Cabinetry Expectations

By Sean Walsh

If there is just one topic I can cover that will greatly contribute to the satisfaction of your cabinetry purchase, it is expectations. After all, you’re considering purchasing thousands of dollars of cabinetry virtually site unseen (less a small door sample), and I want you to know without a shadow of doubt that you are making the best educated decision you can.

The Cabinetry Never Changed

Many have raved about the cabinetry they purchased from us. They’ve been overjoyed at the look, the feel, and the function. And they’ve left us tons of reviews to match. Once in a blue moon, we’ll get pretty much the exact opposite response. How can this be?

It’s simple. The cabinetry is the same, the expectations were not.

I’ve taken the time to write this article, because we want to do everything possible to ensure that each and every one of our customers are ecstatic when they unbox their new cabinetry. We want you to love your new cabinetry, your new kitchen, and your new friends at Walcraft!

I value your opinion, hopes, desires, finances, family, and the difficulties of remodeling and building. So much so, that I’m going to disclose all and risk the sale. This is because I’m not willing to risk your satisfaction. 

How Well Do You Know Cabinetry?

I would like to start here, because this is where it starts. To date, nearly every single time our cabinetry has failed to meet someone’s expectations, there’s a common denominator. It’s typically their first time purchasing cabinetry. I’ve ended up on the phone talking with quite a few of these customers. 

The challenge is always the same. Trying to explain to them that the issue is not the cabinetry, it is simply a matter of expectations. As our business has grown the number of customers we have has grown also. I’ve found myself needing to do this more often recently. 

I am writing this article as it will be better for us to be on the same page before, instead of trying to get on it after! I’m going to share a few key elements about cabinetry to help the reader better understand it’s character traits, and even defects. 

First, let me introduce myself. I’m Sean Walsh, the founder and CEO of Walcraft Cabinetry. I started building things out of wood with my general contractor father about 37 years ago. I entered into the trades (new construction and remodeling) full time at 17 years old, and started my first construction business at 20 years old. I’ve started and ran numerous businesses ranging from a stair building business, a custom woodworking and cabinetry business, and a home developing business. To date, I’ve been doing this as a career for 25 years. In 2016 I started Walcraft Cabinetry with my trusted friend, Brian Nightingale.

I live and breathe woodworking, joinery, home building, cabinetry, wood finishing, and carpentry. I’ll be your guide on this journey. Let the journey begin.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Wood

Wood is wood. For thousands of years it has been enjoyed and used to build amazing things. It is not a controlled manufactured product, and therefore has some conditions that cannot be overcome. They are:

  1. Warping
  2. Splitting
  3. Denting
  4. Shrinking

These four characteristics of wood will affect your cabinetry. It is important to understand that whether you purchase cabinetry from Home Depot, Dave’s Custom Cabinetry (name made up), or Walcraft Cabinetry (I made that name up too!), they will be made out of wood and will be subject to these conditions.

Warping

From time to time wood will warp. This can happen after it is dried, after it is machined, or after it arrives in your kitchen. It is what wood does. This is not the fault of the manufacturer, nor is there anyone in the cabinetry industry who can prevent this. It is wood. This will typically be seen on a door or drawer front. 

And just to put it out there. Not all warped doors are in fact warped. Here is how that happens. When a cabinet is not properly installed it can be tweaked causing the doors to look warped. In all reality, it is not the doors rather improper installation.

Be of good cheer! In such a case when the door truly is warped, we’ll get you a new door. We will need to see a picture of the door sitting on a flat surface such as granite or a table to make sure it is in fact the door though and not the installers fault. 

Warping can also occur on parts of an RTA cabinet. To the untrained eye this can be a problem. In all reality though, that is what wood does. Even the high end super pricey cabinetry from Dave’s Custom Cabinetry was crafted with wood panels and parts that potentially were warped. They just assemble it, force it into submission, and deliver the cabinets. The new owners are none the wiser because they did not assemble them.

If your RTA cabinets show up and you have a warped side panel, do not lose heart. You were made for this day. The victory will be a sweet taste in your mouth when you’re enjoying the fruits of your labors. 

Speaking of a sweet taste in your mouth, here’s some food for thought. The only way to 100% avoid warped plywood box parts is to use MDF or Particle board. 

Would you rather have minor difficulties assembling cabinets that will save you thousands of dollars, or cabinets that disintegrate when they get wet?

Choose well you have – Yoda

Splitting

This happens in multiple different ways. Sometimes it happens to doors and drawers. Other times it happens when the cabinet is assembled. Wood splits under the right amount of pressure. Always. If it is visible, then be of good cheer, we’ll get you a replacement asap!

If it is not visible, do not lose heart, this is very common to the industry and will not affect the finished product whatsoever. Custom cabinets split. Box store cabinets split. Cabinets from Walcraft split. They’re all made of wood, and wood splits!

Denting

This is where things get a little less black and white. Wood comes in all types of densities. These densities are specified in what is called Janka Hardness. This can range from a couple of hundred (the softest wood) to around 4000 (the hardest), and everything in between.

How much your new cabinetry dents and dings is mainly determined by the density of the wood used. 

All of the cabinetry that is available at walcraftcabinetry.com is either crafted using Birch (Janka 1200) or Maple (Janka 1400). That’s good! Most custom cabinet makers use Soft Maple (Janka 960) or Alder (Janka 490) for their painted cabinetry. So you’re doing good there. 

That being said, your cabinetry, just like a sparkly new car, will dent and get dings. The good news? Cabinetry is easier to touch up than a new car, and we have touch up kits. Cue the confetti and balloons.

Shrinking

Saving the best for last. Shrinking. This is the one that causes the most issues. Here’s why. The number one place you will see the effects of the normal cycle of expansion (summer) and contraction (winter) of wood is on painted finishes on your doors, drawers, and face frames. 

Many would not expect this as they’re painted cabinets! No matter who built it, painted cabinetry will have finish cracks. This mainly happens where the horizontal part of your door (the Rail) meets the vertical part (the Stile). These two pieces of wood grow and shrink throughout the seasons, causing the super hard finish to crack. This can be seen at other wood joints on your cabinetry as well.

My suggestion to you is this: 

Option #1 – If you do not want to potentially see these small hairline cracks on your doors and drawers look at our painted cabinetry options from US Cabinet Depot. Their doors are made out of High Density Fiberboard “HDF” (Janka 1700), and are not prone to the same expansion and contraction issues of real wood. They are also less prone to dents and dings.

Option #2 Put the magnifying glass down, take a few steps back and enjoy your new cabinetry. New cars get dings, tires go bald (as do we), paint fades, taxes are due, and wood shrinks. It is part of life. If you obsess about this unchangeable characteristic, you’ll miss out on the beauty of the finished product! Enjoy it. 

Option #3 Choose stained wood cabinets. The finish still cracks, you just cannot see it nearly as much.

What You’re Paying For, or More Than You Paid For?

One of the other issues we often see and hear is this, “these cabinets were a lot of money, and this is not what I was expecting.”

To make sure we begin this relationship right. Respectfully, these cabinets may be a lot of money to you, but that does not mean they were expensive. Every now and then I hear a customer say, “I paid $3,000 dollars for these cabinets and I should not be having these issues.” Here is what goes through my mind:

  1. You would have paid $4,800 – $6,000 at box stores, $7,000 – $10,000 for custom.
  2. You actually ended up with cabinets that are comparable quality to those options. In some ways more, and in other areas less. All for a fraction of the price.
  3. You would have paid much more, and probably had the same issues.
  4. This is about unmet unrealistic expectations, not cabinets.

Let’s Finish This Up

Another common misconception that we see is expectations placed on the actual finish itself. I’m going to get slightly bold here (hopefully not too much though). When I hear someone raise concerns about the finish that comes on our cabinets, I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave that would make cabinet maker pixie dust fall upon them and their eyes would see just how good they have it. 

I’ve sprayed 2k Urethanes, Conversion Varnish, pre-cat and post-cat Lacquers. I’ve used pumps, HVLP guns, a pressure pot system, spray booths and no spray booths.

Much of that may mean nothing to you. My point is this. I have a lot of experience with finishes, and I’ve been nothing but impressed with the finishes of all the cabinet lines we sell. They are better than many custom cabinetry finishes. 

So when someone starts examining every part and piece with a magnifying glass, I long for a magic wand! All of our cabinetry finishes belong on cabinets that cost MUCH more than ours do. 

This article is as close to magic cabinet maker pixie dust as I’ll get.

The Main Problem With RTA Cabinets

The biggest problem with RTA Cabinets is that they come unassembled. The assembler intimately examines every part and piece, often under unfair and unknowing scrutiny. A splinter becomes an issue, an unseen crack becomes an issue, and all of a sudden the world is falling apart. The magnifying glass comes out.

When the cabinets come assembled, they would be looked at as a cabinet. Once the cabinets are installed they’d be looked at as a kitchen. In the realm of cabinetry, if you’re not going to see the flaw, then it does not exist. 

We’re Not Amazon

Shipping cabinets is not at all like shipping a widget via Prime. There are numerous working parts and MANY forklifts involved. Sometimes, forklift drivers have bad days, their aim is off, or they momentarily think they’re Sir Arthur striking the winning blow at the jousting tournament.

Fair maiden and noble sir. Cabinets are not easy to ship. They’re big, heavy, and made out of wood, not Titanium. If you have shipping damage, we’ll take care of it. If Sir Arthur strikes again. We’re on it. Manufacturer damage? We’re all over it and on top of it. 

But please know, just as wood is wood, shipping is shipping. All cabinets get shipped and are subject to damage. 

Also, freight companies do not offer the same tracking capabilities as the post office, FedEx, or UPS. If something happens, we’ll do our best to determine where the shipment is. We are limited by how the freight industry works.

And please keep in mind, it is not the mail man’s fault that your pizza was delivered cold. It’s the pizza guys. Let’s remain allies, allow us to do our job well, and let’s get this little hiccup behind us. Let’s win together and see your kingdom prevail against the logistic hordes from the north!

Sorry, that Sir Arthur thing got me riled up a bit.

But seriously though, sometimes there are shipping issues. So let’s say this together class: IT IS NOT WALCRAFT’S FAULT. WALCRAFT CARES FOR ME AND WILL HELP ME. THEY ARE MY FRIENDS WHO WILL STAND BY MY SIDE AND DO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

Well done.

And it is true. We do, and we will. So if something happens that is beyond any of our control, let’s first remember this: welcome to being a human being! Our assurance to you oh fellow human, we’ve got your back. And if you need to yell at someone, we’ll be more than happy to give you the shipping companies phone number and a link to leave them a review ;o)…

The Perfectionists Path

To those who have been accused of being a perfectionist. You want it right. You may have even been accused that you’re often not willing to budge. If so, we’re very much alike. Regarding the cabinetry world, I’d like to offer a few suggestions:

  1. If you want perfect cabinets (no warps, dings, splits, and a perfect finish; etc.) then find a local cabinet maker. Let them know exactly what you want (perfect). Based upon being the local cabinet maker, I’d charge double my normal rate for such a client. For example, cabinets from Walcraft would be $5,000. Those same cabinets would be around $12,000 for custom. So a local cabinet maker may charge $24,000 for perfect. 
  2. If you are expecting cabinets for $5,000 to be the same as cabinets for $24,000 then dear friend I do not think we are compatible as nothing we will do will please you. Thanks for the opportunity and we wish you the very best on your unrealistic quest.
  3. You can choose to be flexible. Look forward to the big picture completed project and do not obsess over the minor characteristics of ALL cabinetry. It’s not worth the stress. We’ve earned the best reputation in the online industry for a reason. Read the rave reviews and hear others stories. All of those are the end result of choosing Walcraft.

In Conclusion

If I can speak to expectations for just a moment. A Honda does not perform like a Lamborghini. A $199,000 condo does not have 17 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, and gold plated toilet seats. And McDonalds burgers do not taste like fillet mignon on a homemade Danish sourdough roll with Swedish cheese sauce and caramelized onions from Istanbul. 

When you choose us for your cabinetry needs, you’ll end up getting more than you paid for. Without a doubt. 

You’ll get someone (myself) who has a lot of experience, choosing the best cabinets for you, because they are the absolute highest quality cabinets and manufacturers I can find for the buck. And you’ll get our unwavering service and support. That being said, we operate a real company that services and supports cabinets. We do not service and support unrealistic expectations as they are exactly what they are: unrealistic. 

Please consider this closing thought: If you do not use your unrealistic expectations on us, I will not have to use my unrealistic magic wand on you! Let’s be allies and accomplish real great things together.