Quality of Outsourced Doors

Cabinetmakers share experiences with outsourced door quality after hearing about a shipment of doors that arrived with sanding defects. May 27, 2014

We recently got a door order in (about 70 doors) and there is a large swirl mark on most of them on the fronts. The backs of the doors were neglected when sanding out the cross grains. I usually build my own doors, but got in a crunch. My question to those of you who order doors regularly is… What kind of quality in general should be expected? Should I expect to have to touch up sanding on every door? Should we have to sand out cross grain? Also, some of the end grain is splintered from running the edge profile too fast, I would assume. Are these things typical in a large order or do all of your doors come to you with no defects? I also have a door that is broken on the back side where the panel inserts the frame (back of the stick cut). Should I repair this myself or expect them to replace it? I know this wasn't delivery damage. I don't want to be a total jerk about this, but I wouldn't send out product like this. It's not terrible, but it's not my standards either.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
I've ordered doors from a particular company on a few occasions. I paid the extra $3 to have them polish sanded. Which is just their fancy term for orbital sanded through a machine that looks similar to a wide belt but is a large RO sander. The doors are first sent through the widebelt and of course there are cross grain scratches. And then they were sent through the RO sander which was supposed to get rid of those cross grain scratches. They were much diminished, but still there to varying degrees. I was not pleased, and like you, had to sand the doors myself.

I break the corners and edges on my doors very hard. Of course the doors come with sharp edges that have to be broken. So more work to do. Other things, like only glue is put on the tenon and not the shoulder. I understand why, but it's poor practice and the finish will crack at these joints over time. I don't bother buying doors now unless they are mitered doors. Just not up to my quality.

From contributor S:
Three years ago I ordered doors from Patton Cabinet Doors and they came flawless. Sanded better than I could myself and color all matched. In the very long trek in shipping, somebody ran forks through the crate of doors and damaged 4-5 doors (not Patton's fault). I had new doors in 5 days, no questions asked.

From contributor Y:
Occasionally we order doors from Conestoga, prefinished. They have been very good.

From contributor J:
Decorative Specialties - never a problem, really nice doors.

From contributor U:
As a small shop doing doors, I let my customers know what level of finish they can expect at the price they are paying. So don't assume anything and if they are "ready to finish," get further definition on what that means.

From the original questioner:
So I'm guessing when you guys get an order of doors in, you're not getting woodworking 101 mistakes on them... They have let their sanders come to full speed and set them down on the doors, leaving a large have moon scratch on many. They also have tear out on one corner of nearly every door on the door edge profile, telling me that they ran the end grain last. There are also some stiles with separation cracks on the ends that were overlooked. So what's proper protocol on this? How much of it do you repair before having them remake the entire order? By the way... I have used them in the past with very few problems.

From contributor P:
I regularly use Meridian, and never have sanding issues, other than having to break the sharp edges. I go for the polish sanding option.

From contributor U:
Sounds like they turned a new employee loose without much (or any) training or supervision. I think that is very fair to get either partial credit on any future order, or to have them redo doors that you can't save without compromising quality. Can you talk to the owner directly to let them know what happened?

From the original questioner:
Yes. I plan on calling them Monday morning. Thanks for all the responses.

From contributor R:
It depends on what kind of quality versus expense you are willing to deal with. It isn't a big deal to sand them to your specs, so either send them back, or sand them and get paid.

From contributor L:
That's not the issue. If you paid for them to be sanded, you shouldn't need to sand them to your specs. I know that sanding is the thing we do the most. Especially if you are building and finishing your own stuff. Sanding is the bane of my existence.

From contributor A:
I have used Conestoga almost exclusively for 7-8 years. I might have had one or two doors in that time shipped to me that was not perfect (other than shipping damage). I usually use the cross grain sand option. We break the sharp edges and the doors are ready to paint. Stained doors need a light sand just prior to finishing. I have a hard time seeing how I could make that quality door at that price without considerable investment in both real estate and equipment. They solve problems for me, not create them. We are a moderately small production shop doing a couple kitchens a month plus other small cabinetry jobs in between.