John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino aren’t afraid to tear down walls or rip up floors to turn outdated, problem kitchens into meal-worthy spaces. The pair, who run a New Jersey-based family construction company, show off their demo and design skills on HGTV’s “Kitchen Cousins.” The second season premieres May 2 at 9:30 p.m. We spoke with Colaneri about easy kitchen fixes, his aversion to trends and surviving a renovation.
What are some of the current trends for kitchens?
Everyone always asks us that, but Anthony and I, in all honesty, don’t follow trends. We like to do and create our own ideas. But something a lot of people are doing is incorporating traditional style with contemporary style, sort of mixing the two. You can do that in many different ways. Maybe you have a more traditional countertop and a backsplash that has a more contemporary feel, or maybe cabinets with a more contemporary feel and lighting with a more traditional or rustic look. People want to make their kitchens unique.
On “Kitchen Cousins,” we talk about this with a lot of our clients. Nine times out of 10, they want granite or marble. And the first thing we say is, “That’s out.” It’s an old design trend, and those are older and inferior materials to what’s new now. What we love to use is a quartz material. There are a lot of different suppliers; we use Caesarstone, Zodiaq, Silestone. It’s a phenomenal and much superior product that’s 100 percent nonporous.
When you buy a granite countertop — and it doesn’t matter what grade it is — it’s porous. You have to seal it every six months. If you don’t seal it, you can have bacteria that can grow underneath the countertops that you never really see. When you have a quartz countertop, once it’s installed you never have to worry about it again.
What do you consider the toughest kitchen problems to tackle?
One of the major issues is that a lot of older homes have really poor electrical and plumbing. We’ve been doing this for so long that we totally take everything out and start over new. We don’t mix and match and try to use what’s there. We’ve seen a lot of cases where there are a lot of fire hazards behind the walls that are really huge potential problems, and the people living there for many years never knew.
What are some of the easiest fixes that a handy homeowner could address him- or herself?
A backsplash is very easy; it’s really just kind of a weekend project. You can go to any of your local hardware stores or a tile supply house and find hundreds of different tiles. Some even come on 12 by 12 inch sheets that are very easy to put up. All you need is some thin-set [mortar], a trowel and the tile. You can also easily change out a couple of pendant lights or a chandelier; it’s very easy to do and will definitely change your kitchen. You can also change out the hardware on your doors.
How do you know what to leave to the professionals?
I’m for people doing their own projects, but they really shouldn’t get involved in any of the heavy mechanical, plumbing or main electrical components. They might think they saw it on TV or someone told them how to do it, but if they do it incorrectly, it could cause some severe problems. When you leave it to the pros, they know what’s up to code and what’s right from wrong.
What can an updated kitchen add to the value of your home?
What we’re seeing right now, because the real estate market hasn’t been good, is that a lot of people instead of trying to move are putting more equity back into where they live, which we think is a great idea. It’s better to update your home and actually enjoy it while you’re living there. And if you’re looking to get that equity and make your house attractive, the kitchen is the first place to do it. It’s always said that kitchens and baths are what sell a house.
If you’re renovating before putting your home on the market, what should you be sure to do?
A lot of times people say they’re only going to do the cabinets, not the countertops. They try to kind of piecemeal it together. What we tell people is that if you’re going to have a renovation and do your kitchen over, really make sure that it’s cohesive. You don’t want your kitchen to look like it’s been thrown together. And you often end up, in the end, spending more money than if you did everything at once.
What’s the key to surviving a kitchen renovation?
Expect the unexpected. If you open up the walls, I will guarantee that nine times out of 10 you will find something you never thought was there. If you’re budgeting out for any project, you should always have a contingency. If the project is going to cost $40,000, have a 5 percent contingency for things you don’t know or for something that doesn’t go as planned. In construction, you always have something that comes up that’s going to cost you more money in the end. If you’re prepared for it in the beginning, it makes issues much easier to handle.
How can homebuyers see the potential in an ugly kitchen?
Don’t just look at the ugly cabinets or floors; all of that stuff can easily come out. Look at the overall design of the house. If the kitchen lends itself to where you can knock down a couple of non-loadbearing walls and you can open the kitchen up to the living room or dining room, the possibilities are endless. And if you can get a steal for a property, you can go in and, with the money you saved on the sale side, you can reinvest and put it back into the kitchen.