Cabinetry Warranties

Cabinetmakers discuss their warranty policies. June 15, 2009

I searched through the knowledge base and couldn't find what I was looking for. I'm curious what warranty other custom shops around the country use for their cabinetry. I know if you think you build high quality then you should stand behind your work and I do, but how long is long enough? What about other factors like hinges, slides, finish? Many hardware companies have lifetime warranties on their hardware but do you really want to dig through all your paperwork and replace these 10, 15 years later if they fail? I haven't done this long enough to know how long they can last. Or do you charge labor only.

I've been in business for a year, yes not very long. I want to put together a warranty certificate but wonder if I should break it down to warranties on each piece of the kitchen.

For example: I foresee nothing happening with the quality of my cabinets failing. Hardware however is always a wonder. Do I give "x years" on the cabinets and "x years" on the hardware?

I see many of these cabinet lines have limited lifetime warranties limited to the original owner. Are they just hoping and praying that nothing ever happens or do they feel the chances of failure is so slim? Do any of you give limited lifetime warranties? I realize that the chances of cabinets failing is slim. If a door can make it a couple years with seasonal changes without failing, then it should be good. What are your opinions on warranty coverage?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
If I do a custom kitchen for someone my warranty is basically as long as I am in business it is warranted. Of course, this is to a point. I will go back and adjust doors and drawers if they come out of alignment. The finish is another point. You can't tell how they treat their cabinets, or what they wash them with. I can usually tell if it is my problem or something they did themselves with the finish. If a door or drawer falls apart of breaks I will most likely replace it. If you can tell that someone kicked it or slammed it as hard as they could, forget it, you get to pay. I don't have a written warranty, and I never will. My word is my warranty, and I have a line of clients that will attest to it.

From contributor Z:
One year on everything period is what I do. The year starts from the day of your final payment. All things are subject to "normal use". A broken door is not a sign of normal use. Broken or bent hinges are not a sign of normal use - leaky pipes are. You are really only warranting your work, not the material you use. Most are not worth the paper they are written on. It ultimately comes down to your view of "normal use" and how nice a guy you want to be. People are all different and you have no way of knowing how they really live after your gone.

From contributor F:
I have been in business for ten years and this has so far not been a big issue. I agree with the points of contributor G and Z both. Honestly, some of the best friends that I have made are the customers I've had. I have never had a call back on the finish, drawer failure, door failure, etc. I have had two or three callbacks on trash can pull outs, and honestly it was the customers fault but heck they were a great reference for me and got me three other kitchens so no I didn't mind changing the slides on their trash can pullout. I think if you're a small time guy in a small time city like me then this works. If I were a larger shop with a lot more production then I would probably have a disclaimer as contributor Z suggests. As for me, I'll try to fix whatever problems they are having within reason.

From contributor P:
I've never had anyone be unreasonable or over-demanding. I'd much rather go well beyond what's fair than to fall short of someone's expectations - my clients have been great to me, and I want to make sure they're delighted with the result, not just when the job's finished, but over its entire life.

I don't remember whether it was LL Bean or Eddie Bauer (REI still does it) who had the philosophy that when whatever you bought from them was completely worn out, you could look back and say you'd been completely satisfied with the garment and your experience - if not, return it for a refund, no questions asked. Now thatís a guarantee!

From the original questioner:
It kind of reminds me also of Rolls Royce. I've heard that if one ever breaks down, they go through extreme lengths to repair the problem promptly. Thatís their reputation and they don't want it blemished. Don't know if itís true, but good logic. I don't feel a written warranty is really necessary either, but I can see where itís a helpful selling point, especially for these big cabinet companies. They need all the selling points they can get.

From contributor D:
I have been in business for over 27 years and do not provide a written warranty. Most states will dictate how long you must stand behind your work, so it may not really be an individual choice. We are selling a completed product not just labor. We must stand behind workmanship and materials, at least on custom work. If we do our job right there is little really to go wrong after installation. I try hard not to give any reason for a client to be unhappy in the first place. I have replaced a handful of hinges and maybe four or five drawer slides in 27 years and never have charged a penny.