Kitchen cabinet brands and an ethics question...

ayerg73May 16, 2011

Hoping to get some feedback on cabinet company reviews. My KP highly recommends Mouser cabinets - not surprising since they are made about a mile down the road and I believe a "Mouser" owns the company I'm working with...

I seem happy with the cabinets, (other than their high price) but I don't see many people on here mention this brand - other than a horror story or two.

The company the KP works for offers several lines of cabinetry, including Mid Continent and a few others who's names escape me at the moment.

My other conundrum lies in the fact that the KP has spent hours drawing up plans for us to provide us estimates. I have used one of her ideas, but changed her plans quite a bit from what she recommended.

I have one contractor that is assuring me he can have custom cabinets built for 20% less than the Mouser quote. I'm not sure how ethical that is now that she has drawn plans for me.

BUT...she has to draw plans to give me a quote - so am I obligated to buy from a particular kitchen planner just because I chose her to give me an estimate first? Or do I keep pricing out cabinets, knowing that I am using one of her ideas in our original plan?

I'm more than willing to pay for the time she has spent on my cabinets, although I know it doesn't even touch the commission she'd be making. I almost feel that I HAVE to buy from her now. Am I being too sensitive?

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The KP, at present, is your employee.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 8:56AM
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I understand how you feel, but definitely keep getting other estimates. You can't help it if the only way to get an estimate is to have her draw plans. Anyone who gives you an estimate will have to do a decent amount of work first. I walked in to various kitchen cabinet dealers with plans I created, already drawn to scale, and they still had much work to do just to price out all the individual cabinets and options. It just comes with the territory. You mentioned you changed her plans quite a bit, so it's not like you are using her for her design skills and then just trying to get the cabinets cheaper. This is a huge expense, in many kitchens it is the biggest cost of the whole project. You are allowed to shop around, especially if you are not completely happy with the product or services being offered.

I feel the cabinet decision is one of the most important because it's not easy to change if you make a mistake. (Of course it will cost money, but you can conceivably change out a backsplash or even counters without too much disruption.) Even if you redo the kitchen in 20 years, you may want to keep the cabinets and just refinish or paint them or replace doors, but it's important to have a good quality cabinet box and an efficient layout, IMHO. So, do not feel guilty about doing your homework first. It's important to become an informed consumer and this is just part of the process.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 8:56AM
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What kind of custom? All custom tells you is how they are going to be made. Will they have all the features and the finish you are planning on getting from Mouser? I'd take some time to investigate before I jumped. Why not fess up when you tell her about the delay and tell her you would compensate her for time spent if custom pans out.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 9:02AM
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kitchenkrazed - thanks for the comment. You're right about how important the cabinets are and I shouldn't sacrifice anything, they are definitely the most expensive item. I can't just take what's offered to be nice.

snoonyb - do you mean that I am required to pay her a salary, or that she has a job if I am pleased with her work?

caryscott - the contractor assured me that the quality is superior and that I can have all of the features and finishes I'm looking at with Mouser. He has offered to take me to see a few of the kitchens the builder has worked on. Funnily enough, though, I'm not sure if I want to go with this particular contractor, so I'm not sure if this specific builder is who I'd be going with. I just don't want to drop a pretty penny on Mouser because it's all I know and have paid far too much for what I need.

I'm not sure if she'd let me 'compensate' her because I've already heard her comment on other people that "take her plans" and never call back. She is definitely bitter about losing jobs. I'm leaning towards giving her a monetary gift if we didn't pick her and leave it at that.

Any specific reviews of the Mouser cabinets out there? :)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 9:35AM
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"KP has spent hours drawing up plans for us to provide us estimates. I have used one of her ideas, but changed her plans quite a bit from what she recommended".

What would you have come up with if you were doing it from scratch? Do you know how to plan all the extra bits and pieces that are used for semi custom installations such as fillers, filler overlays etc.?

The reason I ask is because its kind of like writing a formulaic book. An author writes a book and an editor edits it. The editor does not write the book, although if the editor has a relationship with the formulaic author, the editor probably could.

So, regardless of the fact that you have changed the plans, your kitchen designer basically gave you the jumping off point. You weren't starting from four blank walls. So, your KP deserves to be compensated somehow, even if it is not to the extent she would be if you went with the Mouser cabinets.

I would also be quite sure what I was getting with "custom". My uppers are custom, but the initial boxes that were build were really crude, and that contractor was fired. There was a discussion as to whether they should be kept at all or removed and the job started from scratch.

I also had a client who had custom cabinets in her old house. In her new house we did HD Thomasville cabinets which are hardly high end, but they are of better quality than her custom job in the old place, the custom ones were okay, but nothing special.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 9:47AM
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palimpset - I totally agree. She did give me a jumping off point. She had the brilliant idea of opening up the kitchen to our dining room by creating more shallow cabinets on one wall. I would have never thought of that idea. Once she suggested it, I went a totally different way than she did (I basically created a galley kitchen and she was not very pleased, I think :)) but her design idea made what I wanted possible.

I really have no qualms with compensating her somehow if we don't go with her, but I don't know what's fair.

I'm glad to hear your experiences with 'custom' as I was a little concerned about that. With a manufacturer, I can at least see and feel the finish and have a company to go after if they're not right (heck, I can bang on the CEOs door...I pass the place 4 times a week.)

I do like the idea of being able to buy local. Even if it might cost a few extra bucks, it might just be worth it.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 10:05AM
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Keep getting quotes and let your KP know that you'll follow her recommendations, but she'll have to be price-competitive. Those cabinet people can all retire on what we've paid them and I'm sure that they'll meet pricing to keep a sale.

The argument about hours/ethics/etc. will be never-ending, but fundamentally it boils down to acting in an honest and reasonable manner. You may need to re-clarify your quality expectations on your cabinets (maybe she shot too high) and then get level-set on the fact that you expect her to be competitively priced in order to give her a materials order in addition to her design fee. It will be an uncomfortable discussion, but after you have it, everything else kind of rolls forward. At least that's how I handled mine. :)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 10:11AM
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What jumped out at me in the OP was the phrase "horror story or 2". There is no way I'd feel obligated to order from a company unless I was entirely comfortable with their products and history.

If you go with someone else, then it would be nice to make a gesture of gratitude like sending her a certificate to lunch or dinner at a local place (for 2, of course). You do not owe her as that is the nature of her job, but it would be a classy thing to do and it might help it hurt less to not get the job. I work on commissions and would rather get a nice thank you with a gift certificate and know my efforts were at least appreciated than to have someone email me because they did not know how to tell me personally. Even worse are the ones who dodge you once they decide on someone else. No salesperson gets every bid. Do what you can to be kind to anyone who went above and beyond the call of duty.

I also think that as long as you sincerely gave each person a fair shot at your business, you don't "owe" them anything other than that (and being courteous about it). I think it is not ethical if someone has another/others draw a plan so that they can show their cabinetmaker different options. That would be unethical to me.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:35AM
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The "custom" (meaning built by a small local shop) option seems risky to me. When we were looking we talked to one man who showed us a gorgeous portfolio of furniture and other wood working he had done, plus a really pretty vintage looking kitchen that was very much what we had in mind at the time. At a much later date after we had decided to do something different, we happened to go to an open house -- it was the house that had the white kitchen we had admired in the portfolio. In pictures is looked so lovely. Up close in real life I was quite disappointed to see how flimsy and shoddy it seemed. It made me wonder how you really know exactly what you're going to get unless you specify every last detail. And, then if you do, is the local custom guy still going to be able to beat the factory cabinet companies on price?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:45AM
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Thanks guys - you've inspired me to do some more shopping. I mean, I have considered every refrigerator on the market and have been losing sleep on what range to buy...but I'm going to take the first price on cabinets? What was I thinking? If I'm getting cabs from her, she's going to have to work for my $$$ just like everybody else! :) Thanks for giving me my backbone back!

I did a little research on GW and found Shiloh cabinets offer free inset and glazing. I found a local supplier and he's giving me a quote. I'll keep looking for at least one more brand. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 12:10PM
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Maybe I have a different view (on the ethics question).

I worked with Kitchen Designers much the same way that I did with the contractors and architects (and appliance sales people, tile people, furniture store "design specialists" tile people, etc.) that I talked to about this job.

I talked to lots of people. I never led any of them to believe that the job was theirs. They all chipped in their $0.02 - we took some ideas, ignored others. In the end, this all part of their pre-sales process. Everyone has the right to determine how much of what kind of work they are willing to do at this stage before asking for a fee. Some KDs gave us detailed diagrams; others would only show us pictures on a computer screen. At all times, I was clear that we were talking to multiple people and had not yet made a decision.

At some point, we decided... and the successful candidates got the job and others, well, didn't.

I didn't pay the people that we didn't hire. They all spent time -- some for just minutes in their store; some for (I'm sure) hours after we left to prepare quotes. I (generally) reached out to those that didn't get the job and thanked them for their time, explaining that it was a difficult decision but in the end, we had to chose someone. I felt particularly bad about the contractors .. because 3 out of my 4 were really nice guys with great reputations who I know spent hours on the bid, probably more hours than anyone. Only one could get the job, and only one did.

It's unfortunate, but the only way I know to do this is to get quotes from multiple people, and that means people are going to spend time and not get paid for it.

I guess it's no different than when my company responds to an RFP that we don't win.

(For the curious: WE STARTED!! Stay tuned for before and demolition pictures!)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 12:16PM
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Yes, we did things the same way as NYSteve. We talked to a number of people, told them all we were talking to others, and did not lead anyone to believe that they had the job. And some did do more work than others-- it was their choice. The KD we selected asked for a $2,000 deposit to complete his design, but that was fine with us since he had already inspired confidence and I had decided to go with him.

About the Mouser cabinets, although we didn't go with them, I did note that two of the four KDs/cabinet sales places that we spoke with (including the KD we ended up going with, who I trust implicitly) carried Mouser as a mid-priced brand and spoke very highly of the quality at that price point. It's hard to find information on all of the cabinet brands out there on the internet, but it's not like you're going to find out a lot on many of these local custom cabinetmakers either. Maybe you could ask the KD/Mouser person for references from people that he/she has sold Mouser to as a starting point.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 12:42PM
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We are in a very similar situation, but comparing cabinets that are the same (both Kraftmaid). We initially went with a Kraftmaid independent dealer who drew up plans (that I had given her my ideas on), but told us she wouldn't "release" the plans to us until we put 30% of the cabinets up front. Essentially these plans were costing me almost $7500. Went to HD yesterday with what we remembered of the plans, and the price was almost half. The independent KD had put me in the top of my budget for one of Kraftmaid's cheapest cabinets. Needless to say we went back to her with the detailed quote from HD and told her if she could come close to the price, we would go with her. We also told her that if she couldn't do that, we would like to buy the plans from her. The way I figure it she probably put somewhere in the vicinity of 5 hours into them, and if I give her $500, that's $100 an hour which seems incredibly reasonable to me. When it comes down to it, I need to get the best bang for my buck, and if a cabinet place can't offer competitive pricing (and I know the big box stores blow some of these places out of water, but she's over a 50% markup!!), I need to go where my budget will allow. So I would say the same to you, but make sure the cabinets you're comparing are comparable.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 12:54PM
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"I did note that two of the four KDs/cabinet sales places that we spoke with (including the KD we ended up going with, who I trust implicitly) carried Mouser as a mid-priced brand and spoke very highly of the quality at that price point."

sas - interesting, because I've been given the impression that Mouser is a top of the line cabinet and the prices seem to indicate that as well. It is definitely the top of the line this KD sells. We aren't getting quotes for their custom line, but what we are quoted is still pretty high, IMHO.

The salesman I spoke to for the Shiloh quote did say he felt they were comparable to Mouser. I'm even more interested to find out what he gives us for a price.

After some level headed advice, I agree that it's up to the designer's discretion when it comes to how much time and effort they are putting into a potential sale.

I do feel that I am using a design element that I wouldn't have come up with otherwise, so I feel that compensating the KD is appropriate, but maybe not as much as I first felt. I certainly don't feel that I HAVE to buy from her - but with additional quotes, I just might want to if she comes down from the price.

Thanks so much for advice. I would NOT survive this reno without GW. THAT I am certain about! :)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 2:59PM
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I guess top of the line is relative. Our KD also carries Rutt, Siematic and Craft-Maid (as opposed to Kraftmaid--totally different). He quoted 4 lines for us, including Mouser. Mouser was the least expensive of them, but he still said we would be very happy with the quality. Our decision not to go with Mouser was based entirely on finding other door style and color options we preferred and not anything to do with perceived bad quality of the Mouser cabinets.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 3:11PM
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I know this will not help the person that originally posted asking about Mouser cabinetry. I have installed many brands of cabinetry over the last 18 years and by far I like the quality of Mouser. I have custom built cabinets I'm my home I custom built and I have said for years when I replace them it will be with Mouser because of the quality of construction and finish.

Here is a link that might be useful: Annapolis Kitchen and Bath

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 10:54AM
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I have Wood-Mode cabinetry in this house. Paid a small fortune.

We will build again someday. A local shop carries Mouser and I love that line and the price is pretty reasonable IMO.

I do not think you are obligated to buy from her but I would pay her for her plan. It is the right thing to do.

I would also be careful about the "custom" cabinets. We have several custom cabinet makers here that I would use in a heartbeat--very well known and reputable.

I would not use an unknown without references. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for--or not.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 11:18AM
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The designer who sold us our cabinets (Candlelight) charged a non-refundable 5% of the estimated price to draw up designs for us after she met with me for a couple of hours to discuss my needs/wants. In our case, she didn't add much more to the design that I had already created...just a couple of tweaks because I had spent many hours working and researching and already knew what I wanted (all of which she agreed with and would have suggested herself).

However, given we weren't buying a whole lot of cabinetry, I was fine with it. I would definitely have been fine with the design fee had she come up with any major part of the plan herself. She folded the 5% into the final cost...if we had not gone with her, though, she would have kept the 5%.

That being said, you definitely don't have to buy from the KP you've talked to thus far and you should definitely get more quotes. She could have similarly charged you up front for her design services...she did not, so you are not obligated at this point. However, I understand your feelings....if you choose not to go with her, perhaps send her a note thanking her for her time and letting her know you will wholeheartedly recommend her to others?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 1:09PM
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I agree that a nice note or something would be gracious of you after she spent a lot of time. But you don't owe her any compensation. There's nothing that stops her (except perhaps the way the local market works) from charging a fee for the plans, which can then be applied against the bill if you go with her. There are plenty of industries where competing for business requires a significant investment of time and money. It's part of the cost of doing business.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 7:56PM
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I had four quotes for cabinets and all their drawings looked like what I had already but without the soffit as I am keeping the same layout. I had to add more drawers and tweak each of the drawings. I got quotes and then when the installation became too much last year, I held off to allow me more time to decide what will be my budget. I installed the recessed lighting myself and now I want to see other options with hiring my own installers.

I never paid the people for their time as it was their job. No one pays me for estimates as it is my job and sometimes it is time consuming.

One cabinet store really got me upset wasting my time as he would not even give me a ballpark price but told me he would be so reasonably priced and his price came to more than the Home Depot $33,000 install price for my 12 X 14 kitchen that did not include the tiles or the appliances as I have them here already. He should have paid me waisting my time as he promised that since he was a referral the price would be fair. The cabinets he chose for me to keep the price down were not even the style I wanted but he said the other cabinets I liked were too much.

I do not want to pay way too much as I am in a townhouse in a very nice neighborhood surrounded by very beautiful houses but it is still a townhouse and someone will be willing to pay a little more for my townhouse if I sold but not so much more so I need to make sure I am upgrading to what I love within a budget so I can enjoy my kitchen. I have no idea how long I will be here but I love my home and neighborhood. I bought high end appliances (The kitchen Cafe Range instead of a cheaper stainless steel range) in my opinion compared to what others were buying in my neighborhood but I did it for myself as I want to enjoy my appliances.

But I understand wanting to give this woman a gift for her time or some kind of compensation but you are not obligated to do so. I did give a gift to the Home Depot designer as I felt bad that the installation price was way too much for cabinets that I did not love but he worked hard on getting me what I wanted with most of the work being done by me with all the changes but still he spent time.

Please keep us updated.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 8:23PM
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I have recently moved to Florida and have been trying to get quotes on our kitchen. The KD's here will not give you their plans unless you use them for the job. I have offered to pay for their time and they would not allow me to have their plans.

When we lived in NY, I had many projects done over the years, but had to pay for the plans if I didn't use the designer.

Consider yourself lucky that you got the plans. Wouldn't happen here at all.

Impossible to get estimates based on designs.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 9:25PM
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The plans I got were just print outs with no measurements so I would need someone to remeasure. I did pay Home Depot $35 to measure for me so I feel I paid for the plan. But maybe if you have a plan with measurements, then maybe you should compensate her somehow if you do not buy a kitchen from her. From reading the above post, I just realized that my plans were just pictures that amazingly all liked like the prior picture before I tweaked them since they were just following what was in my kitchen as I was not changing the layout so I did not feel there was a lot of work despite paying for the measurements that I did not get to keep.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 10:09PM
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