Getting Ed-Ucated: Cabinet Inspection
If you think about the way kitchens and bathrooms are typically constructed, it’s where you’ll find the most water supply and drain lines, cabinets and vanities. That means when there’s a water loss in those rooms, it’s important to inspect underneath and behind the cabinets to identify what they’re made of and if there are any signs of water damage. Because the water damage is typically hidden from view, the underside of the cabinets should be one of the first places to look for potential water damage. If damaged, it’s important to determine if it’s from this water loss or pre-existing damage. It’s also important to check for stains and potential mold. Many cabinet boxes are made of particleboard or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) that will soak up water like a sponge, causing it to swell and stain easily. The good news is that most cabinet faces are constructed out of wood veneer. Veneer is technically a thin layer of hardwood (usually thinner than 1/8 of an inch) and it’s normally bonded to a cheaper surface hidden below. Many times -even if the cabinet box is not salvable- we may be able to save the cabinet faces, doors and drawers.
Because it’s not easy to inspect under or behind cabinets, many times the signs of water damage are missed and can become an issue later when there are claims of improper drying. It’s best to first inspect anywhere water supply or drain lines are inside/behind the cabinets, as well as underneath the cabinet that is closest to the source of the loss. This can be done by removing or drilling holes in the toe kick. A toe kick is the area between the base cabinet and the floor and can be referred to as the “toe space.” Toe kicks are built into bathroom vanities and kitchen cabinets to allow homeowners to be more comfortable when using the counter. Even if the toe kick can’t be removed and holes must be drilled or cut, it’s easy to cover the holes later with a thin piece of trim that can be painted or stained to match.
If it’s determined the cabinets must be removed, the homeowner needs to be included in the discussion. We do that because of the possibility of damaging the cabinets during the removal process. We see a lot of customer built cabinets and it can be difficult to find a matching replacement. CodeBlue’s IICRC certified Mitigation Specialists will obtain good photos of penetrating moisture readings and any staining or mold before the decision to remove them is made. If the cabinet box is made out of plywood, OSB or real hardwood, it’s likely they can be cleaned and saved, although it may still be necessary to remove them in order to properly gain access for cleaning. If the box is made from particleboard or MDF and it’s swollen, falling apart or has visible mold on it, removal is recommended.
With the obvious exception of Category 3 claims, CodeBlue will always try to save the cabinets, rather than tear them out right away. This has the benefit of not disrupting the policyholder with unnecessary demolition and replacement, which increases the time it takes to get them back to pre-loss condition. It also lowers the severity of the claim and prevents the cabinet from becoming one more thing dumped into a land fill.