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  1. #1

    Question uneven base cabinets & countertops

    My house is 2 1/2 years old. After 6 months the granite countertops separated. The granite installer said it was due to settling. I consulted a granite expert who photographed my uneven base cabinets and said this has caused the countertops to shift. I then called in the builder. He reasoned that a new house is "wet" and shrinkage in the first year caused shift. He will not take off the contertops and reset the cabinets to level. I realize this would be big expense for the builder.
    However, aside from looking bad, any spilled liquid on the countertops leaks through the open seams onto the top of the base cabinets and sits there.
    Should I insist that the builder correct the problem or am I over-reacting?
    Last edited by marciacib@aol.com; 01-07-2009 at 04:11 PM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
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    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    If this happened after only 6 months, I would even to the point of suing if necessary.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
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    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    push hard. someone has to take care of it.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    Besides fighting like heck to get the builder to fix it, I would check the base cabinets to see if they are sufficiently fastened together and sufficiently fastened to the wall. Cabinets are screwed together from one face frame to the other and they become almost a single structure prior to screwing them to the studs in the wall. Besides keeping the face frames tight, this should keep one from dropping or raising along the run since it is fastened to the cabinet on either side.

    When did you have the issue documented and try to get it resolved - when it first showed up at 6 months? If you only recently brought it up, unfortunately, since it is 2-1/2 years I think it will be more difficult to get it fixed by the builder. How much have they "settled" (1/4", 1/2", 3/4" gaps)?

    If all else fails....Does this builder have any open houses on new developments in the area? Maybe a stroll through the model house among many prospective clients on a busy Saturday (good luck getting that scenario in this housing market) asking very loudly - Will these cabinets settle and ruin the countertop like in my house that this builder refuses to fix???? Having a couple pictures to share with prospective buyers in the model home is a nice touch also. Probably won't help, but may make you feel better!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    Quote Originally Posted by marciacib@aol.com View Post
    My house is 2 1/2 years old. After 6 months the granite countertops separated. The granite installer said it was due to settling. I consulted a granite expert who photographed my uneven base cabinets and said this has caused the countertops to shift. I then called in the builder. He reasoned that a new house is "wet" and shrinkage in the first year caused shift. He will not take off the contertops and reset the cabinets to level. I realize this would be big expense for the builder.
    However, aside from looking bad, any spilled liquid on the countertops leaks through the open seams onto the top of the base cabinets and sits there.
    Should I insist that the builder correct the problem or am I over-reacting?
    Lets see if I'm reading this right. Two years ago, when your house was six-months new, you noticed this having happened; and you're asking about it now? And you've let water run down into your base cabinets all this time for two years?

    First things first, check with your real estate/contract attorney regarding laws in your State. Most states have rules regarding time limits for lawsuits - clock may be ticking, about to run out of time, or the clock may have stopped. Your waiting all this time and doing nothing about the situation, yet contributing to further damage may have negatively effected your legal "position" - no mitigation efforts, contributing to further damage, etc. MOLD has been a horendous issue in the courts over the last decade plus - with the home owner on the short end (both insurers and contractors).

    This "shift" has happened at a junction/seam of countertop slabs? This seam run the same direction as your structural floor support?

    Sounds like your cabinets weren't installed to support the countertops and/or someone stood on them. Often base cabinets are leveled with thin strips of wood called shims, rarely are the carcasses installed on a scribed base or the backs scribed. If the cabinets weren't level on the top for the countertop material it too may have been shimed or blocked up. If the countertop is exceptionally heavy or there are voids between the carcasses and the walls support ledges may need to be installed for the countertop edge/s to rest on. It also wouldn't be the first time a builder, fabricator and cabinet installer didn't properly configure supporting understructure to handle the increased load of a large kitchen sink (full of water).

    If the floor wasn't structurally strong enough to handle the significant "dead load" and "live load" of heavy cabinetry, stone slab countertops and heavy concentrated loading could be an issue from below (structural). It wouldn't be the first time a builder created a structure with minimal code requirements for flex and loads, then finished it off near or beyond capacity (especially with newer materials like manufactured joists, etc.).

    No one could know without some investigations on site. In the meantime countertops are not for sitting, standing, etc.

    Before I started getting quotes to de-install/reinstall I'd get all the plan documents, etc. you have, look up what is available and missing from your collection from the local building or zoning office, and INVEST in the consultation services of a Structural Engineer. The Engineer can calculate the forces (weights, stresses, etc.) in play and check out things regards to your "settling", and advise you if you're underbuilt for your loading plan, and even draw up plans, specifications, and materials lists should work be advised (which you can use as a guideline to hire such work out). This way if the engineer structural remedial work or some re-engineering work is required you can have that done in between the removal and reinstallation.

    If all is well structurally, then you could deinstall, get cabinets, floor/subfloor, wall cavity, checked out for water damage and/or rot, mold, etc. (environmental), remediate if necessary, then if the the cabinets are salvagable - reinstalled, beefed up if necessary support structure for countertop, sink, other appliances installed upon or within, and have countertop slabs reinstalled.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    P.S. a few PICTURES would have been nice - have no idea the extent of this "level" problem, shift, seam spreading, etc. actually IS. Snap a few and put a level up in the pictures. Show plumb, etc.

  7. #7

    Question Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    Thank you all for taking the time to reply. In wanting to get to the point I omitted all reasons why the situation has dragged on for 2 1/2 years. When the problem first occurred, at 6 months, I called the granite installer. They said it was due to the cold weather, the counters being on outside walls. They said to wait till spring, to see if the seams closed up. I called them in spring, they came out and re-glued the seams. That took care of year one. In the fall seams came apart again. It took me months to get them to reply. They said it was due to settling and they could not do anything. The builder denied settling as there were no cracks in walls. Next I found the expert granite installer (he did Bellagio in Vegas!) He cited the uneven cabinets. Next I spent time contacting the installers from the cabinet supplier only to find that the builder installed them. Next I contacted the builder. He had me order trim. He installed trim to cover the gaps where the granite meets the cabinet and put new silicone all around and commented that the granite in his own kitchen was more separate and uneven than mine. He explained about shrinkage and said the new silicone would last 20 years. Within a month the silicone tore open at the backsplash and seams. The sink to granite has a gap once again. As for the leaking, a cracked vase leaked out on the countertop. That is the first time I was aware of water going through the crack because of the volume of water involved.
    All these steps took time and I never pushed; always waited weeks or months for replies and action. It took almost 2 years to find out what the problem really was. I stood on the countertop to clean the window behind the sink. I did this for 13 years in my previous home with no problem. Could my 130 lbs. have caused this whole mess??? I will get some photos of the cabinets. The difference is slight, maybe 1/4" to 1/2" Also I will follow up on plan documents. My builder has been in business a long time and is a quality builder. This probably is not a structural problem. (I hope) Again, thank you all so much.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    First a quality builder would not install cabinets that are uneven by " to ". Second if the cabinets were uneven the Granite installer should have known better than to install on an insufficiently prepared surface. Just my opinion.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  9. #9
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    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    jack is very correct. you should never have that uneven of cabinets. and if they were that way when the granite man installed or even done his template, he should have pointed this out and refused to do the install 1/4 is ok to shim but not 1/2.

    M.I.A. or the marble institute of america which is the governing body for those in the natural stone industry sets the industry standard of what is acceptable and what isn't. even if a person isn't a memeber of the mia you can still point to them as to what is proper and what isn't. and 1/4 is the max for shimming. but around the sink I don't like to have any shims at all I want the sink to sit flat on the cabinet in any areas that I have a cut out of any kind. you figure you have the weight of the granite and a sink loaded with water and all the pressure is transfered to the fastening points (if its an undermount) or transfered to the edges of the sink (if its a top mount) in either case it puts quite a load at the narrow pieces at the front and the back and if the top has been shimmed it can make it prone to breakage. and as far as the seams are you refering to joints in the granite top itself or are you talking about where the splashes meet the top?

  10. #10

    Default Re: uneven base cabinets & countertops

    Thank you for responding. Seams have separated all along the backsplash, which is granite and at joints. Granite is uneven at joints, creating a ridge.

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