Common Kitchen Problems – If you’re renovating your kitchen read this first.

Common Kitchen Problems – If you’re renovating your kitchen read this first.

Kitchens are an area of the home we spend a lot of time in. As a result, they are frequently updated and with most renovations the kitchen is part of changes that take place in a home. As a home inspector, I see some areas of the home that homeowners and non-professionals are more comfortable getting involved in and the kitchen falls into this category. It is with this in mind I thought it would be a good area of the home to write an article about the things I see installed wrong routinely. Every appliance and home certainly have their own nuances and I will not cover everything. There are also some exceptions to the items discussed, but I will just focus on most homes and average appliances.

Refrigerators– Besides the obvious issues we typically come across, installation of a saddle valve is something that we see done routinely and is incorrect. If you’re not familiar with them, a saddle valve is a self-tapping valve that many stores like the big box stores provide you when you get a refrigerator with an ice maker or water dispenser. They work by boring a hole into a water pipe like driving a sharp screw into the side of the pipe. This crude connection is prone to leakage and not considered a proper plumbing connection. I made a video explaining more about these connections that can be found here:

Dishwashers – The primary thing you are installing with a dishwasher is the drain. Installation of a high loop is an important part of installing the drain and is rarely completed properly. A high loop is when you take the slack of the waste pipe from the dishwasher that typically connects to the garbage disposal or waste pipe, and you secure that slack to the underside of the counter as high as possible, so it goes above the sink and grazes the counter. We typically see the pipe just go directly into the drain connection with the slack unsupported. The problem with this design is in the event of a backup, wastewater will enter the dishwasher prior to the sink, and this can cause various issues. I also have a video explaining this issue and a proper installation shown here: A couple other issues are when dishwashers not secured properly or when the door has counterweight issues.

Garbage Disposals – Garbage disposals can be installed in a few different ways. The garbage disposal typically has a cord going into a plug or is hardwired directly. The most common issue I see, and one of the more serious concerns with appliances is, poor electrical connections. If any wire enters the cabinet that is rated for an in-wall installation, it should be protected by a conduit. I see very regularly a non-metallic Romex type wire feeding the disposer directly. This is subject to wear and is unsafe. I also see very regularly a poor connection with the disposer. There should be a clamp securing whatever wire is feeding the unit and not a wire that is unsupported and can rub against the metal edge of the disposal. You certainly don’t want a splice made outside of the disposal either. Another frequent issue is seeing a wire that is connected to a switch and live that was there for a disposal that no longer exists. Regardless of which arrangement you want, best practice is for a qualified and licensed electrician make sure it’s done right. Debris in the disposal is also common from a recent renovation, especially when a new backsplash was put in.

Oven/Ranges – While the oven and range can have various issues, the most common one is being improperly secured. More specifically an issue we run into constantly is no Anti – Tip Bracket being installed. An Anti-Tip bracket is an L shaped metal bracket that typically comes with most ranges. It is secured to the wall or floor and when the range is slid into place one of the back feet slides into the bracket. This prevents the foot from rising and in tern prevents the range from tipping forward. If you have small children like me, you know they want to climb on everything. This simple device can prevent something on the stove top from landing on them. Wall ovens are also frequently loose and pose their own hazard for falling out. Lastly, from an electrical standpoint, electric units require a 240v feed and they go to either a three or four wire feed. The four wire feed is modern and safer for reasons I won’t get into, so upgrading the feed with the kitchen is a good idea if you have an old three wire feed.

Range Hoods/Microwaves: I am going to categorize these into one category because of the common venting issues I see. There is a fan in each of these units that can typically be directed up, back or forward. We often see it pointed in the wrong direction and the air is being blown into an unintended area. Ideally you want it to vent to the exterior, rather than recirculate the air. In some cases, it’s blown into the wall or cabinet when there is no vent to the outside and in other cases it is recirculating, even when a vent to the exterior is present. You also do not want to reduce the size of the vent pipe. I see this frequently when the vent hood is undersized. One problem I run across is a vent hood was removed and replaced with a microwave. While this helps you gain counterspace, it often results in the microwave being at the wrong height. A microwave too low obstructs the range and too high is unsafe when removing hot items.

Cabinets – We see all sorts of cabinet issues, but for this article we are really focused on installation. The most common installation problem is poorly secured cabinets. Most homes have drywall screws used to secure the cabinets and they are often not properly located. Ideally you would use a structural screw that is intended to secure a cabinet and has an appropriately wider head. When properly installed there are screws in the proper locations for mounting the cabinet and they are driven into areas of the wall where studs or framing is present. Another common problem is poorly laid out cabinets that cause issues when multiple things are opened at the same time. Proper design and installation can prevent damage to these components.

While there are many problems that can occur in the kitchen area, many real estate professionals will agree these issues we see often. Keep in mind I didn’t discuss any of the finishes like floors, ceilings or walls. I also didn’t discuss plumbing issues such as fixtures or traps under the sink. While I discussed some electrical components, I could have discussed outlets, GFCI’s and AFCI’s. Frankly, there are many things I omitted, but I did so to focus on the items a homeowner may install themselves because they’re at a higher frequency of having a problem. Hopefully this will help future DIYers reduce these issues.