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nightmare kitchen reno - please advise your opinions on fairness

11 years ago

These forums have been a big help to me and now I have a serious issue to put before the community. This is a long post so please bear with me.

My kitchen cabinets are a mess, and the owner of the kitchen cabinet company actually told my architect that I can take what he gave me or have my lawyer call his lawyer (!) (For the record, that never occurred to us and also, we have been cordial and polite, always, to this man and his crew.)

I hired a company, separate from my GC who is making our bathroom vanities, to make the kitchen cabinets as I wanted a very specific look and my GC said he couldn't create the finish I wanted.

The cabinets are supposed to be fully custom. I met with the salesperson and kitchen designer 2 times & called 3 references (all said positive stuff) before putting down a deposit.

I wanted a very specific stain color and finish. In addition, I specified extra depth on the upper cabinets, a toe-kick cabinet for a stepladder, reeded glass in uppers above the banquette, a tilt-out sponge tray, a magic corner pull out so the blind corner would be usable, a full-height pull out pantry, and panels on the fridge and dishwasher. In addition the cabinets were supposed to go up to the ceiling. All drawers w/ full-extension soft-close hinges, and doors with soft close hinges.

They were 2 weeks late - not the end of the world, but not fantastic, as it pushed the job back to just before Christmas.

Even though we had all agreed that my contractor would install the cabinets, when they delivered they just dropped them off without supplying him with a plan, as he said other kitchen guys usually do. Then they proceeded to call me and insist that only they could install properly, as they made them, blah, blah. Since the price they quoted was reasonable, my contractor agreed for me to deduct it from his total and pay to them. However, as soon as I agreed, they said they just booked another job and couldn't come until the following week. They didn't actually come back for 2 weeks. When they finally came and left, there were gaps in the wall and when I got to the apartment that night and walked in the kitchen, right away I saw that they put some of the uppers in the wrong place - the South wall extra-wide upper was on the East wall, for one, and the corners were empty.

The salesman wrote me that day and said please hurry and get the stone templating done so they can return to put the doors on. ???

I wrote them just to express concern with a number of issues in there and was told they took some uppers back to resize, and by the way, the magic corner pullout won't work b/c my oven handle juts out too far. (!)

So basically, they were trying to get me to put stone on the base cabinets and then if I hadn't asked, after the fact would say, Too bad!

In addition to that, the cabinets are NOT made to their own drawings. They made virtually every one of them smaller and made filler strips to put in the gaps. This is infuriating b/c I live in Manhattan and in a small apartment kitchen I need to maximize every inch.

For example, my uppers were supposed to have clear 12" inside - they are barely 11.5" deep. My plates won't be able to fit in if I hope to close the door. The sink cabinet was supposed to be 24" wide, and they made it 23.5", so the sink I bought barely fits (b/c the plywood takes up 3/4" on each side, so the interior is only 22"w) and who knows if the other stuff (water filtration system, storage tank, waste basket) that I am supposed to be able to fit will manage to get in there - a 1/2" is a lot sometimes.

Worst of all is the "blind corner" in the kitchen where we were supposed to put a "magic corner" - that was one of only two large base cabinets I had so wanted to make the most of it. It really isn't an option for me to squeeze through a 14" wide opening (which is about what they made it) and reach back and get stuff out. What makes this particularly upsetting is I have multiple (3-4) emails from me to them asking are they SURE it will fit and let's be sure because the plumber and electrician needed to run the gas and electric for the stove, and I was worried that the pull out would hit the stove handle and be blocked.

They have had all my appliance specs since the day I signed the contract, so it isn't like they didn't have the measurements. Also, at that point, I had not ordered these appliances - these were my preferred choices and they knew this.

They asked for the architect's drawings, which he sent with a disclaimer saying that they are responsible for verifying measurements at the jobsite and that his drawings were a proposal only, and were done before the demolition began.

The kitchen guys came out 2x to measure (once when the walls were open and once when after the contractor put up the sheetrock) and said everything is fine. So there should not have been any surprise about that corner or my appliances.

They also told me they would hook up the appliances for an additional fee - the way the salesman put it was that they actually have a GC license and if their plumber/electrician hooks up our stuff we will not be responsible if something gets scratched, whereas with our GC who is doing the rest of the apartment, they can't be responsible. Fair enough. I agreed and left them a check b/c we were going to be away.

So after we get home and saw the mess and found out about the corner cabinet issue, my architect called a site meeting with the owner & his installer, to figure out how we can make that corner usable. Twice in the conversation, he mentions how a judge would say he is right and we are wrong. Judge??? Who ever talked about lawsuits?

The owner also claimed that the panels and toe-kick cabinet were add-ons, but I had the original contract stating them.

So now we need to find a way to make the corner space not lost. The cabinet guy's "solution" was to move the stove smack next to this support column, which would mean that my frying pan handle would have to be turned in over the other burner on the stove, or else stick out into the room for someone to bump and have fall down on them full of scalding food. Dumb.

The architect proposed moving the range and microwave to the other side of the kitchen, which would mean also moving the plumbing b/c the location of the dishwasher would also have to move. I didn't like this idea b/c it would mean that the hot stove is immediately next to the banquette where people will be seated, and children could easily kneel on the seat and touch the hot gas burners.

Meanwhile, the cabinet guy likes the idea b/c he can reuse a lot of the cabinetry, but says he refuses to pay to move the gas or electric or plumbing, b/c the bad layout was my architect's fault. Well, it is true that the architect laid out the kitchen, BUT both he and I said early and often that it was one idea and that we were open to others and please, could they just make sure this layout fits the corner pull out next to the range b/c otherwise we will change the layout while the walls are open and the plumbing/gas is easily moved.

Moving the plumbing/gas at this point would be really expensive (I subsequently got a quote and it was almost $3K), so I just said no to that proposal.

Finally, the installer came up with an idea of how to move the dishwasher only and expand the corner cabinet door out to about 20" to accommodate the magic corner pull out. So that is what we are doing.

However, it ruins the big wide 42" base cabinet I was supposed to have (I now do not have any large base cabinet whatsoever) and it means that the toe kick cabinet that was to hold the Williams-Sonoma flat stepladder that I have been coveting after seeing on this site will not exist (because that was to go under my 42" cabinet, and now there is a dishwasher smack in the middle of it.

In addition, making the corner cabinet's door wider cuts into the space in the cabinet next to it, so I am losing space there, too.

Plus, I still will have to move plumbing (waiting to hear how much this will be from the contractor, b/c the plumbers set the price not him.)

In addition, because the kitchen was not done on time, we are having to eat take out, etc. instead of having a working kitchen from Day 1 when we moved in. Frankly, we are being very economical with it, but it is still expensive, and also not as healthy as I like.

Also, remember how they insisted they wanted to hook up the appliances and I had to pay that in advance? Now the owner says no no no, they didn't mean "hook up" they meant install the panels on the fronts! What? Installation of cabinets and hookup of appliances are spelled out on their own contract as two separate line items, so this is a bunch of hooey.

And, the stain color matches the one I picked but the finish does not - I had picked a high gloss lacquer and they showed me a sample, and the finish on these cabinets is not the same. When I told the owner, he said, "What do you want me to do? I put 6 coats on." I said, "I want it to look like what you sold me," and he basically said, "Sorry, all woods absorb coatings differently."

Unfortunately for me, he had asked for the stain sample and finish sample back a few weeks after they gave them to me b/c they wanted to show another client and asked me for them, so I don't have anything I can hold up to it side by side, but my contractor and my husband and my friend who saw it all immediately noticed the difference.

Now that they moved the dishwasher and expanded the door to the corner cabinet and made the cabinet next to that one smaller, the bottom cabinets and top cabinets do not align!

AND, just when you thought we might be done, they didn't make the full height pantry right so it had to be cut down narrower and a filler strip put in so the refrigerator door will be able to open.

Also, the cabinets are not level with one another - not a huge difference but noticeable.

I feel really sad about all this because this was supposed to be my dream kitchen and it is just a mess and a huge headache, and moreover it is a REALLY EXPENSIVE mess!

If we had gone the cheapo route and I had all these problems, I would not be terribly surprised, but this is a high end custom woodworking shop.

So here is my question: I still owe them 1/3 of the money. Given all the delays, hassle, and cabinets not made according to plan (too shallow uppers which makes the kitchen less functional, base cabinets all chopped up, etc.), extra money I have to pay the plumber to move the dishwasher line, and given that the finish is not what I chose, and given that we have had to live already a month with no kitchen and probably will be another 3 weeks more, (and even just buying sandwiches gets expensive), what do you think is fair in terms of payment?

Thanks for reading this saga - I am sorry it is so rambling, I am really tired.

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