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14 Kitchen Renovation Fails That Will Make You Cringe

A kitchen reno is a big project that brings loads of excitement and stress—especially when the vision falls short for lack of planning, poor construction or inexperience.

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Courtesy RenosGroup

This backsplash is all washed up

The owners put in a beautiful new backsplash, but the installation sank its appeal. Project manager Keith Melanson with RenosGroup says this a prime example of lack of experience: Glass tile nippers would have made the perfect cut and not left this unsightly gap with messy cement. As an after-the-damage-has-been-done fix, Melanson recommends gluing on a piece of trim to cover the gap. Get out your tool belt because these home improvement projects don’t require a contractor.

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Courtesy RenosGroup

A hood that turns heads

This shiny metal hood sticks out like a sore thumb underneath that white wood cabinet. It’s also dangerously low: Melanson says the kitchen renovation crew that came to work on this project received plenty of knocks on the head from the hood and were very happy to replace it with a higher installation. Don’t miss these 10 tips for a happy kitchen remodel.

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Courtesy RenosGroup

Your crown doesn’t fit

The crown molding installation didn’t follow protocol here. Melanson says cabinets should always be installed level, and the crown molding should follow the cabinet, not the ceiling. Also, crown molding is just one of 52 ways to dress up your home.

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Courtesy RenosGroup

We have a failure to communicate

Melanson suspects this foul-up was likely due to a lack of communication: The outlet has a hole specifically for the ground, but Melanson says it should have been facing the other way to accommodate the plug’s cord, or it should have been installed further from the wall. Now the stove plug doesn’t fit with the new cabinetry in place. Check out these kitchen remodeling ideas for inspiration.

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Courtesy N-Hance Wood Refinishing

A toupeé for the fridge

We get it, your outdated refrigerator is still running great and you don’t want to replace it. But don’t try to make it blend in with your new cabinets by sticking on matching wood paneling like someone did in this photo. Consult with a pro, recommends Brigitte Ballard, design trend expert at N-Hance Wood Refinishing; there are plenty of appealing ways to create cohesion in your kitchen. If your microwave has these problems, don’t ignore them.

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Courtesy N-Hance Wood Refinishing

Too matchy-matchy

Hopefully, the new countertop will bring a splash of color to this mono-toned kitchen. Ballard recommends going at least two-toned—in this case, changing the color of the cabinets would breathe new life into this drab kitchen. Check out these kitchen design ideas that will make your kitchen look expensive.

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Courtesy N-Hance Wood Refinishing

That hardware is so outdated

Refinishing your cabinets is a budget-savvy way to freshen and update your kitchen, but don’t stop there. These cabinets were close to perfection, but the old hardware’s encore appearance has the kitchen showing its age. Ballard advises going the extra step to choose aesthetically appealing hardware—it’s just as important as other big elements like appliances and countertops. Here are the home improvements give you the most bang for your buck.

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Courtesy StructureTech

That’s not a good idea for your attic

Venting a kitchen fan into your attic like this can lead to a winter wonderland of frost and moisture if you live in a cold climate, which is why it’s a big no-no, says Reuben Saltzman, ASHI-certified inspector at Structure Tech, a home inspection company. Even people in more temperate climes are risking rotted roof sheathing and mold: Always vent to the outdoors. Find out ways to remodel your kitchen for maximum storage and light.

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Courtesy StructureTech

You come here often?

There are two issues with this newly installed microwave vent: One, the plastic material shouldn’t be used for this type of application and two, manufacturers generally recommend at least a 6-inch vent, Saltzman says. This vent is only 4 inches wide, which is a significant reduction in volume. If you’re renovating your home, avoiding these mistakes is mandatory. But you might not know to finish these elements of your build before winter. 

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Courtesy StructureTech

Too close for comfort

This is an ideal arrangement for pasta night. Just rotate to the left and fill up your pot with water, then place on the stove to boil. Unfortunately, there is only access to one side of the sink cabinet and it’s a little tight to even do dishes. Brace yourself: You won’t be able to look away at these other home improvement fails.

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Courtesy StructureTech

Meet me halfway

Looks like someone fell short in the design plan here. The drawer doesn’t meet its full storage or functional purpose and the finish will get nicked and damaged from hitting the pull on the sink cabinet every time someone goes to open it. Instead of a drawer that doesn’t fully function, a base cabinet without a drawer that opens away from the sink would have been a better choice here.

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Courtesy StructureTech

Where do I go from here?

Take a guess as to where this hood vent is going. Nope, it’s not outdoors, it’s to the chimney! That means the next time a fire is roaring in the fireplace, the home’s residents may get a whiff of last night’s dinner. This is a seriously bad idea on another level, too. Saltzman says venting into the chimney will create a greasy mess and could potentially lead to a chimney fire. Watch out for these other scary ways your fireplace could be dangerous.

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Courtesy StructureTech

A roller coaster of pipes

This almost looks like an amusement park ride, but Saltzman says the owners aren’t in for a fun time with this tangled mess that has the potential to cause a host of problems. The dishwasher drain isn’t looped to the underside of the countertop, so dirty water will get dumped back into the dishwasher and that lame effort made to loop it higher with duct tape doesn’t make it right. Another issue is that the dishwasher drain line is connected to the sewer side of the trap so sewer gases will enter the home and the sink drain. And the sink drain rises up instead of going down, which means clogs are in the future. Think this is bad? Wait till you see these plumbing nightmares.

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kitchen sink
Courtesy StructureTech

Shocking sink

Running water and this outdated two-prone outlet make for dangerous neighbors, as that kitchen sink sprayer could easily send water in the direction of the outlet. Today’s standards require GFCI protected outlets for the kitchen to lower the potential for electrocution, notes Saltzman.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.