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Woodworking Woes

Here's an email message I received:

From: Tracy

Subject: kitchen banquette

Message: My woodworker was supposed to make my kitchen banquette 17" high and it ended up being 18.5". Now with my 3" cushions, the seating comes in at 21.5". It looks attractive, but it's higher than I would have liked. I paid a decent buck for the custom banquette and cushions. What do you advise?

Tracy, there are multiple issues in this short email. 

First, does your woodworker acknowledge that there is a mistake? It's understandable that you did not measure it until he was done because, of course, you trust him. 

Second, I'm not sure that that 1 1/2" will make much of a difference. I mean, with these numbers, yes, the lower the better. But, I think it will still feel high. As a comparison, I normally (depending on the cushion) set the height of my banquettes somewhere between 14 and 15", usually around 14-14 1/2", anticipating a 4-5" thick cushion. For a 3" cushion, I'd probably size it somewhere around 15 1/2-16" high. 

Third, this matters if he is not acknowledging an error. Do you have documentation on how high the banquette was to be?

Fourth, if he does acknowledge that it was not accurately sized, and if you decided you wanted it lower than originally planned, ask him to make it lower. 

Fifth, are there any decorative panels on the face of the banquette?

Sixth, are there any other issues such as wallpaper or other moldings or the rear of the banquette if there is one, that is affected?


Those are my preliminary thoughts, knowing nothing more than what you've told me so far. I hope this works out for you. 

It's a rare client who will think to take a tape measure to woodwork that has been installed, nor is it their responsibility to do so. But, in a case like this, where the piece is finished, I do think Tracy deserves to get what she originally paid for, however it has to be worked out by the woodworker. What do you think?

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Reader Comments (10)

Sounds like a case of an undocumented project. "Mr.Woodworker, please build me a banquette." If it's not designed, and drawing are approved by everyone before its built, it will NOT meet the expectation of the person paying the bill...ever.

I agree with you Susan - The seat was still going to be 20" as originally planned, so unless Tracy and family are all very tall or particularly long legged, this is slightly high for a seat. I'm short, so seat height is important! If the specs were in writing, then the contractor is responsible for making it good, including rebuilding. Although, you might not want to go to all that bother and effort for many of the reasons Susan said.

It continues to surprise me how many tradesmen operate without a system for clear communication and/or signed documentation before going into production. On the other hand, we need to do a better job of educating homeowners to assert themselves, ask questions and "get it in writing", or better yet, hire a professional designer to lead the way. In these situations, it usually comes down to an offer to split the cost of replacement and it's in the best interest of the supplier to be somewhat sacrificial in order for the customer to come away happy & generate referrals.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKit Tosello

How did the woodworker get that wrong? If the plan said it was to be 17" high then yes, it is the woodworkers responibility. If the height was not specified, you might not have a case. And now it boils down to, how bad do you want it changed. Is it going to make a mess of your walls or floor if it is pulled out?

These mistakes happen, and if you are working with a reputable company, they will help you get is resolved.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJody

Susan you are totally correct -- as usual :)-- about proper dimensions and specs for a banquette and cushion.
From what this person told you, he was instructed to build a 17" bench which he did not do.

The rest is not really that germain to the agreement they entered into.

I know of a designer who got sued AND LOST b/c the dimensions spec'd on upholstery were off nominally from the mfgs specs. The client rec'd documentation that the sofa for example would be 92 and it came out 93 1/2 for example. "Industry standard" variations didn't cut it with the judge. The designer had to eat it.

Woodworker should have provided a 17" high bench if that was agreed to.

I do think the builder should have asked and the client should have told the builder they were planning on using a cushion. But they all agreed to 17 so I would think that should drive everything.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbbeyK

Thanks for all of your comments, particularly Susan's comments. I did have a drawing with the specs (17" high) as well as the quoted price. I have worked with him before and he has always done a great job. The banquette is gorgeous in cherry wood with a mahogany stain and built in drawers. I relied on him for the initial measurement because I didn't know how high. He knew I was sensitive about the height and assured me this would be great.

The height of the chair is 16" before the cushion but I didn't measure that until after. The table chairs with the cushion come in at about 18.5".

When you walk into the room the banquette is off a wall with windows and the table is in front. Although everything is attractive, it looks off because the banquette looks too high with the custom cushion and frankly isn't that comfortable to sit at the table. If it was just a window seat it wouldn't be as great of a concern.

As you have mentioned, I just don't know if it is worth going back to him to discuss this at this point. I would use him for future projects. Do you think I should discuss it?

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

Yes, you should talk with him. If the room seems off to you and its uncomfortable to sit there, there won't be a day that goes by where one of those issues won't bother you or anyone who tries to sit at the table on it. If it is in the drawing, a working document, then he'll fix it.

October 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Grace

I think some accommodation should be made for you. Yes, 1 1/2" isn't a huge number, it's a small number but in the case of a seat height, it does have some affect on comfort, absolutely. The question is, what do you want? Do you want it 1 1/2" lower? If so, then you have to speak with him and decide how far you want to take it, quite honestly. With door panels on it, it could mean dismantling the entire piece, but maybe some of the top or bottom of the panels could be cut off and it's not as huge a deal as you expect. You need to be clear on what you want.

So, is it worth it? Something like this is in the eye of the beholder. Me? I'd bring it up and see what ways there are to correct it. Give him a chance to come up with ideas too. Work together. That's really the key phrase, working together.

October 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Are those banquette designs yours, Susan, and if so, where did you get those fabrics??? Heck, where are your go-to sources for fabrics, anyway?

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReya

Who knows where can I download desktop virtual girls from here - VirtuagirlHD for free?? Is it possible? I've heard it is.

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJackSheppardio

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