Monday, March 5, 2018


Back-to-back bathroom plumbing: It's fine if you can do it;
otherwise, forget it.
Certain fallacies have been repeated so often that people now accept them as fact—“urban myths,” some call them. No doubt you’ve heard the one about the lady who tried to dry her poodle in the microwave. It never really happened, but it’s been repeated so often that many folks think it did.

Architecture and planning have their own truisms—"building myths", if you will.  While they lack the high drama of exploding poodles, they’re equally nonsensical. Here are a handful that spring to mind:
A kitchen design with the wall ovens next to the
refrigerator: If your appliances don't mind,
why should you?

•  “Bathrooms should be designed back-to-back to save plumbing costs.”  This truism no doubt has its roots in commercial construction, where identical bathroom groups are endlessly repeated, and back-to-back planning can in fact yield real savings. While it may save a little money in residential design, too—to the tune of a few hundred dollars—it’s simply not worth straightjacketing a floor plan for such a trivial saving. The frequent corollary of this argument, "All the plumbing bathroom plumbing should be located in one wall," is equally invalid for the same reasons. There's no need to line up fixtures on one wall if some other arrangement works better.

•  “When laying out a kitchen, don’t put the oven next to the refrigerator.”
Some copy-starved home magazine probably engendered this planning myth. Ovens make heat, the reasoning goes, and refrigerators make cold—put the two together and all thermodynamic heck will break loose. As kitchen design problems go, however, this one is a non-starter. Refrigerators generate plenty of heat on their own—that’s how they cool the food inside—so a little more heat from baking a meat loaf now and then won’t make any difference. Given a lack of other options, placing these two appliances side by side will work just fine. Same goes for refrigerators and dishwashers.   

Second story additions: Not nearly as simple as they look.
(Image courtesy of
•  “Adding a second story is the cheapest way to gain space.” Far from it. If your property is big enough, an addition at ground level will usually be both cheaper and less traumatic than adding a second story. “Going up” has other potential pitfalls as well. A second story addition demands a logically-placed staircase—something many existing floor plans can’t accommodate without coming off half-baked. Moreover, if your present foundation isn’t adequate to carry an additional story—many aren’t—you may need to reinforce it, often at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.     

If there’s nowhere else to go but up, a second story addition is the ticket; otherwise, look into other options first.

Worn-looking roof shingles: They may be ugly,
but that doesn't mean they're going to leak.
•  “Paint is a great way to update your home’s look.”   This advice invariably appears under a headline announcing, “The Latest Color Trends!”  Trendy colors will update your home’s look, all right—until next year’s color fad blows into town.  If you really want a timeless color scheme, eschew the pronouncements of fashion- industry tastemakers, and choose colors based—gasp!— on your own preferences.  If you don’t trust your ability to choose or combine colors, by all means, hire an interior designer or color consultant to help you; but make it clear that you don’t want yet another trendoid color revamp.

•  “If your roof looks worn, it’s time for replacement.” Rubbish. I’ve railed against this misconception for years, but I’ll repeat myself one more time:  If a roof doesn’t leak, it doesn’t need replacement. The way it looks is no basis for judging its watertightness. If your roof is so ugly you can’t stand the sight of it, that’s another matter. But don’t confuse appearance with performance.  

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