B&Q or any other DIY store; which makes ScrewFi x very attractive when shopping for supplies.
For the outside light we went straight to Gardiner Haskins because lights we’ve bought from there in the past (although more expensive) have been of good quality, durable and reliable. Whereas lights we’ve bought from B&Q (although cheaper) have been less satisfactory. I suspect a lot of the lights sold by B&Q are cheap imports from China, whereas most of what Gardiner Haskins sale is British made.
Gardiner Haskins started life in Bristol in the 1820s as a local blacksmith and Ironmongers run by Gardiner and sons, and after 70 years of trading became a registered company in 1893. Then in 1971 they merged with JH Haskins, a furniture and carpet company, to become Gardiner Haskins and since have expanded to become a fully fledge DIY store that specialises in high quality British products.
Apart from the outside light, and the replacement ceiling tiles which we bought from Amazon, all the other DIY materials for this project was bought from either ScrewFix or B&Q.
Working on the principle of doing the messy jobs first:
- The electrics and doorstep, followed by the plasterwork on the side wall above the backdoor.
As part of replacing the security light for an ordinary outside lamp, I wanted to move the fused light switch to a more convenient position for easy use. As a fused switch that was always on for the security light, being high up near the top of the door didn’t matter. However, now that we would be using it as an ordinary switch to turn the outside light on and off, the switch needed to be much lower.
Choosing the New Switch Location
We had two obvious choices:
- Just lower it.
- Reposition it onto the wooden panel by the door.
We chose the latter specifically because it would clear the wall giving more space for the new bespoke spice rack that I would later make.
Choosing the New Outside Light
For the outside, we didn’t want just a basic wall light, we wanted something that was aesthetically pleasing as well as being functional e.g. stylish. Therefore we nipped down to Gardiner Haskins to choose the outside lamp.
We had a wide range of lamps to choose from, but when my wife spotted one that matched the streetlamp on our decking (which we found in reclamation yard the previous year) and the two lamps on our garden shed, then that was the light for us.
Sequence of Works
To relocate the light switch and replace the outside light the sequence of works was:-
- Remove all the fixtures and fittings from the wall, which was the clock, spice rack, and shelf above the small window; to give a clear work area.
- Remove the wooden panel by the backdoor for easy access to the lighting cables.
- Turn the power off at the mains and isolate the circuit.
- Unscrew and remove the light switch.
- Remove the old light outside.
- Use my Sonicrafter to cut a square hole in the wooden panel to fit the switch.
- Replace the old cable to the outside and down to the new location for the switch.
- Refit the wood panel and rewire the switch.
- Wire in the new outside wall light.
- In accordance with British law, get the work checked and signed off by a professionally qualified election before reconnection to the mains.
For cutting the square hole in the wooden doorway trim, the sonicrafter is ideal. It’s a lot easier, quicker and neater than trying to use any other tool; as demonstrated in the video below, which I made when modifying shelves in our living room.
Demo of Sonicrafter
The only reason for the doorstep in the first place was that the row of bricks on the inner wall was too high. The benefits of getting rid of the step and making the floor level right to the door, as part of the makeover are that it would:
- Make the kitchen look and feel more spacious
- Make access through the door easier by not having to step over the step, or step up and down because you step on it.
To lower the bricks and make the floor level was challenging. The issues I faced were that:
- The bricks were well bedded in with cement
- There was no easy way of dislodging the bricks.
- There was a real risk of damaging the surrounding floor tiles in the process of removing the bricks.
My old masonry chisels would make little impact on the bricks. So to tackle this challenge I bought a new set of chisels; and within a few hours of slowly chipping away the cement, and mortar between the bricks, gradually loosened the bricks one by one. As I loosened each brick I was able to prise it up and out of the floor; using the chisels for leverage.
Once all the bricks were removed and I cleaned up the gap I could then put in DPC (Damp Proof Course) against the outer wall and back fill with concrete to just under an inch below floor level; to leave sufficient space for tiling.
I was fortunately able to salvage the tiles from the step and reuse those for tiling up to the door; which meant that I didn’t have to go out and try to match up the tiles.
Also, fortunately, little damage was done to the surrounding tiles in the process of removing the row of bricks on the inner wall. So I was able to make good with the retiling to a reasonable standard.
Once I’d retiled around the door, I was able to add new skirting boards to the door, and a piece of 6mm uPVC trim leftover from a previous DIY project. I stuck the trim on with silicon and held it firmly, but gently, in place until the silicone had set with G clamps; not tightening the clamps tight as you normally do with clamps, so as to not damage the plastic. All I did was to just give each clamp a gentle twist so as to stop it from slipping.
Modifying Wall by Backdoor
As part of the makeover, I decided to level the wall with the lintel so that it would be more aesthetically pleasing, and to give a flat surface so that I could better utilise the wall space. As part of better utilising the space I also moved the light switch for the outside light out of the way.
With a larger flat wall surface, and no light switch in the way, this gave me the space to reposition the wall clock a little higher and a little further from the shelf above the small kitchen window.
With the clock out of the way I was then able to:
- Lower the shelf above the small kitchen window.
- Make a bespoke spice rack to fit the available wall space.
To make the walls on both sides of the backdoor level with the lintel was a quick job requiring just a few simple steps:
- Screw a batten to the wall where the new position of the shelf above the window would be. This would be level with the bottom of the raised section of wall, with the batten acting as a temporary support for the large piece of plasterboard, until the grab adhesive held it in place. The smaller piece of plasterboard on the other side of the door being much lighter wouldn’t need any temporary support.
- Cut the plasterboard to size to fit the areas I wanted to level with lintel.
- Use ‘no nails’ grab adhesive to stick small squares of plasterboard (as wedges) to the back of the large piece of plasterboard, one wedge in each corner and one in the middle e.g. the lintel jutted out twice the depth of the thickness of plasterboard. Each wedge being just a few inches square.
- Generously apply the ‘no nails’ grab adhesive to the wedges and stick the plasterboard to the wall, applying a little pressure for a few minutes until the adhesive held.
- Make good with plaster around the edges and at the bottom.
- Remove the batten once the plaster is set.
Replacing Suspended Ceiling Tiles
The only reason I replaced the ceiling tiles was that a couple of the old ones were cracked, and I couldn’t find replacements on the web.
Therefore, after looking at what is currently available, I opted for ceiling tiles (suitable for bathrooms and kitchens) that are thin sheets of plaster sandwiched between a plastic coating on one side and tinfoil on the other. The plastic coating protects the plaster from moisture and the foil back gives the tiles good thermal properties because it reflects heat back into the room.
The suspended ceiling had been up for decades so the metal supporting framework was discoloured through years of cooking in the kitchen. In the first instance (once I’d removed all the old tiles) I gave the framework a good wash and scrub; but it was showing signs of a little rust in places. Therefore, to freshen up the supporting metal framework I bought a small pot of white Hammerite Metal paint from B&Q and gave it a fresh lick of paint.
The beauty of Hammerite paint (if you haven’t used it before) is that you can paint straight over rusty metal with little preparation, and not only does the paint give a good finish but it also protects the metal from future rust.
Once I’d painted the supporting framework I was ready to fit the ceiling tile; which for the centre pieces is easy as they just slot into place. It was just the edges were I needed to measure and cut the tiles.
For fitting around the edges (where the tiles are not full sized), they’re as easy to cut as plasterboard.
To cut these ceiling tiles to size:
- Measure and mark the tile along the cut line.
- Using a straight edge as a guide, score the back of the tile with a Stanley knife.
- Bend the tile to snap it along the score line.
- While the tile is still bent, run the Stanley knife along the plastic membrane to separate the two halves.
Paint and Decorate
Painting and decorating was straightforward in that, as most of the kitchen walls are either tiled or have kitchen units, there was little wall space to decorate. However, it was a little fiddly in that what little wall there was, most of it was small sections cutting around windows and doors or cupboards.
Previously we just painted straight onto the bare walls, which was ok as the walls were flat and smooth; but this time to get a better a really good finish we decided to:-
- Line the walls with lining paper.
- Put wall paper on top of the lining paper.
- Emulsion the wall paper.
These days I always use anaglypta Wallpaper with a small pattern when redecorating a room. For the kitchen, with there being little wall space to wallpaper, My wife and I wanted an anaglypta wallpaper that didn’t have any discernible pattern but was still aesthetically pleasing, which excluded styles like woodchip. While in Gardiner Haskins choosing the outside light we spotted a couple of end of line rolls left for an anaglypta wallpaper with a parchment type paper finish; which would be ideal (as it had no real pattern and didn’t look tacky like woodchip). We only needed two rolls, and as it was ‘Reduced’ price, because it was end of line (about $3 for the two) we snapped them up.
We really liked the existing décor (the yellow walls), and I had a pot leftover from when we last decorated the kitchen. So once the kitchen was wallpapered I repainted it the same original colour.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if you are going to do a job; do it properly. No point in skimping or rushing. In this respect, rather than just slapping on wallpaper and perhaps painting straight over it, I make a point of:-
- Preparing the walls; cleaning and washing and making any small repairs.
- Lining the walls with thick 1400gsm lining paper.
- Pasting the lining paper and waiting the 10 minutes for the paste to soak into the lining paper before hanging it on the wall.
- Then leaving it overnight for the lining paper to dry before putting up the wallpaper.
- As with the lining paper, because we like using anaglypta paper when we decorate, I give each sheet 10 minutes for the paste to soak in before sticking it to the wall, and
- Leave it overnight to dry before painting it.
How to Hang Lining Paper
Although I could use thinner lining paper on some of the rooms we decorate, I like the 1400gsm lining paper because (to within reason) it guarantees to give a good flat foundation upon which to decorate and paint; regardless to how uneven the wall is below. Although you do need to ensure all the edges and corners are properly stuck down; and it pays to give a quick visual inspection the following day, and re-stick any odd areas that may have lifted overnight as it dried.
Also, from experience I’ve found that I get far better results using a quality emulsion like ‘Crown or Dulux’ rather than the cheaper brands.
This was perhaps one of the simplest jobs of all. All I wanted to do was lower it a little (to just above the window) for easier access, and repositioning the wall clock out of the way made this possible.
The shelf itself was a decorative oak veneer end panel left over from when I fitted our new kitchen. It was supported by an oak wooden shelf support on one side and sat onto of another decorative kitchen unit end panel on the other side.
To lower the shelf and reposition it I:
- Unscrewed the end panel from the bridging unit above the cooker hood (screwed from the inside of the cupboard.
- Cut the end panel in two halves, the bottom half being the appropriate height so that when I sat the shelf onto it would be at the right height.
- Screwed the shelf support to the wall at the appropriate height.
- Sat the shelf on top.
- Fitted the other half of the decorative side panel back into position, on top of the shelf.
Fixtures and Fittings
With all the DIY complete and the kitchen redecorated, it was just a case of fitting all the fixtures and fittings, which were the:
- White board next to the larder.
- The wall clock.
Then afterwards,making the new bespoke spice rack (which will be covered in detail in a separate article).
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.