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Split in back panel of cabinet
Split in back panel of  

We just had brand new white shaker forevermark cabinets installed in our home.  I noticed a few days ago as I was wiping the shelves down in preparation for stocking them up, that the back panels of the cabinets (which are supposedly 1/2 inch plywood) are already splitting.  The cabinets have only been up for 2 weeks.  We haven't made our final payment to the company as of yet, because some other items were still pending with the company, but now all other work is complete and the company doesn't seem to be concerned with the splitting.  The installer said they split because it is cheap material but the designer says she has never seen anything like that happen with their cabinets.  They offered $100 off the total price, which to me, is completely unacceptable.  Do you think this cracking is an issue?  Won't it only get worse?  Do you have any idea why this happened?  Is it an installation issue, a material issue, or an issue of temperature/humidity in the home?  I'm not sure if the cracking has been there since day 1 or not, but I'm thinking it likely has been, I just hadn't noticed it because we weren't using them yet.  Any insight would be appreciated!

This picture is one of the worst spots, but there are several others.  Most of them are in the "pantry" type floor to ceiling cabinets against an internal wall in the house.  There are a couple of instances on the external walls, but the internal wall has many more.

Thank you!

ANSWER: Hi Cathy,

That picture wasn't the greatest, so it it a little difficult to give you an exact answer, but I think that the back isn't split as much as it is damaged. Those "splits" look like someone dented in the back of the cabinet, and it's quite possible that they were damaged in shipment.

The reason I'm suggesting that they are not split is because plywood generally doesn't split. Sure, some cheaper brands do, but the nature of plywood is that it is very stable and not prone to splitting. Those "splits" that you're seeing look more like someone's knee banged into the back of the cabinet, or maybe even a forklift when someone was loading or unloading them from the delivery truck. Mind you - that's just a guess, but I think I'm kind of close.

Here is a suggestion - you're right - the amount of money they were willing to credit you was a joke, but there is a reasonably simple repair that you could ask for. If a carpenter cut a thin melamine-covered panel the same size as the damaged back, and just laid it over the back (maybe even silicone-ing it in place) they then could add four thin strips of wood around the border, thus covering up the rough edge of the new plywood back. You would lose maybe a half inch of depth at the most, but it would give you a "new" back, and it's a pretty simple fix.

Hope this helps. Write back if you need more advice or have more questions. Good luck,

Jamie in Vegas

Wood It Is! Custom Cabinetry
Las Vegas, NV

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

back panel "cracking"
back panel "cracking"  

Thanks so much, that was helpful.  I do have an additional question.  Is there any reason to be concerned about cabinet structure and longevity because of this?  Would you question the integrity of the rest of the cabinets (i.e. sides, tops, bottoms)?

I learned yesterday that the cabinets were assembled and then stored in a non-heated warehouse for a month due to project delays.  I live in the midwest, and we had a few day stretch in there where temperatures hit zero degrees.  I am wondering if this caused the "splitting."  I have attached a new (hopefully better) picture.

I also just realized this morning as I was wandering around the kitchen before work that they definitely knew about this issue prior to installation.  Some of the backs of the cabinets have those little round holes in them, which would usually only be on the interior sides of the cabinets for shelf placement and adjustment.  They must have re-purposed cabinet "sides" as cabinet backs for pieces that were even more damaged.

Ugh. I am so frustrated with this company!  But anyway, do you think we have any reason to concerned structurally?  Do you still think the fix you mentioned above would be acceptable?

Thanks again,


If some of the backs of your cabinets have shelf holes in them, then someone is really jerking you around. There should be no holes in the back of the cabinet, so it sounds like the parts were reused from a different cabinet. That's just crazy. I can hardly believe that a company would take the time to pull apart in old cabinet and reuse the drilled sides!

What town are you in the in Ohio? I used to live there, and know some woodworkers up in the northwest area. Honestly, I think you have a good argument for not paying for those cabinets, Or at least getting different ones. If you have an honest carpenter or cabinet maker in your area, maybe they could inspect your cabinets and give you a better opinion than I can. You might need some sort of professional intervention in order to get satisfaction.

But to answer your question - no, the cracks in the back will not in anyway affect the life of your cabinet. But it makes me wonder what else they cut corners with, and that is something I would worry about. It's not so much what you see, but possibly what you don't see the could be a problem.

The two sides of your cabinets are what supports the counter top. There's a lot of strength in those sides, so it's not like your kitchen is going to start falling apart. But I think that if the backs are cracked (and possibly recycled) - there could be other dangers ahead. Your doors could possibly crack down the line, or other parts of the wood could fail, like your drawers. That would worry me.

As to what you can do - it depends on how much energy want to put into it. Do you have an attorney in the family?  I'd have to think of that company knows what they did, so they might be amenable to fixing it with a little threat of legal action.

Good luck -  I hope this helps. Write back if you need more help.

Jamie in Vegas

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Jamie Yocono


Woodworker, Furniture designer/builder, industrial arts educator. Bachelor degree in Furniture Design, and journeyman carpenter, with a 4 year apprenticeship. Currently owner of custom furniture/cabinet shop in Las Vegas, NV. Can answer most woodworking questions EXCEPT those regarding repairs, refinishing, and antiques.


Bachelor in Furniture Design - Ohio University (1980) Journeyman Carpenter, Local 639 Adult educator - Developed adult education woodworking program for the University of Akron, and taught classes there for 9 years. Opened a private woodworking school in Las Vegas, NV and teach private and semi-private lessons. In 2011, I will begin teaching UNLV woodworking classes at my school. Sweet!

Furniture Society

Tile Design and Installation Magazine (Article on inlaying tile into wood)

Journeyman Union Carpenter Bachelors degree in Furniture Design (Ohio University) College of Hard Knocks!

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