custom cabinet nightmare

runningirlNovember 8, 2011

Planning and building our small, refined rustic home in the Indiana woods was a 6 year get it right. When it came time to choose the cabinet maker (after much cussing, discussing, and much cheaper estimates from home depot)we decided to go with the local and well respected cabinet maker/woodworker...and support the local economy. Since we had wood ceilings and floors we decided on a sage green painted maple cabinetry and soapstone countertops. Finally they were installed last spring. Shortly after the cab maker had his guys install the cabs...we asked him how should we clean the surface as they were covered in shop dust. "oh...warm water and soap...or Murphy's should be fine." After cleaning the first door, gently I might add, I noticed something wasn't right. The finish looked shaded, uneven. LATER this summer he brings paint reps out to look at cabs. They take a sample to labs, weeks later he calls and says oh...bad paint. So NOW after several months has taken several doors to buff and put clear coat, or finish coat, or experiment on fixing problem. He wants to avoid taking the cabs out to repaint because he doesn't want to "put us through that." Really? because he can't do this sanding and painting in our new kitchen can he? If the paint is truly bad...will it not show through again sooner or later? Taking out the cabs will be a nightmare for everyone...countertops removed would mean calling in the stone company who installed them. Along with the paint issues, the doors have never operated correctly because the cabs themselves are out of square. We are sick over the whole thing and ready to use them as firewood and call home depot to bring some nice Kraftmaid's for half the cost of the current. This Custom Cabinet fellow really dropped the ball on this one. 40 grand worth of junk and he wants to know what it's going to take to make us happy...any suggestions?

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So...tell him what it's going to take to make you happy.

Painting cabinets in place is pretty basic. Any professional painter with airless equipment can spray a factory-quality finish. A truly bad paint job, one that will "show through again sooner or later" is peeling, coming off the surface, etc. Faded color or sheen is not a fatal flaw. Let the professional do his job.

All cabinets require adjustment after installation, to ensure all doors and drawers function properly. If he is still dealing with the paint issues, even considering removing all the boxes back to his shop, it is not surprising that the man would still have some final adjustments to make.

Start communicating openly. Stop assuming the worst. These problems should cost under $2K to correct. And your cabinet guy is doing this on warranty, right? These problems are correctable; your last statement is a bit of an overreaction.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 6:07PM
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Thanks, Aiden. The problem is a "negative catalyst reaction." We have been exceedingly patient...8 months waiting for answers, solutions, action. This is our first building experience. Rt now cab maker is in experimental mode...buffing and clearcoating cab doors back at his shop. Says this is a "first" in his 10 years of woodworking exp. How long is a reasonable time to wait? Should the paint company who diagnosed the problem shoulder some responsibility? Should the middle man, the painter, have noticed an issue or is this something that gets worse with age? Surely our frustrations are not an we can not seem to get any clear answers. All helpful opinions and feedback appreciated.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 11:14AM
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Have you considered checking out the paint manufacturer yourself? Just ask, casually, what the paint was, or get a look at the can, write it down, make a call or two. you may get a better idea, is the paint the problem, or the application method, or the conditions, ie., too wet or dry air. Also, check out your walls and cabinets with a square. If the walls are not square, and the cabinets are, they're not going to fit right. So, find out for yourself, are the cabinets square, and is that causing the door closing problem. Do as much investigating on your own. You are not going to lie to yourself, whether you trust other people to that extent is up to you. Good luck

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 11:15PM
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Other than the time frame it sounds like he is trying to get it right the first time. You don't him testing fixes in your house.
Have you asked him about the out of square doors?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 1:58PM
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Thanks all. We did tell him about doors not closing properly...and some of them actually make a long moaning sound as they close (soft close doors.)In fact, one morning as my husband opened one of the doors, it came off in his hand. HA! In April cabinet maker said no big deal "out of square"and said another one was "racked" or needing to be "racked" whatever that means. My husband knows the buzz words, not me. We have tried to be patient but should have asked for a timeline commitment. As far as checking out the paint manufacturer, the company reps came to our house, assessed the situation, took samples, and determined the catalyst as problem. We are in a holding pattern with the cabinet maker. It has now been another month since he took 4 doors to shop to buff, and clear coat. Everyone who has seen our cabinets say they actually look like a protective finish coat was never applied as they are very flat. The house is very complaints. Our builder did a beautiful job. We have documented all communication...and continue to wait.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 4:47PM
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You said he wants to know what will make you happy? Tell him $40,000+ will make you happy.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 3:10PM
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Oh, have no idea how ready we are to do just that. But, alas, probably wouldn't get very far. Still no word from him but getting ready to send an email and see what the newly buffed and re-coated doors are looking like. My guess is if he had a solution we would have heard something 3 weeks ago. When guests come over they say..."um...nice cozy cabin but what the heck happened to your cabinets." Wondering what other options we have...if any.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 3:51PM
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