Kitchens are one of the most popular renovations homeowners invest in. They can increase the value of your home but they’re also very easy to screw up. Think about it. It’s one of the few rooms where carpentry, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical all come together. The potential for problems is huge.
Most homeowners are preoccupied with the finishes. They think about tile or paint colours, granite countertops—that’s a big one—backsplashes, appliances and lighting. It’s not to say that these things aren’t important. But like I’ve said a million times before, looks are deceiving.
I’ve seen some kitchen renos that looked incredible on the surface. But as soon as I start poking my nose in corners, looking behind walls and checking code compliance the whole thing quickly falls apart—literally. And this is after homeowners have dumped over $40,000 into the project. What are they left with? In most cases, a lot of good materials that get thrown away, huge debt and a kitchen they can’t use. Doesn’t sound like the dream reno most people are looking for.
But as a homeowner, how can you make sure that the things you don’t see are being done properly? Especially if you’re not in the house during the reno or working all day when things are supposed to be getting done? The truth is that most homeowners don’t find out until there’s a major problem. When that happens the first person the homeowners usually contact is the contractor. If the contractor’s any good they’ll immediately answer clients’ phone calls and get their butt to the jobsite as soon as they can to see what’s wrong.
The problem is that most kitchen renovation mishaps happen when the contractor is bad. And no matter how much you chase down a bad contractor, they are rarely held accountable for the mess they leave behind. That’s when the homeowners go to another contractor for help. If they’re lucky, the contractor will be a professional and show the homeowners how bad the renovation really is. But if they’re not, they’ll just end up in the hands of another bad contractor who sees this as an opportunity to take advantage of the situation.
Luckily, there are signs in kitchen renovations that tell you the contractor’s skills aren’t up to the job—and there’s probably trouble just beneath the surface:
- Stove fans that don’t vent directly outside. The ducts or pipes should also be insulated to keep moisture out of the wall and prevent mould.
- No silicone caulking where the kitchen counter and wall/backsplash meet.
- Cabinets that don’t open or close properly.
- Uneven or poorly installed trim and/or crown moulding.
- Changing structure, HVAC, electrical or plumbing without a permit.
- Poor product choices, like wood countertops. A good contractor will know that it’s a breeding ground for bacteria. You don’t want to be preparing food on that kind of surface.
- Switches that don’t work.
- Outlets that are not GFCI protected. All kitchen receptacles within 1 m of a sink along the wall behind counters must be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
If you see any of the above in your kitchen renovation, it’s time to bring in a qualified, licensed contractor. They will be able to fully assess the work being done and tell you what’s really going on in the kitchen.