When I bought this condo a year ago it had a brand new kitchen
cabinets. However, some time ago I noticed small cracks between joints.
Also, cabinet doors seem not to be aligned properly (as if the wood was
bended a little). This was not happening a year ago. These cabinets are
top-notch and (supposedly) of high quality. Here are some pictures:
Did this happen because of dry/hot air? Is there anything that I can do
to prevent any further damage or fix existing conditions?
I agree with you the pictures sure look like the joints are coming apart.
The picture of the doors with the space in the middle would have turned me
off from the git go.
You need a competant local person to find the root cause. There might be
more than what you see as a problem.
Could very well be moisture/dry condition... but the cabinets are not
high quality with all due respect friend. If the joints are loose, you
can remove the doors, dismantle them (frame from panels) clean the
mitres and re-assemble and re glue. Or you can get a contractor
(Cabinet Maker) to do this for you. Though from the look of the doors
they are not worth the money to pay someone to fix them.
If you do this yourself you will need Clamps to hold the assemblies
tight over night while the glue sets.
Or.. you can order new doors
Post this in rec.woodworking and let the wood-dorkers have a look at
it. It looks like several things went on. The cabinets look like they
were made by a local, I was going to say cabinetmaker, but I changed my
mind. The profile of the door frame is blocky, and frankly looks kind
of amateurish. That could be by design, but coupled with the other
problems they probably were done by someone without a lot of
cabinetmaking experience and little knowledge of wood movement.
Normally a cabinetmaker would have used a profiled edge and connected
the frame pieces with a more appropriate joint.
Picture framing joints - that is, simple, miters - are doomed from the
start. Wood moves with swings in the seasons from temperature and
humidity. The wider the wood frame pieces, the more of a problem those
seasonal movements become. A better joint would have been a half-lap
miter. I'm not 100% that your cabinets are simple miters, but that's
what it looks like from here.
As someone else pointed out, the gap between the cabinet doors is
horrendous. There's no need for such a large gap.
Custom made cabinets can be construed by some to be "top-notch and of
high quality", but for my money, I want something that will last and
look good for a long time. I'm not sure of your recourse, but you
probably should have a cabinetmaker take a look at the cabinets and
make a diagnosis. Most likely the problem is only with the doors. You
could replace just the doors - there are places that you can find on
the web that will make doors to your specifications for a pretty
reasonable price. Who's going to pay for the doors and installation if
you do decide to go that way is another question.
The seller probably had no reason to suspect that the cabinets were
iffy, so there's not much likelihood that he concealed something from
you. And I'm not sure what legal obligation the original carpenter has
So, have it diagnosed by someone local, get an estimate to
repair/replace the doors, and talk to your real estate agent and a
I agree with R:
1. Post on rec.woodworking and ask honest opinions;
2. The cabinet doors look odd. Not only the space in between the
doors, but the placement of the handles.
3. Mitered joints were the wrong choice; coped joints were the right
OK, thanks everyone for responding. I'm really worried since all these
cabinets were custom made and the price tag was rather high. It may not
look good on my pictures, though. Here is a better perspective (photo
taken a year ago):
I guess it will cost a lot to replace all doors.
I'll have to check if the warranty still covers it.
the person who made them was qualified if those are coming apart
the way I think they are. And is that doo gap typical? If so,
wow, that's a real dealbreaker to me, and also shows the
inexperience of whoever built them.
I think I'd be wondering how they were attached to the wall,
too. Do any of them get filled heavy with cans etc.?
I guess if those "gaps" are movable, can be sprung open/closed
by hand, I'd be pretty quick to respond, but ... if they're tight
and not moving, I might be easier to get along with. I'd have to
hands-on to get a real feel for the situation.
drips that get into the joint. Have children? They might hang on the
doors a bit too heavy and cause the joints to move. If you can find the
previous owner's warranty, you could have the installer check them out.
Yes, this happened because of seasonal humidity changes. In dry winter
humidity, wood shinks and a mitre joint like that will open up on the
inside edge. If the cabinets had been built while the wood was
unusually dry, then the joints would have opened up on the outside edge
during humid weather. That's just what a mitre joint does regardless
of who built it.
I would say its not the skill of the craftsman who built the doors that
is the problem, the real problem is the person who designed it to have
a mitre joint in the first place. I can see how the mitre detail was
part of the design that was carried through to the drawer fronts. This
is a case where design incorrectly won out over functionality, IMO.
Kind of like some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, they are considered
masterpieces of design, however a number of them are caving in due to
poor structural design.
The better way to make a door frame is a cope joint, as described here
OK, thanks everyone for responding. I really appreciate your comments
and suggestions.I will try to approach the seller for a warranty since
he had renovated the kitchen before I bought the appartment.
Apart from joints coming apart, the doors don't shut properly (as if
the wood was bended somehow) - there is a gap in the lower part, while
the upper part seems to be aligned correctly. Here is a picture which
(not the best picture but it should give you an idea)
I agree with you ken, it's definitely a wood movement problem. that is
a classic mitre joint that has opened up because of shrinkage. A stick
of wood will shrink in width and not in length--so a 45 degree angle
will no longer be 45. You might get away with a mitre with quarter sawn
oak or fir or something else stable, but flat sawn maple is going to
You don't necessarily need a cope joint. A butt joint with a mortise
and tenon or biscuit would work fine. Yeah, it's a design problem!
Don't blame the cabinetmaker, unless he designed 'em!
I agree with you that the cabinet doors were essentially designed to
fail. Who is responsible for the method of construction is unknown.
The OP also posted this topic in rec.woodworking. Over there I pointed
out that since he knew the gaps were there when he bought the place,
and neither the OP nor his inspector objected, there might not be any
recourse. To anyone with any knowledge of cabinetry and woodworking
the unsuitability of a miter joint in that application is obvious.
The OP needs to blame someone, otherwise it's his, and his agents',
faults for not picking up on it. That's not always easy to face.
Yes, and I pointed out that joints *weren't* falling apart at that
time, and also cabinet doors closed correctly. So whoever made these
cabinets is to blame. When you buy a new car which breakes a year later
who do you blame for? Perhaps yourself, that you didn't inspect it? Not
everyone knows woodworking and not every home inspection covers every
detail, and not every home inspector knows woodworking.
What makes you think the corners weren't originally cut at 90 degrees?
The pictures show exactly what happens when a mitered corner is made
with wood that isn't fully dried. The gap opens up at the inside
corner when that happens, not equally.
Why would it shrink the most at the shortest-inside dimension, the grain
is lenghtwise it should shrink equaly. If the lenght of the wood made a
difference the outside corner would shrink most. Maybe all were cut on a
poorly set saw, just under 45, there is just to much a gap to not be
human error in the saws set up. All corners look off by the same exact
measurement, a 44 9/10 cut not 45
the length of the stile doesn't shrink (much), but the width does.
basic triangle geometry says that you wind up with an angle greater
than 45, thus spreading at the heel of the miter. seen it many times in
If the wood shrinks equally (there is a difference for radial and
tangential shrinkage for every wood species), then the outside edge of
the stile/rail would shrink towards the inner edge - if it wasn't
restrained/blocked by the connecting stile/rail at the miter. The
bottom rail can't shrink upwards because the side rail lengths don't
change and the tips of the miters stay in place. That only leaves the
inside edge free to move with shrinkage - so the inside edge of the
bottom rail shrinks downwards. The stiles do the same thing, so the
inside meeting corner of the miter shows the greatest amount of
separation due to shrinkage. So, it's like Marson said, and the angle
effectively becomes more acute with shrinkage.
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