movement in painted maple cabinets

EMH107August 7, 2012

I have custom maple cabinets built by a very respected cabinetmaker in CT. They were the most expensive of all the quotes I got, but they were inset custom cabinets and the cabinetmaker had all of the subs organized to do the work. They are beautiful looking, but after a few months, and a winter with my forced hot air heat, the middle of doors separated from the frame of the cabinet door (see pic). The center of the cabinets were made of MDF to prevent this problem, but it did not work. Now that it has been 9 months, I was hoping that the cabinetmaker could spray the doors again. He has not agreed to do this yet. He painted over the cracks in the outer frames. I know it's real wood, but I have learned that a factory finish may have been better. I would also advise to others to just get thermo foil if you want white cabinets. They are half the price (at least) and you can change them again if they wear out.

I am heartbroken that I made the wrong decision after I spent so much time researching.

Does anyone have any idea of what I should have the cabinetmaker to do?


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The photo in the original post is of the paint cracking in the frame. I have attached the picture of the door.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 8:43PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Use your AC in the summer and a humidifier in the winter. All the wood in your home will be happier.

And chill.

What you have is normal for wood. Yes, if you wanted perfectly smooth cabinets with no expansion and contraction, plastic would have been better in your case. However, you have wonderful upscale cabinets that just happen to show that they are real. It's not a bad problem to have.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 8:57PM
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I can barely see what you're talking about. Yes, if you're someone who prefers plastic cabinets, get plastic cabinets.

One shop I may use paints the center panels prior to construction and lets them float. No cracking because there's no paint there.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 9:01PM
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Fori is not pleased

They are still lovely and don't feel bad--a factory finish would have done the same thing. But the factory wouldn't have come out to touch them up.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 9:03PM
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Sorry, but this is the what happens to painted wood. That is one reason a cabinet maker told me he did not like painting them.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 9:45PM
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I've been getting quotes for cabinetry for our new home and every custom cabinetmaker I've talked with has advised using MDF for the doors or MDF with poplar or birch for this very reason; as it is apparently a more stable product in this application. Some will use all wood if the consumer insists, but will not warranty the finish due to expansion/contraction issues. I was skeptical and a little disappointed the first time I heard this, but it seems to be common practice. They are all respected cabinetmakers in our area and do beautiful work.
Your cabinets are beautiful and I bet the areas in question are most likely hardly noticeable to the casual observer. Unfortunately, this is a normal characteristic of woodand more obvious in painted vs stained. Try not to be too disappointed!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 9:54PM
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Thanks for your positive feedback.
Here is a photo of the cabinets. I do love the look, just not the movement.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 7:45AM
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Here is a photo of the cabinets. I do love the look, just not the movement.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 7:49AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

The cabinets are beautiful. The cracking is normal and only noticeable to you. They are fine....move on to the next project and this won't even be an issue.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:27AM
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The paint is not cracking.

The wood is shrinking up, and this is quite normal. If you want to hide the problem, a very thin bead of caulk will do it. Personally, I do not think it looks bad; it tells me your doors are made of real wood. If the cabinets were stained, you wouldn't notice it. Your cabinets are beautiful and I hope you will enjoy them.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:49AM
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As picky and anal as I am, I can't see it in the 1st pic.

In the 2nd, if you're referring to the line where the face frame is put together, I wouldn't agree to repaint the whole thing, either.

I can't even find words to politely say how silly I think this is.
That's wood movement, not paint. You can wait until it's cold and the wood shrinks, and paint the crack. Then, wait until it's humid and the wood swells again, add a paintable acrylic caulk that will move with the wood and paint the cracks again. These are so miniscule and normal I would suggest you move maybe 3' away from your doors and you will find it disappears.

I was talking to a cabinet company about my gorgeous Wilsonart counter top a friend built. The company told me Wilsonart won't even warranty its product if it's not made on MDF. Even plywood has too much movement for them.

I think your cabinets are gorgeous. If you decide to rip them out and go crackless plastic, LMK. I'll come pick these up.

BTW. "Factory finish" refers to something as beautiful as you have. A professional did that, not Harry Homeowner and a can of spray paint. Plastic is plastic. Someone above was right. A factory would tell you over the phone that it's (crazy) normal and too bad for you. Your professional is trying to make you happy with something beyond his control.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:08AM
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Looks like mine and mine have been in place 6 years...I can't even tell what you don't like , I guess I am used to it :) Beautiful kitchen and yes you have cabs made of the "real thing". I think it looks lovely. c

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:08AM
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EMH--your kitchen is gorgeous. I understand why your upset. My kitchen is 6-7 yrs old and I paid way too much for my cabinets--and often think I should have gone local custom like you did :-)

When I first starting noticing little imperfections it bothered me too. After all, you just put a bunch of money into a dream.

Look at the big picture and try to overlook the small imperfections.

My Wood-Mode cabinets are factory finished and do the same thing.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:03AM
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That picture is a close up. Overall, I don't even notice the imperfections.

After awhile, you won't either.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:10AM
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Same here, "factory finish" (painted by professionals in their shop). I was told to expect it and when it happened it was no biggie. I have to get very close to see it. If this is the worst thing that happens to my paint job, I'll be thrilled.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:22AM
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Your cabinets are beautiful. You did not make the wrong decision!

Thermofoil is awful! In my experience it was impossible to keep clean. You would think my family ran around with soot on our fingers all the time the way our cabinets looked AND it didn't just wipe off. I don't know how many times I removed all the knobs just so I could scrub them. I was wearing the finish, whatever it is, off.

First cabinet maker we saw used only thermofoil, in two colours - white or antique white. When I said how difficult I found them to clean, he demonstrated how easy they were to dust! With a dry cloth!?! He said I don't want painted cabs, blah, blah, blah. His quote was about $200 less than the one I received from a cabinet maker who uses wood with an MDF insert and paints them whatever colour I want. Guess who I chose?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:43AM
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You have beautiful cabinets. I am sorry you didn't know painted wood cabs would do this and that it is upsetting to you. To most of us that love painted inset cabs it isn't a problem.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 12:03PM
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I live in CT also and was wondering who your cabinet maker was. I think you kitchen and cabinets are beautiful.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 1:14PM
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Thanks! Kenny's Custom Interiors in Hamden.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Thanks for your input! I feel better. Redlover and Linelle- thanks for the photos. It was good for me to see the crack in the Woodmode. The quality of the workmanship of these cabinets was great. If the cracking is normal, I guess that's life. I really love my white kitchen.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 7:15PM
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