Kitchen Experts of California: the official complaint letter

Contracting State License Board
Sacramento Intake & Mediation Center
P.O. Box 269116
Sacramento, California 95826-9116

Dear Contracting State License Board Investigator,
Our complaint is concerning our kitchen remodeling project at our home

We contracted with:
Kitchen Experts of California
License #960046
7055 Commerce Circle
Pleasanton, CA 94588

on 3 November 2012 to do the interior portion of our kitchen remodel.

This letter was prepared without any legal assistance as such we relied on common English reading of Contractor State Licensing Board legal documents. All quotes and references to the law are from the PDF file available via links on cslb.ca.gov and stored at http://www.lexisnexis.com/clients/caagencylaw/CA_Contractors_2013.pdf (California Contractors Law)
This letter has taken a considerable amount of time. As a result, not all the issues have been full articulated.

Background

On November 3, 2012 we visited the Kitchen Experts Of California showroom and spoke with John Gonzalves.

We explained to John that we wished to remodel our kitchen. We wanted a durable long-term kitchen. We had lived in our present residence for nearly 16 years. We had no intention of selling the property and wanted a kitchen that would last for decades.

We contracted with construction company, A&G Construction, to do the required structural and exterior work.

The City issued 2 separate permits:

  • 20 December 2012 for A&G Construction’s work
  • 3 January 2013 for Kitchen Experts work

A&G Construction completed the work needed for Kitchen Experts to begin work in the second week of January.

Payment History

We made the following payments in good faith that Kitchen Experts would deliver a quality kitchen:

  • $1000 Deposit ( 3 November 2012)
  • $15565.20 ( 28 November 2012 ) This second payment was due upon “blueprints” – The “blueprints” consisted of little more than an output of a sales tool that generates simplistic cabinet placement.
  • $15565.20 ( requested payment 24 January 2013; payment made 28 January 2013 ) This third payment was requested by Kitchen Experts upon delivery of the cabinets. Payment was made by Cashiers check.

On 28 November 2012, Kitchen Experts had requested and was receipt of 42.6% of the total contracted amount:

  • 22 days before A & G Construction received their permit on 20 December 2012
  • 35 days before Kitchen Experts’ received their permit on 3 January 2013.

As of 6 March 2013, Kitchen Experts requested and received payment of $32,130.40 (82%) of the total project cost of $38913.00. This significant amount of money was requested and paid prior to cabinets being installed, and granite and flooring being delivered and installed.

Such early advanced payments seems in clear violation of Section 7159.5(a)5 :

Except for a downpayment, the contractor may neither request nor accept payment that exceeds the value of the work performed or material delivered.
Section 7159.5(d)9C states that :
(C) The section of the contract reserved for the progress payments shall include the following statement in at least 12-point boldface type:
“The schedule of progress payments must specifically describe each phase of work, including the type and amount of work or services scheduled to be supplied in each phase, along with the amount of each proposed progress payment. IT IS AGAINST THE LAW FOR A CONTRACTOR TO COLLECT PAYMENT FOR WORK NOT YET COMPLETED, OR FOR MATERIALS NOT YET DELIVERED. HOWEVER, A CONTRACTOR MAY REQUIRE A DOWNPAYMENT.”

This language does not appear in the contract provided by Kitchen Experts.

Issues

This list may not be complete as we have discovered numerous issues over the past 4 weeks. We are not certain that all issues have been discovered.

Misrepresentation and false advertising
Based on the Kitchen Experts site and conversations, we had expectations that include but were not limited to:

  • 3/4” construction
  • full-overlay
  • quality slides and cabinets

We understood that this would mean that the kitchen would cost more.

During the initial conversation Kitchen Experts on their web site (http://KitchenExpertsOfCalifornia.com ) and on their Diamond Certified page ( http://www.diamondcertified.org/report/kitchen-experts-of-california) referred to many of the quality aspects that we had expected to see. (The relevant web pages are included in Attachments):

  • “Every one of the company’s products is custom built by its in-house craftsmen, and it also offers complimentary in-home design consultation.”
  • Metal shelf rests
  • and other representations as to quality

Demolition and Preparation

On 17 January 2013, Kitchen Experts began demolition. During the demolition process there were several issues:

  • On the wall above the stove, the existing drywall had cooking grease coating and linoleum. Kitchen Experts’ foreman, Efrain, had no plan to remove the grease and linoleum. We had to insist that Efrain remove the drywall and grease. We are not certain the grease was removed as we did not observe it being removed. That spot on the wall was covered with a fresh layer of mud.
  • After the initial demo work on 17 January 2013, Kitchen Experts left a dripping water line with one of our buckets propped underneath the line. We did not notice this until after the bucket had overflowed. We had to empty the bucket multiple times during that night.
  • During the initial demo work, water damage under the sink was discovered. Kitchen Experts once again had to be pressed to fix the damaged subfloor.
  • Efrain had no plan to remove the old flooring. According to Efrain, the new flooring would be laid over the old flooring. This would have meant an uneven transition to the dining room floor which also was to be done by the Kitchen Experts. We had to insist that the old flooring needed to be demo-ed.
  • On or about Tuesday 22 January 2013, Kitchen Experts brought a single worker out to quickly demo the old linoleum.
  • Uncovered openings in the floor: In the hallway cabinet area and the section of damaged flooring under the sink were left open or partially open. These openings allow animal access into the crawl space. These opening were repeatedly left open resulting in our cat getting trapped under the house.
  • Only after 2 personal visits from John Gonzalves, John Lupo and Tim Bergeson was the garbage mostly collected on 18 February 2013, 32 days after the demolition started, from our side yard. This in spite of Kitchen Experts being notified repeatedly both on the phone and in person. (See Attachment-Demolition Photos).
  • On 18 February 2013, the clean-up crew arrived with no tools such as wheelbarrows, brooms or shovels. They borrowed our yard waste container as an improvised wheelbarrow. In the process of cleaning up they left a trail of debris through our yard and out to the curb. See Attachment-Demolition Photos, their clean-up was considerably less than complete.

“Build to fit” commitment not met

Kitchen Experts commits to a kitchen that is built to fit and customized to the kitchen dimensions. Kitchen Experts promised and is responsible to build the kitchen to the plans on file with the City and attached to the permit. (See Attachment-Build To Fit Photos).

This responsibility has not been met:

  • On 28 November 2012, Tim Bergeron and John Gonzalves came to our house to do the blueprints. During that meeting, they were both reminded that the kitchen dimensions were being changed as was indicated on the architectural plans. They also received the second payment of $15565.20
  • A&G Construction, the contractor hired to do the structural work, was paid in part to widen the opening between the kitchen and hallway from 32” to 42”. A&G Construction completed the framing for the structural alterations that created the refrigerator alcove and the hallway cabinet openings. This work was completed and signed off prior to the Kitchen Experts starting work.
  • Kitchen Experts did not do field measurements after A&G Construction completed work.
  • Kitchen Experts cabinet installation team discovered that the widened opening was too wide for the cabinets that Kitchen Experts had ordered. On their own initiative, Kitchen Experts narrowed the opening back down to 36”
  • The refrigerator opening is 38” wide. Kitchen Experts installed a cabinet that was too narrow (36”) and too shallow ( 24” instead of 30 3/4” ). Kitchen Experts installed recessed panels to narrow the opening.
  • The hallway cabinet opening is 15 3/4”, the floor cabinet installed was 18 1/8”. The hung cabinet was similarly missized. Furthermore the delivered hung cabinet was 40” high, which completely covers the plugins in the hallway alcove. The protruding cabinets are shown on the building plans as recessed into the hallway alcove. As currently installed, people to bump their hips into the exposed corner of the hallway cabinet. Adding the granite top will cause further intrusion into the hallway.
  • Cabinet size choice shows a similar failure to build to fit.
    • On the hallway side of the kitchen there are 2 cabinets side-by-side sized 33” and 24”. This difference of 11” is quite noticeable.
    • On the outside wall, there is a 6” fill piece
    • The dishwasher opening is an inch too wide and too high – requiring additional fill pieces
      The kitchen sink cabinet is off-centered to the right by 3/4”

Electrical work

Kitchen Experts team did a poor and incomplete electrical installation. (See Attachment-Electrical Plumbing Photos)

  1. Lighting is poorly positioned with very little light near the refrigerator and excess light near the sink
  2. Unnecessary junction boxes that require holes to be cut in the cabinet bodies to access:
    • 2 junction boxes installed in the outside wall upper corner cabinet
    • 1 junction box in the cabinet over the refrigerator
  3. Power was cut to the existing outlet in the dining room to the left of the kitchen opening.
  4. An existing base-level socket next to the dining room slider was incorrectly removed.
  5. The dishwasher will require cutting an additional hole to connect.
  6. A light is not flush with the ceiling

Plumbing work

  • The new airgap connection is protruding into the kitchen unnecessarily
  • As was previously mentioned, during initial plumbing work a water line was left dripping
  • During the inspection, the inspector noted that the hot water line was missing a hammer valve.
  • There is no water line installed to the refrigerator as required by the architectural plans

Drywall/Painting

  • Existing drywall was minimally impacted. Painting was scheduled to occur prior to the cabinets being installed. No painting occurred.
  • The ceiling furnace vent is not flush with the ceiling. This existing problem was not addressed in spite of being pointed out numerous times.

Cabinet Quality

During our initial visit to the Kitchen Experts showroom, John Gonzalves stated that Kitchen Experts only provide high quality products. Kitchen Experts voicemail greeting, literature and website makes statements touting the quality of the cabinets provided by Kitchen Experts. Unfortunately, we have found those statements inconsistent with the reality in our kitchen. Several friends in the construction field have seen our cabinets and are appalled at the poor quality of the cabinets.

We had paid specifically for quality cabinets. Kitchen Experts delivered DECO brand cabinets. DECO has a showroom on 450 McLaughlin. On January 28, we obtained a quote for the exact same cabinets from the DECO showroom for $7300 + $700 for installation. (See attached DECO quote) (See Attachment Cabinet Quality)

The low-cost of the DECO brand is reflected in these problems we have discovered:

  • Stain Consistency:
    • Different tones of stain (many times with in the same cabinet)
    • Incompletely applied (dry spots)
    • Drip marks
    • Bubbling that indicates a finish that was still tacky was placed agains another surface
    • Scrap marks
    • Unstained portions
    • Texture inconsistencies
    • Over-applied drips
    • Dovetails not stained
  • Cabinet box dimensions. The only dimension mentioned in our contract is 3/4” so we were expecting 3/4” cabinet box construction, instead we got 1/2”
  • Multiple drawers bind:
    • peninsula pullout drawers
    • spice racks next to stove opening
  • Loose glass in the outside wall corner cabinet door
  • Exposed nail in a drawer
  • Drawers that are mounted crooked so as to block a door from closing.
  • The facing in the hallway-side lazy susan is separated from the cabinet floor
  • All cabinets exhibit gaps around the sides and back to easily shine light through.
  • Numerous broken dovetails
  • Plastic shelf anchors when all Kitchen Expert’s advertising states metal shelf holders
  • no pleats in the cabinet interior to properly hang cabinets
  • The cabinet doors with in a pair are often times misaligned from each other.
  • Inconsistent gaps between doors in a pair
  • 3/4” overlay for doors rather than the full overlay promised both by contract and the web site.
  • Hung corner cabinets have wood shelves rendering the cabinet overhead light pointless, contract states glass shelves.

Cabinet installation

  • As noted earlier, there are 3 unnecessary electric junction boxes that are accessible via the cabinets. This results in holes that are hacked into the cabinet sides and backs.
  • Saw burn marks:
    • 2 spice racks were cut to fit next to the stove
    • the unnecessary side paneling in the refrigerator opening
  • Filler for nail holes do not match the original stain
  • Crown on the hung cabinet between slider and bay window is crooked.
  • Crown on the hung cabinet to the right of sink has a gap big enough for a screw to be inserted
  • Floor Cabinets are shimmed up too high
  • dishwasher cabinet is 36” high rather than 34” high as required.
  • granite countertop will not properly go into the bay window.
  • Kitchen Experts crew requested that A & G Construction lower the height of the bay window by 1/4”.
  • Kitchen Experts installed the base cabinets on the outside wall too high for the granite to go into the bay window.

Supervision / Project Management

  • There has been no on-site supervision.
  • Dominique Lupo, the project manager has never been to our job site.
  • Tim Bergeron, the designer, only visited our house twice. Once before A & G Construction began and once with John Lupo on 14 February 2013. Tim arrived over 50 minutes late for the meeting indicating that perhaps he did not know the location of our house.
  • There was no consistent onsite contact person
  • All the issues highlighted in this letter were issues that we as the homeowners have had to discover.

Brief Timeline since 29 January 2013

  • These construction issues have lead to us, on 29 January 2013 notifying Dominique Lupo that we were suspending work on our kitchen until the issues could be addressed. This suspension occurred prior to the template for the granite counter top being cut and prior to any flooring being delivered or installed.
  • 5 February 2013 – During John Gonzalves (the Kitchen Experts sales person) visit:
    • John Gonzalves was informed verbally of the nature of the issues listed in this letter.
    • John Gonzalves repeatedly insisted that the cabinets were of excellent quality.
    • when the numerous cabinet issues detailed in this letter were pointed out to John Gonzalves, he repeatedly insisted that those issues existed only because the cabinet installation was not complete,
    • John Gonzalves was informed about the demolition garbage pile. John Gonzalves acknowledged that the garbage should have been picked up,
  • 14 February 2013 – A signed certified letter was sent to Kitchen Experts providing written notification that the project was being suspended until the issues were resolved. (Attachment #3)
  • 14 February 2013 – John Lupo and Tim Bergeron visited for approximately 3.5 hours. Tim was approximately 1 hour late. During this meeting,
    • the list of issues in this letter was conveyed;
    • a copy of the letter sent previously that day (Attachment #3)
    • John and Tim were also informed again about the demolition garbage pile;
    • John Lupo, when confronted with the major cabinet flaws, repeatedly insisted that that those issues existed only because the cabinet installation was not complete;
    • John Lupo acknowledged that:
      • as of that morning, this was the first he had heard of the _____ project and was unaware of our project and its status. Multiple times during this meeting, John had to be told by the _____s significant details concerning the project. The ____s had to repeat many details provided to John Gonzalves 9 days earlier. These details included:
        • AFTER work was suspended, the granite installer called to schedule a time to template the granite
        • AFTER work was suspended, the flooring installer had called T_____ to confirm a time to start installation of the flooring on Friday, February 1, 2013. T____ informed the installer that the project was on hold
        • John was unaware who was the foreman on the project and who the project manager was.
      • the cabinet installation work was not in fact complete,
      • Kitchen Experts’ electrical installation passed a code inspection but was of lesser quality
      • Kitchen Experts’ plumbing installation was incomplete ( water line to refrigerator was not installed and no hammer valves installed )
      • incorrectly narrowed the opening between the hallway and the kitchen
      • missized the hallway cabinet and cabinets in the kitchen itself
      • the cabinets were DECO cabinets
    • John Lupo talked with Gary Garcia (A & G Construction) about the positioning of the kitchen bay window using P_____’s phone. During this call, John Lupo was quite rude to Gary Garcia and tried to blame Gary and his team for positioning the bay window too low. Gary Garcia was personally present when the Kitchen Experts foreman made a mark on the framing stud to indicate the correct window height. John Lupo demanded to know why Gary Garcia accepted and followed the Kitchen Experts request.
    • because there were many verbal statements made over the 3 1/2 hour conversation, John Lupo was asked to send to the _____s a written proposal to address the issues. This proposal has not been received
  • 18 February 2013 – A Kitchen Experts cleanup crew cleaned up the large debris only in the backyard. They left a trail of drywall and other garbage going to the curb. This incomplete cleanup happened 35 days after the garbage was created; 13 days after John Gonzalves was informed, 4 days after John Lupo and Tim Bergeron were informed of the continuing garbage issue. This “cleanup” was not complete – there continues to be bits of garbage left behind including a broken radio and nails.
  • 21 February 2013 Gary Garcia from A & G Construction contacted Tim to try to resolve the issue of window height and how the granite should be laid. Gary conveyed to P_____ (via text messages) that when Gary called Tim Bergeron at Kitchen Experts. Tim transferred him to Kristine who knew nothing of our project. Dominique has not return Gary’s calls in the past week.
  • 7 March 2013, we sent a notice to Kitchen Experts certified priority demanding that Kitchen Experts respond to the issue. Kitchen Experts replied requesting that we journey 40 miles to the Pleasanton showroom, on weekdays, during the day. This would require that we take a full day’s vacation and arrange evening babysitting for our children.

Next steps

At this point, we feel that our efforts to resolve this issue have reached an impasse.

To summarize:

  • we were sold cabinets that we do not want at any price
  • excessive early payments that seem to be prohibited by law
  • contract was violated in numerous ways
  • potential state law violations
  • no supervision or quality control
  • misrepresentation of cabinet quality
  • poor installation quality
  • Kitchen Expert representatives repeated insistence that the cabinets and the installation was a “quality” job
  • every issue we had to push to get recognized as an issue

Kitchen Experts of California has failed to deliver a quality job. My wife is a CPA and I am a software engineer – we are not experts in kitchen design and construction. In spite of this lack of professional construction knowledge we have been able to uncover numerous severe problems with Kitchen Experts Of California’s work.

At no time did any Kitchen Experts employee notice any of these problems. John Gonzalves on his visit kept on asserting that it was a great job and a quality installation.

We are not prepared nor able to monitor and supervise Kitchen Experts to ensure that the next time they will do a quality job and deliver the quality merchandise.

At this point we would like Kitchen Experts to return our money paid so far minus a reasonable allowance for the demolition. We do not feel that they should be compensated for any electrical work. Because of the random wires and disconnected outlets, the electrical is in an unsafe condition.

The plumbing work also does not deserve compensation as it is incomplete and questionable.

In light of the circumstances, we request Kitchen Experts Of California:

  1. refund $30,000 (please note that neither the granite nor flooring was cut or installed)
  2. pay for the cost of repairing the electrical work and the cost of completing the plumbing work,
  3. remove the DECO cabinets (or pay for the removal)
  4. provide a written release of all liens
  5. provide a release so that the building permit can be reassigned to another contractor.
  6. released unconditionally from all aspects of the contract between Kitchen Experts Of California and the _____
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2 Responses to Kitchen Experts of California: the official complaint letter

  1. Joy Lanzaro says:

    Dear Patrick,

    I regret to read about your experience with Kitchen Experts of California here. Kitchen Experts of California, Inc. has been terminated from the Diamond Certified program.

    Sincerely,
    Joy Lanzaro
    Director – Mediation & Compliance

  2. Nate says:

    Would you recommend A&C Construction – if yes, what is their telephone number?

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