6 kitchen remodel mistakes you don't want to make, and how to avoid them

Top designers and contractors weigh in the biggest kitchen remodel mistakes they've been called in to rectify

man putting up a subway tile backsplash
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We’ve all seen the funny social media memes with the DIY fails and kitchen remodel mistakes. A bathroom so small the door won’t open without hitting the toilet, a wall bisecting a fluorescent light fixture, or a ceiling fan installed too close to the wall. These mistakes may be funny on Facebook, but they aren’t funny in our own homes. Especially if we’re the ones making them. 

When it comes to bringing your kitchen makeover ideas to life, you want to make sure you know what you’re doing. “Kitchens are complex,” says Jason Bernier, owner of Bernier Building and Remodeling, Inc. in Milford, Connecticut. And, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2021 cost vs. value report, the cost of a kitchen remodel can cost as much as $150,000. That’s a big chunk of change to gamble on DIY projects. That’s why the experts always recommend partnering with a certified kitchen designer for your project. 

“Be selective in choosing a designer,” says Bernier. “Find someone who comes highly recommended and is well seasoned. Someone with the designation Certified Kitchen Designer.”

Why are contractors so adamant about hiring a kitchen designer? Because they’ve seen a lot of mistakes. And yes, some as bad as those memes. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what top professionals in the home remodeling field have to say about the mistakes they’ve seen in the field.

1. Layout is everything

Steve Besch, president of Besch Architecture in Chicago, Illinois reminds us to keep the flow of traffic in mind, especially when it relates to the rest of the house. “You don’t want to have a major circulation path through the work and meal prep area of a kitchen,” he says. For example, having to walk between the island and the counter to go from the mudroom entry to the rest of the home would interrupt the person prepping a meal.

Other space considerations include keeping the refrigerator out of the food prep area and placing the cooking surface opposite the kitchen sink, if you have an island. “By doing this you minimize walking with a pot of boiling water to drain too far from the cooktop or range. It should just be a turnaround from one to the other,” Besch says.

  • Not sure what you want from a kitchen? Check out these kitchen ideas.

2. Don’t forget the angles

Another spacing consideration mentioned by Jay Gauldin, president of TBS Construction in Moneta, Virginia is how angles are used. “The biggest design mistake that I’ve seen in kitchen design is introducing angles into the layout or not taking into consideration how corners affect the access to storage and appliances,” he says. For instance, installing a dishwasher at a 45-degree angle in a corner means that when the door is open you can’t open the cabinets to put away the dishes. “I’ve also seen oven doors open into refrigerators and other collisions because consideration wasn’t given to how things interacted when the kitchen was actually put into use.” He recommends opening every appliance, drawer, and door during the design phase to make sure nothing collides.

3. The kitchen is part of a larger whole

John Dorlini, architect, certified interior designer, and owner of Circle Design Studio in Roanoke, Virginia says that without professional input homeowners fail to “visualize how a kitchen remodel will impact the spaces outside of the kitchen footprint.” The software used by most cabinet shops restricts the view to the kitchen only, he says. But that doesn’t help the homeowner who wants to remove a wall for an open floor plan. “The design of the kitchen should take into consideration how it will achieve aesthetic harmony and balance with those adjacent rooms that are now exposed. We never design the kitchen in a vacuum, we consider everything from the path of carrying groceries from your car to moving the kitchen to a new location inside the home.”

In the same vein, certified kitchen designer with Classic Kitchen & Bath in Harrisonburg, VA, Gabby Koontz, says the kitchen is part of the whole envelope. “There are flooring and ceiling changes, seating options to consider, furniture spacing, and the aesthetics.”

4. Stone is heavy

How heavy? A granite countertop weighs between 18-20 pounds per square foot. And marble is even heavier. David Smith, president/CEO of Delavue Management, LLC in Sicklerville, New Jersey, says most homeowners want to open up their kitchens to include wide-open spaces and use natural stone counters. “These materials are very heavy,” he says, “and the floors need to be designed to support them.” He adds that when building peninsulas or islands in the middle of an expanse, floor joists may need to be doubled and beams added. “Nothing could be more frustrating for a homeowner than paying big dollars to have their dream kitchen designed and installed and then have floors sag, cabinets rack, and tiles crack within a year or two.”

5. And doesn’t always match

“The worst mistake we see homeowners make today with kitchen remodeling is the backsplash,” says Mike Bryant, co-owner of Construction Marketing, LLC in Hardy, Virginia. “Many homeowners pick a backsplash idea without considering how it will match the granite or quartz countertops.” He suggests that you keep the backsplash to a single color if you have a countertop with a lot of color variations, veining, or flecks. Or, if you’re installing a solid surface countertop of a single color, feel free to go bold, and multi-hued, with the backsplash.

6. Storage space is essential

“One of the most commonly made mistakes in kitchen design seems to be lack of storage,” says Alicia Smith, interior designer and marketing director with F&S Building Innovations in Roanoke, Virginia. Open shelving is the rage but it only provides space for your nicest tableware. If you’re renovating an existing space, without enlarging it at all, she cautions homeowners against following trends that limit storage space. “If there’s not a separate pantry available you’ll need to account for your dishes, cookware, food, and other kitchen accessories. And, if you’re not a fan of cluttered counters you’ll also want to plan for appliance storage.” Smith also suggests adding cabinets to the backside of an island to store seasonal items.

The 2019 Remodeling Impact Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors Research Group gives a complete kitchen renovation a Joy Score of 10, the highest score possible. That means 93 percent of homeowners have a greater desire to stay at home since completing the project and 95 percent have an increased sense of enjoyment when they’re home.

Don’t let one of these popular kitchen design mistakes steal your joy. Partner with the right designer or contractor to guarantee success. If your friends and family can’t recommend someone, check reputable sites like HomeAdvisor, Angi, or our Find a Builder Guide. Once you find a few that work in your area, read their reviews and call for an estimate. And most of all, enjoy the process!

Carol J. Alexander
Carol J. Alexander

Carol J. Alexander writes website copy, blog posts, and feature articles on home remodeling and construction topics from her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In addition to Real Homes, notable clients include, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Florida Roofing magazine.

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