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Reno Expert: Common Kitchen Planning Mistakes – Dec/Jan2017

Reno Expert: Common Kitchen Planning Mistakes - Dec/Jan2017

Avoid these errors to create an efficient workspace

Everyone knows the kitchen is the most important room in the house. We start our day there making coffee and breakfast, it’s where we spend time preparing our meals and cleaning up afterwards and, inevitably, it’s the spot everyone congregates at during a party. In my years of building and renovating kitchens I’ve seen a lot of mistakes that negatively impact functionality. Here’s my list of the most common mistakes people make when planning a kitchen.


There are three kinds of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting is how the whole room is illuminated, task lighting is focused on a specific area to complete tasks, such as chopping your veggies, and accent lighting is used to highlight a particular feature, say a piece of art. In the kitchen, ambient and task lighting are the most important, particularly for older homeowners who may have impaired vision.

You need to be careful where you place overhead pot lights. If they’re too far back from the counters, your body will cast a shadow over your work area.

Lights mounted under upper cabinets are a great way to add task lighting, and trim can be added to hide the light boxes.


In terms of strategic placement, your sink should be your number one priority. Everything revolves around access to the sink. Once you’ve rinsed something, you don’t want to walk halfway across the kitchen to get it on your stove.

If you have your sink built into an island, try to position your stove directly across from it to minimize walking distance between the two. That said, I’d advise you to put the two together, particularly if you have young children or pets in the house because, Murphy’s Law, the space between the two will become the path everyone else wants to use as a major thoroughfare.

Similarly, your dishwasher should be close to the sink. While modern dishwashers are powerful enough to clean the dirtiest of plates, you’ll still likely find yourself rinsing a few items off before loading them. Over time, a steady stream of water droplets from the sink to the dishwasher will cause the finish on your floor to bubble or scuff.


There’s nothing more annoying than a smoke detector that goes off every time you try to cook something on your stovetop. For one, you don’t want to mount it in the kitchen. It should be placed as far from the stove as possible, while still in a central location on the main floor to ensure it works when needed. But a more likely cause of frequent false alarms is a stove vent that’s undersized and isn’t able to draw enough air.

You’ll also want to ensure you have enough electrical outlets for all the countertop appliances you’ll be using, and for a handy place to charge your phone or a laptop while you’re surfing online for recipes. Any receptacles close to the sink must be GFCI outlets that have a built-in fuse to prevent accidental shocks.


Built-in microwaves are great for freeing up counter space, but make sure it’s mounted at a level that’s comfortable to access. If mom or dad are on the shorter side, you don’t want them reaching too high to remove things and risk burning their hands or spilling hot liquids.

One common mistake people make is to undersize the fridge without thinking about the future. A young couple may only need a small fridge but, once two or three kids come along, they’ll find their storage space insufficient. After the cabinets and counters are in place, however, it’s an expensive fix to try to make room for a larger icebox.

The other appliance that’s often poorly placed is the dishwasher. I did say you want it to be close to the sink, but keep the door swing in mind. If you have the dishwasher diagonally across from the sink on an L-shaped counter, you may not be able to stand at the sink with the door open.

Jim Caruk, Renovation EditorWe look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?