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Cabinet installer messed up!

Kari Nielsen
2 years ago

Had Fenix DeWils white flat panel kitchen cabinets installed by a father and son install team. Some kind of finish nails came trough cabinet and now installers not taking responsibility. They came to “full” the holes and looks terrible. Approached installer nicely and said panel needs to be replaced. Panel is $275, will take 3 weeks to order, and hood and upper cabinet need to be removed. Disappointed that installer won’t own up to this! Furious that he thinks he can just fill and say he’s done. Here are photos - any advice? Small claims court? We are so upset because now we have a major flaw that’s in an obvious place.

Comments (50)

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    The last two photos are the “after” photo - where he filled the holes, and just left. Cabinets are laminate, above the stove (at eye level!) and will have steam/cooking in this area - we can’t understand that “filling” and making a mess like this is a viable solution. Seems quite unacceptable. Looking for feedback on how to approach this uncomfortable situation! Thanks - Kari

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    2 years ago

    New panels and small claims court. A decent/reputable installer for the next go round, followed by court. My bet is you won't get blood out of those stones. : )

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  • Shannon_WI
    2 years ago

    Given the holes' location, they are unobtrusive and you won't notice them after everything else is in and you are using the kitchen. The degree of aggravation and the amount of fighting you will have to do would not be worth it for me. Of course, only you can decide if it is worth it to you.

  • live_wire_oak
    2 years ago

    $1.98 caulk and paint slap ‘em up used to cheap RTA framed cabinet installers shouldn’t be let loose on Euro anything. Where did you find these guys?

  • beanym
    2 years ago

    Is the hood going to cover them? Any additional problems? If the hood is covering them, let it go. Not worth the aggravation.

  • richfield95
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Did you already pay them in full? And they’ve cashed your check?

    Not sure what communication you’ve had with them, but nicely, politely document in writing (email) the damage and how you would like to see it corrected. Then if you do proceed with small claims court, you have some writtten evidence where the problem originated and you asked for it to be corrected.

  • S Carr
    2 years ago

    These guys are small business people who probably are not well to do. They were not qualified to install your cabinets. I would buy new panels and find a qualified installer. The rest is not worth the aggravation. If you think about, I would guess they do well to feed their families and pay for their truck and tools. I doubt seriously they have any health insurance. You are most likely trying to "bleed a turnip".

  • felizlady
    2 years ago

    Did you pay him?

  • jdesign_gw
    2 years ago

    This doesn't address the whole situation but as far as filling the holes in the mean time using seam fill will be much better. They won't completely disappear but will be better and is hard when dry. You may have to fill it twice and scrap excess with a razor blade after it sets up a bit.


  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Thanks everyone! I sincerely appreciate the input/advice. Yes we paid them in full and the check is long cashed. All they do is install cabinets and their web site and all the communication leading up to has been top notch and professional. It is a senior father and a son who’s middle aged, they seemed great and we paid $3,8k for the install. I‘ve documented everything in nice polite emails and the reply I got back was that “they went above and beyond” and they are done. They told me to get someone else to put in the handles. I’m really disappointed that they think their fix is acceptable. It’s a small kitchen and they rushed to put it together in one day and said they would come back to do the hardware. It’s after they left that we noticed the nails popping through. Lesson learned, never to pay in full til job is done. 😔

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    S Carr - These guys are actually pretty big business guys in that they are booked solid and all they do is cabinet install. I had more faith that they would have some integrity to make things right. I sent them one last email so will see if I get a reply. It’s so upsetting after having been under construction for a year, and now having a flawed cabinet. Especially disappointed because it’s a modern Euro style frameless look, and it’s right by the stove where there will be steam.... 😩 we are in the SF Bay Area (Marin) and contractors are overbooked and charge double, sometimes triple. All taking advantage of the rebuilding and insurance claims. It’s been really difficult for just a very basic kitchen remodel and now this....

  • hemina
    2 years ago

    Replace it and use another installer. I think I’d have a hard time keeping it even if it was hidden. And then do what you can via word of mouth/social media to let others know about your experience. Sorry you went through this, but replacing it will be better.

    Something happened with my granite seam in my first house...no one would own up to it. The “fix” lasted a year, and the was ticked every time I saw it for 4 years until we sold the house.

  • megs1030
    2 years ago

    I agree with @hemina. If you decide legal action, I'd probably try one last time to politely but firmly chat with your initial installer. Going "above and beyond" means they own up to their mistake and make it right on their dime. If they still refuse, I'd probably write an honest review on their website / Yelp / FB, etc.

  • tedbixby
    2 years ago

    Since they told you to get someone else to install the handles are they giving you a refund for that work? Was that a separate cost line on the invoice?

  • bry911
    2 years ago

    the reply I got back was that “they went above and beyond” and they are done. They told me to get someone else to put in the handles.

    Now they have fully breached and you don't have to allow any chance to remedy. I would find someone else to finish the install properly and get everything in writing. Send them the bill along with a demand letter (you can find a template) after allowing a reasonable time to pay (like 30 days), file in small claims.

    Small claims is absolutely more trouble than it is worth for them, so if you want to settle for less, go for it. I actually think it is rather fun once or twice, so probably worth taking an afternoon off work, but that really depends on your schedule and work.

    Good luck

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Thank you for the feedback, and support.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Tedbixby - no it was once price for everything. They rushed through the job and said they would come back and install the handles and align the cabinets at no charge. When they came yesterday morning they filled the holes and left. Didn’t even say goodbye. I was at work and my 89 year old mother was home. Next thing I get an email saying they went “above and beyond”.....grrr, really upset they didn’t own up to their work nor word.

  • S Carr
    2 years ago

    It is difficult and frustrating. As someone who has been to small claims court, though, it really is a hassle. You want a really nice finish so you can enjoy your kitchen. It is so much less stress to just fix it, move on and learn a lesson. Good luck to you. I feel your pain.

  • sunshine_31
    2 years ago

    I also have a lot of holes and protruding screws. :( It's so frustrating to pay so much for a new "dream" kitchen and end up with holes, screws, and damage everywhere, and to add insult to injury, have the person responsible patronize you with lines like "it's fine" or "it's within tolerance" or "it's just the way it is - ALL cabinets are like this" or my personal favorite "you'll never see it". The trouble is what is your recourse if they've already collected all of most of their fee? In my case, because I dared to point out poor workmanship and quality, and expect better, the contractor breached our contract, refusing to install our countertops, which meant she essentially paid herself in full from the previous draws, and left us with no leverage to get all the problems in the kitchen fixed, and on our own to negotiate with the countertop sub. Small claims court might be an easy win in situations like this, but ultimately it isn't going to do any good to have a judgment if the contractor is already in financial trouble - do your homework before hiring them, and check your county website to see what cases may be pending against them. An example of the work in my kitchen:

    Kitchen Remodel · More Info


  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry to hear your story and see those that photo! Yes, it is crushing to experience such shoddy workmanship when you put so much money into a dream kitchen. I understand that things happen but installers and contractors need to own up to their mistakes. But they don’t. Yes we live and learn and unfortunately become skeptics and can’t trust anyone with their word. Frankly it’s very sad, no wonder our world is so messed up. No body takes responsibility, and instead they point the finger and bully and try to intimidate clients. Just today my mom said, “our contractor really puts me down” - I’m sorry, but for someone paying the bill, my 89 year old mother should not feel uncomfortable around an arrogant, pompous contractor.

  • hemina
    2 years ago

    Oh no @sunshine_31! That’s really terrible of them. I hope you can get some resolution. @Kari Nielsen-that really makes me so sad for your mom. She shouldn’t have to put up with that! You’re right-not taking responsibility is what’s wrong with the world.

  • Melissa R
    2 years ago

    I disagree with everyone who says small claims isn't worth it. It takes less than ten minutes to file (do research on where yo file in your city). Then on the day of court you show up and talk with the judge/magistrate. Everything will be wrapped up in less than an hour.


    I'd also file with the BBB. YES, they have zero authority to do anything to the business but if the business is a reputable one they don't want any bad reviews there. You can file online in less than 15 minutes and it costs nothing. Wait to see what comes from the BBB case (which will take less than 2-3 weeks) and if you get no joy from the BBB head over to Yelp, Google Maps (yes, you can leave reviews for businesses on Google Maps) and any other site you can find and start leaving some honest reviews.


    If every person that gets screwed over takes the "it's not worth the fight" stance then these lazy, lying, cheating, contractors keep getting paid.


  • tangerinedoor
    2 years ago

    Your new kitchen is really nice.


    I had to have my new uppers replaced, but the builder has it in hand. However, moving a hood to do that is no easy matter. It messes up the wall because it sits in tight. This will create an issue that you didn't have already... and if you have a backsplash there, I can't imagine the fix would be any better than the sticking-out nails.

  • thinkdesignlive
    2 years ago

    Just troubleshooting here and don’t know the laminate cabinet line you have....if the laminate has a color match edge (meaning no dark edge to the sheet of white laminate) would the company be willing to send you a sheet of the laminate (not the finished panel) and could you get someone to perfectly cut and apply a layer over the existing? Never done this but maybe worth investigating...?

  • tedbixby
    2 years ago

    Unfortunately, the "recession" left the country with less builders, laborers, and contractors and overnight anyone could become a contractor no matter what their qualifications are. And because of high consumer demand they have learned that people are more willing to pay upfront in full and then rush through the job with no concern to quality as they have another job waiting for them. I've hired a lot of contractors in my life and even though I think of myself quite savvy in hiring a contractor I still find myself getting burned once in awhile. So much is based on trust no matter how much research you do and each job is a learning curve. Even though you swear to yourself- never again!

    At this point if you want to try and get some resolution it would be to do what bry911 suggest and if no resolution is concluded then moving forward to small claims court would be your next step.

    Now they have fully breached and you don't have to allow any chance to remedy. I would find someone else to finish the install properly and get everything in writing. Send them the bill along with a demand letter (you can find a template) after allowing a reasonable time to pay (like 30 days), file in small claims.

    And if you want to put anymore time and energy beyond that, you can contact BBB and have your complaint on record and post anywhere you can a negative review. You just have to decide what your time and energy is worth.

  • Super Lumen
    2 years ago

    If they had any brain in them, they would eat the cost of a couple new cabinets and just replace them rather than the headache of court/BBB filing/etc.


    If you feel like all this would be too exhausting, just hire a different installer to replace the one cabinet. It'll be a bit of $$(not that much) but you won't die early from ulcers going through the court process.

  • bry911
    2 years ago

    Just a couple of clarifications/thoughts...

    First, being judgment proof for a few thousand dollars is fairly difficult for a small business. So even if they are not great managing the financials, you can typically collect small judgments.

    Next, small claims court is a bit of a pain, but it is not that exhausting. Certainly on the annoyance scale it is less than even jury duty. In my state the small claims complaint form is a fillable PDF. So you just fill out the PDF, take a few minutes to run by the courthouse and sign in front of the notary. In my state there are no filing fees for small claims court and if you want to pay for service it is like $30. Remember that you can recover all damages to make you whole. So that will be panels, any installation charges for the panels and any installation charges for the hardware. Which will easily be over a thousand dollars, so I just don't understand the reluctance to fill out a free form to file.

    Additionally, if your cabinet guy has a brain cell one, he is going to settle it. So even if you settle a $1,500 suit for $750... It is $750 more than you would have and it cost you whatever time it takes to sign a complaint form at the courthouse.

    Finally, I would communicate after people have cooled off a bit with a nice but very determined email with a read receipt. This is not advice, but I would write something like this.

    Dear Sirs,

    Let me begin by saying that for the most part my experience with your company was great. Aside from this one incident, I am nothing but happy with your work. I truly wish that this didn't happen, however, I do feel this damage has to be addressed. I would like to extend you one more opportunity to address the damage yourself as I hate for this to cost you any additional money. Having said that, if the repair can't be worked out between us, then understand I will contract with someone else to fix the cabinets and install the hardware and will immediately file for judgment against you, as is my legal right. Please consider what you would charge a client to fix panels damaged you didn't install and install hardware. That is an amount I hate to see you have to pay, and frankly while I find the entire garnishment and lien process trying, but on principle alone I will pursue it to its fullest.

    I really do want to come to some equitable solution and hope you do too.

    Best,

    bry911...


    Not saying this will work, but I will tell you similar things have worked for me.


    Good luck

  • PRO
    Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc.
    2 years ago

    My only concern with pursuing a claim is that filling holes is typical in a cabinet installation and your contractor could argue that the quality of their work is within normal tolerance. These cabinets look like a matte finish? In my opinion, the contractors should have been more mindful in ensuring they didn't have any visible holes to fill given the material and modern application. Or if they were to fill them, they should have made sure you couldn't see the fill. But I'm not convinced a court will view this as damage.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    That is great advice and help. I truly appreciate it and it make logical sense! Thank you. The thing that gets to me the most is that my mom’s health is fragile and the stress of it all is debilitating. I am trying to get this kitchen wrapped up and finished so she can move back into her house.

  • bry911
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    My only concern with pursuing a claim is that filling holes is typical in a cabinet installation and your contractor could argue that the quality of their work is within normal tolerance. [...] But I'm not convinced a court will view this as damage.

    First, let's remember the contractor left without finishing the job, so a lot of that goes out the window. A court might find for lower damages but they will find damages if one party refuses to finish the work.

    Furthermore, normal tolerances are a defense against damages, but not always a successful defense. They work well for things like someone suing because a wall is 2 degrees out of square. However, if you prove damages in fact, then industry standards don't work as a defense. The cabinet manufacturer provides a warranty on the cabinet finish, so contact the manufacturer to see if they will honor the finish warranty including the repair against defects in the finish. If the holes and subsequent repairs voids or reduces your warranty, then you have actual damages and a defense saying there were no real damages, will not work.

  • jdesign_gw
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    I work with this material almost everyday. There is no defense for holes in the middle of a finished door or panel. The manufacturer (in Italy) is not going to say its ok to put holes in a finished product. It has to be replaced. Like I said above on the white "kos" material that seam fill works very well but that would be in an inconspicuous out of the way area not an in-your-face eye level place. Do you know the exact size of the panel that need to be replaced.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Jdesign- Thank you and completely agree! It’s in a terrible location at eye level, not to mention when cooking with steam - worried about moisture getting in under the material. We were so excited and happy about the smooth finish... Unfortunately the hood took over an hour to install (tight fit) so will be a drag to uninstall to get the new panel back in. Our cabinet guy said it will take 3 weeks to get the panel and cost $275. I’m waiting to hear from him as to what the actual size is....thank you.

  • PRO
    ProSource Memphis
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    That will all have to be disassembled to have the panels replaced. The hood should not have been installed while there was conflict about the replacement. It will cost a lot more now in labor to replace them as that will need uninstalling as well as the cabinet assembly.

    Decorative panels like that should be installed from the interior, with the correct length brad nails/staples and a glue assist. There should be no mark on the exterior the correct fasteners are used.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Yes thank you. It was the hood installers that pointed out the nails after they installed the hood. They are clearly where the joint is inside the cabinet, poking out from the inside out. The hood installer said they used a foam sheet on the outside of the hood to lift it up and into the space. (I don’t believe these holes were caused by the hood install). As of today I still have no reply from the cabinet installer. As the days go by the “patch” job looks even worse. ☹️

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Jdesign_gw: the size of the panel is 13 7/16” x 40” tall

  • wacokid
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    It looks like they used a nail gun and shot into the cabinet to add shelf support? The one hole further in looks like it missed, to low, is it sticking out of the inside of the cabinet under the shelf? And the shelf itself looks like it was short and they used a filler? None of this should have been done.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Wacokid: yes that’s correct. At this point I have not heard anything back from them and I am looking for another cabinet installer in my area to fix his mess. I’m so disappointed and actually pretty angry over it. What this forum has showed me is that I’m not alone, it’s just upsetting. We have spent so much time and money already, and I can’t believe they have no integrity for their workmanship. Thanks for your comments.

  • wannabath
    2 years ago

    Is the panel finished on both sides? If so you can flip the panel and hide the damage under the cabinet.


    What were they nailing? Its just a filler panel.

  • wacokid
    2 years ago

    Yes, this forum has many stories like yours. Your should keep contacting the original contractor and keep records of your attempts. To me, it looks like they did a decent job with the overall install and then got sloppy and cut corners at the end? But using a nail gun, having to short of a shelf and using filler and what looks like caulking to secure the shelf is unacceptable and did they do things like this elsewhere? You have a tough call, use these guys to finish, if they come back, or try to find a new contractor? Anyway, good luck and you will have a nice kitchen when it is completed.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Wacokid: thanks for the advice. No reply from installer and can’t find an installer or Handiman in our area - SF Bay Area - if anyone knows of anyone please let me know. Not only do I have to replace the panel, but all hardware needs to go on, doors need to be adjusted and toe kick needs to be caulked and filled.

  • tedbixby
    2 years ago

    Did you purchase these cabinets from a dealer? As I would think they would have some people that they could recommend?

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Yes you would think, they have one Handiman person but they haven’t called me back as of yet. I’ve left two messages - seems that is what I’m facing, everyone is busy and even too busy to return calls....I think the cabinet dealer relies on GCs to install. My GC doesn’t install...(he is also two months behind schedule so he doesn’t have time anyway!).

  • tedbixby
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Does your GC have someone he could recommend? You may as well get on someone's waitlist even if it is a few months out as you could still look in the meantime for someone that could do it sooner. I have found, too, sometimes a contractor may tell you they are a few months out but then they find they have a few days that open up in the meantime and they are looking for a quick job as a fill-in. So it may be worth your while to get on a list or two as you continue to look just in case the reality is that a good contractor won't be able to get to your job for a few months.

  • jdesign_gw
    2 years ago

    Kari if you would like to contact me through the Houzz email I can probably help you with your damaged panel.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    2 years ago

    This is why you fix your screw ups before the customer sees them. I do it all the time.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Jdesign_gw: That would be amazing! I am not sure how to contact you, have tried but don’t see how to use Houzz email.

  • Kari Nielsen
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Tedbixby: yes so true! However I can’t even find a contractor (in the SF Bay Area) that’s willing to put on handles and fix cabinets. My contractor said he doesn’t do cabinets and he doesn’t do appliances. I am really having a hard time just getting on a list. I also have to order the white Fenix Kos panel, will take 3 weeks to get and cost me $275! Sadly, the cabinet install guy still has not responded - been 8 days - to my last email to him. We are really in a jam because of him. Should not have paid him in full but trusted him to keep his word to come back....lesson learned. My mom is 89 and it’s been incredibly stressful. Thank you for your comments and feedback. Much appreciated!

  • jdesign_gw
    2 years ago

    Kari I sent you a message.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    2 years ago

    I'd laminate a thin white veneer panel over the holes.