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Disappointing built-in shelves/cupboards - how can I make them better?

(27 Posts)
Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 14:26:01

We've just had our lounge revamped - false chimney breast built, new limestone fireplace with slate hearth & wood burner, deep coving, all painted & built-in cupboards with shelves above to one side of the fireplace. The builder who did the work was recommended by a friend who said he was great with wood & would be able to make the cupboards/shelves too to save us sourcing a carpenter/cabinet maker.

The room looks great apart from the built-in. I am really really disappointed with them. I'd shown him pictures on Pinterest of the sorts thing I wanted and he sent me an outline of the design which I thought looked fine. The finished result is awful - really amateur/DIY looking. He used MDF, which I thought would be ok as the were going to be painted in white gloss. But the finish on all edges and surfaces, even after painting is really rough and bumpy (if I were to dust it, it would snag the duster). The cupboard doors are big flat doors, which he put a grove around to try to add detail, but which look crap. The paint job is poor too - loads of drips and runs. And the who,e doesn't actually fit in the space - there's a gap of an cm or two at one end, so it not actually "built-in".

Just don't know what to do with it. I've let him know that I'm disappointed with it and he's coming out next week to take a look, but I don't know what he can do to improve it now it's done. Not sure if my expectations were too high and I hadn't communicated effectively what I wanted, or if he's just incompetent, as he is a builder not a carpenter. I thought about getting a proper joiner in to look at it, but DH doesn't want us to spend any more money on it!

Any advice?

Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 14:38:14

Here's some pics

Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 14:39:15

This is what I actually had in mind...

Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 14:41:06

And I think it was a mistake to have them painted in white gloss - should have gone foe eggshell in the same colour as walls...

Ifcatshadthumbs Fri 14-Feb-14 14:47:27

They're not as bad as I thought they would look when you mentioned MDF. I think the biggest issue is the fact they are painted with gloss white paint.

I would consider reprinting them something more Matt and not white. I've just done some furniture with chalk paint (annie sloane) and am really pleased with the finish.

Ifcatshadthumbs Fri 14-Feb-14 14:48:19

Oh and change the door handles to

Ifcatshadthumbs Fri 14-Feb-14 14:50:43

Also (sorry) could the three sections have sides as it were (like the photo) so they look more separate and that would give you the option of changing the shelf heights in the two outside section like in the other photo.

Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 14:51:40

Close up it looks a lot worse. In the pics, I actually doesn't look too bad!

Yes, definitely need different knobs - I bought some small brass ones earlier.

The fact that there are no dividers to the shelves is a bit odd and annoying - just one long continuous shelf to each row.

Could I try adding some trim or something to the doors as I wanted them to have a panelled effect?

MargotLovedTom Fri 14-Feb-14 14:52:09

The rough edges should've been sanded copiously until a glass like finish was achieved so he ballsed up on that front. Agree matt, chalky paint (not white) and different handles would look better.

MargotLovedTom Fri 14-Feb-14 14:54:32

I wouldn't paint them the same colour as the walls. Maybe an off white, similar to the fireplace?

Ifcatshadthumbs Fri 14-Feb-14 14:55:28

I think the shelves themselves need to be chunkier too. I think the base will look fine if you reprint with a chalk paint. It's really the top half that looks sparse and a little flimsy for want of a better word.

I think there is a lot you can do to improve it though so don't Lose heart!

Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 14:57:47

We have got a lot of painted woodwork in the room (wood panelling below two big sash windows and deep skirtings) which is all white, so not sure about off-white for shelves. The fireplace did look white until the shelves/cupboards were put in next to it, and now make it look dirty and really detract from my lovely fireplace!

Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 14:59:48

Yes, flimsy is a great word to describe it! I'm not sure they'll take much weight without bowing, which is ridiculous considering they are supposed to be for books!

yomellamoHelly Fri 14-Feb-14 15:00:01

I would say vertical divides where you have the posts would make it look better. Would you have preferred shelves at different heights? Maybe a heavier looking rail across the top would also improve it (so add a tier if that makes sense). You could also maybe put some moulding down the side with the gap. (Not sure what effect this has on the symmetry of it though.) Would change the handles on the doors too.
The mdf edges can be sorted with some decent sanding and filling and time. (Previous experience.)
Would change the paint finish if possible.

Gatekeeper Fri 14-Feb-14 15:08:12

I agree with you; very poor finish. He should have fitted it flush to the wall and adjusted to fit into the coving. Paint wrong; should be eggshell or chalk finish, doors too 'flat' and need a moulding/panelling on them. Shelves are far too thin and will sag under the weight of books esp. as they are one continuous piece. Shelves should have been divided into three sections like one of the pics you have posted.

I hope you can get this resolved; it's horrible when you have something definite in mind and it turns out a disappointment

Zeeky Fri 14-Feb-14 15:10:10

Thanks for everyone's advice. I've been getting myself all stressed and upset about it, not helped by being 6mths pregnant. They took 3weeks to finish the room (while we camped in the kitchen/playroom which was so annoying/uncomfortable), and we have only just moved furniture, tv etc back in there, so not relishing having them back to make more mess.

I'm also really bad at confronting people about things and making it clear I'm not happy (I come across as being really laid back!), so even when I told him over the phone about being disappointed, I don't think he quite got what I meant & thinks it just a few paint drips that need sorting! Maybe I should make a list of the things I don't like and then he can see it in black and white rather than me trying to explain (ineffectually) what I'm not happy with.

wonkylegs Sat 15-Feb-14 09:17:20

I don't think he's done a terrible job, he just hasn't finished it.
MDF is commonly used for this but edges are usually finished with stripwood mouldings and gaps are filled and sanded back before painting to give a smooth finish

The edges and the thinness of the shelves would be sorted out by using a moulding across the front edge. This would make them visually better in terms of proportions and finish and give the shelf additional stiffness.
Lots of options available examples here
either a decorative profile or plain d/hockey stick or half round covers.
I've used hockey stick covers hooked under the shelf to give a flat top edge but a bump to the underside (iykwim) to give the shelf definition and stiffen it. (make sure the pin nail heads are tapped in and filled to give a smooth edge.
Mouldings could also be used on the door fronts to give more detail/relief
loads of examples here

wonkylegs Sat 15-Feb-14 09:20:51

also to improve the stiffness of the shelves a batten should be put along the rear edge for them to sit on. If you look carefully at the example you like that has one. You hardly notice it as its painted the shame and is hidden by the moulding on the front of the shelf.

sixlive Tue 18-Feb-14 06:48:27

The style is all wrong as well as cheap looking. I would be worried that he won't be able to fix it. Hope it didn't cost too much.

Zeeky Tue 18-Feb-14 20:30:50

He quoted £975, but not had invoice yet. Not paying until he either fixes it sufficiently so that I am happy with it, or reduces the prices enough for us to get someone else in to sort it out.

BreakOutTheKaraoke Wed 19-Feb-14 00:12:58

I think the problem is it doesn't look professional. For almost £1000 I would want a professional looking finish.

Ifcatshadthumbs Wed 19-Feb-14 11:20:19

�975 shock nope I wouldn't be paying him a penny. TBH I don't think he is going to have the skill to make it look how you would like it judging from his work. Ask for a breakdown of the invoice. I would agree to pay for materials and then use the money to pay someone who knows what they are doing.

To be honest I'm quite angry on your behalf now I know what he is planning to charge. He has paid peanuts for the cheapest materials and quite frankly it's a joke.

PrimalLass Thu 20-Feb-14 11:22:45

Get him to add some crown moulding to the top - that will help.

Alwayscheerful Thu 20-Feb-14 11:29:48

Op you need some wise words from piglet john.

PoorOldCat Fri 21-Feb-14 08:41:18

I feel for you. He has done a job, but it isn't the job you asked him to do.

It's very expensive for what he has achieved and really, I would be in tears in your position as I am crap at complaining too!

We had a similar situation with a tiler who came to do our bathroom - he completely messed up, wrong adhesive, tiles were not adhering, the edges were dreadful, sticking out bits on corners that he planned to put plastic edging over to hide hmm

he also forgot my instructions about the pattern, it was basically shite.

I ended up sitting on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night, after the third day, poking the tiles one by one as they just gave up and fell to the floor.

I knew I had to do something so I texted my landlord really early and said, this is no good, I think we need to sack him and I'm scared to.

LL said 'No problem, I LOVE sacking people!' and came round and had a proper kind of hour-long argument about it with the tiler - in the end he gave him a hundred for the materials and his wasted time (which he wasted all by himself) and the poor chap sodded off.

I felt sorry for him as he was a nice guy, just rather pathetic and no good at his job. sad

Anyway I took the tiles all off and washed the adhesive off and then started again using the proper stuff, and did a blimming brilliant job of it myself - took me a fortnight or so but it was perfect (well nearly)

I know you can't do that here, but you will hate this unit till it is taken away, and I don't think you have got the right chap for the job tbh.

I would tell him to remove it, or give him a couple of hundred for his time and get someone with a portfolio you can look at first.

Say no hard feelings but it is NOTHING LIKE the pictures I showed you.

I doubt it cost him anywhere near that so he breaks even-ish and you get the unit you wanted.

Fwiw the MDF will sag as he hasn't put in nearly enough uprights. He is incompetent. It's not your fault.

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