Communication and Adjustment in Cabinet Installation

Thoughts on assuming or accepting responsibility for measurements on site during installation. February 17, 2011

Should an installer of custom kitchens review an appliance list and check measurements or go off of a hand drawing and measurements listed?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor L:
Should a cabinetmaker design a kitchen without knowing the dimension of the appliances?

From contributor J:
I would refer to the list, sketch, napkin or directive given me by the person for whom I was working for. At that point it's on them.

From contributor N:
An installer of custom kitchens should utilize all of the information given to him to make sure the installation is right. If there are any questions they should be discussed with the party that you are installing for. Good communication between both parties will go a long way toward preventing later problems.

From contributor K:
I thought that's what tape measures are for?

Seriously, if the appliances are not expected to be onsite, I would have to go with contributor L and ask why you would design a kitchen without knowing the install dimensions? They do make appliances larger than standard.

From contributor S:
In the interest of making sure all goes well with a job, you owe it to yourself to have all the information at hand. It is fine to say, "hey, it's not my fault, I did it to standard." No matter who makes the mistake, if the job goes sour, somebody is not going to get paid. If they go to install appliances and any one of them doesn't fit, the money stops flowing until they figure out who is at fault, and even then it will be delayed until someone says they will pay for the mistake. The builder I used to work for gave us a list of the appliances being used and the dimensions.

From contributor L:
I won't even build a kitchen until I know all the appliance model numbers. Most things, like dishwashers and microwaves, come in a pretty universal standard, 24" for DW and 30" for MW. But all the other appliances can come in non-standard sizes.

I don't even trust the dimensions on the paperwork that is floating around from the manufacturers. I have been burned once on a stove that was listed as 1" deep less than it actually was. What a nightmare. And if you notice on the bottom of all of those dimension sheets it will say "Information may change without notice." And it does.

I would rather have the physical appliance to measure off of than any spec sheet. And with some strange appliances I insist. If you don't have the information when the installation is being done, it should not be installed. Sounds like a mistake was made and blame is waiting to be placed.

If I was an installer installing someone else's stuff and they didn't supply me with any specs and told me to get the job done, I would use the standard installation dimensions without hesitating. If something special is supposed to be there, it should be noted in big red bold writing on the install diagram/sheet.

From the original questioner:
Thanks to all for the reasonable responses. Appliances were on site, installer did not review owner's manuals as recommended. Electrolux oven dimensions differ from width in back (30") and front (approximately 31 1/2"). Fillers were supplied. Appliances are always changing and should be reviewed by any seasoned installer. We are not looking to blame anyone, just review with other professionals the responsibility of install crews.

From contributor K:
In that case, with the appliances onsite, like I said... I thought that's what tape measures are for (even without documentation).

From contributor S:
Even if the appliances are on site, if the cabinets are already built and they didn't allow enough room, you are still in trouble. You can't just move the cabinets over several inches because something won't line up. The information has to be there before you even build the cabinets.

From contributor K:
The questioner said he supplied fillers. Although that would also mean that there was a concern upfront for spacing, otherwise why fillers? Lesson is, know what you are building to ahead of time and this will eliminate most of the problem, other than site condition issues.

From contributor D:
What kind of oven are you talking about?

From contributor S:
I was referring to the comment to follow the list and if there is a problem, it is their fault. You don't need any problems on a job, no matter whose fault they are, because they still affect you. I have been on jobs where a painter dripped paint all over the counters and on the floor, and no one got paid until it was cleaned up.

From contributor P:
The installer shouldn't have to worry about appliance openings. That is the designer's job, the engineer's job to double check, and the builder to check after fabrication. By the time it leaves the shop, it's right, period.

From the original questioner:

I disagree with contributor P. The custom high end installers are part of the project. They are the last checkpoint. They have a higher responsibility than people in this profession give them. "It's not my job, call the designer!" is not an answer to a mistake. If someone has that attitude, then go to an assembly line.

Builders always review blueprints - they don't just start digging. Common sense is called into play here. Mistakes are never easy to accept, but finding them in reviewing appliance manuals - checking room measurements - is easier before screwing cabinetry to the wall.

I posted the original question to find out what is suggested/required of install crews. Reading these comments I have come up with the following. Lead installer reviews appliance manuals and checks field measurements. Simple.

From contributor I:
Shouldn't the installer have a detailed plan with all the dimensions and openings on it? Put it on the plan and there should be no worries. Pretty simple if you ask me. If you let it get all the way down to the installer, then someone else isn't doing their job.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your response, but do you have a problem with a review of appliances and field measurements?

From contributor A:
The fabricator should supply the installer with enough info that the installer should not have to contact the fabricator. There should be clear instructions and drawings that have highlighted potential problem areas. The installer typically has no access to the appliance dimension documents (held by customer, cabinet shop, architect). I'm a cabinetmaker who believes that the installer basically is responsible for a quality install and his only trouble should be the perimeter of the install (scribes, crown). The cabinets should be idiot proof. Obviously the designer was aware of this issue. It would make sense to make everyone aware of it.

From contributor I:
I'm with contributor A on this one. If you have in-house installers and you want them to check your work and measurements, that is fine, but don't sub out installs and expect them to do it - it is not their job. Check, double check and triple check on your end and provide detailed drawings and you will have a happy installer that will get the job done more efficiently. They should not have to worry that someone else did not do their job right. I measure, design, build and install, so I know all the aspects. If I sub out an install, I make sure it's foolproof for them.

From contributor M:
That's right! It's the designer's/cabinet shop's responsibility to make sure that the installer has the specs for everything that he/she needs to do the job. The installer is responsible for installing the job per drawing/specs and making sure it looks good. After all, the installer does not deal with the clients when it comes to choosing cabinet styles and appliances.

From contributor H:
It all comes down to how much I am getting paid for the install. If you pay me well for a high end kitchen, sure, I'll check the oven or micro if they are at the job site. But if you don't pay me well...

From contributor V:
If Iím signing a contract, I will install based on specs provided. When I'm installing and the appliances are on site, I will check them when I'm checking everything else before starting. I consider myself a professional installer who lives in the real world. I'm going to correct any problem I reasonably can, but that doesn't mean I'm going to contractually obligate myself to be accountable for everyone that has a hand in before me.

From contributor O:
As an installer of more than 30 years, I would be mortified if an appliance opening wasn't correct. And I mean 100% of the time. I don't care how much or how little the job pays - appliance openings must be checked and rechecked and flooring and adjacent drawers and doors and knobs and pulls must be taken into consideration. Guess that's why I'm still subbing installs. You guys who want to put the blame on designers and engineers need to come to grips with the fact that those guys need us to not install something that's not right. In the end, when the job is long done, how do you want to be remembered - as the installer who took the high road or the low road? I have too much pride in my installs to ever say screw it - that's someone else's problem.

From contributor N:

I have seen this issue more times than I would like to say. I have been called many times to fix such solutions. I have a job that I am doing right now that has the same issue.

Where did you get your layout/design from? Most crap rolls downhill and is left to the last man standing with a tool in his hand. You say custom cabinets - if this is the case, then there should be no issue with any of the appliances. Did you supply your designer with all the makes and model numbers of your appliances, along with flooring material to be used, and is the flooring installed first or after the cabinets are in. Did your designer ask?

I refuse to go ahead with anything on a kitchen unless I have everything accounted for and signed off on. I believe the installer is responsible for a high quality installation - plumb, level, square. Appliances at the time of install are irrelevant. They should have been accounted for, and if they weren't, and your drawings do not allow enough room, then the answer is obvious.

What about asking the manufacturer of the appliances why they don't fit? Seems like a question to ask. Answer to that one is very obvious, as is the answer to your question.

The true question should be who is ultimately responsible for the costs of this problem? Who signed off on the design? Who supplied all the information? Or was any of this information even discussed? Ignorance of the law does not constitute innocence. Suppliers of kitchens have a responsibility for the product that they sell. If there is a design issue, it is far too late to start pointing fingers at the installer.

From contributor X:
I sub out installs and do 3-5 a week depending on sizes. Those of us who do this generally don't get paid to think - I get paid per piece. I don't have time to drop what I'm doing and tear open the packing on the stove, fridge, range hood and dishwasher on every job. If the 20/20 doesn't list a specific size, then it will get all the standard sizes. I am concerned with what's on the layout. When you go the extra mile to help out and cut different sizes, who gets blamed when they don't fit? Deduct that one off month's end.

From contributor F:
An installer should automatically realize that there's a difference between any drawing handed to you and reality on the job site. You have to lay your own work out. You are accountable to make it work.