3 kitchen remodeling blunders to avoid

Some highly touted upgrades don't pan out

Published: September 17, 2014 12:00 PM

There you are, standing in a kitchen design store or home center, and the stainless-steel appliances dazzle, the granite countertops add just the right warmth. This is what money, lots of money, can buy. But before you spend a dime, look for the downside, that thing that will disappoint or drive you crazy. Here, from the experts at Consumer Reports, is what the salespeople won't tell you.

Refrigerator door-front water and ice dispensers

Buyers ask for this feature more than any other. Kids also think they’re cool, and dogs sometimes find them handy.

What you’ll want to know: As a group, refrigerators with water and ice dispensers require considerably more repairs than those without dispensers, according to Consumer Reports' surveys. Water and ice dispensers also up the price and energy use while robbing space.

What to do: Consider our top picks that don’t have a door-front dispenser, such as the Samsung RF261BIAESR, $2,100, the top-rated French-door bottom-freezer, or the $1,510 Kenmore Elite 79043, the best conventional bottom-freezer.

KitchenAid KDRU763VSS

Pro-style ranges

With their heavy, stainless construction, pro-style ranges boast a commercial look that commands attention. Beauty has its price, but does it have to be so steep?

What you’ll want to know: Prices often range from $4,000 to $8,000, but don’t expect top performance and this is not the time to go with the least expensive model. We test 30- and 36-inch pro-styles and the bottom-rated also happen to cost the least.

What to do: Consider all your options. Look at the KitchenAid KDRS407VSS, $4,000. It was the best of the 30-inch pro-styles, but has a small oven and broiling is just so-so. Among 36-inch models the KitchenAid KDRU763VSS, $6,000, was best. Both are dual-fuel ranges, pairing a gas cooktop and an electric oven. Also take a look at stainless slide-in ranges. The controls are up front so there’s no back panel and the look is built in. Among the tested slide-ins, check out the GE PS920SFSS, $2,500, an electric smoothtop, or the GE PGS920SEFSS, $2,800, a gas range that was impressive overall but its broiling was mediocre. Both slide-ins are top picks.

Granite countertop

Granite countertops

Granite remains a popular choice for kitchen countertops—some would say it’s been overused—but style isn’t the only thing it’s got going for it. It’s near the top of our ratings of 14 countertop materials and only quartz was slightly better. In our tests, granite was great at resisting cuts, scratches, and heat, and impressive in fending off stains, but it can chip if you drop a heavy pot on it.

What you’ll want to know: Granite looks terrific in kitchen showrooms in part because it hasn’t been used. As you cook grease gets spread around and starts to soak into the granite, says Andy Graves, a countertop installer in Anaheim, California. “The more grease, the more dust sticks to it. You typically see this around the cooktop or range where the color of the material appears darker due to the saturation of grease,” says Graves.

What to do: Due to the stone’s porosity, grease and oil tends to be absorbed quickly. Clean granite counters daily and make sure they are sealed after installation. Graves suggests using granite cleaner to remove grease and oils and resealing granite every six months to a year.

Kimberly Janeway (@CRJaneway on Twitter)

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