Euro Style Cabinets?

wobbly1905February 12, 2013

We specified European frameless cabinets for our kitchen remodel.
We expected full face drawer fronts with very narrow reveals .
Our contractor built base cabinets like those shown in the photo.
Although we specified much deeper drawers, we ended up with lots of them only 2" deep. These shallow drawers hold very little.
Because he installed extra 2-1/4" stretchers with their width vertical instead of horizontal, all the drawer depths have been significantly reduced.

We are looking for a professional cabinet maker to comment on these cabinets for use in filing a complaint against the contractor,

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Looks like he did a combo of face frame and frameless...don't know why but he did.

It comes down to more of what you specified...hopefully in writing and what you want. It is not wrong what he did but I sure would not want such a shallow top drawer or that much of the frame showing on a framelss style. But it is not wrong unless you have something in writing. Or if he is a stand up guy he might make some changes if you ask nicely.

Travis Alfrey
Pinehurst, NC

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:54PM
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The contract reads "Euro-Style cabinets" per owners' drawings.
Our drawings show full face drawer fronts. Our cabinet schedule list 8-1/2" top drawers for the cabinet in the photo. We realize that 8-1/2" drawers must be made smaller to account for the drawer guides and clearances. However, 2" deep drawers are ludicrous.

As far as the contractor making it good voluntarily, that won't happen. We have a punch list of over 20 items, that he doesn't acknowledge as problems. This photo shows his lack of concern with drawer reveals.

He's told us that our house isn't perfect, so his work doesn't need to be either.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:37PM
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"He's told us that our house isn't perfect, so his work doesn't need to be either."

Egads, he sounds like a real charmer. I don't understand at all why he would have made your drawers like that. It's really too bad because I think they are beautiful cabinets otherwise.

It seems clear to me that he did not fulfill the contract, but remedying that is easier said than done. I think people with a better understanding of how the law works (in reality, not on paper) would be better suited than I to provide some advice here. Suffice to say I wouldn't let him install them and I most certainly wouldn't pay anything you have outstanding with him (and I sure hope it's enough to cover everything that is wrong).

So all I can offer is my sympathy that you have to deal with this. If it's any consolation at all, I love the combination of your floors and what your cabinets are meant to be.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 4:06PM
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Okay, that is just weird. I'm sorry you have to go through this.

Here is a link that might be useful: AYA Cabs

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 4:26PM
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I think you have a good case against this guy's definition of Eurostyle. Go anywhere on the internet, or google "eurostyle" and you will not ever find something like your photos.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 10:01AM
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Here's another example of his precision woodworking. I thought that
he tapered the top molding from 1-1/4" at the hood to 1-3/4" near the window to account for the ceiling not being level (even though his subcontractor just replaced the ceiling). I put a level on the ceiling and it is level. It's the cabinets that aren't level.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 10:35AM
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I don't know what these cabinets are, but I've never seen such a big stringer between drawers. My cabinets are frameless with no stringers at all between drawers. I did have an issue, because I didn't specify the depth of the actual drawer--just the face front. The devil is in the details. Not only do you have shallow drawers, but it looks like you have enough room (if the stringers are removed) for another drawer! It doesn't look that hard to fix (but I'm not a cabinet maker!).

How did you find this guy? Does his other work look like this? I will be surprised if this is considered acceptable work by reputable cabinet craftspeople. I'm sorry that you are faced with this. Good luck resolving the problem!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 12:49PM
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He's on Angie's List with favorable comments. He has no complaints against him with the state Contractors' Board. He's a very convincing braggart, and we bought all his stories.

Yes, removing the stretchers, which are secured with pocket screws, seems like the only option to tearing out the cabinets. I'm going to get estimates for both options to document our claim against him.

In our state we can file a complaint with the Contractor's Board. It sends out an investigator who will try to mediate a settlement between owner and contractor. If the mediation fails, it's up to the owner to get a judgement against the contractor. This requires going to Small Claims Court for less than $10K and to binding arbitration for less than $50K. There are no court trials for civil
suits less than $50K. It was a shock to learn that one person, the arbitrator, can decide a case without having to follow the legal procedures which judges must follow. The arbitrator's decision is final. It doesn't have to be based on legal reasoning. It can be "arbitrary". Seems to me that consumers' legal rights have been severely reduced by this change.

If we do get a judgement, then the State Contractors' Board goes to the surety and obtains the money for us. This assumes that others haven't already made claims against the bond.

The photo shows the large gap around the refrigerator. We wanted a built in look, but he knew better.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Incidentally, that refrigerator fell on my leg when my wife and I were trying to move it into the kitchen. It was on an appliance dolly and I was pulling it up the porch steps while my wife lifted at the base. At the count of '3', we both heaved and my feet slipped out from under me and the dolly, loaded with the refrigerator, landed on my thigh. I can't blame the contractor for this, but it's incidental to the breakdown in our working relationship.

This resulted in a trip to the ER after about 20 minutes of lying on the porch getting my breath back and trying to figure out if my leg was broken. I'm still trying to get my quadriceps and knee back in order.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 1:52PM
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Ouch. I did the foot slip thing while hanging on to my end of a clothes dryer and landed on my backside on the asphalt driveway. For a moment I thought I'd paralysed myself. Nope, but the resulting muscle spasms were very impressive. Did you know that Valium is the go-to drug for muscle spasm? Works well too.

On your fridge, why does it look cock-eyed? Do you need to adjust the right front foot? Surely the adjoining cabinetry isn't that crooked.

For your case over the cabinets (I so agree with you!), be sure to do your homework. Find all the descriptions and photos of "Euro Style" cabinetry with specs. See if you can find some industry standards. They will not match what you have. Another thought: when I was taking "Cabinet and Furniture Technology" classes at the local community college, the head of the program provided expert testimony in the kind of dispute you're dealing with. You might see if there's someone like that in your area. Someone sent out from the Board as an arbitrator may or may not be a cabinet person, he/she could just as well know more about floors or wiring or plumbing. The tendency in this sort of dispute is to hand down 50/50 judgements. If you hope to do better than that, be sure to get your ducks all in a row and standing up straight.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 6:09PM
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We had the same idea!

I did contact the instructor at a local community college a day or so ago after watching his series of instructional videos on building "Euro Style" cabinets. The instructor was sympathetic, but didn't want to get involved in providing expert testimony. He did mention that in his extensive experience he's never come across base corner cabinets that are 16" deep instead of 24". That was another one of the contractor's brilliant ideas that he claimed was standard in the cabinet industry.

The refrigerator hasn't been leveled, but I need a longer level to see whether the surround panel is plumb.

I've been stretching my leg and knee muscles in the hot tub and that seems to be helping. At least I can get into the car now without having to pull my leg up with my hand.

I'm afraid that you are correct that there might be a lot of arbitrators and mediators who take the easy way out and give a 50-50 split regardless of the facts. In our state, you can get a trial with a judge in small claims court after going through mediation. With a civil case under $50K, though, arbitration is mandatory.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 6:47PM
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Yikes! Maybe I really could have built my own cabinets, I could have done at least as good as this guy! I hope you can get a reasonable settlement. They need to be fixed.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 7:05PM
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wobbly: so sorry about your fall and repercussions. You might want to try some massage therapy as well.

One question: you mentioned that there were instructional videos from your local CC instructor. Are these on the CC website or can they be accessed anywhere? i would love to see them


    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 7:39PM
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Here is a link to the videos:
There are 11 to watch just for one small cabinet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Euro Style Cabinets

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 7:59PM
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can you post your specifications? The lower cabinets are definitely not full overlay. European cabinets are usually frameless, but I don't know if there is an industry definition for EuroStyle, unless you specified frameless.

The workmanship on the cabinets actually looks pretty good, and the finish is lovely.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 10:26PM
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I think I remember your corner cabinet, did you post it earlier on a different thread?

I found out fairly early in my bidding process that EuroStyle didn't mean frameless and that contractors didn't have a clue what the difference was. Eurostyle to general contractors meant framed with a flat panel, full overlay door front. I wasn't able to find a cabinet sub who would build true frameless cabinets, so I went with Ikea.

It looks like you at least have full overlay doors in your uppers, which makes the lower drawers seem even more odd. I think that with the right hardware you might be able to take away the face frames and put in full depth drawers. That might be a good compromise when/if you go to arbitration.

Good luck - they do look like they could be very nice cabinets once they're reconfigured per your original design.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:03PM
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Yes, I posted about the shrunken corner cabinets. He lists cabinetmaking as his forte and claims to have taught the most prestigious remodeling company how to build cabinets. The cabinets are not face frame, but they have the horizontal members (stretchers) used with face frames. The space available for drawers is further reduced because he installed the the stretchers with their widths vertical.

We specified trash pull-outs next to the sink and a spice rack pull-out next to the hood. These require door fronts without hinges which are to be attached to the pull-out mechanism. Instead, he provided double hinged doors for the trash pull-out cabinet, and a hinged door for the spice rack. He proposed to make a single door out of the double doors by joining them together with braces. The hinge pockets he would fill with wood filler, I guess. The spice rack door would also get the hinge pockets filled. He basically wants us to accept his screw ups.

We also specified bi-fold hinges for the base corner cabinets. These are hidden behind the doors. Instead he used exposed piano hinges as shown in the photo.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:36PM
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This guy is a joker.
The sad truth is that any gc can call themselves a cabinetmaker.
Fact is, most are finish carpenters who make crappy on site bookcases.

If your gc is a true cabinetmaker ( he's not, he's a gc ) he should provide architectural shop drawings done in autocad. I have never met a gc who can actually draft in autocad.
He should have a fully functioning cabinet shop of no less than 2500sf with industrial 3 phase machinery. It should be a dedicated business.

PS. If you ever see a job posting for a cabinetmaker by a proper shop, many times you will see in big block capitals

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:04PM
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The contract says "Euro-Style cabinets per owner's drawings"
The drawings include a cabinet schedule which lists the number and size of drawers, doors, and shelves. The attached drawing is an section view , so the cabinet on the left is shown in sectional view. There is also a plan view, and elevations . It's clear that there are to be no exposed cross members between the drawers.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 6:27PM
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Sorry you are going through a kitchen nightmare, but unfortunately "euro style" is neither a Term of Art, nor a construction specification.

If you submitted the drawing as shown above, did the contractor sign it? We're there any documents that explicitly specify the components? What did your contract with the contractor say?

Unfortunately, the section drawing to which you refer could be interpreted as
Box cabinets that could require frames to match the doors, but exposed. If these were drawn correctly, the drawers would be shown with drawer components, which would touch the face of the drawers at the top and bottoms So it's unclear what is being required.

Try to work it out with your contractor, and if need be hire someone who can detail what you want.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:01PM
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First off, it's an elevation view. Sections are split individually and referenced from the elevation.
That being said, you did provide a scope to your contractor.

I am not sure what you can do now though as the cabinets are installed and he probably won't take your calls. I would say that maybe a call to the state licensing board might cause him to move.

I think that the best thing that people can take from this is that GC's are not and have never been cabinetmakers!
If you want cabinets made get a cabinetmaker!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:31PM
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Well, he's on Angie's list as a cabinetmaker, and his company name includes a phrase similar to "precision woodworking".

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:56PM
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did you specify full overlay?

I am willing to bet that he didn't do the doors himself, that these doors/drawer fronts were done by a door manufacturer and that is why they came predrilled.

ask him who made the doors and drawer fronts, then see if you can send pictures and contact this company yourself and work thru a solution. you can easily get the correct hinges for the corner cabinet, there are people here who will help you with what to order - and the door place, if this is what he did - can help you too. the drawer fronts can be remade as well.

if he doesn't really know what he is doing, he may have put the cross braces in to strengthen the cabinet, but that generally is not needed if the sides are plywood and 3/4" thick.

whatever you do, NO MORE CHECKS should be given until this thing is fixed. What is the money situation - what % have you paid up front, what % is yet to be paid? Is he interested in your satisfaction?

there are lots of people here who will help you thru this, I think it will work out. At worst, if you end up with the partial overlay drawers, understand that it looks very nicely finished, the quality looks good.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Forget Angie's list for cabinetmakers. Would you look for a doctor on Angie's List?
You got at least three quotes and checked them out?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 8:20PM
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We gave the contractor a punch list of 27 items. The most important one was that his cabinets were not the style shown on the plans we gave him. He provided 12 drawers which would only hold items 2-1/2" tall, ignoring the the drawer sizes shown in the cabinet schedule.
Since he was non-responsive to our punch list, we filed a claim with the state Construction Contractors Board. This board now has limited tools to deal with construction disputes. A few years ago the board had its own administrative judges who could decide disputes and compel compensation based on inspectors' investigations. Now the 'inspectors' are 'inspector/mediators' and there are no hearings before board judges. The board now only offers mediation. If no settlement is reached the owner must get a court judgement. The board will satisfy the judgement through the contractor's surety bond.

In Oregon we had two legal courses of action: small claims court, and district court. Small claims court has a maximum limit of $10k.
There is mandatory mediation for all small claims. If this mediation fails, we would have been able to have a hearing before a judge.

All district court civil cases below $50K must be settled by arbitration. There are no trials before a judge. The parties to the litigation must select and hire the arbitrator, who normally charges several hundred dollars per hour. The arbitrator does not have to document the legal basis for a decision. We didn't feel that arbitration would assure a fair outcome, since there seems to be an
implicit pressure to satisfy both parties.

We decided we would try the Construction Contractors Board mediation approach. A site meeting was held at our house with the contractor, the state mediator, and us. The first thing the mediator did was to have both sides "vent" without interruption by the other side. After the contractor's spiel, we called him on his misrepresentation that he had to install and then remove cabinets many times because we couldn't make up our minds.

The mediator looked at the contractor's work but would not comment on it. He then had the contractor go outside while he asked us what we needed to settle the dispute. We provided an estimate of the cost to correct the deficiencies. The mediator looked at it and commented that he could tell us the contractor's answer. He then spent about an hour talking to the contractor. He returned and asked us if we would accept the contractor doing the
remedial work. We said that he would have to apologize for keeping us without a kitchen for 18 weeks, and that he would have to commit to a schedule and promise to do all work in a professional manner. The mediator again returned to the contractor and they talked for another hour.

The contractor's proposal was that he would replace the 2-1/2" deep drawers with deeper ones, but would not replace drawer fronts so that each drawer bank had grain matching.

We rejected that proposal. The mediator then said that he would continue negotiations by telephone at a later date.

A week later he called with the contractor's new proposals. One was that he would pay us back the cost of the cabinets and would remove them all. Another was that he would pay us about 1/2 of our estimate, but with only half of that in cash and the rest paid over a year without interest.

The proposal to rip out the cabinets was meant as a punitive scare tactic. The cabinets would have very little resale value, especially the ones with 2-1/2" deep drawers. In addition, our granite slab contractor said that removal of the granite slabs would cost half of the original installation cost with no guarantee that they wouldn't get broken.

We countered with a proposal for a cash settlement that should be
just enough to get the corrective work done.

After a 10 day wait, the contractor agreed, and the state mediator brought us a cashiers check for the amount we asked.

Unfortunately we had to agree to make no derogatory statements about the contractor in any media. We we itching to write a blistering review on Angie's List.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:11PM
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That sounds like as reasonable a settlement as was possible. Glad to hear how this worked out. Do be sure to take before and after photos of the remedial work.

As for Angie's List, while you can't make negative statements, how about your friends and extended family who lived through this with you? Even something mild like, "My BIL had a very poor experience with X's cabinet making skills." would be a heads up to the next potential victim.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 1:15PM
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This guy told us a story about going to the local metro waste transfer station. They have a policy of charging $25 extra for a load which isn't covered with a tarp. His wasn't covered and he refused to pay the extra fee. He said that he blocked the scale house entrance and told the employees to call the police because he wasn't paying and he wasn't moving. He said that there was a long line of irate customers lined up behind him, and that after 45 minutes he was allowed to dump without paying the extra fee.

His story illustrates to us that he might act irrationally if we circumvent the non-derogatory statement clause in the settlement agreement.

We believe that his business practices violate several state and federal labor and tax laws which carry pretty stiff penalties. If we didn't fear retaliation we might bring these violations to the attention of the enforcement agencies.

We did inform the Board in our complaint documentation that the contractor had an improperly licensed employee, and also that the contractor's license doesn't allow him to even have employees.
They seem to have ignored these violations of their own regulations..

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 10:33AM
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