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Renovating Your Kitchen? Here Are All The Reno Mistakes To Avoid – Crowdsourced From Our Readers Who Have Been There & Done That

Earlier this year Emily wrote this post and posed the question, “what do you wish someone had told you before you renovated or designed your home?”. Not surprisingly you guys delivered some juicy tips and cautionary tales (seriously, there were over 400 comments!) and there is no way we couldn’t share. In fact, y’all gave so much great advice and “buyer beware” tips that there were far too many to include in one post. Don’t worry, that just means that we will keep this series going (if you guys are into it) and we decided they would be best digested according to room. So today we have compiled every kitchen-related design mistake that have been lived and learned by you, our lovely EHD readers. These tips are guaranteed to save you time, money, sanity, or all of the above so you renovators and DIYers definitely don’t want to skip this one. Here we go.

On Cabinetry

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: all the what’s, why’s & how much’s of the portland kitchen (+ big reveal)

From Teresa: Stained wood cabinets are much easier to keep clean and maintain than white painted cabinets. I have painted cabinets with both the expensive pro classic enamel paint and a gloss wall paint – both types chip easily and have to be touched up. I would choose stained wood any day over maintaining a paint finish on cabinets (my cabinets were already painted by a previous owner both times so repainting was cheaper and faster than stripping the cabinets and staining the wood).

From Leslie: I wish I had known to seal (front, back, edges) the scribed MDF apron cabinet-front surrounding my farmhouse kitchen sink. Water inevitably drips down the front of the sink when a certain someone (to whom I’m married) washes/cleans up. Over time, water drops damaged the MDF, which made the paint bubble. Eventually, I will have to replace…and the paint will not match the rest of the cabinets. So I will have to have all cabinets re-painted. Caulk could have helped delay this process too. When I replace it, I will order an extra cabinet front, have them both scribed-to-fit, and painted (at the same time) as a backup replacement for the future. It’s cheaper than a new husband.

From Julie: Make sure to leave about an inch below the ceiling and the top cabinet in case the ceiling isn’t level from front to back. I put mine snug to the ceiling with flip top cabinet doors on top. They won’t open all the way because of the pulls and the cabinets won’t stay open bc I can’t get them to 90 degrees.

From Sarah: When planning drawers/shelves/cupboards, really take inventory of your stuff and think about where it’ll all go.

From Bee: We renovated/gutted our old New England carriage house in 2004-ish. I wish someone had told me we didn’t need upper kitchen cabinets. We have plenty of storage, and they distract from the other features. Huge regret.

From Rebecca: Highly recommend outlets in cabinets, and on the side of kitchen counters/islands. So handy in the kitchen and bath (in cabinet allows you to keep your hair tools plugged in, which is amazing).

From Kim: Tell your cabinet maker what kind of sink you are putting in your bathrooms. We had a cabinet replaced in our powder room/half bath and didn’t tell him it was a vessel sink. It’s way too high for kids even with a pull-out step built into the toe kick of the cabinet.

From Missy: One of the best things you can do for your kitchen is add under-cabinet lighting. Using smart plugs and making them Alexa-enabled is a game-changer when you have messy hands from cooking.

On Flooring

design by jess and tyler marés | photo by jess marés | from: a diy kitchen renovation in two parts

From Leila: Start with the walls and the floor. If the previous owners had wallpaper, get rid of it, as it will take one more coat of paint while you’re renovating and look lovely for five minutes but then start bubbling in the steam of cooking – at which point you’d have to hope and pray your new kitchen survives workmen trying to remove paper and plastering around your new units. Same goes for floors – always do them first and then install your new cupboards, unless you’re only planning to put some lino down. Also, painting existing cupboards is only a good plan if they are wood – never mind the tricks of getting a special primer to paint over laminate – just cut your losses. Any kind of stick-on thing does not work – tile paint/tile stickers/worktop “wraps” – and will end up falling apart and looking terrible and being a complete nightmare to remove.

Also From Leila: Sanding the floors is always worth it and looks beautiful, no matter how awful the boards looked to begin with! Plus oil is much easier and more forgiving than varnish to apply, can be patched easily, and has a lovely natural finish that brings out the wood’s character.

From KJ: Always run all of your flooring under every cabinet and into every closet. It allows you (or future owners) the option of moving things around without having to redo all the flooring (so wasteful). Having the same flooring in closets allows a “secret stash” of matching flooring if needed in the future to fix/patch anything. Always buy an extra box or two of your flooring (or extra carpet). It’s a pain to store but might come in handy for future repairs.

From Michelle: Choose how you want your floors to transition (ie: tile to hardwood, hardwood to carpet, etc) before laying ANY FLOORING over your subfloor.

From KD: Dark wood floors look beautiful right after they are finished and then are a complete nightmare to keep clean and dust-free. Also, be sure to think about the softness of the wood you use – my parents found out the hard way that the wood they selected didn’t hold up well to high heel shoes and occasionally clumsy people in the kitchen dropping things.

From Miriam: Dark hardwood shows every dust mite and crumb. We have dark hardwood floors, we love the colour but we also have 3 kids under 8 so…there is a lot of mopping and vacuuming required to keep the floors looking clean. We should have gone with medium brown or something lighter definitely.

From Diane: Think twice about installing heated floors. We have heated floors in the main bathroom and kitchen, under ceramic tile. They only work in certain areas on the floor, which means that to repair/replace them, we’d have to tear up the entire floor. It’s just not worth the expense of having the little luxury of walking on heated floors for the few minutes you’re in the room. Slippers are cheaper.

On Lighting

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: it’s finally here: the reveal of the mountain house kitchen

From Brigitte: In an older home when installing new ceiling lighting that uses LED lighting, know that you will need to replace the old dimmer switch. I did not know you need a special dimmer switch that works with LED lights or the LED light flickers or does not turn up to its full force until a new dimmer switch is installed. So if you are installing new tech in an old house make sure the new tech is replaced from beginning to end.

From KD: Upgrading the lighting can change an entire room (and be prepared to find out that previous owners cut corners on electrical work).

From Heather: Recessed lighting can be really harsh and not give great light, particularly if you have low ceilings. LED light fixtures are often too dim and it’s hard to figure out the right temperature (3000k? 4000k?) for your house. I prefer lighting with bulbs so I can change brightness and temperature. Plan for overhead light, task lighting, and ambient light. Under-cabinet lights are awesome.

From Brandi: Test your lightbulbs before installing canned lights. I installed 8 canned lights last year and put in white but now I wish they were a softer white or yellow. I wish I would have bought different ones and tested them and then I could have returned the ones I don’t want. I now don’t want to spend money for a second time for 8 different lightbulbs.

From HKW: Think about where you might want your electrical. I was very focused on choosing light fixtures but realized very late in the process that we needed an outlet in the pantry and had to get that added into the scope of work. I wish we’d also added an outlet inside the bathroom vanity to plug in ugly toothbrush chargers and that a couple of our outlets were just a wee bit higher or lower to accommodate furniture.

On Choosing Materials

photo by tessa neustadt| from: our modern English country kitchen

From Allison: Pick out all your materials. I mean everything, from the water barrier on the outside, to the windows, cabinets, etc. Many contractors will use the cheapest and pocket the difference.

From Kathryn: Beware of doing a small refresh if the options you are choosing will not match your eventual vision for the space. I picked countertops for a kitchen refresh that worked with my cabinet color, but hated the cabinet color and changed it a few years later. Now I’m stuck with countertops I no longer like! Better to save up and do it all at once, or be cognizant of what your eventual plan is so that you make choices that will work with your long term vision.

From Kate: Don’t use expensive items like custom window treatments as your chance to add color/pattern. When you hate them a year or two later you’ll be stuck with them unless you have no budget/don’t mind the waste.

From Lynn: Black granite (or dark wood floors) show every speck of dirt and dust. Don’t do it!

From Kristine: I wish someone had told me that tearing out our nearly all-white kitchen and moving to stainless steel appliances and dark granite countertops would suck all the natural light out of our kitchen. For someone who likes a light-filled room, this really threw me. Thankfully we went with a medium-light tone cabinet which kept the kitchen from becoming a cave.

From Amy: Pay extra for durable kitchen countertops. We cook, spill red wine, have kids that color on bar, etc. Porous surfaces are too stressful for the type of living we want to do in our home. Marble is gorgeous but I need to be able to squeeze a lemon when cooking and not have a panic attack!

From Heather: If you want to keep a surface clean (like kitchen counters), then make sure it’s a surface that actually shows that it is dirty. If you don’t care if it’s clean or not, then pick a surface that hides dirt/stains/etc.

On Designing For Your Needs

design by jess and tyler marés | photo by jess marés | from: a diy kitchen renovation in two parts

From HerselfInDublin: A pull-out bin in a lower cabinet in your kitchen is the single best thing you will ever do for yourself in your home. And the smaller the kitchen, the better an idea it is.

Also from HerselfInDublin: Also, you do NOT need a draining board. No draining board in the history of kitchens has been aesthetically pleasing, empty or full. They eat up usable countertop and as their sole function is to have stuff sitting on it draining, that’s what you do with them so you constantly have unsightly dishes ruining the look of your oh-so-thoughtfully designed kitchen. I didn’t put one in and as a result, I never leave stuff to drain – I actually dry it up (twelve years in and I’m still astonished by this, but it’s true). You can get portable drying racks that you put up and take own, but honestly I just use a tea towel which I then hang up to dry because who would leave a wet tea towel permanently on their countertop? Not one visitor has ever noticed I don’t have one, either, even when they’re helping clear up. Do yourself a favour, leave it out.

From Karen: Those spinning racks in corner cupboards are useless! Just do a shelf! Also if (like my kitchen) you have 2 of them then put the access on the other side so it’s not a corner!

P.S. From EHD: A few people do like their corner spinning racks so it’s really just preference and something to think about.

From KD: If you entertain a lot or have a large family – two dishwashers. They get way more use than a double oven.

From Sarah: Plan around dishwasher loading/unloading. What will the flow be in putting away your most commonly used items? (Love that I barely have to move when unloading the dishwasher, despite a big kitchen.)

From Bry: Beware the too wide drawer! The trendy ones that are half the length of your countertop or whatever. Super annoying to work in the kitchen when you have to keep telling people to move so you can open a drawer even several feet away!! More width standard drawers but deeper to fit stacked pans or boxed pantry items are easier to work around.

From Riki: If you use a garbage slide-out, make sure it can be open at the same time as the dishwasher. For example, not either or due to a 90-degree angle. I was shocked at how often I want to access the garbage/compost/recycling while cleaning up the kitchen.

From Caitlin: The best advice our architect gave us was to make the house we want and need based on how we live, versus trying to keep up with the Jones’ (neighbors). This helped us stay within our budget and while we didn’t add lots of square footage, we were able to splurge on a beautiful kitchen with Heath tile, a Wolf range, etc.

From Eva: If you cook often, you need a full-size range hood. Most range hoods only cover half of the range (in terms of depth – they will cover the back burners), whereas most of the cooking happens on the front burners, which won’t be covered. We recently changed to a full-sized hood, and it made all the difference with regards to minimizing cooking smells and grease. Time and time again, I see kitchen designs even on EHD that don’t have hoods, and I always presume these designs must be for people who do not cook. Hoods are essential, in my opinion.

Also from Eva: Open shelves next to the stove will require constant cleaning if you cook. Same goes with art or mirrors (???) behind the stove.

From Sheila: Consider accessibility options, even if you don’t need them now. There may be a time when you’d like to host an elderly family member or when you or a family member faces mobility options during an extended recuperation. Having a bathroom, including a walk-in shower with space for a bench and a hand-held shower head that can be reached and controlled by someone seated on that bench, on the main living floor is highly desirable as is a means of entry from the car parking area into the house with a minimum of stairs. Depending on the area, light switch/doorknob heights may be set by code to be at wheelchair-accessible heights. If not, it should be considered anyway.

From Lisa: Avoid a kitchen with only one entrance/exit so more than one person can be in the kitchen without bumping into each other. Have specific plans for locations for trash, recycling, composting, and dog bowls.

Also from Lisa: Plan a “drop zone” for backpacks and purses and groceries. Imagine the trip from car to kitchen with armloads of groceries and adjust accordingly.

From Ellen: The 2 BEST things we did in our kitchen remodel were adding a small prep sink in the island and having a pull-out sprayer faucet at the main sink. My SIL does (did until Covid?) so much entertaining and it has always been a struggle to get to the single sink (which is often piled with big platters and such). We have a small prep sink directly across from the fridge and our big sink under a window next to the dishwasher. I am thankful every day for that pull-out sprayer and prep sink!

On Hiring Help

design by velinda hellen design | photo by sara ligorria-tramp| from: velinda’s first freelance client reveal: molding the ‘builder-grade budget’ + where they saved & splurged

From HKW: Choose your GC first. We had to have some structural work done and had already contracted with an engineering firm (the same one we had evaluate the house during the buying process) before we landed on a contractor. We thought that would move things along, but it actually caused some communications issues about who was going to do demo and the order of operations and ultimately resulted in delays. If we’d had the contractor in place first, they would have managed the engineer and been able to bid the job more holistically as well.

From Tara: We did a full renovation of our home (north Texas) in 2019. We utilized an interior designer (who is also a dear friend) and I think that was the #1 tip I would share. If you don’t think you can afford it, you’re wrong. The time and frustration she saved us along with her relationship with our GC are priceless. Not to mention the intuition they had about things as we went along that they just took care of and we didn’t have to stress about was SO valuable.

From KD: You WILL regret working with any contractor who presented you with a plan that was much cheaper than competitors. There is a reason they are cheaper and it’s usually because they cut corners on things like permitting, qualified labor, cleanup, etc. Quality work costs money. If you are looking to save or really can’t afford to contract out with a quality contractor, either wait or DIY.

From Greta: If using a general contractor or a design build firm, ask about the subs! We did a beautiful renovation on our home using a design build firm that we loved – except the HVAC! Not sure why they chose the subs and equipment they did, but in the years since when we’ve brought in our preferred heating and cooling maintenance company, they are left scratching their heads on the HVAC choices that were made.

From Justin: Don’t expect the plumber to know how far the tub should be from the wall, or how high the slide bar should go. Do your research and be ready for everything so that you’re not making 8 am decisions on the fly.

Also from Justin: Tile guys and contractors play it safe. Playing it safe = big grout lines. If you want thin modern lines, have that conversation up front. They may prefer a certain tile to achieve your vision.

From Katie: I wish I would have really understood how construction loans work – but from talking to our title company manager (the title company disperses the funds for the draws), there is a lot of variety in bank rules. Our bank is a more difficult bank to work with for construction loans. Because we kind of shared the responsibilities of the general contractor with our builder, we had to pay for almost all of the downpayment out of pocket and wait to get reimbursed when it was complete. So we were paying out of pocket for 50% of flooring, cabinets, countertops, tile, and 100% of anything purchased by ourselves like light fixtures, and didn’t get reimbursed for several months. That all adds up to a lot!! It would have been better to be prepared for that.

Also From Katie: Again, this is specific to our lender – but it was something I didn’t even realize that we should have asked our lender about – how they determine completion and if they will pay draw requests. Some lenders are easier about paying draw requests than others. Our lender uses an old school percentage-based completion percentage worksheet – old school like the pdf looks like it’s been copied/scanned a bunch of times – and we had trouble getting one of our draws approved because our initial down payment for the plumbing/HVAC (they would pay those down payments) were throwing the entire percentage completion worksheet off. So we needed to be drawing say 40% of the total loan amount, but they were saying only 30% was complete, so they didn’t want to approve it. It was a huge headache. After I got that draw through, I made them send me the completion worksheet (the old school scanned PDF) and made sure that all future draws were right in line with it….although the completion % worksheet definitely had problems – like it didn’t account for major utility expenses at all, even though they were 7% of the total construction cost. I understand all of this a lot better NOW and in the future will never use a bank that uses this type of construction completion % worksheet for a construction loan.

From Rusty: Treat your tradies (contractors) well. They like you = they go the extra mile.

From Cici: Never, ever let someone else (i.e. your contractor, designer, project manager) sign off on the final order of kitchen cabinets without you seeing and agreeing. Despite having detailed mockups, a list of cabinet dimensions and details, our contractor seriously messed up our kitchen cabinets and we had to pivot or delay the project another month.

From Viktoria: Keep a very close eye on the budget!! and have regular meetings with your main contractor about money and where you are compared to what has been budgeted. They will not like it, but at least you know what is happening. The biggest anxiety about a renovation is when you feel like you are getting ripped off.

Also from Viktoria: Put everything in a contract, never agree to anything based on a handshake and have a construction attorney lined up just in case!!!! You might not need it, but when you do it is very important to have someone protecting your rights. If you disagree with your contractor on how to handle an issue, have a home inspector come and give a third-party opinion. They will only charge a couple hundred dollars, but it will be the best money you have ever spent.

From Mary: Be the annoying (but not too annoying!) client to a contractor. Walk down the work regularly that it’s all matching up to your vision and what you discussed. Ask questions (with pictures if communicating via text or email!). It is their responsibility to correct things they have done incorrectly, but it’s much better for the overall schedule if they are caught and corrected early. My mom gained a foot in her laundry room by catching a recess that was framed out that wasn’t needed for her house’s HVAC design (townhouse construction but each unit was slightly different). I caught several small things that they were able to correct throughout the process rather than waiting until the end and adding time to when they were out of my hair and I could enjoy my space!

Also From Mary: Communicate your expectations for working hours if you are still living in the space but also be realistic. They probably can’t work around naptimes, but they can work around weekend events at your house (like my daughter’s 3rd birthday party), finishing each day by your dinner/bed time, etc.

More Good To Know Tips

design by leanne Ford Interiors | construction by steve ford construction | styled by courtney favini lichty | photo by alexandra ribar

From Rusty: Plan in environmentally friendly and passive solar changes. You’ll save $$$ and the planet. Gotta say it… THERE IS NO PLANET B. That means no garbage disposal, outdoor clothes drying space, a place for a composting system, LED lighting, solar panels, an inverter system (battery storage if you can afford it), windows facing the right directions and exclusion of windows for the same reasons, no inappropriate roof colours (light for LA to reflect the heat), and plan on choosing and installing energy-efficient appliances like heaters, cooling, washing machines, etc, insulation everywhere you can squash it, soooo many more things….basically…. THINK FIRST AND CHOOSE FOR THE PLANET because it saves your hip pocket too!

From Emily: Take some time to learn some DIY skills, but know your personal strengths and weaknesses and bring in the pros when needed. Ask your handy family and friends to guide you while you’re learning, watch some YouTube videos, there’s a lot you can and should learn how to do.

From Rebecca: Do not start until everything is ordered!!! Product delays held up A LOT in several projects, and many custom items require lead time. Didn’t think about that when I was starting out.

Also from Rebecca: Combining projects saves so much money too (for example, having the tile guy come once for multiple bathrooms or kitchen/bathrooms saves $$$).

From Jill: 1. If you can afford it, move out of your home during construction. I had a meltdown in the depths of winter while we were living in our home, our ONLY toilet backed up and, yes, I had to use the construction porta potty.
2. Specify EVERYTHING IN THE CONTRACT. Hours of work, brands, colors, sizes of everything from windows and doors to tile, carpeting, doorknobs, cabinets, light fixtures, switch plates and outlet covers.
3. Yes to drawers in the kitchen! My recycling/trash pullout cabinet is THE SINGLE BEST CABINET and I wish I had put one in my laundry room, too!

From Heather: Never use flat paint if you live with kids. We loved the matte finish but could not clean it. If I wiped it down with anything – water, Magic eraser, etc, it would leave a spot and touch up paint never worked either despite being from the original paint can (I read it might have to do with different temps while drying?). Anyway, now I paint all walls satin or eggshell. Most people know this, but we thought we could get away with flat paint. We couldn’t.

From Elizabeth: If possible, I think it is very helpful to live in a house before you do any major work to it. What is important to you and how you flow in your house may play out differently than you think. 

Also From Elizabeth: Make as many design decisions as you can before demo even starts! I am not good at making decisions on the fly (as may be obvious from my previous comments), and it is very stressful when a contractor is demanding you make a decision on the spot about where the light switches are going to be because the electrician is there now and it is going to cost him and you more if he has to come back. You can’t plan for everything, but you will save yourself time, money, and agony the more you can do ahead of time.

Alright my friends, I don’t know about you but I feel MUCH more prepared for a kitchen renovation project than I ever have. I am sure we have only scratched the surface, so if you have more to add please do so down below and let us know what room we should tackle next. xx

Opener Image Credit: Home of Allison Pierce | Styling by Velinda Hellen & Erik Staalberg | Photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD | From: Working With What You’ve Got – An $8k Budget Kitchen Makeover With A Lot Of Vintage Charm


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82 thoughts on “Renovating Your Kitchen? Here Are All The Reno Mistakes To Avoid – Crowdsourced From Our Readers Who Have Been There & Done That

  1. i haven’t even read this yet (i’m about to), but i just want to say that the scalloped hood in the lead picture is still an obsession of mine. i WANT one! okay, going to read now. byeeeee

    1. yes. about the heated floors. i always thought that. if repairs needed, you have to rip up the whole floor!
      on choosing materials, heather’s comment made me laugh: “If you don’t care if it’s clean or not, then pick a surface that hides dirt/stains/etc.” why? because i like things to be clean.

      1. I loved the surface comment too – so perfectly said! I am one of those people who is always cleaning counters so I want to SEE everything. Whereas floors I want the dirt camouflaged!

        1. Oh and hubby is the opposite – does not notice crumbs and tomato sauce on the counter, puts things right on top. But he’s the first to clean the floor!

        2. I just had this conversation with my mom yesterday. I moved into a house with white tile kitchen floors. Not sure why anyone would choose this? But my 2 large dogs walked into my kitchen, when I didn’t realize the garage door wasn’t completely shut. Both had muddy paws. But you could only see them in the kitchen. The mud blends in beautifully with my mid-tone hardwoods. But the hardwoods are still muddy and dirty, unfortunately. My mom may show up with a paintbrush for the kitchen floor, if I don’t make an executive decision on renovating my kitchen soon.

          Loved reading this post. Going to start my reno in probably about a year. Will save this post for reference.

      2. I have heated floors in two bathrooms under concrete floors that seemed so cool, but even under tile they’d be a pain to repair. Well, I’m out primary bathroom, the heated floor stopped working within a few months. The other bathroom is now not used as much, so the heated floors don’t make sense. If there was an easier way to fix them or they were more reliable, they’d be wonderful. But it’s a lot of money to spend when they f do not seem to last. I thought it was just mine.

      3. Yes, From Heather: “If you want to keep a surface clean (like kitchen counters), then make sure it’s a surface that actually shows that it is dirty. If you don’t care if it’s clean or not, then pick a surface that hides dirt/stains/etc.” We installed honed quartz countertops (Pental’s blue savoie, looks sort of like concrete) and I quickly regretted the honed because you do see clear sticky spots. But seeing Heather’s comment makes me feel better about it because I do keep those counters cleaner as a result!

      4. Love all the tips. So many things to consider when investing in remodeling and upgrading. The only one I question is the use of solar, especially being John Kerry has recently admitted that solar panels are being made using forced labor of Uighur Muslims in work camps in China.

  2. I quadruple the dark floors. We didn’t even have an option to swap them out, but now I wish I fought to get much lighter floors. Thank god for robot vacuum that runs every day.

    1. So I think there is no perfect solution when it comes to floors. We have light wood (bamboo) – not my choice but it came with the house. Sure, the dust doesn’t show but every speck of dirt, crumb or other random debris does! I’m still vacuuming and mopping everyday so it doesn’t look filthy. Perhaps a mid tone is the answer?

      1. Rachel, I’m with you in thinking maybe mid tone is the answer. We chose light bamboo and while I really like the look, and it hides dust much better than my the dark floors my in-laws have, I see a lot of smudges and other debris–especially when the light hits at a certain angle.

      2. We actually have redone floors throughout the house and they are a midtone wood plank, a little yellower than I would have preferred but my dream wood maybe doesn’t exist. Anyway, the only place you can tell it’s dirty is those certain corners where eddies develop when the HVAC is on. For the rest, you have to walk around in bare feet to be sure it isn’t clean. This is lovely as we have 3 children who I kick out the house everyday for at least an hour unless it’s raining or freezing, and I try to keep a not-too-clean home since we have some medical conditions in the family that can be worsened by having a too clean home. I still want to entertain my friends though! Our floors are perfect for a balance.

    2. We also have dark floors (they came with the house, not what I would have picked personally) and I 100% agree.

    3. Or you could do a black and white checkerboard and have the worst of both worlds! Dust on the black and dirt on the white.

    1. Personally I think the sink – it looks better than a stove, you don’t need an exhaust in the middle of the room and safer for kids

    2. My vote would be to put the sink in the island if you have that option. If the sink is placed along a wall or window instead, the countertop seam behind the sink always collects water from using the faucet; that bead of caulking almost always gets dirty and comes undone. Island sink avoids this problem.

    3. If possible, neither. Then you have a big working area for food preparation heaven! 🙂

    4. If you have to choose one, I’d rather have the stove in the island. The counters around my sink are always piled high with dishes, and I don’t want all of those dirty dishes in the middle of my beautiful island. I don’t understand all the fuss from some people about range hoods being a “must have.” Maybe if you have a gas stove, venting the fumes is necessary — we have an induction cooktop that lies flush to the surface of the island, doesn’t use natural gas, and we’re not big on frying in oil, so there is no need to vent. I don’t ever notice cooking smells lingering, but I would just open a window or light a candle if they did 🙂

      1. I’m southern and learned to cook in the traditional way. I used to stay angry that my apartments and homes never had a real vent hood – just those recirculators which are worthless even if you take the filter out and clean it regularly. Our current house doesn’t have one either, but just about the time we moved in I was changing our diet to something with far less frying – and yep, that means sauteeing and pan roasting too, even that tablespoon or two of oil makes a difference. We’ve been here 16 years this July 1st. “Get a real vent hood” keeps getting pushed further down my list because I’ve continued to improve our diet and we just…don’t need it anywhere near as much as I used to. I clean the tops of my upper cabinets (which don’t go all the way up because we have a half-vaulted ceiling in the kitchen) less than once a year – only when the dust builds up, and it comes off so easily now that there are no grease microdroplets mixed in.

      2. Wow that’s so interesting. I’m 99% sure that where Iive it’s in the building code that you need a vent over a stove of any type.

    5. 1000% the sink. If you like to casually entertain or have kiddos who sit at the counter while you cook, you don’t want splatter-y sauces/oils or hot pans in the way (especially when you have a big Italian fam like I do that gesticulates wildly when they talk). I also DO NOT understand people who think range hoods are optional. Admittedly, I love to cook, I use a lot of garlic + spice, and I believe in a hard sear in cast iron … all of that creates food odors that linger. I always think of that room spray commercial where you think things smell fine, but your guests think the kitchen smells like a giant fish. You may not think it stinks, but … unless you’re cooking the blandest of bland things, it probably does. My hood vents to the outside of the house and it is a godsend.

    6. We currently have our sink in the island and love it there! The stove is against the wall right if you turn around while at the sink. It’s a really, really convenient setup and I love it!

  3. Re: the heated floors. We put heated floors in our en suite bathroom and LOVE them. We feel that the heated floors were the best part of our new bathroom! Just make sure that you have a good electrician install the wires and then everybody stay out of there until the tile installer can get there. Coordinating the schedule with your electrician and tile setter is a must!

    1. Agreed – we have them in our bathroom and they are great. I’m in Canada and run cold and they are the coziest thing on a cold winter night.

    2. This is a good point. I think the people who did mine 14 years ago just didn’t have the experience, and they just weren’t common in my area. Someone told me that he heard of someone who can find a short and fix it without removing the floor, but I never managed to get the name of this elusive wizard.

      1. I have heard that most times, it’s the thermostat on the wall that stops working after a number of years. If that is the case, you can get this replaced fairly easily, no need to rip out the flooring.

        1. Oh, that’s good to know. I’ll have to look into that. Thank you, Sylvie.

      2. Yes! They can. They just need a thingy (super technical term isn’t it) that can sense electrical currents, and, I think, a diagram of the wire layout your installer used. Lots of stud finders these days have the same kind of sensor in them so that you don’t screw into the stud that the electrical to the light switch is stapled to and kill yourself hanging a picture. I’m pretty sure the heated floor thingy has a better sensor than just a stud finder, but they are easily acquired and not expensive. If you can’t find any trades person in your area who has one and knows what to do with it, you can buy one and train yourself and then your tradie. (And ask for a discount since you are providing some of their tools for them.) A tile or two can be popped out, the wire fixed, then skim over with the mortar, put the tiles back down, re-grout a bit.
        -source: I have friends who actually do this kind of electrical /construction work.

    3. I agree. I love mine so much!! We put them in both our bathrooms, and I believe it was only around $600 each. I saved in other areas and I would 100% do it again. I hate standing on cold tile floors.

      1. Do they ever! I have a hot water in-floor system that is the only heat source for my 1150 square-foot midcentury house. It takes over an hour to warm up when the weather gets cold, but it definitely fills the whole house with noiseless, motionless heat.

        I’d rather have another type of heat, though. I can’t leave combustible things on the floor; I have no ducts for installing central air; there are few good choices for flooring materials (I don’t want tile *everywhere*); and there are only two HVAC companies in my entire rural county who know how to work on it. Oh, and parts always have to be ordered so I have no central heat for 3+ days when anything breaks.

  4. This is such good timing because we JUST realized we need to remodel our kitchen (surprise! knob & tube and a mystery leak!). One thing that is boggling us is how to find good designers/contractors? I feel like I am online dating and NO ONE swipes the right direction on us (ie I have gotten 0 replies to inquiries). Any advice on how to find and woo a designer/GC? Or who I should be contacting first? Designer vs. GC?

    1. Youbcould choose VELINDA whose kitchen design is featured above.
      She does virtual designing too, if you aren’t in LA, but with things openingup in theUS, she may even be ableto travel to you.

    2. I recommend finding a designer that you feel comfortable working with and someone who reflects your style. Most often if the designer is local, they have a recommended GC or two that they have a relationship with and trust. They will typically manage the GC depending on what type of arrangement you make with them as well.

      1. And please make sure they are an actual designer – not a decorator who “also does design”. There are still folks out here using broad terminology and they may be legally allowed to as long as they don’t claim training or certifications they don’t have (that’s the letters behind their name on the business card). A lovely, trained decorator who also does design but has no training in it and no certs will have problems managing your GC. Make sure you know what alphabet soup should follow their name in your area, and don’t be afraid to ask about something in a neutral way. Anyone who is worth their salt should be glad to let you know how they worked their ass off to pass the NCIDQ and get registered with ASID.

    3. Also, you need to be prepared to be patient. Good designers and contractors are always in demand, and right now, it is not uncommon to have to wait for a year or more before actually starting construction. Acknowledging that you know there is a lead time involved but you are willing to wait for the best is a good way to get people to call you back.

      1. Yeah, everyone is crying about the price of wood right now but so many people saved money during lockdowns not spending on gas, restaurants, cafes, coffeeshops, parking meters, clothes, vacations, etc etc that there are still loads of people who can afford the higher prices as long as they tweak their plans and timeline. Tradespeople are up to their eyeballs in work in my area – and I don’t even live in a particularly prosperous state!

    4. Am a wife of a GC – you can start with either, but right now especially construction is crazyyyy. Everyone wants to do stuff on their house right now. You’re probably not doing anything wrong, it’s just that everyone is super busy. My husband likes the projects that have a designer already because it’s a lot easier to come up with an accurate estimate of how much time and money the project will take. But you might be able to find a GC who is willing to help design (but make sure you let them know you’re not expecting them to do that design work for free!)

      Try looking on Instagram for designers and GCs in your area, and send direct messages/emails that don’t leave them guessing what you want or how you want them to reply. Tell them what you know (budget, overview of the project, etc), ask any questions you have, and make it easy for them to say yes to you.

      If truly nobody is replying to you, after a while you may want to check if something in your inquiries is a red flag. Big projects aren’t scary to good GCs, but tight timelines and unrealiatic budgets are (especially when electrical is concerned – it can just destroy a budget.) If your timeline and budget are all realistic, the last place to think is your communication style. Sometimes my husband gets an email from a client and their tone just screams “I don’t value your time and expertise”, and those clients just drag down his soul (and mine, by proxy, because he gets really anxious about those situations.) So ask lots of questions, and *also* make sure to reply promptly to emails and show appreciation for their expertise and time. 🙂

      And also, be honest with them and be a safe place for them to be honest with you too! The best relationships my husband has with clients are the ones where he can email as though they are friends and tell them straight details without worrying that they will be mad at him for how much things cost or accuse him of ripping them off. He never wants to rip his clients off, and he also doesn’t want to wind up resenting them later if something goes wrong and he needs to work for 3 unexpected days while dealing with their ancient drop ceiling and custom cabinet plugs.


      1. This is very helpful! My designer and I are finishing up the plans and the GC is in the process of getting me his bid so that we can start. I’m trying to walk that fine line between being sensitive to how busy he is while at the same time getting him to return my calls.

      2. This is SO HELPFUL! Thank you! Any recommendation on how to figure out an appropriate budget? I don’t want to be naive or scare off designers, but I’ve seen so much conflicting advice online. I’ve seen some articles saying to budget for 10-15% of your home’s value, and others saying to budget per square foot (figures range from $150-$500 per square foot!). Those are huge ranges and it’s hard to figure out what to aim for or if we are way off base

        1. Rather than reading blogs and websites that are client facing, try finding some that are trades-facing and based in your area. Industry people share this info between themselves and, in my personal experience, there is a smaller range of costs/budgets as I compare different sites. You can also check to see if any friends or acquaintances are comfortable sharing their paperwork from finished projects with you. I have found that acquaintances seemed more comfortable doing this than friends I keep in touch with regularly and frequently. I guess the people I’m not real involved with were less afraid of being judged or something since I’m not really in their life? (I mean, I wouldn’t judge! But that’s the culture, so maybe they were nervous anyway.)

  5. I love this and really hope that you do continue the series. We are just now talking with a contractor about some renovations, and this content is pure gold! Thanks!

  6. As pessimistic as it sounds: protect your house as much as you can, as a number of contractors–even those who seem conscientious–will damage your home. I’ve had tile installers, as well as painters, leave scratches in brand-new hardwood floors that had just been put in. I’ve had the floor guy chip the lower kitchen cabinets during buffing and sanding. Painters dripped paint on my cabinets that permanently etched the surface. A countertop installer leaves scratches on a brand-new gas range. Other casualties include a vintage Saarinen table that had its walnut top deeply scratched by a contractor who also denied damaging it. Don’t let your guard down, and protect everything that could be damaged: flooring, carpeting, cabinets, exposed surfaces. I could rant.

    1. Yes, youneed to get the order of contractors right or they can damage and mess upthe previous stage.

      1. The sequence of contractors is important, but my point was that any tradespeople, even in the correct sequence, will not be as careful with your home as you are. I’ve had damage done even when the work was sequenced appropriately.

        1. This is spot on, regardless of the sequence, things get damaged. It’s pretty frustrating, but very important to be a presence for that reason, so you can step in and say this doesn’t fly.

        2. We just did a three room renovation (gut kitchen and laundry room, facelift and opening up to the other two spaces of the family room) and had this issue. Everything was sequenced correctly, but there was still damage due to negligence, masons not protecting slate mudroom floor when extending a brick wall and getting mortar on the stone. If feels lose, lose, because people at fault rarely mean the damage they have caused, the contractor takes pride is his work, but didn’t perform the sub’s labor that caused the damage, and you’re stuck feeling like an a-hole in either paying for someone else’s negligence, or forcing the issue is no one willingly steps up. It’s tough all around. I’ve done two major renovations to my old home with two different teams and both times found the whole process to be incredibly challenging.

          1. I’ve had the same experience, Sara, in five different homes. Big or small projects, and sometimes even with tradespeople whom I trusted. It is incredibly dismaying, so thank you for sharing your own experiences–it’s therapeutic to hear. We need to work on changing the culture of the trades and some of the acceptable forms of behavior that go unchecked.

          2. Some of the best advice I ever got was to look into couple’s therapy and healthy communication for healthy relationships – then use it all with anyone I worked with to remodel my home. Learning how to communicate that you have a particular perspective of the situation but *in a neutral way* is not a skill we are born with. Neither is balancing sticking up for yourself while being open to other veiwpoints. Some of it is very hard! And you have to be willing to wait (and wait…) to feel better, rather than getting that nice little neurotransmitter hit after you vent at someone. That is also hard! No one likes to feel bad one second longer than they have to. But reframing the issue to be “I do have to feel bad just a little longer because my true goal is for this to be resolved well for everyone involved so that we can all continue the project and end up with a finished room/home we can all be proud of” really helps.

  7. Leslie with the drippy husband/sink- there is something called a drip rail that may be helpful when you are ready to redo your cabinet. I learned about it from Sarah @ Room for Tuesday. She did a whole post on these but basically it is decorative AND protects the cabinet. Great tips here!

    1. Instructions unclear, husband v. unhappy says he’s having trouble fitting through doorways. 😉

      Sarah’s post is google search result #1 for me, and it’s so good and informative! Pics 1 and 4 are truly gorgeous – the rail looks so intentional and part of the aesthetic. I’ve seen her mentioned here before but just skimmed the links, I think I’m going to start following her though. Everything is so good – beauty and practicality together, my forever ‘ship.

  8. Thanks so much for this! A wealth of info – I’m sure I will reference a lot!
    I often read the comments as the EHD community has SO MUCH wisdom so it is very appreciated to have the kitchen info consolidated so well.
    Next room – bathroom? Mudroom? Really anything, I will be grateful!

  9. The comment about matte paint is so painfully true. A few weeks ago, of the bulk of all our living spaces were painted with matte paint, at the direction of our interior designer. I had no idea how problematic this would be, otherwise I would have insisted on another choice. We have 3 kids (3,7,9) and a large dog. It’s already a mess in places. DIYing painting projects are ahead of us, and I’m bummed because we paid for pros the first time, but can’t justify the cost to bring them back. It looked beautiful, and I understand why it’s prettier. But dirty, chipped, scraped, smudged and otherwise imperfect surfaces aren’t worth the hot minute of pristine beauty in a house with kids.

    1. Becky, that’s a real shame. I go with low sheen paint every time. Not shiny at all and generally scrubbable too.

      1. Totally agree. You just have to make sure you get the “scrubbable” kind for high traffic areas. I vastly prefer flat finishes and clean them up with a sponge all the time, but I’ve learned the non-scrubbable ones show marks when you do.

    2. I agree! I painted our whole main living area with flat paint after one of my favorite home bloggers claimed that ‘new paint technology’ allows you to wipe and clean flat paint. It’s so beautiful – like cashmere – AND I have orange peel textured walls which the flat paint helps disguise, but this paint shows grease and scuffs and dirt worse than any walls I have ever painted before.

    3. Also, I tried out a couple of those new matte paints, that say they have been reformulated to shrug off dirt and stains like glossy paint does, in my long central hallway. Ugh, no, it doesn’t. It looks terrible, I’m glad it’s just a paint swatch I’m using for color decisions. We’ll be painting over with satin finish.

  10. That first painted cabinet warning is digging up all the anxiety. I am dying to paint my orange wood cabinets (kitchen & bathrooms) and happy to hire it out for the best chance at great results. But, real talk, are painted cabinets ever good over time?

    1. I’ve read a million horror stories, but I had painted cabinetry in my first house, that never chipped and has always looked great. Now we have renters in that house who are surely not as gentle as we were, but 10 years later they still look pretty much perfect. I think it may be largely due to the craftsmanship of the cabinetmaker.

      1. Mine are fine ten years after I painted them myself. I paid a lot attention to good prep before the paint went on…. Could that be the difference?

    2. You just have to have a willingness to do touch ups. I know a lot of people who love them despite a bit more maintenance. In the kitchen, the hardest part is grease. If you don’t have good ventilation, the grease build up is hard to clean without destroying the paint. Painting my kitchen cabinets was a temporary fix until we remodeled. 14 years later, we are finally moving forward on a full remodel. I got a lot of compliments on my painted cabinets, and it lightened up my my kitchen, so I still believe it was worth it.

    3. I have used the paint Sherwin- Williams recommends for cabinet painting in two different houses. I do not have children but do have dogs which sometimes jump against the lower cabinets. Never had a problem. However, I did find out due to varying environmental laws in two different states that the formula was a little different and one paint was a bit easier to use than the other but the durability has been the same. If you decide to hire someone you can ask for references and find out who was happy with the job and how the job has held up. I expect I will paint again if I end up moving. I just feel like stained cabinets make a kitchen seem darker and dreary no matter how much natural light. My current kitchen has white uppers and a coastal blue color for the lowers and when my realtor stopped by she couldn’t believe the difference in the kitchen . She said it just looked so much happier. My kitchen only has one small window and the deep brown cabinets were sucking the life out of it.

    4. We painted over our stained wood cabinets 7 years ago and they’ve held up great. Just a couple nicks in high use spots. I think the key was priming with an oil-based primer (after lightly sanding and cleaning them before with TSP)

    5. I think it really depends on what paint is used and whether corners are cut – i.e. the sanding and layering and sealing that can be skipped, done ok, or done well. Also, I know one person who was able to get their cabinets sprayed and sealed by an autobody shop using car paint (a thing that is talked about on blogs and social media and the old HGTV all the time, but body shops around me have never done it and say they never would when I asked). Their cabinets look great but it is not as easy as some bloggers would have you believe, depending on where you live.
      I have wondered if marine paint would work? I know it’s used on floors and holds up.

    6. It’s giving me anxiety too! We’re two weeks away from installing new white cabinets in our currently-gutted kitchen. We purchased from a company that is highly regarded for its finish work on painted surfaces, but I’m still nervous.

  11. A tidbit our architecture firm learned the hard way: If you want a wall-mounted faucet, be aware of how you’ll repair leaks. If it’s mounted on a wall whose opposite side is plain drywall, then a repair will be quite easy. You’ll need to cut and patch the drywall, but it’s not crazy. BUT. If it’s on an exterior wall, or the opposite side is somehow hard to access (e.g. behind a built-in), then you’ll have to break the tile (or, god forbid, slab marble) to make even minor repairs. Huge cost increase. This goes for pot fillers, too! It’s absolutely possible, but it’s way more involved than a deck-mounted faucet, which can be repaired easily from below without ripping your wall apart. We now suggest to clients to only install wall-mounted faucets on strategically chosen walls.

    1. Oh my, finding out a repair needs to be done behind a marble slab sounds like a nightmare for both the client and the firm!

  12. The timeliness of this post = chefs kiss!! We thought about moving but decided this year to commit to making our home exactly how/what we want it to be – enter kitchen reno! Taking stock of all of these incredible tips. Grateful for this community!

    1. Us too! The pandemic forced us to finally make our marriage how we really want it to be, and now we are extending that get ‘er done energy to our home. It’s so much work, but we are happy even when we are so tired.

  13. For those doing kitchen Reno’s, please think through the location of your electrical outlets and switches. They should not be the focal point of your backsplash. Even in the photos attached to the article – brass outlet covers, prominently displayed. It you are doing tile, don’t Interrupt the tile every two feet! Run them above the counters, run them below the wall cabinets – just not smack in the middle of the backsplash!

    1. This is 100% one of those ‘this is how it’s always done’ things that contractors just default to and it doesn’t need to be such an eyesore.

  14. Finished a whole house renovation on a 1924 bungalow one year ago. A lifesaver for us was taking progress pictures and making some notes (what’s being done, by whom, any issues discussed, resolutions decided, etc.) several times per week, if not daily. This habit streamlined conversations with our GC, various subs and trades, vendors/suppliers; and proved an invaluable resource when the final billing reconciliation against estimate was done.

  15. I do not understand the complaints about dark floors and counters showing dirt or dust. Don’t you want to see it so you can clean up the mess? I don’t want to track mudroom dirt or kitchen crumbs or living room dust onto bedroom carpet. It doesn’t take long to sweep a floor or wipe a counter. And I am not a clean freak!

    1. No, they don’t want to see it. Because you see it all the time and you see it immediately. They want it to disappear until they have time at the end of the day, or whenever, to take care of it. Plus, some people feel a pressure to clean each time they see even just a little speck and it can be very stressful and almost like they are oppressed by their home. For those folks, it makes sense to have a floor/counter where you don’t see the dust/dirt until it’s built up enough that it makes sense to clean, like after dinner for counters and every other day for the floors of people without kids and dogs.

  16. Some heating flooring pads can be installed via your crawlspace/basement between the joists rather than directly on top of your subflooring and under the tile. This makes repair or replacement far easier.

  17. I wish we had known how toxic gas appliances (and fireplaces) are. The fumes from these create very toxic and poor indoor air quality (just do a quick Google search). My husband was diagnosed with cancer last year and we have a young kiddo, so my anxiety about toxins is that much more. Our house is only two years old and we can’t afford to replace the stove right now. We have a powerful hood vent but when it’s running it sounds like a 747 taking off in your kitchen and it’s impossible to have conversations from across the room. I wish we would have gone with induction. I know lots of people love gas appliances, so to that I’d just say to make sure you have excellent ventilation.

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