Top Ten Things You Can Do To Prevent Headaches during Installations

A discussion about communication and pre-planning to make cabinet installations go more smoothly. May 5, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I am working on compiling a list of bullet points to share with decorators and home-owners, to prevent common problems my crews and I are constantly running into in the field during installation.

For example:

1. We recommend coordinating the location of all the wiring points before the furniture is designed - so that we donít wind up with an outlet falling smack on the line of a cabinet end or upright.

2. We recommend planning the lighting in the room accordingly, so we donít install that wall unit, only to find the recessed cans sitting directly above them, illuminating nothing.

3. Things like letting GC's know, that when they build a wall 12" deep to accommodate a 12" deep cabinet, that they have not left room for crown molding projection.

These are just some examples of every day headaches that I am running into - and I'm sure many of you are as well. I believe that if a good, comprehensive simple list of situations to avoid is created, then it would make all of our lives easier. I for one am looking for people to respond to this post with their biggest challenges, and the regular occurrences.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor Z:
When the water supply is run through the wall and the drain up through the floor, the cabinet will not slide in.

From contributor M:

Call before youíre putting on the finish paint in a new home/commercial facility, and I am being serious. Discuss any in wall blocking that might be needed before the walls are closed if possible. Donít expect to completely change your appliances in mid-production, such as double ovens and cooktop to freestanding range with no double ovens because you decided to cut budget.

From contributor D:
From a professional cabinetmakers point of view, if I am designing building and installing goods I make sure all things are found and redirected or move the electric and plumbing and let them know the soffit over the refer needs to be deeper and all the custom details that change with each job. Really good communication between all parties involved before the project begins is key to a successful outcome. I use a punch list for myself to catch potential problems before hand, like how wide are the doors leading into the room, etc. Sounds like you may install othersí designs. Good luck there except to say a visual inspection of the site along with the plans before starting by whoever the responsible sales point person is or his advisor should be made to ensure these things are good to go.

From the original questioner:
Contributor Z - your point about where water lines are run - and the ability to slide the cabinet in are well taken!

Contributor M - while I agree with all your points, the blocking in the wall (also wood studs vs. metal ones) is a great point. Recently had this issue with a wall-hung vanity, where there was simply nothing in the wall to shoot into!

Contributor D - your dead-on target with the walk-through and punch list. We do a complete service, from design to installation, so typically we can find the issues ahead of time as well. What I'm looking for are some of the items that make it to your punch-list, so that this list can be created, and can be our "voice" in the project long before they are calling us in to produce/install millwork.

From contributor D:
Even with the best punch list things happen on the job that you can't avoid. While installing a few wall cabinets: How did I hit a water pipe at 57" above the floor in line with a stud below and above? As mentioned I check the all the door openings leading into the areas I will build for. I ask for a complete list of appliances and specs - all sink specs. I do a quick 345 in the corners of the room to get a feel for how square the place is. Counter top thickness and requirements. What floor coverings and how thick? I mark out where electric receptacles will be needed. I check the floor to ceiling height, to mention a few.

From contributor J:
Check out ceiling flatness as some sheet rockers are not even close! Also large mud buildup in the corners! Floor high spots and squareness of wall recesses. Floor height changes around any kind of column can have your base making a quick and radical height change that you might not have enough material to scribe for! Now along with your list is the corresponding one in which you tell your boss why it took so long and he doesn't want to listen. He just wants it done on time!

From Contributor V:
All of these things are great, but put it in writing. Even when you have done the walkthrough and given instructions and been told changes will be made Ė donít count on it. I have one contractor with whom we deal with a lot. We were on one big job with him and what was built vs. what the client wanted for a cabinet layout to go around an outside corner was not possible.

We laid out what change needed to be made and the wall needed to be extended with an angle. We drew it on the floor and gave them measurements and instructions. We were guaranteed that it would happen. We get out there and not only did it not happen they had painted the walls and were ready to go. I confronted the contractor and told him these issues were getting a little old. Since his jobs are an hour from the site itís not always possible to run out every week to check and see. He explained that he has six houses going at any one time and that the cabinets are a small thing to him. That issue we should put it in writing. I did that the next time but to no avail - now what?

When dealing with an existing living space, whether a change order, a remodel, etc. make sure the contractor/home owner is aware of what they need to do in moving their items and belongings out of the way before you arrive. Nothing worse than to arrive with a built-in or piece of furniture and have them say oh I forgot and now you or your crew spends the next 20 minutes relocating all of their stuff, for free.

From Contributor U:
I have the number one way to ensure that you never get screwed by out of square/plumb/level walls, crowned studs, un-level floors, undocumented changes, and inconsiderate clients/contractors. Don't install. If, unfortunately, that is not an option I have no idea how to prevent that kind of stuff - every single thing we have tried, while sounding good in theory, just never seemed to agree with the real world.

From contributor I:
Post the jobsite address on the kitchen window. If somebody gets hurt and you need to call 911 you will want to know where to send them. Inquire about bathroom use. Does the customer want to pay for a sanikan or can you use their bathroom. Bring some cardboard to create a path to the bathroom. Have a first aid kit and fire extinguisher. Bring an electrical tester that beeps when in the proximity of hot wires. Just because they turned the breaker off does not mean the microwave circuit was really connected to that breaker. Tell the crew they are allowed to accept a cup of coffee but they must drink it on the back porch. As soon as the customer starts feeding your crew, those sandwiches will cost you $1000 apiece.