The process of designing a kitchen, selecting cabinets and optional features, and coordinating the installation can be a very stressful process.  Quite a bit of work goes into the planning stage to ensure a smooth installation, and this work will usually pay off in a beautiful kitchen that with a host of new features.  Of course once the installation is complete, perhaps the most important homeowner task remains…

Inspecting your new kitchen

The inspection of your new kitchen can often begin during the actual installation.  As with any construction project, a reasonable expectation is that the installation begins on time.  As the installation crew begins their work, look at the way they handle the cabinets and the way in which they treat the other areas of your home, including your walls, floors, and ceiling.  If all of the material required for the job was delivered, you should see a smooth, predictable and uneventful process. If the installation crew looks frustrated, chances are there is design or product issues that they will be expected to resolve on site.

Once the installation is complete, you should be asked to complete a walk-through of your completed kitchen with either a member of the installation crew, possibly your designer / salesperson, or another employee of the cabinet dealership.  Be sure to take notes during the official walk-through (the dealer may have a form for you to use), and make sure the installer or dealer representative signs the completed inspection form noting any deficiencies (“punch list” item).   Take the time to be thorough during this walkthrough, paying particular attention to the items below.

The entire work area should be clean and free of all debris.  Look for stray fasteners (nails, staples, etc.) inside of the cabinets and drawers.   Although this is a relative minor item, cleanliness issues are frequently an indicator or poor workmanship.

Check all of the doors and drawers for proper alignment to a tolerance of less than 1/8”.  Today’s modern hinge and drawer glide systems mean that homeowners should expect near perfect alignment.  Also check to ensure that adjacent groups of cabniets, “cabinet runs” in indutry terms, are in a continuous plane.  This is particularly important if you have granite countertops being installed separately, because they cannot be installed on uneven cabinet surfaces.

Moving Elements
Cabinet doors should swing smoothly and with minimal resistance, and bumpers should be installed in the corners to minimize noise and vibration when closed.  All drawers and specialty items (Lazy Susan’s, tambour doors, swing-out spice shelves, etc.) should glide smoothing and without noise.  “Lumpy” motions are not acceptable with today’s use of ball-bearing roller systems and likely indicate a problem.

Surface Fit
There should be no vertical gaps between cabinets, against wall surfaces, or between appliances. Scribe molding can be used to conceal vertical gaps between a cabinet and wall, but verify that the cabinet is plumb and that the issue is with your walls, which is fairly common.  Also look for gaps between the toe kick (Thin, flat, 3 1/2” wide molding used at the bottom of the base cabinet) and the floor.   Shoe molding should be used here much the same as a scribe molding is used vertically and should be sealed with caulk to prevent moisture damage.

Look for consistency in the stain or paint without noticeable “puddling” or runs in the finish.  Run your hand over the entire surface of the cabinets to ensure smoothness and to look for any poorly hidden nails or tacks.  Keep in mind that with real wood cabinetry, there will be slight color variations between two cabinets and possibly even on a single cabinet.  On the other hand, two distinctly different colors should not be accepted.

As with your cabinet surfaces, countertops should smooth and free of any visual defects, bumps, or other imperfections.  Seems should be caulked with either a clear or color-matched product designed to produce a smooth, inconspicuous look.  The caulk should be neat and smooth without and lumpy bumps, globs, smears, and gaps.  Be sure to check the seals around the sink installation, the countertop against the wall and backsplash, and adjoining cabinets.