White painted cabs cracking at 1 year - what to do?

lara_jayeFebruary 28, 2013

Last feb we had our kitchen renovated and a friend/business associate of my husband's builds home and kitchens and we had him do our kitchen, rather than going to Ikea or similar. We were sold on the quality of a custom kitchen.
Fast forward 1 year later and our quality kitchen is falling apart.

i could only upload 1 pic, but it shows what i am talking about. They are white shaker in a apparently a laquer paint. The outside is wood, the panel is mdf. We live in Canada so there is a hot/cold flux, and i'm aware that the wood would expand and contract. However the majority of the seams between panel and wood surround are cracking and there are also lines appearing vertically from where the panels are glued together (if you know what i mean).

So my question is if this is normal with a painted wood cabinet? We have only had old school paint before in an older home, never laquer. I have already had him repair one cabinet that chipped. How do i broach the subject with a friend about shoddy workmanship. My husband wants me to just leave it, but it's not in my nature. Am i over reacting?

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I wouldn't say over reacting. You've lived with this custom kitchen. If it were me I'd probably feel angry, and that's why I know I can't live with painted cabinets.

Like you said wood expands and contracts, and from what I've seen just from other posts here it seems normal. I do hope someone chimes in who have lived with painted cabinets.

I'm sorry you're unhappy with your cabinets. I think you'll probably just have to touch it up from time to time if you don't like the cracks.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 3:58PM
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Sorry. That's "falling apart?" If so "overreacting" is an understatement.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 4:42PM
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marcolo, are you asking if it's falling apart? I attached another picture. The molding is not coming off (that i know of), but the paint between the panel and surround is cracking. I was under the impression they interior is painted and the outer shaker surround would be glued afterward - this wouldn't happen if that is the case, correct?

This is happening on let's say half of my doors/drawers. We have a stained wood island which is in good shape. It's just the painted ones...

so, it's not me?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 4:50PM
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It's 100% normal, and that is how all painted cabinets behave with seasonal changes in moisture and temperature.. It's exacerbated if you don't run a humidifier in the winter and the AC in the summer.

The center panel in all cabinets floats free. If it were glued, it would possibly crack the door because it couldn't expand and contract. If you had a solid wood panel there instead of MDF, it would be far more noticeable as it would expand a lot more than MDF. Your wood island does the same thing, but it's not as visible because it's a clear top finish.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:00PM
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A latex paint is more flexible and would not crack like that, but it's more likely to peel or wear. Honestly yes I think you are over-reacting the cracks are only in the paint and barely visible.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:29PM
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Yes, it's normal for painted cabinets, and not likely to be indicative of shoddy workmanship unless there are actual cracks in wood. That's not to say you can't call and ask your cabinetmaker to do some spot fixing (or better, show you how to do it in the future). Ours are two years old and have similar cracks, though happily only visible on the backs of the doors so far. We were well warned by both our cabinetmaker and GWers, and still happy with the choice overall.

I don't think it is common for the inner panel to be glued after the frame is painted, though the experts can weigh in on this. I know that at least with our cabinets (also Shaker), our inner MDF panel is floating and the full door was built before it was primed and painted. Not sure if this is the norm or not, though.

I do recall that our cabinetmaker thought that over time, the cracks would be more noticeable with Shaker doors with a straight edge (as yours and ours have); not sure if this is true or not. We were matching existing cabinetry so I didn't look at other styles very closely.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:39PM
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Ok, thanks for the feedback!! As long as it's normal i'm not going to get worked up about it. It just would really bug me if we paid more for custom and it is lesser quality than a "big box store". We have some extra paint which i have been using for knicks, i could always use that in the future. I read about the vertical seam cracks, so knew that, i just didn't expect the panel separation.
Thanks for taking the time to reply :-)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:43PM
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It kind of seems like you're looking for flaws with a magnifying glass.

By your standards, my entire house is "falling apart."

Were you opposed to painted cabinets from the get-go? Did someone talk you into them so you are looking for reasons to be dissatisfied? It sounds like he did everything right--floating an MDF center panel, high quality lacquer paint job. They are supposed to have minute cracks where you are seeing them. They'll fill back in when the humidity hits this summer. If it were all glued tightly together, you might get a big old split right down the middle.

Maybe I just can't see the what you're talking about on my screen or with my fuzzy aging eyesight, but I think your cabs look gorgeous. Truly, they look very,very, nice.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:46PM
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@shangaimom, you sound like my husband :-)
no, i'm not looking for flaws, but i guess when i spend thousands of dollars i expect a certain result. I knew about the seems, i was fine with that. I wanted a white kitchen, just didn't expect flaky cracking that's all :-)
when i see all those beautiful kitchens on this site and houzz i guess they need to show it over time close up :-P
I still love them, i just needed to know if it was "normal".

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:52PM
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This is falling apart.

This is a picture from my old kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:57PM
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i'm guessing your kitchen is more than a year old? i know what true falling apart is - i tore it out.
poor choice of words i suppose. cracking, flaking at 1 year to me is possible cause for concern if it's not normal. i guess i *am* over reacting..

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:01PM
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This was the 1990's kitchen that we recently tore out. It was all MDF. For some unknown reason, they didnt paint the back of the drawer fronts so water got in there and you can see the result.

I lived with it for seven years - most of that time not knowing if I would be able to remodel any time soon. I must say, there's no stress when you're working in a kitchen like this!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:08PM
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Now that it has been solved that the kitchen is normal and you might want to start running a humidifier can we see pics of the kitchen? We all love pics and it will do you a world of good for everyone to tell you how gorgeous it is. :-)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:13PM
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lara jaye:

Paint cracking is normal especially in the seams, but you have mentioned flaking. Paint flaking would not be normal. Do you have a picture of the flaking paint?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:31PM
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@mic111, this was my first post, i've always been a creeper. I will take some pics once some painting is done that we are in the middle of, and i guess i put it in the gallery...i'll figure that out and can link it in :-)

@jerzeegirl, there was 1 panel that flaked and was replaced, and the trim at floor has flakes due to general wear and tear i suppose. I am so nervous around these cabinets, getting the seams wet etc that they are going to get worse and the cracks will start to flake like they did before. however, no current issues in that department that are excessive.

i'll just live delicately...and try to figure out my furnace humidifer. all this time i thought it was on, but has me wondering now...

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 7:53PM
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