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What happens if cabinets get damaged during a remodel?

A few weeks into your home remodel and you’re already excited to see the finished build. Everything seems to be going smooth – that is until your remodel superintendent opens the box of newly delivered cabinets to find that they’ve arrived damaged. 

Although it isn’t common for cabinetry – or any other remodeling materials for that matter – to show up in less than new condition, it can happen. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having this happen during your remodel, it helps if you’re prepared. While the good news is that damaged materials are unlikely to cost you any extra money, they can delay your project’s completion time and require some creative problem-solving from you and your build team. 

As a remodeling company based in Portland, OR, Lamont Bros. has worked with several homeowners through these exact circumstances. In this article, we’ll use our years of experience in the remodel industry to help you plan and prepare what to do if your cabinets get damaged. Here’s what you can expect to read about:

Reasons your cabinets may get damaged

Cabinets don’t usually get damaged during a remodel. However, you should be prepared for the possibility in case they do. With cabinets specifically, there are a few steps along the way that could damage the materials. 

Manufacturing defects

The first step where damage might occur is in production. Cabinet manufacturers are usually extremely careful about inspecting what rolls off the assembly line. Unfortunately, their quality control won’t catch 100% of the issues. 

Sometimes, the wood used to construct the cabinet has knots or holes that go unseen. Other times, something scratches a cabinet door or frame nobody notices. Large cabinet manufacturers who produce a high volume of products are more likely to let factory defects go undetected. This is especially true among lower-quality cabinet lines. 

Shipping damage

Once the cabinets are built, the manufacturer must ship the materials to their destination. The further they have to travel, the more likely they are to sustain damage in transit. 

Shipping damage is the most common type of damage we see in cabinetry. Sometimes, it’s due to poor packaging by the manufacturer that allows for weight to shift in transit. Other times, it’s simply poor handling. In either case, we’ll sometimes open a cabinet shipment to discover that some of the material was damaged beyond repair. 

Supply chain issues over the past year have also played a hand in damage during shipping, as well. A shortage of drivers and package handlers has resulted in shipping companies hiring people with very little experience to do these jobs. With this lack of experience comes rookie mistakes, many of which result in damaged goods. 

Installer error

It’s always better to leave cabinet installation to a professional, but even professionals sometimes make mistakes. It doesn’t happen often, but improperly installing a cabinet can cause some significant damage. 

An installer might make the mistake of poorly securing a wall cabinet, leaving it to come crashing down on the base cabinets below. Or perhaps an over-tightened fastener could split the wood cabinet box. If somebody leans over the cabinets with tools in their belt, the tools might scratch the finish.

A skilled cabinet installer knows what issues to look for and what mistakes to avoid. However, this “sixth sense” often comes from years of education in the school of hard knocks. 

Resident abuse

After your build team installs the cabinets, there’s always the chance that you or a member of your family might damage them. You should expect your cabinetry to undergo typical wear and tear throughout its lifetime. However, if you misuse it (or have small children who don’t know better) it’s likely your cabinets will sustain some undue damage.

How do you avoid cabinets arriving damaged?

If you’re concerned about the possibility of cabinets arriving damaged to your remodel site, there are some steps you can take. Keep in mind that this will only reduce risk rather than eliminate it. 

Buy from local cabinetmakers

Shopping small might cost you a little bit extra, but it comes with some great perks. By buying cabinetry from a nearby cabinet shop, you not only support a local business but also reduce the risk of quality control issues and shipping damage. 

Smaller companies with smaller production facilities typically have lower order volumes. As a result, they usually have better attention to detail when it comes to quality control. This means your cabinets get more attention during production and are less likely to have factory defects. If there is an issue, the manufacturer is more likely to catch it.

By buying local, you also reduce the risk of your cabinets receiving damage in transit. Since they don’t have as far to go, there’s less of a chance they’ll get bumped, dropped, or otherwise mishandled. 

There are also some disadvantages to going the small business route. Because local cabinet shops typically make cabinetry to order, it may take longer to produce. Also, depending on the machinery and equipment they have available, it can be difficult for small cabinet makers to match the finish quality of a larger factory. 

Upgrade to “better” or “best” cabinets

We often present cabinetry in terms of “good, better, best” options. Generally speaking, those in the “good” category tend to be the ones that arrive damaged the most. While high-end cabinets are more expensive, the care and attention to detail that goes into them often motivates the manufacturer and shipping companies to handle them more carefully.

Cabinet makers tend to give much more attention to higher-end cabinet lines. When you upgrade to better or best cabinetry, the manufacturer usually takes much greater care to inspect and package the products. They’ll also make sure the shipping company knows to do the same. Plus, the quality of the cabinets’ construction is often much stronger. That way, when the cabinets arrives at your remodel site, it’s less likely to be damaged. 

What to do if your cabinets do get damaged

If your cabinets experience damage at some point during your remodel, worry not! Unless you’re the one responsible for the damage, it won’t cost you anything extra. Depending on the extent of the damage and when it took place, your builder should be able to resolve the issue quickly. 

Don’t open your checkbook

Under almost all circumstances, damaged materials aren’t going to add to your final bill. If the materials arrive damaged from the manufacturer, they will be the ones to cover the replacement cost. If your builder is the one responsible for the damage, they should pay for it themselves. 

Not only that, but any additional labor needed to fix the issue won’t cost you extra, either. That’s one of the benefits of working on a fixed-price contract; unforeseen circumstances beyond your control don’t usually affect your total cost. 

Let your builder handle the damage

Your build team will take note of the damage and work to find a solution.

Chances are, your build team dealt with damaged goods before. They know who to contact, what to report, and what needs to happen for your project to progress.

Generally, we’ll get the cabinet manufacturer on the phone right away to order new cabinets if necessary. A good build team should advocate for you as the homeowner to ensure that the replacement materials arrive promptly and free of charge. 

Sometimes, the damage can be repaired rather than replaced. While this is not always the case, your build team will act with your best interests in mind.

Expect delays

Depending on the extent of the damage to your cabinets, your remodel timeline may or may not get extended. If the cabinet doors arrive damaged, we can still install the cabinet boxes. That way, all the structural elements are in place for the countertop and finish material. We’ll order new cabinet doors and install them when they arrive.

However, if the actual cabinet box or face frame appears damaged, that becomes a larger issue. Since so much of a kitchen remodel is built on or around cabinets, a damaged cabinet box slows down the production. In addition, cabinet boxes are larger and take longer to ship than simple doors do.

Want to learn more about kitchen remodels?

Planning a remodel can be difficult. Finding inspiration by looking at other remodels can help! Interested in learning more about kitchen remodeling? Check out our Ultimate Kitchen Remodel Guide, where you can learn everything you need to know about remodeling your kitchen.

One of the best ways to make sure your kitchen remodel goes smoothly and meets your needs is to work with a designer. Click the button below to schedule a free consultation with one of our top-notch design consultants.