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What would be an acceptable estimate to repair these cabinets?

Cindy Everett
10 months ago

We had white oak cabinets installed in our new build to the tune of 40k. The cabinet company does not want to repair certain things that look bad to me. In my opinion if you pay for custom cabinets they should look at least as good as ikea. The cabinet craftsman told me to just use contact paper on the split cabinet bottoms. I definitely didn't anticipate that after spending so much for cabinets. The poorly done drawer sides have already been patched once. They originally looked like the saw had never been sharpened and just stripped away the wood on the edges. We are pretty sure they will not repair these to our satisfaction. We still owe them about 10% final payment. Would anyone comment on a fair negotiating price? We would like to get these looking nice in the future. Thank you anyone who is willing to comment.







Comments (41)

  • ci_lantro
    10 months ago

    Repair isn't a realistic option. Rebuild is the only way to make the flaws go away.

    Cindy Everett thanked ci_lantro
  • PRO
    BobH
    10 months ago

    You could get some iron-on birch veneer, iron it on and give it a coat of clear polyurethane.

    Cindy Everett thanked BobH
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  • bry911
    10 months ago

    Comments about the two issues shown.


    1.) The split wood for cabinet floors... Split wood back panels, partial back panels, etc. are often used in base cabinets and less often used in upper cabinets. I wouldn't use glued up plywood panels in a base cabinet ever, but could see it being done in a drawer base. Which is most likely what happened here. Someone probably made that base cabinet expecting it to be a drawer cabinet and now they are trying to play it off as acceptable when they know it is not.

    Not to mention, that someone let their 5 year old glue up the panels.


    Since you have face frame cabinetry that box can just be rebuilt assuming that it can be uninstalled. You could also have the cabinet floor veneered which will leave a small lip. A thin White Oak veneer is not that much money (less than $100 for a 4x8 sheet), so it can be done relatively inexpensively but it is not a perfect fix.


    2.) The drawer build quality is just bad and stupid... If you are that bad at building drawer boxes then just order them. As for the discount on drawer boxes, look online and price out the replacement cost for drawer boxes and start there.

    The problem being, as bad as these are, they are likely acceptable. There just are not a lot of enforceable workmanship standards for drawers unless you were promised a certain type of drawer. They are bad in many ways, but I am not sure they are substandard enough to force them to remake them.

    Cindy Everett thanked bry911
  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    10 months ago

    Will any of the perceived issues negatively effect your cooking?

    Will any of the perceived issues negatively effect the function of the cabinets?

    If anyone else notices the sides of the drawers in the images, they will most likely have issues themself that needs more immediate attention. There is some very nice shelf liner out there on the market. Personally I have used cork shelf liner and it looks great, and more importantly it functions better than the finished wood would.


    (I think that is the first time I ever used "wood would" like that in a sentence)

    Cindy Everett thanked Mark Bischak, Architect
  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    10 months ago

    I agree that there aren't a lot of quality standards applicable for residential cabinetry. That's why it's important to see examples of cabinetry being installed in the field vs. what you see in a showroom before choosing a cabinetmaker. The interior of the cabinets shown is not professional quality. I submit it should get a grade of "F" in High School shop.

    Cindy Everett thanked Charles Ross Homes
  • aklogcabin
    10 months ago

    As a professional woodworker, cabinet builder, fine furniture maker. I would not pay for that. It is not acceptable. There isn't much that can be done to repair this bad workmanship.

    And you paid plenty to expect that the plywood used for the carcus to be one piece, not poorly seamed. Actually the material costs are the least expensive. Don't let this kind of poor quality work get away with it. What are they going to do ?

    Cindy Everett thanked aklogcabin
  • crcollins1_gw
    10 months ago

    Did you specify or do you know what kind of slide hardware they used on the drawers? I'd be very concerned about that too, given that they thought this workmanship is acceptable. If they also used bargain-basement slides, those will fail before the glued wood would. ;-)

    Cindy Everett thanked crcollins1_gw
  • motupeg
    10 months ago

    I’d have them replace those boards, particularly the last 3 that an be seen as you pull out the drawer. This is your kitchen, not the garage.

    Cindy Everett thanked motupeg
  • mainenell
    10 months ago

    What method did they use for the drawer box construction? It looks as if it is just screwed from the sides. There are stronger methods for constructing drawer boxes. If this is their drawer box method, I don’t think you are ever going to satisfaction from this company.

    Cindy Everett thanked mainenell
  • S Turpie
    10 months ago

    Sand, prime, and paint the cabinet interiors if you don't want contact paper, and do a lot more research into what makes a good quality cabinet while saving up for your next remodel. I'm sorry to say you spent good money on very low quality cabinets and what you want is well outside the ability of the company that you bought from.

    Cindy Everett thanked S Turpie
  • just_janni
    10 months ago

    How do the fronts look? Are you pleased with that? Are they sturdy, square and installed properly?


    What you have is not ideal - but..... perhaps they had junior level folks building boxes / drawers and the real craftsperson managing the fronts and overall dimensioning? If the install is good, and the door / drawer fit and finish is good - I'd get the cork liners and move on - admiring your kitchen from the outside.

    Cindy Everett thanked just_janni
  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    10 months ago

    Is the kitchen completely completed with the flooring finished, countertop installed, finish plumbing complete, walls and ceiling painted, light fixtures installed, door and drawer handles installed, and pantry stocked?

    Cindy Everett thanked Mark Bischak, Architect
  • ci_lantro
    10 months ago

    From the one photo, the flooring is finished, counter tops installed, cabinet hardware installed. Way too late in the game to complain about what looks like entirely cosmetic issues. Questions about construction methods should be addressed before signing the contract. Not after the cabinets are delivered and installed.

    Cindy Everett thanked ci_lantro
  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    10 months ago

    Give the cabinetmaker a deadline as to when the repairs are to be completed to your satisfaction. Tell him you'll be using his 10% to make them if he does not. From this non-lawyer, he and his lawyer are not even going to rattle your cage for the balance, trust me.

    Cindy Everett thanked Joseph Corlett, LLC
  • just_janni
    10 months ago

    Agree - and that somehow folks don't DESERVE to have a quality product and blame them for wanting nice things and spending what is - significant money.

    Cindy Everett thanked just_janni
  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    10 months ago

    $40K may be an issue in some markets, but it will buy some well-made, true custom cabinets in my market.

    The problem the OP has is that their expectation is not aligned with the cabinetmaker's expectations or their capabilities.

    Cindy Everett thanked Charles Ross Homes
  • Cindy Everett
    Original Author
    10 months ago

    I appreciate everyone's input. My husband and I are both nurses and have never built a house before. Yes, things are installed and we have been living here since late October. The punch lists are getting done slowly. The house has been a disaster from the beginning. We had to change builders midway and he was no better than the first. Yes, we should have been more diligent about them. We used the cabinet company that the builder told us to use. There have been so many glaringly wrong things that the cabinets have taken a back seat. The cabinet guy who already came once for the touch ups told us their longtime employee who built OUR cabinets died of alcohol poisoning shortly after making them. Soooooo. They contacted us to complete the punch list and get final payment. I didn't even post the pictures of the backs where they were installed and the screw holes are buggered, or the bad bathroom drawers. It's been a very hard lesson. Thank you all again.

  • S Turpie
    10 months ago

    In the DC metro area, these would not be 40k cabinets. For 40k you should be getting clean finishes and dovetailed drawer boxes. It honestly looks like someone put custom fronts on big box store stock items and is laughing at you.

    Cindy Everett thanked S Turpie
  • palimpsest
    10 months ago

    "The problem the OP has is that their expectation is not aligned with the cabinetmaker's expectations or their capabilities."

    I am not trying to be argumentative, but who would have expectations of this being $40,000 worth of cabinets, or that this is what a custom shop would produce for $40K?

    It's been a few years, but I did a cluster of kitchen designs for friends using the standard 3" increment so there would be no customization necessary, and they could go with multiple different semi-custom manufacturers. They had modest budgets and went with either Kraft maid or Thomasville, big box brands, for the most part. While there were some aspects of the finish and quality that I would not have been thrilled by, they were built much better than what I can see here and at a fraction of the cost, even adjusting for inflation. My niece recently bought a builder spec house with no name I have ever heard of cabinets that look better than these. I don't understand why the builder would even recommend custom cabinets unless their shop is churning them out at rock bottom prices and they are making more profit than they would with an okay semi-custom cabinet from a factory.


    Cindy Everett thanked palimpsest
  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    10 months ago

    Price by itself doesn't guarantee meeting a particular quality standard. You can overpay for anything. There's a cabinetmaker in my market who produces cabinetry of equal (crappy) quality to what the OP purchased. It's what they deliver and probably all they are capable of delivering. The best way to avoid disappointment is to align expectations. That involves adequate due diligence on the front end. It's unfortunate that the cabinetmaker had a builder's endorsement, but that's another issue.

    Cindy Everett thanked Charles Ross Homes
  • cpartist
    10 months ago

    Have you spoken to a construction lawyer?

    Cindy Everett thanked cpartist
  • palimpsest
    10 months ago
    last modified: 10 months ago

    Yes, unfortunately there does not seem to be standards that are adhered to for custom.

    On the other hand, of the kitchens I designed for friends, none of whom are in the design industry, and none of whom frequent anything like Houzz where people discuss details endlessly--none of them would have any idea that they needed to know how a cabinet should be built and what details to ask for in order to Tell a cabinetmaker what their expectations were, If they had no particular desired details other than a decently constructed and finished cabinet. They wouldn't know what a dovetail drawer box is if you hit them over the head with it. Their assumption would be, as with most things, except apparently kitchen cabinets, that if you pay more for it, you are getting a better product. With some notable exceptions I am sure, there is an expectation that you will get a better car for $80,000 than you will for $25,000 and if you go to a custom tailor, you are going to get a better suit than if you buy one at JC Penney. Most consumers are going to think that a Custom Cabinet Maker Knows How to Build Good Cabinets, better than they could themselves, and that they shouldn't have to tell them How.

    Cindy Everett thanked palimpsest
  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    10 months ago

    I suspect if the OP opened some cabinets and drawers that their cabinetmaker was installing for other clients they would note the same quality issues they have with their own cabinets. You don't have to be a trained cabinetmaker to know what a well-made cabinet looks like.

    Cindy Everett thanked Charles Ross Homes
  • cpartist
    10 months ago

    Why isn't the builder going to bat for you?

    Cindy Everett thanked cpartist
  • bry911
    10 months ago

    You don't have to be a trained cabinetmaker to know what a well-made cabinet looks like.


    The OP shouldn't have to know what a well-made cabinet looks like. The biggest problem the OP seems to have, is a builder who has abandoned their duty of due care.

    You don't need to be a framer to know what a good framing job looks like, nor do you need to be a plumber to know what a good plumbing job looks like, or an electrician to know what a good wiring job looks like, etc., but what exactly are you paying a builder for if you need to do all those things? In the end, the builder recommended this cabinetmaker and accepted this quality, which he likely shouldn't have.


    @Joseph Corlett, LLC said, "From this non-lawyer, he and his lawyer are not even going to rattle your cage for the balance, trust me."


    That may be true, but the OP will also be forfeiting any warranties. Certainly, the value of that warranty may be questionable, but I would attempt to negotiate a settlement before simply refusing to pay.

    ----

    @Cindy Everett - Just to be clear... A screwed and glued drawer box, even one chewed through with a dull saw blade, isn't likely to fall apart in the near future and may outlast the kitchen.

    The glued up plywood panel is tragic, but again, it is cosmetic. I would argue that it, more than the drawers, is an actionable issue.

    The biggest problem with these things is that they are indicators of general poor quality rather than specific problems. I would bet dimes to dollars that there are other issues in the cabinet construction, but it is (remotely) possible that the cabinets are well made overall and these were just two boneheaded things.

    So it is hard to discuss how you should proceed with a discount for repairs because these issues are likely the tip of the iceberg. I would see if you can get someone in to look at them, but that can be difficult. I also don't think you are going to easily get someone else to fix them. Most people with experience in cabinets are not going to touch someone else's bad cabinets... the payout is unlikely to match the risk. Instead I would attempt to work out some discount that makes these cabinets acceptable.

    Good luck.

    Cindy Everett thanked bry911
  • remodeling1840
    10 months ago

    I am surprised at so many responses saying these are ok if you just put shelf liner in these cabinets. Actually, I am angry at some of the responses. How cruel to say this serves the homeowner right for only spending $40000 for cabinets. The one cabinet alone is not worth $400. For $26000, we have custom cabinets of tiger maple, cherry, and two different painted finishes (done in a paint booth with the proper paint). The craftsmanship and installation was perfect. It was everything one should expect from a custom cabinetmaker. If the poster bought unfinished cabinets from Lowe’s, the quality would be better. My husband is a hobbyist woodworker who is currently making six cabinets with inset Shaker doors for our DIL. We have not spent $800 on wood for this project. Last year he made a 60 x 42 six drawer ( full extension heavy duty drawer slides) center island for our DD at a total cost of $1100. This poor woman and her husband have been victims of a shoddy builder and his shoddy “cabinet maker”. In three decades of construction, I have witnessed this appalling lack of professionalism. After Hurricane Andrew, it was found that windows had been installed with one screw on the left and one on the right and wood trim applied over the opening to hold the window into the frame. Nails that were meant to hold roof sheathing to the joists had missed every one and the sheathing was essentially just sitting on the structure. Would you all tell the buyers of these homes it was their fault?

    Cindy Everett thanked remodeling1840
  • ci_lantro
    10 months ago

    If the poster bought unfinished cabinets from Lowe’s, the quality would be better.

    Hardly. This is what you get with unfinished cabinets from Lowe's:

    Particle board drawer boxes.



    Cindy Everett thanked ci_lantro
  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    10 months ago
    last modified: 10 months ago

    "I am surprised at so many responses saying these are ok if you just put shelf liner in these cabinets."

    Obviously we do not know all the facts. Based upon what we do know, the proper repairs may be more agonizing and disruptive than making due with what exists at this point. I assume the perceived issues do not negatively effect the cooking or the function of the cabinets, but we never received those answers. Shelf liner is a potential solution that may be functionally and aesthetically satisfying that the OP can evaluate, along with 'do nothing'. It is probably the easiest solution that should be included in the set of solutions considered to solve the OP's issue with the kitchen, for the OP to decide.

    Cindy Everett thanked Mark Bischak, Architect
  • remodeling1840
    10 months ago

    When I spend forty thousand dollars, I do not expect to buy a box of Bandaids to cover a problem with craftsmanship and quality.

    Cindy Everett thanked remodeling1840
  • motupeg
    10 months ago

    I appreciate all of the comments from all of you who work in this field. I would like to to suggest that with the cabinet company stating that the person who made these cabinets was severely ill, that they visit their storefront, see what the quality of the cabinets they normally make, and ask that they repair these cabinets to at least that level. The OP and her husband both work in the medical field and know the physical and mental deterioration that occurs in someone with that medical condition. The company may not have been aware of the quality of cabinet maker’s work as it deteriorated, but they may also see they wouldn’t want that level of work to be representative of their company. (If you don’t know, a person has to drink a heck of a lot of alcohol a day to where they cannot be saved, go into organ shutdown and die. The last case I was aware of in my work was bottles of whiskey per day).

    Cindy Everett thanked motupeg
  • Cindy Everett
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    I would like to thank everyone for their comments. No the function of the kitchen is not impaired by the appearance of the cabinets. For our area in NC 40K is not a cheap price. We did look at a couple of other companies, one who admitted to using prefab cabinets and the other was a bit more expensive but very busy. In retrospect I believe the cabinet maker probably had to share that fee with the builder. All the other subs who worked on this house did awful jobs. Many things had to be redone (steam shower, 23ft stone fireplace, soapstone countertops in the kitchen and marble in the master bath.- wood floors pending due to being installed 6 months before the HVAC and now cupping and separating) Yes we do have a construction lawyer. As sad as it is for the man who died, our cabinets were made by an impaired person and passed off as acceptable. The company functions out of a building in a small town, no real store front (red flag). The owner is adamant about getting his "check." He was planning to send his man at 6pm to complete the punch list and get the check if that tells you how much effort he is willing to put into it. It's a lesson learned. I appreciate comments that validated my opinion that this is shoddy work. All we have heard from our builder is that his subs are great and his work is great and that we are unreasonable. So thank you all!

  • remodeling1840
    9 months ago

    The owner of the cabinet shop is ultimately responsible for the work that goes out of his shop. No one person handled all those cabinets alone. The fact that the owner of the cabinet shop permitted a severely impaired person to make those cabinets and allowed them out of his workshop and sent them to a job site to be installed is on his shoulders alone. I am so sorry you have been so taken by your contractor and all his subs. This has been a nightmare situation. It is an embarrassment to all the good contractors and their select group of subs who under promise and over perform.

    Cindy Everett thanked remodeling1840
  • User
    9 months ago

    I am totally shocked at what happened to you and so sorry. This must have been incredibly stressful and you are right to feel cheated. Don’t let this guy gaslight you—he did a terrible job.

    I’m also somewhat disappointed at the number of frankly unhelpful comments in this post. The OP is not out here declaring they made all the right choices and being defensive about it—they are here because mistakes were made and they need advice. Some of the replies here are about as constructive as the builder who made their cabinets.

    Cindy Everett thanked User
  • palimpsest
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    On a much smaller scale, I had a contractor who actually had really good subs, but they themselves were prima donnas and combative. One of the project managers had been an attorney and they billed like attorneys. It was a time and materials project, and I received a written statement with a payment due of about zero hours on it, describing what happened during each 15 minute interval of the day. (Zero hours meaning I would get a phone call from the office if I received a statement at 5:00 PM and there was not a check in her hand by 8:30 the next morning.) I paid for the time they spent filling out this report every day. They billed me if they got a parking ticket.

    Not too much went wrong during the project but they had one screw up where the undercabinet lighting was installed the wrong way round creating a lot of extra holes in the bottom of the cabinet boxes, which were covered with stainless steel laminate. And they were visible below the light rail under the cabinet. Any minor thing that went wrong was Never their fault, it was always someone else's fault. They offered to fix it, but were going to charge me for the electrician to come again: The undercabinet lighting I picked was "stupid" the previous electrician who had done the rough in "hadn't done in right", the "instructions provided with the undercabinet lighting were "so unclear they were almost incomprehensible". It was everybody else's fault but theirs.

    I said "I will pay for all of it to be redone if you put the pictures I sent you of how this all looks on your website that says " This is an example of our high level of craftsmanship" and you leave them there for at least a year, and give my name out as a reference so I can tell people exactly how nice you are to work with".

    They fixed it.

    The longer end to the story is all the people who worked for them as subs no longer work for them because they couldn't stand how they were treated, and I have used them independently on subsequent projects ever since.

    Cindy Everett thanked palimpsest
  • User
    9 months ago

    @palimpsest That is a hilarious strategy.

    I suspect OP’s builder and cabinet maker would not be happy about their work being showcased on Yelp or similar.

    (But as someone who hates confrontation, I’m not sure I’d have the courage and energy to play the name and shame game)

    Cindy Everett thanked User
  • palimpsest
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    Oh, I would never have disparaged them on a public forum like Yelp or a review site, I never did. (Although there is a one star review detailing exactly the same experience: one thing that they did clearly wrong they refused to take any responsibility for at the time, when it would have been more easily fixed). They apparently reached a financial agreement, but the problem was never taken care of.

    I wanted them to self report. I wanted them to post the pictures as if it were something they were proud of on their own website. I would have stayed out of it. Of course they could have refused to do either. But refusing to post the photos would have proven that they felt this was unacceptable work.

    Cindy Everett thanked palimpsest
  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    9 months ago

    For what it is worth, many architects offer construction supervision services or similar services where they will make sure all construction is done to meet at least minimum standards.

    This may be useless information for the OP, but I am confident they will come across a beautiful lakefront piece of property for a steal and build a nicer house with an architect that meets their needs and fits the site and they sell the current house for a pile of money and own the new house free and clear and live happily ever after.

    Cindy Everett thanked Mark Bischak, Architect
  • User
    9 months ago

    As a self reported coward, I think it took way more courage to do that than to bash them online! Wish I had the guts.

    Cindy Everett thanked User
  • bry911
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    When receiving a defective item, you do not install it. You refuse delivery. You stop the install. Installation reduces any option of ”repair” to zero. By the time you put on a counter and backsplash, you have literally set it in stone that you found the quality acceptable.

    This is simply a misunderstanding of your obligation. All parties in a contract have a duty to limit the damages of other parties in the contract. That doesn't mean that you have an obligation to detect problems, it only means you have an obligation to act in such a way that doesn't increase the damages unreasonably once problems have been, or should have been, detected.

    Limiting damages also doesn't mean you have to stop work and send the cabinets back. Essentially, you are obligated to weigh the damage of delaying all work versus the damage of installing cabinets that need repair. You are required to make a reasonable choice between those two alternatives.

    Furthermore, in this case, the "you" I am referring to above is the builder. The homeowner has no obligation to ensure that things are of an acceptable standard before they are installed as that is quite literally the builder's duty.

    ----

    As for the impairment issue... This is not a problem with an impaired worker, this is a general quality problem with the manufacturer. Cabinet fabrication is not like woodworking... It is manufacturing. An impaired person might mess up the process and may not change dull blades when they should, but they are not going to invent a completely different process to do poorly.

    I would bet dimes to dollars (and a lot of them) that the owner knew about that plywood panel glue up and did it because they were short on sheet goods and he didn't want to order more. There is no way any worker makes that decision on their own, no matter how drunk they are.

    ----

    The OP has a construction lawyer, so I wish them luck.

    Cindy Everett thanked bry911
  • cpartist
    9 months ago

    You need to work with your construction lawyer as to what your options are.

    Please let us know the outcome and I hope it works out ok. We had to avail ourselves of our construction lawyer when we built. We wound up settling for less than what the builder thought he was owed.