Staining Birch
south188ave
March 22, 2014 in Design Dilemma
In building our new home, our designer helped us choose a beautiful dark stain to go on our birch cabinetry throughout our home called New Ebony by Sherwin Williams. The painter applied one coat of the stain (which the builder says is "the industry standard.") The painter then, applied one coat of sealer and two coats of lacquer and covered the cabinetry to protect it. When the cover was removed to put on the counter tops we were mortified at the results (see photos below.) It is splotchy and uneven to say the least. We guessed that the problem was that another coat of stain was needed before the sealer? But we admittedly don't know anything about cabinetry staining. The builder told us that another coat would not have made a difference because birch is difficult to stain and would not have taken more stain than was already put on. Is the problem the birch? Is it a bad batch of stain? Is it the application? Is it the construction of the cabinets? I don't know anything about wood or staining or cabinetry, but I know the results we got are not good. The builder is charging us to have the stain fixed with a tinted lacquer.
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Sophie Wheeler
Birch is difficult to stain. It requires an actual finishing professional in a professional environment with a muli step process and clean finishing room to get good results. It's ALWAYS worse in the hands of a builder's hack doing things onsite. A painter isn'ta cabinet finisher, and finishing should NEVER occur onsite. The actual problem is the cheapness of the builder and his failureu to hire any but the lowest bid. I'd guess you are in TX as hat kind of thing is rampant there because customers don't know to insist on a better process. The cabinets look site built aswell. I'd have that removed and insist on a quality replacement built and finished by an actual cabinet maker or factory supplier.
March 22, 2014 at 9:09am        Thanked by south188ave
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Rockin' Fine Finish
the birch needed to be Benited or pre stain conditioner prior to staining this was the builders or applicators error
March 22, 2014 at 9:10am        Thanked by south188ave
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
Agree with all the above. The process used was incorrect. Birch is a very difficult wood to finish. It should have been sanded, sanded, sanded, sealed, stained, sealed, sanded, top coat, sanded, top coat. A professional with knowledge, experience and judgement is needed.
March 22, 2014 at 9:18am        Thanked by south188ave
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Yarbro Home Improvement LLC
Agree, the Benite ( pre stain conditioner ) was missed. Without a doubt! That is a must "Do" step with Birch. Sorry for your frustration
March 22, 2014 at 9:24am        Thanked by south188ave
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jpp221
Birch (and maple) are difficult to stain. The porosity of the wood varies from spot to spot, so the stain absorbs unevenly. That's why they are favourite woods for clear finishes, not stained.

At this point, you might try spraying some brown coloured lacquer over top, mostly on the pale areas, to even it out. But it's not foolproof (and takes a bit of an artist's eye to do right). You could also strip the lacquer off and try staining again (once again, most heavily in the pale areas).
March 22, 2014 at 9:43am        Thanked by south188ave
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ProSource Memphis
Were the cabinets site constructed as well as site finished? I suggest you examine the overall project quality much closer to decide your level of comfort with it.
March 22, 2014 at 9:49am        Thanked by south188ave
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diyher
they knew nothing about staining soft wood obviously. I'm staining my own Cherry kitchen cabinets at the moment and did a lot of research first. I found a respected wood worker/furniture maker in VA that created his own product. I bought it and put it on my cabinets first, let it dry then applied my stain. No blotches what so ever.
http://www.cn-woodworking.com/cn-pre-color-conditioner/
March 22, 2014 at 9:57am        Thanked by south188ave
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diyher
the video explaining things is rather long, but very informative as to how all the different woods are affected by stains both before and after his prestain.
March 22, 2014 at 10:01am        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
I'm very disappointed with our builder for failing to take responsibly for this or even budge on this issue. They have said we can pay for the cabinets to be fixed, leave the cabinets, or walk away from the house that we have put so much time and effort into.
Here are some pictures of their cabinetry in the model home for our builder. They assured me in the model they also used birch, it was done by the same painter, and it was only one coat of stain.
I am thankful that we painted many of the cabinets white so we don't have to fix everything! I have vowed to review my builder on Houzz after we close.
March 22, 2014 at 10:01am   
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south188ave
Pro Source Memphis, the cabinets were constructed in a shop, but finished once on site. The cabinet maker was very kind and agreed to replace the ends of the island because they looked striped once stained.
March 22, 2014 at 10:06am   
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giniaginia
I don't know whose problem it is. If I was the contractor, of course I would know many issues can arise in staining wood, and I would say I need a sample to give my finisher. As the home owner if you want a certain look, its best to give an sample.
The best thing for you to do at this point is to give the builder a piece of wood with the exact finish you desire or a good photo. Just saying you want New Ebony stain hasn't worked. There may be a wood issue- each piece takes stain differently. But a good finisher will be able to achieve almost any look using different products and techniques.
If you are going for a distressed look- the stained lacquer may work? If you want it to have a more solid finish, removing the current finish is necessary.
Good luck.
March 22, 2014 at 10:09am     
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south188ave
Giniaginia, we had a stain sample made on birch. The stain does not match the sample. I'll attach a pic of the sample next to the cabinetry and a picture of the swatch of New Ebony from Sherwin Williams.
March 22, 2014 at 10:21am   
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Sophie Wheeler
What about the inconsistent gaps at the doors and out of square doors and the overall general poor build quality of the cabinets themselves? I would NOT accept that kitchen as shown, and would be worried that the overall quality is representative the rest of the home as a whole.
March 22, 2014 at 10:23am        Thanked by south188ave
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diyher
they didn't choose the right wood for the project. If you pay for cabinets to be stained, the cabinet maker chooses the right woods so they match and not look striped as you showed us on the ends.
March 22, 2014 at 10:30am        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
I agree Sophie Wheeler. The builder has assured me the doors, etc. will be adjusted (and in some cases, replaced) after the staining issue is resolved. While I am very concerned about the condition of the island and the condition of the stain I have been there daily to watch how things are going. Not sure why the cabinets have turned out so badly, but it will need to be fixed before we close. If not, our lawyer has advised us how to proceed. ....That is if I don't die of a heart attack from all of the stress first!
March 22, 2014 at 10:36am     
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Sophie Wheeler
It's the perimeter too. Not just the island. Your builder doesn't have enough eye for detail to be a true custom builder. Nor enough integrity to insist on quality results either, apparently. I would be very cautious about the actual technical invisible portions of the build. Do you have an owner's representative, like the architect, involves to review the build at various stages of completion? Good thing you have a lawyer on board already is what I think.
March 22, 2014 at 10:51am        Thanked by south188ave
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Yarbro Home Improvement LLC
"They have said we can pay for the cabinets to be fixed, leave the cabinets, or walk away from the house that we have put so much time and effort into"

Why do I get the impression that this goes much deeper then a piece of granite and the island cabinetry that is FUBAR.

Honestly, the builder said " if you don't like it, then walk away" ?

Wow! I'm speechless by how unprofessional and flippant that comment is.

South188 I'm assuming that you are addressing these issue with a tone of respect and not with a arrogant, demeaning and self of entitlement attitude?
March 22, 2014 at 11:15am        Thanked by south188ave
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
With respect, you can choose the right wood to build with, but you can't tell how it is going to take stain. There are grades that wholesalers handle based on grading standards. You cannot tell how a piece of wood is going to take stain when in the rough and in a warehouse. It may look great but after prepping it the staining may or may not look good. That is why it is so important to follow a process in a controlled environment. Birch in not a softwood. The blotchiness is due to change of direction of the grain and where it is dark is where the grain is coming "out" of the board and absorbs like end grain does. Sanding is very important. Woods like birch, cherry, and maple need to be sanded to a finer grit than woods such as oak. How much comes with experience and the type of sanding equipment and paper you use.

Samples are vitally important. Both the owner and finisher need to sign off on the sample and that is what the final result must look like. The sign off process protects both parties.

I hand pick every board used for every client, even reclaimed wood. Plywood is another story (in this case what was used on the ends of the island). The striping on the ends is due to the grain direction of the veneer on the plywood changing. You really have no control on what you get other than you order the best you can from a competent supplier and stay away from all imports from the orient.
March 22, 2014 at 11:43am        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
Thank you, Yarbro! You are right. I have not been demeaning or arrogant. We just want to get to the bottom of the issue....is it the cabinets, the construction, the stain, the application...? The builder is very good friends with the painting sub and has been very defensive of him. I like the painting sub, he seems like a wonderful guy, but the pictures show how the cabinets turned out. I'm not blaming the painter or anyone for that matter. I just want to know what went wrong. The builder maintains firmly that I am "just unhappy with the stain I picked" and trying to get him to pay to change it. I think anyone who looks at the pictures would agree the issue isn't the color of the stain I picked.
March 22, 2014 at 11:54am     
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giniaginia
Its the finish. A good finisher will be able to replicate the sample piece. Yes, you chose a stain and manufacturer. But at the beginning of the staining procedure when the stainer and builder see it is not coming out like the sample given, a discussion should have been made. "How do we fix this?" And there are ways to fix it. Other products and techniques.
It can absolutely get to your desired finish. If your builder can't do it, hire a decorative artist. They will improvise and make it look beautiful.
March 22, 2014 at 3:26pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Yarbro Home Improvement LLC
Okay. I was just curious. This is the 2nd thread you've started. In my opinion, and repecfully, I felt you were nit picking on the stone issue in the butlers pantry. Its my experience and opinion that when a contractor makes such a flippant remark as he did, the conclusion is that they are fed up with the customer and have run out of patience.

I'm going to assume that you pointed out other minor issues that you have had and that he addressed to your satisfaction

Regardless, the cabinets don't look good and are unacceptable in my opinion.

Any idea if he is following this thread and the other?
March 22, 2014 at 3:39pm   
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south188ave
Yarbro, I don't think our builder is even on Houzz. I've looked, but couldn't find them. Before the granite issue we really haven't had any issues. I'm not sure why they reacted the way the way they did, but they have told me repeatedly that the way the stain went on is normal, they stand behind the painter, this is up to industry standard, and that I am just trying to get them to pay to change it because "I didn't like my selection." I think now that we have hit a problem we are seeing their true customer service. It's beyond disappointing. They have blamed me, they have blamed the designer, they have blamed the stain, Sherwin Williams...etc. but they refuse to take responsibility in any way.
March 22, 2014 at 4:16pm     
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Rockin' Fine Finish
have Sherwin Williams come out to the house independently of your contractor and have them tell you what went wrong they do it all the time to trouble shoot coatings problems
March 22, 2014 at 5:58pm        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
Just wanted to update everyone, we had the Sherwin Williams sales rep out to the house. He looked at the cabinets and said, "That is just the way birch takes stain." I asked if they have a disclaimer to let people know that new ebony won't turn out like the sample on birch. He said no, that is just the characteristic of birch. I showed him pictures of other birch cabinets from several other homes I have gone to see that have turned out beautifully (without the splotchiness and unevenness that our cabinets have.) He just shrugged. I asked if another coat would have made a difference. He told me no. He said the painter did nothing wrong with the application. (I am sure that Sherwin Williams does not want to lose business from the painter.) So, we can pay to fix our brand new cabinets, or the builder will return our deposit if we sign a non-disclosure and leave the new home that is on the lot we always wanted :( I am still in shock. I am ready for this nightmare to end.
March 26, 2014 at 7:58pm   
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lizpb85
If you pay to fix them, what are they going to do to them to 'fix' them since they are all saying that it is the nature of the wood?
March 26, 2014 at 8:07pm        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
A tinted lacquer or lacquer paint are my options, since they have already been sealed and lacquered.
March 26, 2014 at 8:10pm     
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Rockin' Fine Finish
wow im so sorry I cant believe that he didn't mention the conditioner needed before applying the stain they sell it in the store for gods sake this guy doesn't know what he is talking about. A shrug says it all he doesn't know anything about wood. where are you located?
March 26, 2014 at 8:20pm        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
Omaha, Nebraska
March 26, 2014 at 8:21pm   
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Rockin' Fine Finish
Well at this point you could add a tinted lacquer but I wouldn't you wont get the look you want just have them painted with a lacquer paint.
March 26, 2014 at 8:24pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Yarbro Home Improvement LLC
This is the regional Sherwin Williams sales representative? Or the representative from the supply store where you purchased the stain?

It sounds like a CYA. I agree, that the representative has more to lose by taking your side as opposed to ruffling the feathers of the home builder.

What is the representatives name and direct email.

I'm curious how much influence us Houzzers have.

I'm willing to shoot out a email
March 26, 2014 at 8:29pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Rockin' Fine Finish
I will show these pics to my local rep and see what she says
March 26, 2014 at 8:59pm        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
Thank you, Yarbro and Rockin' Fine Finish! I am going to try and call the SW national line tomorrow and see if I can talk to someone there. I'll get the info, title and email for the rep I talked to, tomorrow. It's so nice to have support of other Houzzers! I truly appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to comment and give me advice!
March 26, 2014 at 9:07pm     
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south188ave
I spoke to a customer service representative at Sherwin Williams today. They gave me the name and number of the district manager for my area. The district manager is going to meet me at the house tomorrow morning. He has asked the painter to meet us there. The painter has said he will do his best to be there too. (Both the district manager and I agreed it's best if he is). I will post an update after we meet. Wish me luck!
March 27, 2014 at 10:54am   
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Yarbro Home Improvement LLC
So, who actually was it that you met with previously? His official title?
March 27, 2014 at 10:56am        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
On Monday I met with Michael (Mike) Sweeney. He is a Sherwin Williams Field Representative.
March 27, 2014 at 11:24am   
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giniaginia
I'm shocked about the entire situation with you and your builder. I wouldnt waste more energy talking to Sherwin Williams. You could probably get someone to remove and restain for $3000.
March 27, 2014 at 1:17pm        Thanked by south188ave
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diyher
she shouldn't have to pay another $3,000 to restain. It was the mistake of the so called pro that stained it.
March 27, 2014 at 1:24pm        Thanked by south188ave
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diyher
notice (The painter has said he will do his best to be there too.) that means he probably has no intention of being there. If he did, he would have said, (Yes, I will be there) He is a painter, not a wood stainer, there is a difference. If he was a wood worker and stainer, he would have known right off the bat, to apply a blotch control formula first. I'm not even a pro, and I did research before I started my project and learned about the blotch control before staining my Cherry kitchen cabinets. Hope this is resolved to your satisfaction. The fact that they don't care if they refund your money and lose a house buyer is a bad sign.
March 27, 2014 at 1:38pm        Thanked by south188ave
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MS Colours Inc
A sure fix would be to paint with expresso fine paints of Europe brilliant.
March 27, 2014 at 2:12pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Cancork Floor Inc.
What would it cost to have new cabs brought in that will take the stain in the way that you want? Compare that to the "hope they can fix it" nightmare. If you have the budget (and you can get the builder to meet you half way), then I would say scrap these cabs and find a whole new unit that will accept the stain you want. You may have to put up with a heavier grain - like oak - but you will get the predictable stain you are looking for.

It will probably take another few weeks, but it will get you out of the nightmare and back into "normal" happy that all home builders experience = a few weeks behind and a few dollars over budget is considered "normal" for a build.
March 27, 2014 at 2:24pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Rockin' Fine Finish
Cancork makes a good point refinishing those cabinets is not a good idea get new cabs to stain or paint the current island
March 27, 2014 at 2:41pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
You shouldn't have to settle for something you didn't want because of poor finishing. I would try to get the contractor to replace the cabinet unfinished and then find a finisher on your own capable of doing what you want. Since it is an island have it done in a controlled shop environment. Or just have a cabinet shop do it all and have the contractor pay for it. You shouldn't have to settle for a course grained wood (oak) just because your contractor's painter doesn't know how to finish birch.

Remember to have complete samples done no matter what approach you take. Have a step board made showing each step of the finishing process. If new cabinets; bare wood, sanded wood, sealed wood, stained wood, 1st coat of finish, 2nd coat of finish, all on one board, with notes. If you and the finisher agree to the process and the results, both sign the back and go for it.
March 27, 2014 at 2:41pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Cancork Floor Inc.
Excellent advice with the "Step Board" = quality control! If they missed a step, your step board will tell you where.
March 27, 2014 at 3:14pm        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
The quote I have received to fix all of the stained cabinetry in the house with a tinted lacquer or lacquer paint is nearly $6000. Even if the the issue is not with the stain, I would hope that the Sherwin Williams reps could give me an honest, professional opinion about what went wrong. I understand that Sherwin Williams is worried about losing the painter's business, but I'm hoping the meeting will help us know what went wrong anyway.

No matter what is wrong with the the stain, everyone (except those on the builder's payroll) I have talked to agrees that the home builder should be working to help us fix the situation. Sadly, they are not. I'm hoping the Sherwin Williams rep can provide some answers.
March 27, 2014 at 3:19pm     
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south188ave
Met with with the Sherwin Williams District Representative and Field Representative at the house. The painter did not show up.

The district rep agreed that about 80% the stain on the cabinetry does not match the stain sample, but would not say why he thought that was. They offered to pay the $250 cost of the tinted lacquer or paint to fix it. This leaves $5,700 for labor and other materials as "our responsibility."
March 28, 2014 at 10:07am   
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Rockin' Fine Finish
I would dig in my feet and have the builder and painter carry the costs to fix it
March 28, 2014 at 11:07am        Thanked by south188ave
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
I really don't think it is Sherwin-Williams problem. It is an application problem and at this point I don't think you will ever get the contractor and his painter to agree to anything unless you apply some pressure. That said, I don't know what your options are. Maybe a consult with an attorney is in order. If the remedy comes out of your pocket, I certainly wouldn't have these guys do it.
March 28, 2014 at 11:38am        Thanked by south188ave
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bubblyjock
I quite like it, as it looks to me like re-claimed wood, in its mis-matchedness. Hope you get a satisfactory resolution! Reclaimed Barnwood Kitchen Cabinets Twin Creeks
March 28, 2014 at 12:48pm        Thanked by south188ave
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bubblyjock
I feel your frustration and disappointment, south188ave - you'd think that, at the very least, Sherwin Williams would cooperate - there are a LOT of people follow Houzz these days, and it would behoove them to help you here.
March 28, 2014 at 12:53pm        Thanked by south188ave
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rocketjcat
I believe you mentioned that these we're built offsite by a cabinet maker. Have you spoken to him? My cabinetmaker has a great understanding of wood and does his own paint/staining/lacquering in his paint shop and delivers the finished product. Perhaps yours also has a expert knowledge of the finishing required for the cabinets he built and could even help in your situation? Can he come out for a look? Do you have more cabinets in this 'condition' or is it just the island? I hope it's just the island.... :-(
March 28, 2014 at 1:13pm        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
The island is the worst of it, but there are more like this. The cabinet maker came out and looked on Monday at my request. He said he didn't know. He told me that they are still using the same supplier, they never use paint grade birch..,etc. Basically he said he's "not sure what happened, but it wasn't the material."
March 28, 2014 at 1:52pm   
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sbrustein
Would you consider painting the cabinets? I had an issue with a hickory vanity with such variability in the wood tone that no amount of the darkest stain looked at all decent. I wound up painting the vanity to cover the wood. Your cabinets might look very nice in gray or cream or white.
March 28, 2014 at 3:35pm        Thanked by south188ave
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south188ave
I think that is a good idea, sbrustein. I have thought about painting the island white or gray. The designer suggested a dark gray/charcoal color for the island and using the tinted lacquer on the rest. But, she suggests staying with the tinted lacquer if it will work and turn out the right color. I would even consider painting all of the cabinets white, but in the end I think it will be too light with the light colored wood flooring that is going in soon.
March 28, 2014 at 4:26pm     
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sbrustein
South- painting everything might be your cheapest and best option. If you think the white cabinetry won't offer enough contrast with light wood floors, consider a countertop on the darker side for contrast. You can then paint the sland a charcoal color and use a lighter counter top. It might look really spectacular. The cabinets have nice lines, but.I agree that the splotchiness is pretty awful.
March 28, 2014 at 4:34pm        Thanked by south188ave
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anna54
Don't walk away now....this house sounds like it is your dream home. The pictures I saw of the kitchen look beautiful ...I know you are disappointed in the stain of the island. In my very humble opinion I think painting it will be the most economical route. When the kitchen is all put together and accessorized it will be " stunning"

Good luck with what every you decide.
March 30, 2014 at 6:26am        Thanked by south188ave
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rocketjcat
Instead of changing your original color scheme, with your pretty choice of New Ebony stain for the island... why not have sherwin Williams mix paint to match that stain, instead of changing to white or gray? I think that would be beautiful!
March 30, 2014 at 6:52am        Thanked by south188ave
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Fashion Bird Interiors
Hi there,

I hope you were able to resolve your dilemma. I have had my ups and downs regarding cabinetry and staining. Birch is difficult to stain, as are many hard woods. The other snag was not staining them off site. The curing time between each of the correct steps to making those cabinets a beautiful dark stain, is ample. Your designer picked a beautiful stain. The application process was were this went off the rails.

Fortunately, totally a fixable product. Not on the cheap, tho'.They need to be brought back to accept more stain. Gel, or even Tar-thick stains which are available. They go on thick and can be layered to create the right amount of depth and tone. They are not as thick as paint. There are many manufacturers who specialize in finishes of this sort.

Also, that color of stain is put on 2 to 3 coats before your Clear Coat. Clear Coat could be another 2 -3 coats. This process is really important to the finished product.

Painters focus on paint. Finishers, stain and specialty finishes. It's best to keep those work specialties separate. Some cabinet makers will also do staining, but it is not that common.

I once had to fix a painters attempt to stain a staircase. Big mistake, they didn't know you had to wipe the stain off . Lines, splotches and insane amount of unevenness prevailed. I had them sand it all back down, and I stained it correctly. It turned out beautiful. Thankfully.

Good luck! :)
March 30, 2014 at 11:49am        Thanked by south188ave
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valtex
WOW and OMG. I was directed to this thread after asking a dilemma question regarding stain. I am in Texas and YES, finishing cabs in the home seems to be the norm here. I am even more wary now but it is too late to change horses. At least with the advise noted here, perhaps I can prevent problems. However, the finishers here do their work in home after unfinished cabs are installed and I am stuck with that for sure. All 4 cabinet makers I considered have finishers they suggest, but none sell a finished product. Hope this lady finds a solution to her problem that includes keeping her dream house. Houzzers Rock.
March 30, 2014 at 4:32pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Bridget
First thing, read your contract very carefully or get to a good attorney to review it, you maybe covered there.

Some options:
Contact your architect.
Contact you local TV station, they sometimes have trouble shooter segments, bad publicity.
If you are in a development I would also contact that developer.

Who recommended the builder to you? Has your designer worked with him before?
If this is you dream house, it should be done the way you want it.
March 30, 2014 at 5:47pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Belinda Arbon
In Australia we have legal rights with situations such as what you are going through. I had a look and you seem to have something similar. Be should to keep notes and dates of phone conversations and any emails you have with relation to this. Best of luck http://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/what-we-do
March 30, 2014 at 8:43pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Belinda Arbon
Started to say one thing and now my grammar if off...Be sure..rather than..Be should :)
March 30, 2014 at 8:45pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Fashion Bird Interiors
Really, falls on the person whom said they can do the finish on your cabinets, then didn't finish them. Look to the contract and the warranty perio, for what will be covered. A lawyer specializing in these matters can steer you in the right direction. Good luck! :-)
March 31, 2014 at 8:17am        Thanked by south188ave
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Fashion Bird Interiors
After re-reading these posts again. I say sue! They are in breach of contract. They should fix them on their dime. It'll be worth the fight. For 5-8 K they should be able to fix those right.
March 31, 2014 at 8:26am        Thanked by south188ave
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rocketjcat
Southave, what have you decided? How is it coming?
April 11, 2014 at 3:20pm        Thanked by south188ave
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Yarbro Home Improvement LLC
South188ave, this is a very personal question, and I completely understand if you feel uncomfortable answering, but what is this piece of property worth ( land & structure )
April 16, 2014 at 9:39pm   
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