When having our new house built we selected cherry kitchen cabinets as an upgrade (extra cost). We got some nicks in the bottom cabinets from accidentally hitting them with the vacuum cleaner. The cabinet repair person that fixed the damage asked if I was aware that the wood was poplar, not cherry. Apparently poplar is sometimes used as a cheaper substitute for cherry and can be stained to look like cherry. However, it is a much softer wood and therefore prone to nicks and scratches. When I asked the builder about it, he said he had had no problems with the cabinet supplier's products and that they were cherry. How can I find out definitively what wood was used, and what can I do about it if it is not the cherry that I paid for, but poplar instead?
In terms of how you can find out if the wood is poplar or cherry -- I would start with reviewing any and all documentation you have that says it was cherry (be sure it didn't say cherry stain). Without documentation evidencing that you were promised and you paid for (solid) cherry, you will have a difficult time with moving this forward. Beyond the documentation, you obviously need to locate someone who can evaluate/identify wood, preferably someone who is qualified and who is willing to put their evaluation in writing. Once you have that writing, put your complaint in writing to the builder and include a copy of the assessment and of your original contract evidencing what you paid for -- cherry wood. Make a demand that the cabinets be replaced and provide a deadline. Whether you need or want to get an attorney involved is your call -- without knowing the costs difference, it is hard to say. Good luck.
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