Final questions for cabinetmakers

zaphod42November 20, 2013

I'm almost ready to put down a deposit on the new cabinets from a custom maker. Style and design are good. That aside, what might I be forgetting to ask them? What are some final questions I shouldn't neglect to ask? Thanks!

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Are all the shelves adjustable? What do the shelves look like? Are the drawer glides heavy enough to hold what you put in them?


    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 8:37AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Have you gotten a sample door and subjected it to the same KCMA testing that manufactured cabinets undergo? What's the finishing process? In a clean booth, or on site with all the trash and bugs making it into the finish? What type of humidity control does the shop practice? What type of joinery does he use for the boxes? The doors? What type of a guarantee does he give? Lifetime, like most quality manufactured cabinets? How long has he been in business? Have you seen actual kitchens he did more than 5 years ago?

While there are some quality craftsmen out there who can make you anything you can imagine, "custom" is merely a word some hacks like to hide behind and just order boxes and doors and assemble them and then slap some paint on them at the job site. NOT what you want, and it's up to you to know the difference and be sure you're getting a quality job. The label isn't a guarantee.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 8:45AM
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I had custom cabinets built (I toured the shop on my first visit, so I know everything was made on-site). One of the best things I did was ask for extra shelves in several upper cabinets - especially those slated for canned goods and cups and glasses (things that don't stack well).

What will the crown molding look like?

Ask about the installers. For my project, the head installer (Jeff) had been with the company for over 20 years. The cabinet maker assured me that while there would be an assistant on site, Jeff supervised everything. I actually heard from my electrician that Jeff was very much a perfectionist. You can have the best cabinets in the world, but if they aren't installed well, you won't be happy.

Obviously you've asked about time frame. I first met with the cabinet maker in January; paid a deposit to get on the schedule in March, and construction started in July. It took 2 weeks to build my cabinets, and 3 days for installation.

There was a delay of a few days, because there were some issues with the project before mine, and they wanted to finish that one up before starting mine. I appreciated that - it assured me that MY project would get finished before they started the next one.

Oh, and once installation starts, donuts, cookies, and drinks for the crew are greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 10:49AM
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I don't know the right questions to ask, but for what it's worth, here's what I've been asking.

Background: I'm doing natural cherry inset. All the folks I'm talking to are around the Crystal price point (which I'm also considering). That means they're not necessarily saving me a ton of money but they're also all doing quality work. There are places that do lower end work but I was able to figure that out ahead of time and didn't contact them.

All the folks I talked to were the owners and they'd all been business at least ... 15 years? Maybe more than that. Some 30.


- I toured every shop and talked to every owner for at least 90 minutes. On the first round.
- References
- How many folks work for you?
- How many jobs do you work on at a time?
- What is the normal door/frame gap?
- What finish do you use?
- Do you do your own finish?
- Do you make your own doors, drawer fronts, and drawers?
- Where do you get your solid wood?
- How do you (color) select wood?
- Have you ever rejected doors/drawer fronts/drawer boxes/wood?
- Have you ever refinished/replaced a door/drawer front (for color or finish)?
- I have this idea for a custom finished end panel. What do you think?
- What do you think about functional exposed hinges?
- Somebody on GW talked about embedded rare earth magnets for the inset catch. What do you think?
- Do you do your own install? So you sub it or have folks on staff?
- What else should I be asking?
- If I have a few good options, can you think of any ways to help me make my decision?

I guess these might be earlier on questions to ask.

I asked all sorts of questions about box and face frame construction and connection of face frame to box.

I'm less interested in the "right" answers to these questions as I am in the way they respond. It's not that hard to figure out what the "right" answer is. It's more interesting to spark a conversation and see how they respond. Of course, I want quality but I also like working with people I like, that are thoughtful and creative.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 11:42AM
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