Before embarking on any kitchen remodeling project, I caution my clients to prepare themselves mentally for unexpected glitches because, as the Scottish Poet Robert Burns has observed, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

I have yet to see a kitchen remodeling project that progressed 100% as planned, with no errors, miscalculations, mishaps or delays between the time the homeowner signs off on the kitchen design plans and project completion. Inevitably, there comes a point when I am reminded of another saying: “the road to good intentions is paved with hell.”

Remodeling “Hiccups”

Homeowners who accept that they will endure some degree of hell while their kitchen is being torn apart and made over can spare themselves unnecessary anxiety, panic, and sleepless nights during the remodeling process.

Our recent Reston Town Center kitchen remodeling project offers a case example of the kinds of things that can go wrong in the course of creating a beautiful kitchen that is a delight to live in and cook in. This was a complicated remodeling project that experienced its share hiccups and mistakes that we have successfully resolved. On a side note, I am happy to report that, despite the glitches and trials we encountered during the course of this project, our client’s neighbor was so impressed with the way this kitchen turned out that she immediately engaged us for her own kitchen design and remodeling project.

Human Errors Are To Be Expected

In this case, several independent and unrelated incidents contributed to construction delays. The list below is not meant to point fingers or blame anyone but rather to point out that all involved are human and, despite our best intentions, human errors are bound to occur in complex construction projects.

  1. The homeowner changed her mind about her initial under-cabinet lighting selection, after seeing another option she liked better during the kitchen demolition,
  2. Backordered decorative cabinet hardware,
  3. Cabinet installer mistake,
  4. Cabinet manufacturer mistake,
  5. Conflicting instructions from the Building Inspector and the Fire Marshall regarding the relocation of the existing sprinkler system, which was required due to the ceiling reconfiguration,
  6. My not being a bit more persistent in ensuring critical decisions were made on time,
  7. My not insisting more emphatically that the client’s request to change a particular design element would certainly present a problem for her later (i.e. I would have had to debate it strongly with her to make my point.)

Adjusting Manufacturer’s Specs

This homeowner insisted that the range hood bottom be placed 30″ above the cooktop, as recommended by the manufacturer. Although I always attempt to follow manufacturers’ specifications, to a “T”, I advised her — based on my own professional experience — that it would be better to place the hood somewhere between 33” and 36” (69” to 72” above the floor) to prevent taller people, such as herself and her husband, from banging their heads on the hood while cooking. She believed the manufacturer’s specifications should be followed. I relented and went with what she wanted.

Sure enough, after the hood was installed, she realized the wisdom of my original advice when she could not avoid bumping her head on the hood while cooking. Fortunately, we were able to raise the hood “box” up 3″ but that created a new requirement to shorten the panel above the mantel since the original panel was now too tall.

Pennville Cabinetry remade the panel (at an additional cost to the client) but now they made a mistake on the width. The purchase order and paperwork were correct, so I don’t know how that mistake occurred. Nevertheless, Pennville had to remake the hood panel a third time to get it right! 

This, Too, Shall Pass

This case example illustrates how kitchen remodeling projects can turn into a comedy of errors despite the best preplanning. The more complicated the project, the more likely it is that mistakes will happen — especially during the spring and summer “high season” for remodeling and everyone is working at full throttle to get the work completed on time. However, I can assure you that in all cases “this, too, shall pass.”

Here is one photo of where we were just five days after the cabinets were delivered. It shows Florian, the granite fabricator, measuring and templating the countertop.

Reston VA kitchen remodeling

As you can see, the hardwood floor has not been sanded or finished yet. Finishing hardwood floors should always be left to the end to avoid damaging them when appliances and cabinetry are brought in and installed.
You will note that the refrigerator (left) is installed, waiting for its matching cabinet door panels and handle. The decorative hardware had not arrived yet. The client and I agreed it would be best to look at sample hardware on site, after the cabinets were installed, to confirm her selection. That’s why the refrigerator panel is “off” for the time being.

Below are photos from early May.


kitchen tile backsplash

The floors have been sanded and finished—ergo the brown paper “protection” with blue tape on the floor. Tile and countertops are in; the countertop also had to be “lifted” up to the second floor with a crane. It was a bit nerve-wracking because this particular piece was very long, had a sink cut out in it, and also had radius curve opposite the sink cut out. A treacherous endeavor, but the crew was successful.

Decorative hardware was in. You will note that the refrigerator panel is not. We had a bit of a hiccup here; one of the installers drilled the hardware incorrectly so we had to send it back to Pennville. Cabinetry. (This is a reality in kitchen installation. It happens to everyone, especially when you have a crew that is truly task oriented.) Luckily, Pennville was able to repair it and ship it back within two weeks.

We are waiting for a few more pieces of molding we decided to add to polish off the final “look”. Stay tuned for final photos of this project, coming soon.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.