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Why we design what we build. And vice versa.

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Dec 24, 2012 01:04 AM
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by becky last modified Dec 23, 2012

What goes wrong when we don’t design? CASE 1: It’s very predictable. We get a call from someone who already has their kitchen design completed, right down to the cabinet sizes, which have already been delivered. The first time, I immediately said ok & we set a date to install. Everything went along swimmingly, until [...]



What goes wrong when we don’t design?

CASE 1: It’s very predictable. We get a call from someone who already has their kitchen design completed, right down to the cabinet sizes, which have already been delivered.

The first time, I immediately said ok & we set a date to install. Everything went along swimmingly, until we discovered the client had ordered 8 feet of cabinets to go in an 8 foot cavity. WRONG. Why?

  1. Walls are never square or plumb, regardless of how old or new the construction is.
  2. Drawers & doors need room to operate. Especially if there are pullouts concealed by a door. In that case the door has to swing about 150* (as opposed to the usual 125* for just reach-in clearance) so the pullouts can, you know – pull OUT.
  3. No one wants to continually repair drywall next to cabinets installed so tightly that the drawers scrape the wall every opening, and pulls on doors bash into the wall over & over.

How we fixed it: We had to swap out one cabinet for a smaller one to get the wiggle room needed to avoid all of the above. Which meant additional shipping expense, and additional time tacked on to the project (that the person didn’t want to spend a lot on to begin with, and was in a hurry). It added a week and a half to the schedule, and added $700 to the cabinet cost.

CASE 2: Again, predictable. We agreed to  install the cabinets in a kitchen we didn’t design. This time the problem was vertical. The client wanted to hold the wall cabinets 10″ above the countertop surface. They also wanted them 10″ above the sink, to keep the bottom of the cabinets lined up.

Sounds good in theory, right? Except if you’ve ever used a sink that has very low clearance above it to wash a cookie sheet. Or a ladle. Or a tall soup pot. The underside of the cabinet gets beat up, and you end up spilling water all down the front of the base cabinets (and you) to avoid the low hanging wall cabinets.

How we fixed it: We convinced the client to shift the wall cabinets a few feet to the right of the sink so the sink would be useable. It also saved them the additional cost & delay of switching out a high gooseneck faucet that never would have cleared the lower wall cabinet height to begin with. They ended up with 2 less wall cabinets that went elsewhere on the project. (Didn’t matter, because it’s quite possible to have a single wall cabinet in a kitchen – for glassware – & still have plenty of room in the base cabinets for everything else.)

What goes wrong when we don’t install?

The first challenge prong is assembly. RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinets are simply a different animal from cabinets that are built in a shop & then shipped to the jobsite. With RTA cabinets, it’s the other way around: they’re shipped to the jobsite & then assembled. Which is good because shipping costs less since it takes up less space, and there’s less chance of damage occurring since you’re not shipping exposed, completed cabinets.

Additionally, each cabinet has several dozen components – screws, nails, dowels, cam locks, legs, various inserts like lazy susans, and the sides of the cabinet itself. Not a big deal to someone who assembles them every day. A very big deal to someone who doesn’t, and underestimates how long it takes to put the things together.

The first time I assembled an average sized kitchen full of cabinets – about 14 total – it took me the better part of a week. Now I can do it in 2 days.

The second challenge prong is installation.  There are all kinds of issues ranging from

  1. how to release the drawer front from the drawer because it was assembled backwards,
  2. dealing with that are floors way out of level,
  3. changing heights & swapping positions on the fly (never a good idea)
  4. knowing how to answer the countertop templater’s questions about finishing overhangs & returns,
  5. code compliant placement of outlets and plumbing supply & waste lines
  6. which goes in first: backsplash or hood?
  7. when do inspections need to happen? (“what do you mean you need to see the exposed structure in the wall behind the base cabinets?!”)

The result:  a lot of panicked phone calls.

So we get involved in the process anyway – whether it’s design or installation.  Which drives your cost up and slows your project down. Getting us involved in the beginning AND having us install it does several things:

  1. adheres to a realistic schedule
  2. minimizes the chances that information will slip through the cracks since there is no team change
  3. minimizes surprises before construction begins
  4. ensures that ALL the components involved in a kitchen remodel go in safely and in harmony with each other
  5. manages the schedules of all the team members, including inspections and deliveries
  6. reduces your hair transplant and psychiatric bills
  7. lowers the frustration levels of everyone involved.

Bottom line: we design what we install & vice versa because it’s the most cost effective and efficient way to get the job done. Do we do installations on designs that have already been completed? On a case by case basis, Yes – after we review the order so we can at least see if there are potential headaches. Do we prefer to do both design & installation? Very much so.

In rare cases where the homeowner has experience with remodeling & has construction skills, we’re happy to work with them with a clear contract explicitly outlining who does what work when. But that scenario is very, very rare.

Most projects we do are for people who work full time and are also living in the home having the remodeling done. There’s a reason there are businesses who do just this – it’s a job in itself!




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