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A Beginner’s Guide to Heating a Cold Kitchen on Any Budget

Stay cosy in your kitchen this winter with these ideas for warming up a chilly cookspace

Houzz contributor, interior design project manager and blogger. I have a passion… More

A kitchen should be the warm and cosy heart of the home, but for many of us this isn’t the case. With hard surfaces, cold flooring and chilly external walls, it can be difficult to create a feeling of comfort. This handy guide explores different ways to heat your kitchen and suggests top tips for keeping it toasty and inviting.

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Opt for classic radiators
The most common way to heat any room is by using radiators. These days, they come in all shapes, sizes and colours, allowing you to fit them into tricky spaces. This is vital in a kitchen, where every inch of wall space is precious.

Here, a sleek, upright radiator fits neatly onto a narrow section of wall, blending seamlessly with the off-white paintwork. Setting the radiator into the wall prevents it from obstructing the walkway into the room.

When choosing your radiator, check how much heat you’ll need by calculating the British Thermal Unit (BTU) requirement for the room. You can find BTU calculators online, or even download a handy app for your phone. If you don’t have time to faff around with a tape measure, your plumber will be able to advise.

Next, ensure your radiator will heat the space correctly and maximise its output by insulating the wall behind it. Assuming it will be out of sight, a foil sheet fixed to the wall behind the radiator will reflect heat back into the room.

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As well as the style of your radiators, have a think about where they will be positioned in the room. A common spot is under a window, but there’s plenty of debate about whether or not that’s a good idea. On one hand, some heat will be lost through the window as warm air rises from the radiator, but on the other hand, the cold air created by the glass causes a chilly downdraught, which is counteracted by a radiator below it.

You may have no choice but to install a radiator under a window, as this area is often redundant and leaves the rest of your wall space available for furniture.

Here, a zingy yellow radiator complements this bright kitchen, but is neatly positioned under the breakfast bar – another otherwise redundant space.

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Consider, also, where you’ll be spending your time in the room. Areas where you’re stationary are the spots where you’ll be more likely to feel the cold. A neat radiator has been installed under this bench to keep bottoms and feet nice and toasty.

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Keep toes warm with a plinth heater
Kitchen flooring is often hard and cold, so a plinth heater is a great way to rescue your toes from chilly floor tiles. Place one in an area you use often, but also where you’re likely to stand for a while, such as by the sink or hob.

Plinth heaters are a great way to use dead space to add a bit of extra warmth. Most have an electric fan that will hum at a similar level to a fridge, but won’t need to be kept on all the time. You can get electric versions, or heaters that tap into your central heating system and just use electricity to power the fan.

You’re unlikely to use this as your primary heating source. However, if a cold floor is an issue and you’re unable to install underfloor heating, it’s a neat and simple way to take the edge off.

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Install underfloor heating
Once considered a luxury, underfloor heating is becoming an increasingly popular feature. It’s the most efficient way to heat a room, as it warms the entire area from the ground up, allowing the warm air to rise gradually.

Underfloor heating will take the chill off a cold floor and reduce the number of radiators you need. A powerful system will negate the need for radiators altogether, which frees up valuable wall space.

Wet underfloor heating runs off your central heating system. It’s quite labour intensive and expensive to install, as it involves digging up the floor and running the pipework. However, if you’re in the process of a renovation project and digging up the ground anyway, laying the pipework is a relatively small additional cost. Once it’s installed, running costs are the same as radiators, possibly even less, as it’s a more effective and efficient heating system.

Electric underfloor heating is a thin mat that’s laid onto your subfloor before flooring is fitted on top. It’s simple and inexpensive to install, but can be more expensive to run. It’s perfect for taking the edge off a cold floor and is often used in conjunction with radiators. Bear in mind that the heating mat may raise the finished floor height, so if the space transitions to an area without underfloor heating, there may be a variation in the floor level.

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Insulating your underfloor heating is really important to reduce heat loss downwards. Insulation installed under the heating system will help reflect heat upwards, where you want it, and make the system more effective.

Remember that only certain types of flooring will be suitable and some may be more effective than others. Solid wood is a no-go, as the heat will cause the wood to move and warp. However, engineered wood boards are a great alternative and a more stable option.

Anything that’s a good thermal conductor, such as porcelain, stone or polished concrete, is effective, as it will allow the heat through. Some vinyl or laminate flooring can be used, too. Always check with your flooring supplier to ensure your chosen flooring is compatible with your underfloor heating system.

If you want to put a rug down, just make sure it doesn’t have a backing and is made from a material that allows air circulation.

Read an expert guide to underfloor heating

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Identify and tackle the source of draughts
If you have a good heating system, but your kitchen still feels a bit nippy, draughts could be your problem. Old windows are beautiful, but often don’t offer great insulation, particularly if they’re single-glazed. If you can’t bear to replace your original windows, then look into having them refurbished to fill gaps and help with draughtproofing.

Bear in mind, however, that if you don’t replace the single glazing, you’re still going to lose some heat. Double glazing is more expensive than secondary glazing. While you might think the initial outlay is costly, it will be worth the investment in the long run.

If your kitchen has an external door into the garden, its quality and fit will affect its thermal properties. Consider installing some draughtproofing strips to improve the seal, or even replace the door entirely.

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Add a cosy curtain or blind
Good-quality, thick curtains will help to block draughts at night. Dress windows and doors with warm fabrics, and include a thermal lining to enhance the insulating properties. Don’t forget that a thicker lining will create a bulkier curtain, so allow plenty of space for it to stack back when open.

If you have radiators under a window, full-length curtains will block the heat. Instead, go for a stylish Roman blind, again with thermal lining, that covers the window edges. When pulled down, the blind will sit flat against the window to insulate the draughts while still allowing heat from the radiator to circulate around the room.

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Prevent heat loss through a fireplace
If you have an unused fireplace in your kitchen, consider draughtproofing your chimney. If the fireplace is purely decorative, you could cap the chimney to prevent downdraughts.

Alternatively, you can buy a variety of temporary draught excluders for chimneys. These block the flue when not in use, but still allow enough air ventilation to prevent damp problems. When you want to light a fire, simply remove the draught excluder first. Don’t be tempted to DIY a draught excluder using newspaper or plastic bags, as you might forget to remove it before lighting a fire.

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Let the sunshine in
A kitchen that lacks natural light won’t benefit from the sun’s warmth and might always feel chilly. Try introducing some warming rays by adding roof lights, internal windows or external double-glazed doors. When purchasing new windows and doors, check for low U-values, which indicate good thermal insulating properties.

You may also want to ensure the roof lights can be opened to allow ventilation and can include fitted blinds.

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Invest in an Aga
An iconic Aga cooker looks stunning and is a constant source of heat. However, make sure you do your research first to fully understand all the pros and cons. It’s an expensive item and the impact it will have on your home will be significant, so careful consideration should be taken before making the investment.

An Aga will completely change the way you and your family use your kitchen and cook your food, so you need to understand whether or not it’s right for you. They can be expensive to maintain and generally need to be kept on at all times. There are timing systems that can help with this, and some people choose to turn their Agas off during the summer months, but for this you would need a spare cooker.

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Agas are classic pieces. They come in a wide range of sizes and colours to suit most interior styles, so they’re not just for big farmhouse kitchens. Take a look at this monochrome model that makes a stylish focal point in a rustic, Scandi-style space.

Many Aga owners swear by them and say they couldn’t imagine life without theirs. It would certainly help to warm up a cold kitchen, but it’s a big commitment and investment.

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Consider alternative flooring
Many kitchen floor materials, such as porcelain, stone and polished concrete, can be pretty cold underfoot. So how about considering some alternative materials?

Vinyl has come a long way and there are some great products available, including brightly coloured sheets, impressively realistic wood effects and dramatic geometric patterns. Vinyl is highly durable, water-resistant and less likely to cause breakages than harder surfaces.

Rubber flooring is also becoming increasingly popular for its smooth, minimalist appearance and wide range of colour options. It’s slightly less durable than vinyl, as it will scratch, but it’s still pretty hard-wearing and soft to the touch.

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Other options include cork, linoleum, wood and even rugs. Each have their own pros and cons so it really depends on your style and budget. Do your research and get some samples to see how they look, feel and stand up to spillage tests.

Discover how to choose the perfect flooring for your kitchen

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Get toasty with a wood-burning stove
The ever-popular wood-burner is one of the most efficient ways to heat your home. These beauties create a real design feature and can pump out some serious heat.

Depending on your stove and the size of your home, a wood-burner can be used to heat anything from a single room to an entire house. They work really well in open-plan spaces, and you don’t need to install them in the kitchen itself to benefit from the heat. This makes them ideal for small kitchens where space is limited.

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Before you install a wood-burning stove, make sure you check whether or not you live in a smoke-free area, as there may be restrictions on the types of fuel you’re permitted to use.

Wood-burners can be a little pricey and installation costs aren’t trivial, but they could save you money on your gas bill in the long run. Don’t forget that, unlike a standard central heating system with a timer, you can only put a wood-burner on when you’re in the house.

Do you have a chilly kitchen? Or do you have some clever kitchen heating tips? Share your ideas in the Comments below.

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