My Kind of Problem

Boxing Day, 2017, 7:48 a.m.

Good morning, Nancy.

An issue has emerged concerning the counter top. As currently configured, the counter top will cover the dishwasher control panel. The dishwasher needs to move about 3 inches out from under the counter top. Please suggest a time when we can have a telephone conversation.

There’s nothing like getting up the day after Christmas to news of a work-related problem.

Being the kind of person whose first response to such communiqués is anxiety, I immediately go through a systematic reality check.

1. Look: Pull up the snapshot of the island where the dishwasher door is visible. Check: The door is protruding from the adjacent cabinets exactly as it should. (A bit of advice: Take progress shots, especially when working on jobsites. It’s helpful to be able to look at a picture on your phone when your jobsite is an hour’s drive away.)

2. Think: Who installed the dishwasher? The clients’ builder, who installs them all the time. Check: The installation is probably correct, though I won’t stop worrying until I know for sure.

3. Think some more: Is there really a problem? Don’t the overwhelming majority of dishwashers get installed under counters? Don’t you think a global leader in dishwasher design such as Bosch would have planned for this? That does make sense; you probably program the controls with the door open, then shut it. (Full disclosure: We don’t have a dishwasher. I prefer to use those 12 cubic feet of space in our small kitchen for storage.) Still, I won’t stop worrying until I know for sure.

4. Google “Bosch top of door controls dishwasher.” While installation manual is downloading, do a quick search of email records. Did I advise them to buy this dishwasher, in which case I should have known of any unusual installation requirements? No. The only relevant communication was in October, when my clients told me they were looking seriously at dishwashers. And there it is, on page 37: “Note: With hidden controls, the door must be opened before changing settings and closed after changing settings.”

5. Reply to client, adding that if I’ve misunderstood the nature of the problem, I will be glad to talk by phone. Press “send” and hope the problem is resolved.

6. Relief:

Yes, now we see how the dishwasher works, have reread the manual and are relieved to see that our concerns were unfounded. We both apologize for our confusion!! So sorry to start your day with unnecessary worries!!

7. Schedule appointment with mental health professional. Oh, wait. I don’t have one.

Happy holidays!

–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work


Festive fruit bread (a hybrid of “French fruit braid,” “Easter tea ring” and “Stollen” from Cordon Bleu: Baking, Bread and Cakes (B.P.C. Publishing, 1972)

About nrhiller

cabinetmaker and author
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32 Responses to My Kind of Problem

  1. woodgeek says:

    I had to laugh when I read this post. Not at you, Nancy, but at the homeowner. When we bought our new home, the dishwasher control panel was hidden by the countertop. My wife and kids were dismayed and annoyed. Until I pointed out that you were supposed to set up the wash cycle on the control panel with the door open, press “start” and then close the dishwasher door. Maybe your homeowner will come to the same conclusion.

  2. God bless us, every one!

  3. Neal M says:

    Heh! Good on you for running the “problem identification” routine. How many of those “This (fill in) never works like it’s supposed to” and “There’s something really wrong with this…” have we all received first thing of a morning! By the way the counters look great and the Stollen even better.

    • nrhiller says:

      It’s always nice to be reminded that you’re not alone in getting this kind of note from clients (and these clients are genuinely lovely people). The counter in question won’t be installed until the first week of January. The one with the Stollen is our kitchen table, made of curly sassafras.

  4. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one in the world with access to Google. I get so tired of questions from folks who could solve their own problem with a five-minute internet search. But no, they’d rather email me, as if I’m the information desk of the NY public library, circa 1980. After all, I write about woodworking for a living, so I must live to type long email responses to any and all questions, right? I wouldn’t mind if they were asking about a subject they’d seen in one of my videos or articles. (Though please be sure the answer isn’t found in that video or article before asking me to repeat it for you. Thanks.) What really irks me are the general questions about anything from what size v-belt fits their table saw, to what are the prices of plywood in their area- these are the things that drive me to drink.

    • nrhiller says:

      I hear you. To my mind this case is a bit different, because the question came from clients who are nearing the end of a long construction project in which they have participated, hands-on, at every point possible (and the work they have done is top notch), which earns them my respect. They have also treated their builder and subcontractors with patience and understanding. So if, while spending their first holiday at the new home (which still does not have a shower or functioning kitchen, so kudos to their adventurous spirit), the relatively unusual placement of the dishwasher controls suddenly impresses itself on their awareness, prompting this kind of concern, I want to be understanding and respond as helpfully as I can (even if the situation fills me with anxiety). The title of the post is sincere. My favorite kind of problem is the one I can resolve easily by pointing out that it’s not a problem at all. LOVE!

      • I was only venting. In fact, I regretted the arrogant tone of my rant immediately after I clicked “post”. I didn’t mean to imply that customer questions should be dismissed, (I don’t do commission work), or that I resent well-meaning questions. In truth, I spend most days thanking my lucky stars I get to make a living around the craft I love. And I try to answer as many emails as I can. (Though I sometimes complain to my wife.)

        Your kind patience is something I aspire to. 🙂

        • Bruce Lee says:

          Be careful, you are starting to sound like Chris when he has his grumpy pants on 😉

        • nrhiller says:

          I didn’t think you were being mean spirited or arrogant! I understood that you were venting. But based on what you wrote, I worried that I might have seemed dismissive toward my clients in this post. My reply to you was just meant to set the record straight about that. I hear you on all counts!

  5. spoiler says:

    Dear Nancy- Although it looks scrumptious… the above pictured bread is too long for the platter- please advise at your earliest convenience…

  6. tpobrienjr says:

    I have a Bosch dishwasher, and it is true that you can’t see the controls when the door is closed, which is most of the time. It is very quiet, and the Bosch designers put in a little red LED that lights a spot on the floor indicating that the machine is running. Probably should caution – not recommended to install over red or black floor…..

    Also – take the first slice of bread out of the center, and the hangover problem will be solved. But the photo is so good it doesn’t really matter.

    • whodave says:

      I had the exact same issue first time I tried to use my wife’s chosen dishwasher in our new house. No controls! WTH!

    • nrhiller says:

      That is what I did: served the first slice from the center. Problem solvers unite! The platter is a family heirloom, so I wanted to use it for our tiny three-person festive brunch. It was not a formal occasion.

  7. Kent Ryan says:

    Carefully cut a slice out of the middle of the beautiful bread. Reinstall on platter!

  8. Jeff says:

    OMG, I can so relate, to both the madness and methods. Unfortunately for my mental health my default is ‘what did I screw up’ . Fortunately for my financial health, it’s usually someone not reading the directions or all of my text.

    • nrhiller says:

      I didn’t think you were being mean spirited or arrogant! I understood that you were venting. But based on what you wrote, I worried that I might have seemed dismissive toward my clients in this post. My reply to you was just meant to set the record straight about that. I hear you on all counts!

  9. Chris Ayers says:

    This is as good as the time my wife asked me to build her some boxes – about “this size” and once they were built…I didn’t mean “that size”. Now i make cardboard mock ups unless I’m building it for myself.

  10. KeithM says:

    Never overestimate the customer. I had a call last week where a power recliner would not work — stopped in the open footrest position. Problem: connector to the motor came disconnected.

  11. Tim says:

    I love your posts Nancy, you just get that anxiety spot on. More books please!

  12. Kind of reminds me of the phone call my Dad got one Christmas Morning as we were having breakfast. A clients house we built was “falling down”. So into the truck with the construction tools and off we went. Thereupon we discovered that the owner had seen fit to remove the centre roof support posts on an octagonal house in order to make room for a baby grand piano that he couldn’t afford. The roof was actually pancaking flat. We cut temporary posts to support the roof and threw a tarp on the roof to prevent any more snow from entering. A week later with a large hydraulic jack to push the centre of the house up and logging come-alongs we pulled the house back together. And warned the owner again that we would not come back to fix it again.

  13. Israel Katz says:

    I was an appliance serviceman for a bit. We did the warranty for an off shore manufacturer that part of their sale included a free checkup. This company came out with one of the first full size full convection oven. I lost count of the number of complaints about expensive piece of …. That is until shown what it could do if used according to the instruction manual. some of them called back to say its the best oven they ever used. ce la vie

  14. Bill Truitt says:

    it appears to this old cabinetmaker that the island cabinet is designed too narrow to accommodate the appliance. remaking the end panels a couple inches wider should solve the problem. the appliance is NOT the problem…

    • nrhiller says:

      Bill, I’m not sure whether you read the full post. The island is designed and built to the correct size, and the builder who installed the dishwasher did so correctly. The only “problem” was that the clients have not had this type of dishwasher before and so could not picture how the appliance is meant to be used. Alles gut.

  15. Roger Kugler says:

    Nice post, Nancy. Hoping all our problems in 2018 are as easily and efficiently solved!

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