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Adding Trim We Didn’t Know We’d Need

As much as we love the stone we chose for our counters, I’ll start by saying that I was a little confused after the fabricators left. I snapped some photos for Scott (they’re done, and they’re gorgeous!, I texted), but the more I looked at them, the more I felt they were – too high? It seemed as though they were floating above the cabinets, leaving too large of a gap between our drawers and counters. I showed Scott what I meant when he came home, and at first we thought, well, this is just us not being used to having counters, right?

I’m shooting down low so you can see what I mean, but here is how they looked after installation:

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It doesn’t look terribly funny, but it just felt a little off to us, and after looking through way too many kitchen photos online to see if we were losing it (totally possible, by the way), we realized that – surprise, surprise! – there was miscommunication between us, our cabinet maker and the fabricators. This is why:

  • Our cabinet maker created the measurements based on our old laminate counter. That countertop had a lip, which brought the front edge down by an additional 1/2″ – at least.
  • We didn’t think or know to tell him that our new counters wouldn’t have a lip, and I imagine there was the assumption that we would be mounting new stone in a similar way. As a result, while the spacing between each drawer and door is 1/4″, he left a sizable front face at the top – approximately 1″.
  • When we hired our fabricators, we wanted the most simple edge available. They said, great! And when they came to measure, we let them do their thing.
  • The installation went as smooth as possible, but I was called down once to confirm that yes, our floors are sloped a bit. (Our floors are just plain, old crooked. There’s a difference of almost 1″ from the left end of the wet wall counter to the right, plus a little dip in the middle for good measure. This isn’t visible in person, but it’s very noticeable with every single DIY!) They let me know they’d need to shim more than normal to keep things level, and I agreed. The cabinets were also shimmed from below, so imagine a shimming bonanza to keep everything straight and level.
  • This new countertop edge, as you can see, comes straight out from the cabinets,with no lip. As a result, we have a look that felt as if it was “floating.”

You can see the most shimmed section of counter here, which is only visible if you’re, say, of the four-legged variety (while you can see the shims in this photo, it’s caulked behind clear silicone):

counter-trim-02

All this to say, this is no one’s fault, it’s just something we didn’t know to point out or ask of anyone. We could absolutely let this go, but we really think that it’s all in the details (hello, 5%!). We’re sharing this because while it may not be the most obvious in photos – especially if you’re taller than 3′! – we thought it might be helpful for anyone else who doesn’t know all the questions to ask. Every single decision in this room has been heavily considered more than we delve into here (we’re sparing you, we promise), and as with any renovation, there will be slips – and that’s okay. The good news is that we were able to fix it inexpensively with a little trim in an afternoon!

First, we picked up a 1″ x 4″ x 8′ piece of select pine, and we ripped it down to thin sections on our table saw. This had to be done in a few sections, with some needing to be 3/4″ tall and some being 5/8″. A quick dry fit ensured we were on the right path.

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Our cabinet maker gave us leftover touch up lacquer, which is only meant to be applied with a sprayer. For ease of use, we went to a local Benjamin Moore location, showed them what we had, and they recommended a quart of INSL-X Cabinet Coat in the same color (Distant Gray) and finish (satin), which could be applied with a brush or roller.

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After I painted all the strips, we used our nail gun to put them in place. We realized that the thickness of a paint stir stick was the closest match to the drawer spacing, so we used a couple of them as a guide during the install.

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A dab of spackle and paint covered the holes created by the nail gun, and then it was time to caulk. In the lowest spots, there were still some 1/4″-or-so gaps between our trim work and the underside of the counter, but caulk backing is a time saver for things like this:

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The backing helps to fill any gaps that are abnormally large (this would also be a great way to fill any space between your floor and wall before baseboards!), and it allows the caulk to have a place to rest. This also prevents the need to apply layer after layer of caulk.

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Once that was in, I used white silicone caulk to create a seamless transition from trim to counter. The biggest difference is the former blank space above our dishwasher; that alone felt worth it! Despite the additional trim, the dishwasher can still be pulled out in the future if necessary, and all the drawers and doors open and close no different than they did before.

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We chose to stop the trim where the drawer ends, rather than carry it around. Below on the left is without trim, and on the right, you can see how that finished end looks:

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This was purely an aesthetic change, but one that helped to pull those counters back down! If we hadn’t done a thing, we doubt anyone would notice, but now that we’ve finished the task, it feels so much better to us. You know how baseboards finish a room? These little strips finished the cabinets, er, counters. Both, really!

With the exception of some finicky under cabinet wires, we’ve almost completed the lighting, and next up? Tile!

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  • Loryn3.5.15 - 8:16 AM

    YES. That made such a big difference!ReplyCancel

  • Mallory3.5.15 - 8:24 AM

    We installed new cabinets and had pros do the counters. If it wasn’t for my husband, who worked at a counter shop back in high school, we wouldn’t have known all the nuances of countertop ordering either. It’s something that takes experience to know.

    I think you came up with a great solution! It definitely is the last 5% that brings everything together!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.5.15 - 8:40 AM

      Thank you! We could have spent way too much time wondering why the cabinet maker did ask or the fabricators didn’t ask (we’ll never know), but this worked perfectly!ReplyCancel

  • Priscilla3.5.15 - 8:45 AM

    Thank you for this! I would clearly miss these details when I tackle my kitchen renovation. Super helpful information!ReplyCancel

  • soozey3.5.15 - 8:56 AM

    I am really glad you wrote this post. You had a great fix, I’m sure this can easily happen and it will help many. I got freaked out about the situation and it’s not even my counter! :)

    That being said, I think it’s the fabricator’s fault. They have seen hundreds of situations and didn’t ask the correct questions. Sorry, you guys hire them for the expertise. My opinion of course!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.5.15 - 9:05 AM

      I’ll admit that the more I thought about, the more frustrated I was! I wanted to blame the cabinet maker for not asking about our future counters, the fabricators for not asking about the gap, and US for not asking more questions. Thank goodness it was such an easy fix, and while it’s not the most blog-worthy revelation, we thought that if it could help someone else in the future, it was worth sharing.ReplyCancel

      • Kristin3.5.15 - 9:32 AM

        I agree with soozey – the fabricator should have discussed this with you. Most countertops have a lip in front that make them look deeper than they actually are. Even if you wanted a thinner look, they would know by looking at the construction of your cabinets that it wasn’t going to work (or look right) in the end. Atypical details in a kitchen require a lot of planning and custom cabinetry detailing. Your fix does look good, though, so nicely done.ReplyCancel

  • jenn aka the picky girl3.5.15 - 9:20 AM

    That actually made a HUGE difference. Oh man, I would have been so upset, but you guys do such a great job of just seeing the problem and tackling it. Looks amazing.ReplyCancel

  • Kris3.5.15 - 10:18 AM

    That piece of trim looks like it should be there and not to cover an oops. Sorry for the annoyance but the end result looks like it was intentional.ReplyCancel

  • Linda3.5.15 - 11:00 AM

    Thankfully you were able to fix this problem fairly easily…BUT, as a single woman who has limited diy skills and tools, this kind of mistake is disastrous. Years ago I had counters installed and there was a mistake in the measurement that left a pretty wide gap at the back. I was told the tile guy would be able to fix it when the backsplash was installed. Well the fix required quite a bit of work by the tile guy and it cost me more money. Instead of complaining and asking for the additional costs to be paid by the counter people I just let it go. Now I would have handled the whole thing differently, but it still irritates me to this day. Now I ask a lot more questions when having work done!!! And I really appreciate bloggers who share the lessons they’ve learned so the rest of us can avoid some of the same problems. Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.5.15 - 11:10 AM

      Ugh, that’s awful! I’m sure no one notices but you, but you should be thrilled with your kitchen. And yes, more questions! Sometimes it seems that no matter how many questions we ask or things we put in writing, there’s always something that goes wrong. ALWAYS. When working with contractors, this isn’t uncommon, and in talking with friends about issues, it also just seems accepted! Sometimes we wonder if it’s more common in a big city, too – with so much competition. Although, you’d think that would make people want to go above and beyond? It’s a head scratcher, that is for damn sure.ReplyCancel

  • Kate S.3.5.15 - 11:27 AM

    That made a remarkable difference! Nice save.ReplyCancel

  • Julia at Home on 129 Acres3.5.15 - 11:35 AM

    I didn’t know such a thing as caulk backing existed. That will be very helpful. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Joy3.5.15 - 1:09 PM

    Huge difference! Good thing you guys are handy (an understatement to be sure) and could troubleshoot this on your own. Also good to know that caulk backing exists.ReplyCancel

  • Monika3.5.15 - 2:37 PM

    What’s that expression…you don’t know what you don’t know? Unless I was hugging on the adorable Chocolate Chunk, I’d never have noticed, but I know how that can bug a biped. But luckily you guys know enough how to fix it in the end. And as always, it’s a beautiful job!ReplyCancel

  • Aly3.5.15 - 3:15 PM

    Thanks for sharing this! I would never think to ask about this. Your solution worked perfectly!ReplyCancel

  • Melanie3.5.15 - 4:01 PM

    oh wow, thanks for this. We will be getting our new kitchen in a few weeks. I’ll be bookmarking incase I get this issue as well!ReplyCancel

  • Sajida3.5.15 - 5:52 PM

    It looks fantastic. I love how you take the time and care to make those finishes really nice. It’s also nice that you share those hiccups because we have all been in those frustrating situations. And I like that you are just creative and show that there is no exact science to these things. The results are what count in the end, and yours are always beautiful!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.6.15 - 8:36 AM

      Thank you, and you’re right! There are a ton of hiccups no matter how much you plan, but a little trick here and there can go a long way…ReplyCancel

  • Uncle Brain3.5.15 - 9:46 PM

    This is a happy mistake. You got the nice, clean, narrow profile, sleek edge on the counter top and, as a bonus, that trim piece cleans up the face of the drawer fronts.

    It was an extra step but I think it looks better than had it been communicated as you intended. In fact, when I saw the original images I didn’t even comment on that gap as I figured a trim piece was the plan all along.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.6.15 - 8:35 AM

      Uncle Brain, you’re too funny – you know you could have just said something from the very beginning! You’ve been very helpful during our renovation, since you just went through yours.ReplyCancel

  • Kat3.6.15 - 12:57 AM

    Well! I just kinda freaked out all over again for you. I had a sick sort of dread feeling! I’m happy you were able to fix it so easily :) The kitchen looks great!ReplyCancel

  • Christy3.6.15 - 9:45 AM

    I have to second the opinion that it was the fabricator’s fault, and it’s definitely not just a small detail. When you discussed the simple, straight edge, it was up to them to say, “by the way, counters usually have a lip, so you may need to install some extra trim to hide gaps when we shim the counters.” They are the experts. It is as if you had a roofer and the roofer didn’t mention that, oh, by the way, if we don’t flash around the chimney you’ll have leaks. You guys are being super sweet and nice about it and of course it probably would have been more frustrating and less productive to finger point when you could just fix the problem in an afternoon, but the fabricators really should have known and said something. Of course, it’s just my opinion, but I think they should have paid to have the problem fixed professionally.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.6.15 - 9:58 AM

      We definitely felt that for a minute as well, but at the same time, we wondered, why didn’t our cabinet maker ask us what type of counter we would install? There are so many places where the information got lost in translation. We were given a sheet of choices for the counter, and we did prefer the straight out, no-lip look, since the front lip would have looked extra bulky (and we already paid for the thicker 3mm countertop). Before starting this, we thought to contact our cabinet guy to have him install a strip, but knowing it might be more costly to go that route and knowing we could absolutely handle it ourselves, we decided to leave well enough alone.

      I’m really glad I wrote this so others know what questions to ask! A bit bummed that none of the professionals asked us in the first place (how were we to know that these questions should have been raised), but aside from this snafu, we did receive friendly service from both the cabinet maker AND the fabricator.ReplyCancel

      • tom5.25.18 - 11:23 PM

        We have Quartz counter tops coming soon & I’m preparing in the event they also have to shim to level the tops. I’ve been looking at various moldings, but since I’m building shaker doors, your simple trim probably would look the best in my case too. Then I can custom rip for what I need. Thanks for your post.ReplyCancel

  • Marie3.6.15 - 11:34 AM

    A room without any baseboards ? Don’t know what you’re talking about :-DReplyCancel

  • The Kentucky Gent3.6.15 - 11:46 AM

    Definitely not the biggest change in the world, but sometimes it’s the lightest things that make the biggest difference! I love how this all turned out.

    Best,
    Josh – The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.comReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design3.11.15 - 6:21 AM

    I use cabinet coat everywhere in my house too. Cabinets, trim and doors. The paint is awesome.ReplyCancel

  • Iryna @ RedBarberry.com3.18.15 - 3:36 PM

    Definitely pinning this for when we get ready to update our kitchen! Tile work scares me!ReplyCancel

  • Katie6.19.18 - 12:05 AM

    Thank you so much for this post! This exact thing happened to us. The stone yard told me that the stone I picked didn’t need plywood under it- it would not wrap around the edge because of its thickness. I tried to communicate this to the carpenter but he told me it would wrap. And they had already made the gap perfect for a thinner stone and the edge to wrap.
    Just now searching for some solutions to talk to my contractor about. The bar area of the island is really bad because you can see the plywood directly under the countertops. Thinking trim will be our best bet. Thanks for helping me to see that it will work!!!ReplyCancel

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