if you have INSET cabinets - question

Kelly RyanMay 13, 2014

do you have any issues with the cabinet doors or drawer fronts having uneven spacing on the 4 sides? My cabinets have been installed for a bit, but the pulls were just added and "final" adjustments were made. Some boxes almost look out of square. My GC has tried adjusting and readjusting; he's confirmed cabinets are level; but just can't get the spacing to look even on all 4 sides. Am I being nitpicky? I've been in contact with KD who originally said it was up to the GC to do final adjustments (he did the install) but he's pushing back saying she needs a rep out here to look, if for no other reason than to show him what he's doing wrong. I'm reasonably confident she'll agree to that, but I'm just wondering what to expect. Is this typical of inset cabinets? I have to say I'm not super happy with my choice on this one. I can't say that to DH b/c he might have a heart attack but I feel like the inset cabs are making things look "less perfect" than I anticipated (1. b/c of the spacing looking uneven and 2. b/c it didn't occur to me that I'd see seams where cabinet boxes meet. They bother me!)

if you have pictures to share of how yours look up close, I'd love to see

I'd also love some perspective on how long I can expect to stare at the imperfections without just appreciating the full kitchen look! My old cabinets probably had 1,000 imperfections but I couldn't name them - so why do I focus on the tiny tiny details in my new kitchen? I want to see it and love it, not see it and feel frustrated. (maybe I'll make a separate post on that topic - wondering if I'm alone in feeling this way after the kitchen is done, or 99% done anyway)

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Mine aren't installed yet and I'm already questioning my choice of inset cabinets. I too will have to zip my lips in regards to my husband if I'm not happy with something. lol. He has stayed out of it and let me pick whatever I wanted and I'm already worried I will freak out about something that will in the end be ok. I totally relate.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 6:26PM
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I took something, actually a zip tie, that was 1/16th".
I took painters tape and taped a strip along the right and left sides of the face frame, and the bottom.
I set the door in on them and put my doors in.
It has worked perfectly thirty three times. Doors and drawer fronts. I will have 9 more to do in 4 days.

And I'm just an idiot homeowner.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 10:45PM
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This problem can come from installation-
It is always a good idea to check reveal on insets ahead of time just in case- they often come from the factory not needing much adjustment (at least the ones I get) Spot problems early because installation of insets can cause it's own problems.

Also if going to the ceiling it is a good idea to check door reveals prior to installing crown (because of the cause that follows.)

What the problem could be-
1) Insets need to be not just level, they must be plumb in every direction and coplanar. Check plumb- both side of the cabinet in both directions
2)check the openings for square. Measure a diagonal across the opening, top left corner to bottom right, and reverse. I use a wooden folding rule for that but you should manage with a decent tape. If the dimensions don't match the cabinet is racked to parallel.

3)- and this one is a bugger, took me the longest time to discover the cause.
It should show up as ever so slightly out of plumb somewhere, or off square, or an almost imperceptible curve to one of the stiles how much can be awfully subtle...

Either not quite enough shim, or none, was used near the installation screws at the back of the cabinet (or shims are too far away from the screw) AND the screws are over tightened. This can cause a slight racking to the cabinet, enough to throw the reveal off.

Actually the better built the cabinet the more likely that can happen as they are stiffer so forces from the back transfer to the frame more readily (and they often have smaller reveals)

Backing off the screw a bit-1/4to 1/2 turn, and tapping the shims often resolves it. If cabinet has been installed for some length of time though it can "set"- harder to fix.

That issue is most common on wall cabinets but if bases are not shimmed up properly, shims shifted, it can also happen there. I have fixed it with a sharp dull blow to the face, just to shift the base slightly (talking tiny!! and careful not to damage) or slightly prying a base up a whisper with a cats paw and inserting shims.

I go through all of that with contractors ahead of time if they have not installed many insets or I don't know them. "DEAD LEVEL, PLUMB, SQUARE,COPLANAR, DON"T OVERIGHTEN Mounting screws, and shim properly using quality shims (NO CEDAR).
Come to think of it I go through that every time with them even if I know em. Inveterate pest I am.
If they don't believe me about the shims (often) it is easy enough to demonstrate once a wall cabinet is in. For a lot of installers it is not an issue, they just naturally do what needs be done and have a decent "touch" driving screws.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 9:56AM
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Kelly Ryan

interesting, thanks for the insight on how it could be an issue with the installation. I was hoping it was just going to be a "simple" tweak to fix, but sounds like maybe not. I have a cabinet rep and my GC meeting to go over next week. Hopefully we'll figure out a way to get them close enough to not bother me at all :-)

there are really just a few "offending" cabinets - most are fine

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:18AM
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Just writing to say that I feel your pain completely! I was horrified to the point of tears when I saw our custom cabinets last week. The drawer fronts and doors had been removed for painting (beautiful, meticulous hand painting by DH) and the cabinet maker came back to install them. They looked awful, with uneven spacing, not flush to the front, etc. The worst part was my husband thought they looked "fine". I truly felt like my admitted OCD had gotten the better of me and that I'd never be satisfied.

The guys seem to think that it's all a matter of adjustment, but I see some unevenness in the spacing that can't be fixed, e.g. pieces that are not quite the right size.

Supposedly, this is going to wrap up by next week, so I'm just trying to avert my eyes until then. :(

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:01PM
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Kelly Ryan

wow amyinaustin - that sounds similar to what's happening to me! the cabinets went in a while back, and I was worried. The GC assured me that the final adjustments would fix those issues. Well now we're at the point of final adjustments and some aren't fixed :-(

We'll see how my meeting next week goes. I'm worried about finger-pointing between KD, cabinet rep and GC. We shall see.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:06PM
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kitchen-reno: Good luck with your meeting!

My inset cabinets adjusted perfectly; the hinge screws on a hidden hinge really help in this respect. Are yours exposed?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:29PM
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Kelly Ryan

no, they are not exposed. I don't know what the deal is. My GC was showing me how they adjust but he just could not get some of them quite right. The super susan door seems to be the biggest problem

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 5:55PM
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There is a reason inset door and drawers fell out of favor in the 1950s, they are difficult to get to look right.

I always get a chuckle out of the perfectly revealed inset doors shown in cabinet manufacturer advertisements. Although it is possible to set the reveals around the doors so they are equidistant, it is impossible to get them to stay that way.

Wood moves seasonally, expanding and contracting. With a 1/16th" reveal around the door and drawer fronts, it does not take much expanding or contracting to destroy your perfectly even reveals. In fact, it usually takes just a few months.

Then there is wear on the drawer slides, wear on the door hinges, normal shrinkage of the cabinet wood,a little warp here and a little twist there, and a myriad of other unavoidable events that will eventually make your inset doors and drawers look like they were set in by a drunk.

The new hidden hinges offer some adjustment, so you can adjust the reveal when it gets out of whack, but you will find yourself constantly adjusting, and get tired of that pretty quick.

Just get used to the fact that perfectly square drawers and doors will not stay that way, and perfectly even reveals will be uneven rather quickly and also stay that way. It's perfectly normal, and an unavoidable effect of the materials used.

As I said, there is a reason inset doors fell out of favor in the 1950s.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 9:37PM
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I wonder why furniture that is centuries old has perfectly functioning, inset doors and drawers?

Does how easy it is to slap doors on a cabinet factor into production methods that became commonly available in the 1950s?

Just like the fact that cabinets' depth standard became 24" because you can get the maximum number of cabinets out of it?

Not being obtuse, but rather curious, given my obsession with inset doors. I've obtained kitchen cabinets as old as the 60s and more antique pieces of furniture than I care to admit these days, that still function beautifully. I just got up and even checked for rubbing that might have been repaired. Some of the drawers in different things have rubbing, but it's the drawer box sides not the drawer front.

I, so far, don't see why this is so hard. Time consuming, yes. But difficult? At least not for me. So far.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:22PM
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Just returning to this forum after a long absence. I rec'd wonderful info here when I was working on my kitchen. I have inset cabinets and I love them. We did almost all of the work on our kitchen (except cabinets) and so we know exactly where every flaw/imperfection is located. It is tough at first but with a little time and use, all those things fade and you just enjoy the function and beauty as a whole. Don't fret - relax, be grateful and enjoy. Hope the pics help. Valarie

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 8:33AM
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My RTA cabinets (Conestoga) were inset/bead-less. In my enthusiasm to get going, I unpacked them without realizing that they had been factory-fitted to specific faceframes in specific orientations, and then stamped with a faint letter code. So I sanded off the stamps (which I failed to notice, working late at night, naturally) and had to do the best I could to find which went where. This only was a problem because I had four doors the same size. That was 32 possible combinations to try.
To make it harder on myself, I used traditional (non adjustable) butt hinges for "the look". That gave me one chance to get the doors hung. It worked out for the most part.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 10:26AM
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Casey, I'm so glad sorry to hear you had trouble!
You in your skill, generosity, having had a boo-boo just became more human. I think I love you. :)

VWWhippiechick, you kitchen is a dream. I love the fact you went two-toned! I stopped for a moment on your user name. V.W. Whippie chick. My BIL's name is Victor Whipp.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:38AM
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Thank you CEFreeman. My kitchen was "completed" several years ago and I have to say I still love it. I am so happy working in there. The things I splurged on are my favorites. The range, the soapstone and the inset cabinets. BTW, when I was very active on this forum, lots of others misread my user name also. It isn't "Whippie", it is VW Hippie Chick. Came from our fond attachment to our Volkswagen bus. :)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 10:20PM
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