Kitchen Cabinetry Installation: Choose Your Installer Carefully for Best Quality Outcome

Kitchen Cabinetry Installation: Choose Your Installer Carefully for Best Quality Outcome

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

A few weeks ago, I spent a day seeing the completion of two high-end kitchens. Both kitchen projects had cabinetry by the same manufacturer in essentially the same style. The homeowners of both kitchens were very much involved in the entire design process, and cared about the outcome. However, there was one major difference between the two kitchen projects: Installation quality — and, more than likely, what the builder and/or homeowner were willing to pay for the installation.

Below are two photos of the first kitchen, with the superior installation quality. Note the careful execution of the decorative toe valance installed under the Thermador refrigerator (left).

Superior Kitchen Cabinetry Installation Quality

The second kitchen may look fine to the untrained eye, but the installation elements were less tidy, even though some of the design elements were less complex than the first kitchen. I could see that the installer failed to follow the tiny details spelled out in my kitchen design plan that would have made the “difference”, even though I had reviewed the installation plan with the cabinet installer beforehand and invited them to call me if they had any questions.

As a professional kitchen designer, it concerns me when the installer does not take the time or care enough to perform to the same high standards as I witnessed in the installation of the first kitchen. The second kitchen’s installer’s allegiance was to the builder because the builder was the one paying him to do the job.

This now brings us to a very important point for the homeowner to understand:

In the first kitchen, the homeowner paid more for the installation with a reputable high quality builder. The photos above illustrate a crisp and clean result.

In the second kitchen, where the installation was subcontracted out by a smaller, less-known builder, I initially quoted installation by my experienced “perfectionistic” installation crew for the homeowner/builder. However, the client or the builder (I’m not sure which) chose instead to assign the cabinetry installation to the builder’s own “framing carpenter.” Ultimately, and unfortunately, this homeowner paid the “price” for a somewhat substandard installation.

Kitchen Cabinetry Installation Quality Affects Final Outcome

As you can infer, the subject of who will be responsible for installing kitchen cabinetry can be a contentious one for kitchen designers, installers, homeowners, and builders. From the kitchen designer’s viewpoint, installation quality is responsible for 50% of the outcome — meaning, how pristine the kitchen will look — so it is imperative that the installation be done as carefully and painstakingly as possible.

In contrast, the installer’s ability to carry out all tasks is governed by:

  1. How much experience he has (how complex/easy is it for him),
  2. The amount of time he has to complete the job, and
  3. the amount he is being paid. The builder’s and/or homeowner’s objective is to get the job done as fast as possible, at the lowest cost, and at the highest quality.

Project Management Triangle: Cost/Benefit Tradeoffs in Kitchen Remodeling

Project Management Triangle kitchen remodelingFor the cabinetry installation aspect of the project, this leads us to the topic of the Project Management Triangle.

This triangle reflects the fact that the three properties of the kitchen installation are interrelated, and it is not possible to optimize all three – one will always suffer. In other words you have three options:

  1. Install a kitchen quickly and to a high standard — the most expensive option.
  2. Install a kitchen quickly and cheaply — and sacrifice high quality.
  3. Install a kitchen with high quality at the lowest possible cost — which will take longer.

So, if you are homeowner who is undertaking a kitchen remodel and the topic of cabinetry installation has not been discussed, now is the time to do so. Ask a lot of questions and perhaps ask to see an installed kitchen completed by the contractor. I also recommend inviting an experienced kitchen designer to accompany you and assess the quality of the installation for aspects that only a trained eye will see.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.