Log homes hold so many opportunities for custom cabinetry and built-ins that we thought it would be a good idea to explore what’s involved in contracting with a custom cabinetmaker. Eric Koehler, owner of Koehler Woodworks in Brunswick, Me., has more than 30 years experience as a custom cabinetmaker. He also worked in general construction and so he has a good understanding of how his craftsmanship fits into new home construction. He offered some advice on working with a cabinetmaker for custom projects.
Understand the cabinetmaker environment. Koehler said that many cabinetmakers are well-suited to the workshop environment, designing and building cabinetry and other furniture pieces to specifications. With cabinetry that is workshop-crafted and then installed in the new home, many cabinetmakers can run into trouble, says Koehler. Onsite work has intricacies and challenges that cannot necessarily be foreseen in specs and plans. Custom cabinetry is often coordinated within other systems such as plumbing and electricity.
Who is the General Contractor? Koehler said that many home owners who are building their new home (including log homes) will take on the role of general contracting as a challenge or to try and save a few dollars. This is where some homeowners can run into problems, if their enthusiasm exceeds their building experience.
Timing and communication. A key role that the general contractor (GC) plays in the construction process is orchestrating the flow and timing for each element to the finished home. He or she coordinates with the foundation workers, the framers, the dry wall installers, the plumbers, the electricians, the finish carpenters and the stone masons to complete their tasks at the appropriate time and sequence. For example, Koehler explained, when he is working on kitchen cabinetry, he needs to be in communication with the plumbers, the dry wall installers, the electricians and the flooring crews to ensure that his cabinets can be installed professionally and that all the elements will work properly upon completion.
The “self” general contractor often has worked with an architect who has worked out the spatial issues in the new home. Many times Koehler works closely with architect-developed plans and specifications for the cabinetry. However, the architect may not be actively involved in the dynamic of the actual construction. Sequencing the order of elements to complete is just as important, said Koehler, as the actual design. It is an area when an inexperienced GC may stumble if communication bogs down.
Ultimately, the success of a cabinetry project in new construction lies heavily on open lines of communication among the architect, owner, general contractor and the subcontractors handling the various elements involved in cabinetry. Keohler says managing expectations and realities of installation through open communication is important in any project he works on.
(Photos courtesy of Koehler Woordworks.)