Category - Quality Control

Quality Control

Kitchen & bathroom cabinet defects & safety hazards.

This guide to inspecting, installing, & repairing kitchen & bath cabinets & countertops describes common defects found in kitchen or bathroom cabinets – problems that can be found by visual inspection.

This guide to inspecting, installing, & repairing kitchen & bath cabinets & countertops describes common defects found in kitchen or bathroom cabinets – problems that can be found by visual inspection.

Among topics we discuss are Un-secured kitchen islands that tip over. Loose cabinet doors & hinge hardware. Serious safety hazards: falling wall cabinets: we describe the hazard of falling wall mounted kitchen or bath cabinets, tipping kitchen islands, and we discuss less serious K&B hazards such as loose, falling off cabinet doors and defective cabinet hinges.

We also provide an ARTICLE INDEX for this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Guide to Inspecting for Defects in Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinets
Birch cabinets © D Friedman at Very serious kitchen or bath cabinet hazards include wall-mounted cabinets that are not adequately secured to the building wall. A falling cabinet can cause serious injury.

A second class of kitchen cabinet hazards are un-secured islands and island cabinets that tip over onto a child playing by swinging from the counter edge.

As explained in Chapter 6 [web article] of Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction [book at references]:Assessing a cabinet’s quality is not always easy due to the large number of components involved and the fact that much of the material and joinery is concealed.

One good indication of overall durability is certification by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, which has a rigorous testing and certification program that measures such things as structural integrity, shelf strength, hardware durability, and quality of finishes.

But here, adapted from Carson Dunlop Associates’ Home Reference Book, we focus on defects in cabinet installation or condition, problems that can be found by visual inspection.

Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinet Falling Hazards
Watch out: Beware of loose, falling wall-mounted cabinets. Inspect carefully before you touch or pull on a wall-mounted cabinet. At a home inspection D.F. gave a gentle tug to the under-lip of an array of wall mounted cabinets. Don’t try this.

Falling kitchen cabinets Carson Dunlop AssociatesAll six of the wall cabinets in a row crashed to the floor. Luckily no one was close by or someone could have been badly hurt.

Joints in cabinets in poor condition may be separating and shelves may be poorly supported, risking falling contents, sometimes including heavy or fragile items.

Clues for building inspectors that can suggest a loose falling-off wall cabinet include:

The cabinet is visibly askew – take a look from the side or end view such as is shown in Carson Dunlop’s sketch at left.
The cabinets are out of plumb, out of square, apparently mounted by an amateur
There are few fasteners visible inside the cabinets securing them to the wall
The cabinets are empty, in an occupied home.
Quoting from Carson Dunlop Associates’ The Home Reference Book [link at citations section]

Cabinets may be installed anywhere but are most common in kitchens and bathrooms.

Cabinets may be built of wood, although most today are veneer-covered fiberboard. Shelves and doors are commonly solid wood, veneered fiberboard or glass.

The quality of cabinets is a function of the materials, assembly techniques and hardware used on doors and drawers.

Kitchen or Bathroom Countertop Defects
Ceramic tile countertop © D Friedman at
Here we illustrate a ceramic tile countertop. The uneven surface and grout joints make this countertop difficult to cle3an.

Quoting again from The Home Reference Book:

Countertops can be made of many materials.

Laminated plastic surfaces applied to fiberboard are common because they are inexpensive, water resistant, available in a huge selection of colors and patterns, and are easy to clean.

They are difficult to repair if cut by knives, chipped or burned. These are referred to as laminate countertops.

Other common countertop materials include granite, marble, stainless steel, ceramic tile, concrete, hardwood (butcher block), soapstone and a number of manufactured products including engineered stone and other solid surface materials.

The ideal countertop won’t burn, crack, chip or break, is easy to clean, non-porous, and is resistant to rot, water damage, stains and knives.

Problems with Kitchen or Bathroom Countertop Damage
Countertops may suffer cosmetic damage, and fiberboard countertops often rot, especially damage around sinks and faucets.

Burns and mechanical damage are common on laminate countertops.

Cracked tiles and missing grout are common on ceramic tile countertops.

Problems with Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinet Doors & Drawers
Countertop defects (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesCabinet door and drawer operating problems
Cabinet problems may include improper operation of doors and drawers.

Sticky drawers and doors that will not stay closed are common. Hardware may be missing, worn or inoperative.

Cabinets may be damaged or deteriorated due to wear and tear.

Cabinets, doors and drawers may be mechanically damaged or worn. Knobs may be loose, missing or broken.

Watch out: Many of these are cosmetic or nuisance issues, but a door that doesn’t close properly or latch and lock if it should can also be unsafe when it whacks you in the shins or when a child gets into the chemicals under the sink.

Sketch courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates, a Toronto home inspection, education & report writing tool company.

The decision to replace cabinets and countertops is subjective.

Our next-to-last cabinet damage photo shown below (we’re all getting sick of this issue but there are still hinges to discuss) illustrates the problem of hidden leaks, cabinet base damage, even rot, that we don’t discover because of all the clutter stored in the cabinet base.

Our flashlight points to a puddle of water, but also notice that the whole cabinet base bottom shelf is falling apart.

You often won’t see this in a home until you start pulling out all that stuff crammed into the cabinet.

Cabinet door loose © D Friedman at

Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinet Hinge Problems & Repairs
This topic has moved to a new article now found at CABINET DOOR HINGES

Easy-Reach cabinet door hinge (C) Daniel Friedman

Cause & Cure for Water Damaged & Moldy Kitchen or Bath Cabinets
Cabinet water damage from dishwasher © D Friedman at

A small moldy patch on a particleboard cabinet base (less than 1 sq.ft.) is unlikely to be a significant health hazard in a building, though it could bother someone with sensitive mold allergies or who is asthmatic.

Watch out: when water has leaked behind or below a wall or base cabinet there is a real risk of more extensive, hidden mold in those hidden areas.



Also see BROWN HAIRY BATHROOM MOLD for a Q&A on the harmfulness of “hairy brown mold” found in a bathroom.

Kitchen & Bath Industry Associations & Cabinet Installation & Repair Guides
Kitchen Cabinet Base Installation & Repair Manuals
KraftMaid CoreGuard™ SINK BASE INSTALLATION [PDF] provided courtesy of Home Depot
Merillat CoreGuard™ SINK BASE INSTALLATION [PDF] op. cit.
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers(AHAM)

National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)

Ceramic Tile Institute of America

Home Ventilation Institute (HVI)

Marble Institute of America

Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI)

Tile Council of America (TCA)

Kitchen & Bath Cabinets & Countertops of the 1950s
Also see these catalog pages:

AMERICAN KITCHENS CATALOG 1950 [PDF] steel kitchen cabinets dont’ warp, swell or rot … and they’re easier to clean and never need painting. Less costly than wood cabinets.
— Portions of this article were adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction and from Carson Dunlop AssociatesHome Reference Book

Continue reading at CABINET DOOR HINGES or select a topic from the closely-related articles below, or see the complete ARTICLE INDEX.