Choosing who will install your cabinets may be the biggest decision you have to make in your kitchen remodel. You can buy the nicest cabinets on the planet but if you choose the wrong company to install them, you will be far less than satisfied with the outcome. On this page we will try to educate you on what to look for and what to stay away from when it comes to cabinet installers and kitchen designers.
A Dying Breed of Craftsmen
Being a cabinet installer has always been a sought after skilled trade for many contractors. Though cabinet installers don't earn as much money as plumbers or electricians, they get paid much more in appreciation for their craftsmanship. Plumbers and electricians earn their money for what they do inside your walls and when a light switch turns on a light or a faucet gives you water, there is never a second thought about it. When a cabinet installer hangs a perfect kitchen, the homeowner will get compliments about his craftsmanship for many years to come. This is changing dramatically in America today.
Many of today's cabinet installers care more about how many kitchens they can install in a week, or even worse - in a day! The high level of craftsmanship is leaving this once sought after trade and homeowners across America are paying for it. These fly-by-night cabinet installers of the modern day can make fifteen thousand dollars worth of cabinets look like a five thousand dollar "custom" kitchen in less than a day. They will hang your entire kitchen with just one pack of shims or less and when the countertop doesn't fit right everywhere they will simply blame your walls or your floors instead of acknowledging their lack of experience. They think that a level cabinet only means that they have to show it level in one direction. Most of these installers aren't even qualified enough to trim out a doorway correctly, let alone crown your kitchen without excessive nail holes and gapped miters.
What's So Different Today?
Nothing. Walls have always been out of level and bowed studs have always been used in all phases of construction. This has never been a problem for true cabinet installers. This is why we come to your house with 10 packs of shims - just in case. The entire art of hanging cabinets correctly is that no matter how far out of level the walls and floor may be, the cabinets should still be perfect. Getting cabinets level with your floor is actually the easiest part of installing the cabinets. This is the only level that a modern day cabinet installer will show you - and even then he will usually choose his spots carefully. The biggest trick in a perfect cabinet installation is to get the cabinets level with the wall (vertically) while they are also level with the floor (horizontally) and keeping them in a perfectly level plane across the cabinet frames. This level plane is what the countertop installer cares the most about. If your wall is not straight and your cabinets follow your wall instead of being shimmed to make a level plane, it can't be hidden with the countertop. At some places your countertop will extend past your drawer fronts further than other places. If your cabinet installer took this into consideration when correctly hanging your cabinets, the countertop will extend from your cabinets with the same overhang all the way down the wall. The photos below show a cabinet install with very poor wall conditions. By shimming properly, we were able to maintain a perfectly level plane for the countertop.
How Did This Lack of Craftsmanship Flood The Market?
There are many different factors involved. It is, primarily, due to a lack of knowledge on the end of the consumer. This has been brought about by different means. A large contributor is the explosion of tract homes and developments that have sprung up across the country over the last 20 years. Developers continually compete with other developers in a price war to earn homebuyer's dollars. As their prices get lower, so does their definition of craftsmanship. The lower their craftsmanship gets as a whole, the less quality work the average American gets to see. Entire neighborhoods and even some small towns are trimmed entirely wrong. When this becomes the standard that most people see, how does anyone know the difference? Another factor is that many new home buyers base their purchase on price alone. When the average homeowner gets different bids from different companies they usually go with the lowest bid. They don't question what the quality of the work will be until the job is finished. By the time the project is finished and they see that the quality is not what they thought it would be, it is too late. Added to that the fact that most people today don't know what quality craftsmanship looks like, and today's "blow and go" carpenters have flooded the market without it even being noticed by the majority.
Finish carpenters used to be very difficult to find for homeowners because they were subcontracted by quality builders and designers and kept too busy and paid too well to spend their extra time bidding to homeowners. This opened the market for those without the necessary skills to get hired by homeowners to enter into unsuspecting homes and get away with their lack of craftsmanship. Fast forward to today and anyone who can hang door and window trim calls himself a finish carpenter. Most of these don't even qualify as trim carpenters.
With housing costs on the rise and new homes being "appraised" by square footage and location alone, this problem is only getting worse. The majority of builders today are using the cheapest laborers they can find so that they can be the cheapest homes on the market. We are starting to see crown moulding installed upside down, cabinets hung without shims, cabinets not being screwed together at the faceframes and much more. As long as the average buyer remains uneducated about cabinetry and trim, the worse this phenomenon will get.
What Makes a Cabinet Custom?
Today's large builders and developers are manipulating people into thinking that their "custom cabinets" are superior to any pre-fabricated cabinets on the market. This actually couldn't be any further from the truth! The word custom has been destroyed by today's cabinet industry. Many custom cabinet builders today have found a way to make low end cabinets that look just good enough on the outside and just cheap enough for your wallet. But you get to tell your friends they are "custom". The irony is that most of them built their business by poking fun at the practices of the larger cabinet manufacturers only to now be building far less of a cabinet themselves. Meanwhile, the large manufacturers have learned the error of their ways and have since developed far better lines of cabinets with more custom features than most of today's custom cabinet builders. There are only a few of us left today that will only build a truly custom cabinet that is built correctly without compromising the integrity of our product in order to make a few extra dollars in sales.
Large cabinet manufacturers have far more to offer to the average homeowner in choices than the majority of custom builders. They now offer upgrades to all plywood construction, dovetail solid wood drawers, Blum hinges and drawer glides with softclose as well as Blumotion. Some pre-fabricated cabinet lines are even starting to build to custom sizes with twenty or thirty different colors to choose from and many have a far better door selection than the majority of custom cabinet shops could even dream of. The best thing we can recommend for anyone thinking of remodeling their kitchen is to call us, or find another company like us, that is willing to walk you through the truth in marketing when it comes to cabinets. We will give you honest answers on what is best for your kitchen as well as your budget. We won't charge you a dime for this information. We make our living designing beautiful kitchens and installing them. We pay it back by answering questions truthfully and educating people so they won't be preyed upon by fly-by-night contractors and slick slogans.
The Big Box Nightmare
The big box stores are a great place to see a wide variety of different cabinets on display and get to actually open the doors and drawers. They are even a good choice for purchasing cabinets, but that is where it should end. Never, ever contract with a big box store to design or install your cabinets. When the average American remodels their kitchen, they start off with a trip to one of the big box stores. If the cabinet "specialist" happens to be working that hour of that day they might get lucky enough to get some questions answered. However, more times than not, they are instructed to have a series of contractors set various times and dates to meet with them and discuss over and over what is to be done. Of course the individual contractors never talk to each other nor do they ever meet at your house to go over pertinent information. An apt expression for this is 'the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing'. Bear in mind that once your job has been sold, the specialist no longer has any control over the execution of your project. Typically, these projects transfer to an installation or special services department that will coordinate your project. In other words, someone that has never met you or talked to you is now in charge of your project. If one step of the process is missed, it can result in days going by with no progress made on your project. What this means to the homeowner is an extended period of time without a functional kitchen, not to mention the phone calls and time that must be wasted trying to get the project completed. When a problem develops out of this mayhem, there is a finger pointing game that begins because no one wants to bear the blame. The store blames the contractor and the contractor blames the store - while the homeowner, who simply wants their kitchen finished, is ultimately stuck in the middle of an unfinished job for which they have already paid in full! Sadly, in most instances, this average American will have to learn how to fight their way through the big box store hierarchy until they are finally heard by the right person. Even if the project is ultimately completed in a way that satisfies the homeowner, there is no reason or excuse for having to fight so hard to simply get what they thought they were paying for in the first place. There is a reason that Google is crawling with websites devoted to exposing how badly people have been treated by the big box stores - and just how terrible those experiences were.
We don't simply avoid some of these instances, we have an entirely different approach which leads us to an entirely different outcome. We have installed nearly 500 residential kitchens and thousands of kitchenettes without one single 'call back'. The big box stores can throw millions, even billions of dollars to try and get these results and it will still be unattainable for them. There is no secret, there is no magic formula, there isn't even a complex set of events that would enable them to achieve these results. So why are we so different?
It all starts with the first contact. We come to you! There is no need to make several trips to a "home center" where you must try to explain what your kitchen looks like to someone that is miles away. We bring our cutting edge design software to your home to create a design for you. Being able to see your existing kitchen while making changes and adjustments to a potential design is invaluable. Scott and Tammy will come to your home and walk you through the design process. Tammy is an avid cook who has been designing kitchens for 12 years and Scott is a cabinet builder with over 20 years of experience installing and building pre-fabricated, semi-custom and custom lines of cabinetry. Scott is our lead cabinet installer and will be on your jobsite every day while Tammy coordinates your entire project - making the phone calls so you don't have to. Quality craftsmanship has enabled us to achieve the results that we have. We have had our cabinet installs and finish carpentry in the magazines of Better Homes and Gardens and Elegant Homes, as well as being seen on HGTV. Many craftsman out there today unfortunately rely on shortcuts more than they do actual skills of the trade. It is far easier to learn shortcuts than it is to learn the tricks of the trade, the tricks of the trade are taught through time and experience while shortcuts are learned from necessity and covering your mistakes.
If all that still isn't enough to get you to call us, try this... we cost less than the big box stores! That's right, not only do we have a far superior track record, one of the best installers in the country, state-of-the-art kitchen design software and a level of customer service unprecedented in the industry, we are less expensive!
We install kitchens in Anchorage, Eagle River, Palmer, Wasilla and surrounding areas. We believe that a kitchen remodel should be an exciting, hassle-free experience and we work diligently to provide that experience for every client. Feel free to call us even if it's only for advice.
We don't have set business hours. Call us anytime, day or night, weekdays or weekends!
Copyright 2002 Wooden Concepts: Custom Cabinets and Kitchen Design. All Rights Reserved.
This approach is necessary for more than just the appearance of your cabinets and countertop: cabinets are built to square and are meant to remain square when installed. If a cabinet installer simply follows your wall contour he will undoubtedly rack or twist your cabinets out of square which will lead to your doors and drawers not working properly.
Trim has also not changed except for the fact fewer and fewer carpenters actually know how to correctly apply it. The majority of trim carpenters today are anything but craftsmen. They use base moulding for door casing and they use window casing for chair rail. Window sills are normally trimmed with a small crown moulding underneath but todays carpenters use a window casing with an angle on each end without even a return cut. They cut just as many corners on their cabinet trims as well. Cabinet doors are designed to have the same amount of reveal around the entire door or the amount of the faceframe that is visible around the door. To keep this even reveal for the crown moulding requires the cabinet installer to add what is called blocking to the top of the cabinets. Blocking is essentially a nailer for the crown moulding. The crown moulding should only be an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch below the top of the frame to keep the reveal around the doors the same. The idea is to only hide the seam of the top of the cabinets with the crown moulding. Like in the picture above, if you shim your upper cabinets correctly and keep a level plane across the face frames, this is easily achievable. The blocking also allows you to add hot melt glue behind your crown moulding giving it far more support and requiring far less nails. Cabinet installers today usually don't take these extra steps. They simply lower their crown moulding further down the face frame leaving a much different reveal around your cabinet doors. The pictures below show cabinet blocking and crown moulding properly installed to upper cabinets.
When cabinets are properly shimmed, level and square, the crown moulding can then be perfectly applied. If the cabinets are incorrectly installed then the trim is incredibly difficult at best to install. If a skilled cabinet installer has taken the time to make sure that his cabinets are correctly installed, the trim will show off all of his hard work up to this point. Notice the lack of nail holes in the pictures above and below. By taking the extra steps to ensure the cabinets were installed correctly and adding blocking we are able to cut the miters perfectly. Perfect miters do not need to be twisted or forced to fit, they can be glued together by an industrial strength glue made for crown moulding applications. We cut and glue our crown moulding as one continuous piece and then only need a few nails to hold it into place until we can use a hot melt glue to glue the crown moulding to the blocking. This is far stronger than using twenty or thirty nails to hold the crown moulding on, we know this because we tested it in our cabinet shop ourselves. This has also allowed us to use crown applications like the double crown returns below and the staggered crown applications above without any nails visible. The crown moulding below on the right is the same crown moulding used in the pictures above and it doesn't have one single nail in it.
Alaska's first choice for furniture grade custom cabinetry
Alaska's first choice for furniture grade custom cabinetry