October Pro to Pro

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Have a question and looking for feedback from industry peers? This month KBDN listens in on dialogue between industry professionals as excerpted from the KitchenBathPros.com online Designer Discussion Forum.

Kitchen Sink Selection

Question

Does anyone have a good one-page information sheet for customers to sign-off on for kitchen sink selection, location of faucet, instant hot, soap dispenser, disposal, hole-drilling size and location for granite cut outs?
—ootb

Response 1

I don’t have a standard sheet for those cutouts per se, however, I have, on occasion, simply drawn a top view of the placement of all forementioned items. I show that to the customer and have them sign the drawing. This is helpful to send to the granite person with the order, as clearances can be checked before templating.
—Elizabeth.h.ckd

Dissatisfied Customers

Question

The large majority of our clients are very happy with their projects once they are completed. Recently, our fairly new designer completed a stunning, complicated master bath project. Client rapport throughout the project was great. Work was completed correctly and on time. There were no flaws in the design or the install at all, in my opinion.

However, the “problem” came at the very end of the job when some small touch-ups were needed. We promptly came back and completed these touch-ups for the customer. But, the clients were still not satisfied, so they had their own contractor complete the work. Subsequently, items were pointed out that were barely visible to the human eye. We even had to argue to get the balance due to us.

Now, our designer is crushed, rightfully, as she did a terrific job. She even showed up at the end with a gift and was met with cold stares from the customer. I feel like telling this client how I really feel, but know that I can’t. Has anyone ever experienced anything like this at their business?
—susan27

Response 1

That scenario has happened to me more than I care to remember. The last time it happened, I’d taken on a cabinetry job, super built- in and high-end. We did cabinets for the whole house.

The entire punch list for that project consisted of six small items. I admittedly dragged my feet for a few weeks getting back there to address those items and, as a result, the client completely went out of control, and ended up refusing to pay me the last $1,000. She refused to pay even though I called her (this was her second home) when rain was pouring in through her new windows into a few rooms. I had even found towels to blot up the mess and notified her of her flooding basement.
In your situation, have you given thought to the possibility that the contractor didn’t really like the designer?

Another tactic you could try would be to call to say that your designer felt a chill and ask if there remains a problem with the work. Other than that, I really have no idea why people react like this.

Would it make a difference if you provided a sheet of paper that talked of “expectations” in terms of details, meaning what is a flaw and what isn’t? Maybe that would help clarify things in the future.

Of course, in the end, it is often in the eye of the beholder, and you will work to address any issues that arise as best you can. I hope your designer can cheer up!
—susanckd

Response 2

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of it has to do with construction fatigue. I think everyone has these clients on a fairly regular basis.

Several years ago, we started sending out client feedback forms. I intentionally wait six weeks after the final punch is finished. This gives them a chance to settle back into their life and calm down after having people under foot for weeks on end during the construction process.

To my surprise, even the ones who were surly at the end of installation give us mostly glowing reviews – after they’ve had the time to gain perspective on the scope of the work going into their project.

Having said that, there’s still going to be that bad apple that you just can’t make happy.
—ScottFL

Response 3

It was our own contractor, who does a fantastic job, so there was no badmouthing there. Maybe it was a case of “construction fatigue” along with some squabbling about cost between the husband and wife behind the scenes. Who knows?

We’ve decided to make a point of stressing how proud of our designer and installer we are on this project and that our company continues to generate references and referrals. And, no final payment, no warranty.
—Susan27

Response 4

On this project (as on many others), the typical scenario is that Spouse #1 is the one who works the entire job from beginning to end. She/he makes the product selections, works with the designer, juggles the kids, etc., and then at the end, it is Spouse #2 who jumps in with “issues” at punch list. Of course, not wanting to be unsupportive, Spouse #1 then jumps on the bandwagon. Sigh.
– Susan27

Response 5

As designers, we have to know that we did everything we could to satisfy the client. But, there are some people you just can’t please, no matter what you do.

I hope the designer is inspired to still feel good about the end result of the project. Sometimes the good feelings about our work have to come from the fact that we know that we did a good job – not in how the client reacts or treats us. If our self esteem rested in our clients’ hands, it could be a tough road.
—KarH

Response 6

We’ve all been in this difficult situation before. If people only knew all that could have gone wrong during their project. We prevent most errors through experience, training and checking and rechecking many times over.

I make it a point to go over the entire order (elevations, special drawings and all) with the client. I will even give them copies of these. I do this for two main reasons: To make sure they know what they are getting and to let them know that ordering a custom kitchen is a very detailed and intricate process that requires a lot of work.

Last night I had a client in who wanted to order their custom cabinets. Writing up a custom kitchen order, as you know, can take a whole day – or longer in some cases. As we went over every detail and specification, the wife said, “Gosh, I had no idea so much thought went into this.”

People really need to lighten up. Life is way too short to obsess over a mineral streak, or a scratch on the side of a cabinet that will never be seen by anyone!
—Kompy

Response 7

Some clients have such high expectations and sometimes it is impossible to satisfy them no matter what you do.
I recently had a rep from a high-end manufacturer say to a high-end client, “This is not life or death, it’s cabinets. Please calm down and let’s resolve the issue.” You can imagine that this did not go over well with her.

The world is fast-paced. Communication needs to be instant; satisfaction needs to be instant, and so does delivery and production, etc. Time is money and clients do not want to readily give us either. I think that this topic will become more interesting as Gen Xers become more prominent purchasers in the market place. I already see it getting worse.

I would just reinforce to your designer that she has done a great job as acknowledged by her peers (who are experts in the industry) and that this type of client comes along every once in a while. My advice is to smile and move on.
—boxesonawall

Countertop colors

Question

I am currently working on my own kitchen. I have natural maple cabinets and am replacing my counters with solid surfacing. I cannot decide between a darker brown that will contrast with the cabinets or a lighter sand color with brown specks. I know darker colors are harder to maintain, but I really like the brown. The floors are light and I have stainless appliances.

I have three teenage boys and the kitchen gets a lot of use by them and friends. What is the better option?
—howegoff

Response 1

In solid surfacing, scratches are more visible in darker colors. Deeper scratches turn white. So if you are going with a solid surface, I think your best option would be to choose a lighter color.

Your other option, if you would rather go with a darker color, would be to choose a quartz product. You could go with a darker color and not worry about scratching. Keep in mind that with quartz you will have visible seams, unlike solid surfacing.
—teamlabri

Response 2

I agree about the scratching issue. Darker solid surfacing does scratch white rather easily. However, I see your dilemma in trying to incorporate a darker color into the design.

Maybe you should consider using two materials. Use a darker quartz or granite on the island (where those boys will be hanging out), and then use a complementary solid surface on the remainder of the countertops. I have done this on several projects and the results can be stunning!
—elizabeth.h.ckd

Response 3

I agree that the contrast might be nice, but the drawbacks must be addressed as well.

For instance, white nicks and scratches are definitely a problem. Only sanding will remove them and it’s a mess to undergo in a functioning kitchen.

The other issue is light reflectivity: The darker brown will cause light to die right there, whereas the lighter surface will bounce light, resulting in a lighter, brighter kitchen overall.

I think the first is reason enough to think twice myself. But anyone who has ever lived with a “too dark” kitchen knows why “light” is my most common request.

You may be able to have both by combining the two colors. Take a look at seaming an edge about 3" or 4" wide around the perimeter of your island in the darker brown color. That would give you the accent you are after without sacrificing light coloring. Use the sand color for the perimeter countertops with a similar color tile backsplash and pick up the brown as an accent in the backsplash.
—pderas

Installer Issues

Question

Out of curiosity (or to keep my sanity) what is your biggest issue with installers? We are a small company with one main crew. I design and handle some of the important administrative work (partially a control issue, partially because no one else can seem to stay on top of things).

I would say our biggest issue is the lack of communication and the seeming inability of people to read contracts and plans. Does anyone else care to share their experiences?
—amykitchens

Response 1

Amen to lack of reading the plans on the part of the installer! I provide a highly detailed set of 20-20 drawings, complete with notes, and I review these plans with the contractor before the job begins. Still, I find that contractors ignore instructions or don’t call unless they make a mistake and need extra material (and I usually include enough extra pieces and parts for the normal mistakes). A friend of mine who’s an architect says she has the same issue with contractors ignoring plans. It is very scary because so many things can potentially go wrong.
—grayslady

Response 2

I’ve been pretty lucky with installers so far. But I’ve also found that you can’t just dump the drawings in their lap and sit behind your desk. I try to make a daily trip to the job site and see what the installers are up to. It has prevented quite a few problems over the years. (Of course, I go and create other problems all on my own!)

I used to have a designer who worked for me who didn’t think it should be required to initiate conversations with the installers after the plans were handed over. Those jobs always had more installation issues than my projects would have with the same crew.

Details and nuances are often lost when transmitting information from one person to the other. For me, I’ve found that continual contact in the field is the best remedy for the problem.
—ScottFL

Response 3

I have great installers and we try really hard to provide extremely detailed drawings with full-size molding details. We even mark up a set of drawings for the installers and number them with the actual cabinet company item numbers. They love that. They call me all the time with questions. Still, if you’re not out there, stuff gets missed. But my installers have saved my bacon quite a few times, too.

It’s so important to nurture the relationship with any good installer. Ask them how you can make the process easier for them, bake them cookies and praise them to the client and to their boss.

I’ve found that, in the long run, the time invested in visiting the job site pays off big time. The clients love to see that we are so interested in their kitchen and we get to see the kitchen come to life and maybe learn a few things about the installation process.

Of course, there are a whole lot of unqualified “carpenters” who don’t look at the drawings, and really don’t know how to put stuff together. I actually took pictures of one project where the trim was totally butchered by the client’s installer (a moonlighting tile installer, I found out later – when they called me to ask if I could send my installer out to “fix” $5,000 of botched trim).

I then show those pictures to the occasional client who asks “Why is your guy so expensive?”
—Khat

Wall Oven Cabinet Calculations

Question

Do you use a mathematical formula for placing a tall oven cabinet diagonally in a corner? The cabinet line I am working with is Omega custom and/or Omega Dynasty semi-custom cabinets on this project instead of a cabinetmaker. I want the 30" double wall ovens to be recessed in the corner.

My question is how to figure the wall space needed for the cabinet and placing angled fillers on either side to continue the base and wall cabinets on either side with clearances for doors to open. In other words, does an installer need to attach the oven cabinet to the walls or can they be pulled forward from the corner?
—sks05

Response 1

I think you will need to do a custom drawing for Omega. I suggest that you use one of their recessed corner sink bases as a starting point for your drawing and adjust the size accordingly.

In my experience, most oven manufacturers want a platform for each of the ovens to rest on. The ovens aren’t anchored to anything. The spacing between the ovens should be shown in the oven specifications so you can include that in your drawing, too.
—grayslady

Response 2

Think about if you want the countertops to a 45-degree angle and to stop into the face of the cabinet, or if you want the oven cabinet deeper than the countertops so the counters top into the sides of the oven cabinets (I prefer this way).

If you bring the countertops into the face of the oven cabinet, you will need extra space beyond the width of the ovens.
—mccabgal

Response 3

A 30"-wide cabinet needs to be set 45-1/4" from the corner. A 33"-wide cabinet needs to be set 47-3/8" from the corner. This will put the corners of the cabinet at 24" from the wall. These dimensions are from a manufacturer’s chart. The general formula is 24 + 2 1/8" of wall dimension for each 3" of cabinet width.
—gastonmike

Response 4

The best way to do it, I think, is to determine how much room you need from corner to corner between the adjoining cabinets. If you want 30", then divide 30 by 1.414 (the square root of 2), and add the depth of the adjoining cabinets, say 24"). 30 divided by 1.414 is 21.22, plus 24 is 45.22 inches. If you want 33 inches, 33 divided by 1.414 plus 24 is 47.34. It doesn’t matter if you set the cabinet back or pull it forward, the formula is the same.

My other suggestion is to have your countertops made to come to a point against the tall cabinet. When you put a return finish panel on perpendicular to the wall, cut an opening in it below the upper cabinets, finish the inside of the opening with scribe, put a tambour or regular door on it and voila – instant appliance garage. You customer will appreciate you recovering some of the space lost in the corner.
—dans

Response 5

I have always wanted a formula for this, too, and have never heard of either one of these, so thank you very much!

I have to say, I have always done it a very old-fashioned way and literally laid it out on a big floor somewhere where I can draw it out (after I have done a drawing, of course). Although time consuming, it does give me a good sense of how things are going to look and is pretty much foolproof. Dimensions can be deceiving, even after you have been doing this for a while, and this formula makes me feel much more secure about the situation.

If I can, I do the same thing with complicated islands, too. It seems that I get a number of them (which I design, of course) that feature multi-levels at different angles with fixed posts.

Don’t forget to take into account whether you are working with frame or frameless cabinets. With frameless, remember you need fillers to each side of your angle cabinet, as well as to each side on your straight runs coming into the diagonal cabinet.
So if your cabinet is 30" wide, I would put a minimum of 1-1/2" wide filler to each side of it or you won’t clear with door/drawer opening and knob clearance. Although I love angles, they can be tricky and consume a lot of space.
—chrisc&d

Response 6

I would like to thank everyone for their Responses and help. I have even received scanned and faxed formulas from some of you. It is great to have this type of support and to know I am not the only one who finds this particular situation quite challenging.
—sks05

Free-standing Ranges

Question

My client is ordering a free-standing range, with cabinets to the left and right. He asked the question as to whether food spills could occur between the range and cabinets or top. My initial reaction is to want to tell him that, yes, it is possible, but it can also depend on the accuracy of who fabricates the countertop. Yet I want to give him a better answer.

Are there any suggestions out there? Has anyone done any creative solutions to this?
—crazycabs

Response 1

My suggestion is to go for a slide-in range. Of course food spills would run down the side of the cabinet, regardless of how the countertops are fabricated. There has to be a slight gap between the top and the stove, otherwise the stove would be impossible to be properly pushed into place.
—JWGoodrich2002

Response 2

I also only recommend slide-in ranges for my customers. It looks more professional and eliminates the food gap.
—ootb

Response 3

But that’s the nature of a free-standing range – it stands free of the cabinets and countertops! If spilling through the crack is an issue for him, then someone needs to tell him that a free-standing range is not going to please him.
I’m with everyone else: Slide-in is the way to go!
—ScottFL

Response 4

You may also want to stress the point to the client that once one type of oven is chosen, it could be expensive and difficult to convert the countertop cutout to a different type of oven.

If it is a financial issue that is affecting his decision to buy a free-standing range and he is not happy with it in the future, it will cost much more in the long run to switch over. Sometimes customers do not realize that appliances have different cutout requirements and you should point that out to him.
—MCR

Response 5

I was aware of this difference, too. Price is definitely the issue – although the free-standing model that he is getting is right in the same price range as the slide-in, so I really don’t quite understand his concern about the selection. I am still awaiting his Response!
—crazycabs

Response 6

If spills are truly the issue, you may want to advise your client to do a cooktop with a wall oven underneath. There is a big difference in the investment, but the counter would be one piece – and more importantly, spillproof!
—stevenwangel

Editor’s Note: Material for Pro to Pro has been excerpted from the online Designer Discussion Forum at the KitchenBathPros.com Web site under an exclusive agreement with Kitchen & Bath Design News.

KitchenBathPros.com is an online networking community for kitchen and bath professionals whose goal is to create a central forum for industry professionals, open 24/7, through which they can collectively share knowledge and information. This sharing of resources enhances the industry’s value to the public, builds more successful businesses and raises the bar of excellence in the industry.

To join in this free kitchen and bath industry discussion forum, sign up at KitchenBathPros.com, or contact Susan Serra for more information at info@kitcheninteriors.com.

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