cartoon of problematic to-the-ceiling cabinet storage
Photo: Mark Matcho
To-the-ceiling cabinet storage is great, as long as you have an easy way to scale the heights.
Let's face it. Even the best-planned kitchen remodels hit rough patches. Unreliable contractors, late deliveries, and mismeasured materials just seem to go hand-in-hand with shocking estimates and shiny new faucets. But at the end of the road, it's often the little things—the greasy fingerprints on the stainless-steel fridge, the dings in the bamboo flooring, or the veneer peeling off of the cabinets—that drive us to distraction. We asked homeowners who'd recently endured the rigors of kitchen remodeling to vent: What would you do differently if you could remodel your kitchen all over again? Here's what they said—and how their battle scars can prevent you from making the same mistakes.

1. The Regret: We let the contractor decide
My husband and I went away on vacation during the final two weeks of our kitchen remodel and came home to an unpleasant surprise: Our contractor had installed the dishwasher in the side of the island facing the adjoining dining room—not a pretty sight. He says this saves steps when it's time to clean up the dishes. We say it's ugly. —Judith Stanley, Callicoon, New York

Better Bet: You write the checks, you call the shots
Never go on vacation at the beginning or end of a remodeling project, when decisions are coming fast and furious. And while it may be tempting to defer decisions about fixtures or fittings to the contractor, you'll have no one to blame but yourself if you are dissatisfied with the results. "The logical place to install a dishwasher is next to the sink so it can be hooked up to the plumbing system. It also makes rinsing dishes more convenient," says John Buscarello, an interior designer in New York City. "Fortunately, in this case, the dishwasher mistake can be corrected by replacing it with a model that has an incognito front panel designed to blend into the island."

2. The Regret: Our soapstone is rough around the edges
Soft soapstone counters and hard cast-iron cookware don't mix. We've learned the hard way by gouging the stone around the undermount sink when hand-washing our French enameled pots. —Jonathan Schuppe, New York, New York

Better Bet: Factor in your cooking style
Like every other decision in your kitchen redo, your choice of countertop material should reflect your lifestyle, including your cooking style. Each kind of natural stone has unique characteristics, and soapstone is among the softer types. That makes it easier to cut to size—and also more prone to chipping than harder granite and engineered quartz. But it also means you can at least smooth the rough edges around your sink with sandpaper. To prevent further damage, place a buffer (pot holders, layers of dish towels) between the counter and any hard, abrasive surface. "In the future, try to get a sample of any stone countertop material you're considering and live with it for a while, even as a coaster," suggests Dana Jones, a kitchen designer in Long Beach, California. "That way you can see how vulnerable the stone is and just how stressed out you'll get over leaving any marks on it."
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