Should Real Wood Floor be Installed Before or After the Cabinets - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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Should Real Wood Floor be Installed Before or After the Cabinets

I've always wondered if there's a proper way or order that wood floors get installed in relation to when the cupboards get put in.

Some people have me put the kitchen cabinets in after the floor is down and others before the floor.

What's the difference?

Is one better than the other?
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post #2 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 01:41 AM
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Really it's whatever is easier at the time to do. I always prefer to have the floor down first so when you put the cabinets on them you may not necessarily need shoe since the floor doesn't have to be cut to the cabinet. But this uses a little more flooring since you're running it under the cabinets instead of to them, so sometimes that's an issue. Then it also depends on the height of the cabinets to be installed. If they are custom you can have them made a little taller or shorter depending on if you put the floor down before or after cabinets. If they are pre-fab you probably have to have the flooring installed first so that the overall height isn't too short, and sometimes your dishwasher won't fit depending on the type of counter top you're using and the thickness of the flooring you're using. Hope this kinda helps....
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post #3 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 01:56 AM
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The way that I have done it in the past is to layout your cabinet design on the floor and use underlayment ie: 5/8" for 3/4 flooring this way you have some "shimability" options if your floor is not perfectly level. Now you want to leave the plywood underlayment short by 1/8"-3/16" to your actual cabinet layout so the flooring butts closely to the cabinets and still has a little room for expansion and contraction Good luck to ya. Marc
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post #4 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by sausagefingers View Post
Really it's whatever is easier at the time to do. I always prefer to have the floor down first so when you put the cabinets on them you may not necessarily need shoe since the floor doesn't have to be cut to the cabinet. But this uses a little more flooring since you're running it under the cabinets instead of to them, so sometimes that's an issue. Then it also depends on the height of the cabinets to be installed. If they are custom you can have them made a little taller or shorter depending on if you put the floor down before or after cabinets. If they are pre-fab you probably have to have the flooring installed first so that the overall height isn't too short, and sometimes your dishwasher won't fit depending on the type of counter top you're using and the thickness of the flooring you're using. Hope this kinda helps....

I prefer to have the flooring done first. That way you know the height you're working with. There are other factors. For moisture spills and cleaning, the toe kick overlaps the floor allowing any drips to hit the floor instead of being able to seep between the floor and the toe kick.

If the flooring is done after, there is the clearance height for appliances, and being able to slide them in and out. Spacers or "skids" would have to be used for that.

There is also the condition of any future renovation, that full flooring makes new cabinets easier to install instead of fiting the toe kick to an existing edge.






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post #5 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 05:57 AM
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Either way works. The main concern is how level the floor is. You almost always have to shim the base cabinets to get them level so start at the highest point and shim the lower cabinets. Install toeboard trim to finish.
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post #6 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 06:25 AM
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To me the major consideration is the future.

If in the future you think that the flooring may have to be replaced before the cabinets then it is best to set the cabinets before laying the floor. Otherwise the cabinets would have to be removed before the flooring can be changed.

A spec home contractor would almost always lay the floor last.
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post #7 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 07:27 AM
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Generally, cabinets are made to sit on top of the floor. Appliances are too. You'll be left with a larger gap or better chance of water/milk dripping down to the sub-floor. A continuous run of flooring underneath is better protection. Although not perfect, but if you get that much liquid under the cabs then you got bigger problems.
Doing the floor first also gives you the opportunity to level the floor. Making the cabinet installation smoother.
I've seen the floor done after, only in cheap remodels (linoleum up, tile down. Makes it harder to fit appliances in.

I hate boot moulding. If you're so worried about damaging the new floor and do it first. You can always make a thicker toe- kick. Don't use that vinyl sticky base either. That's cheap and ghetto. Unless, that's what you want.

Just protect the floor well. If hardwood, have it finished after. Any true floor finisher can make most dings disappear.

"My greatest creation wasn't made with my hands,
but my heart goes into everything I do." Craftsman Jay
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post #8 of 23 Old 06-29-2010, 08:30 AM
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It has been my experience that the kitchen remodel will almost always include new cabinets and at times a new arrangement for those cabinets. If the floor went down first then it's a simple task to change the arrangement. If you do the cabinets first and then the floors and later decide to change things up then you have to go back and lay in new floor boards and most likely will have even seams to contend with.

In the new construction world, floors go before cabinets.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. James 3:17
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post #9 of 23 Old 02-07-2011, 02:28 AM Thread Starter
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It has been my experience that the kitchen remodel will almost always include new cabinets and at times a new arrangement for those cabinets. If the floor went down first then it's a simple task to change the arrangement. If you do the cabinets first and then the floors and later decide to change things up then you have to go back and lay in new floor boards and most likely will have even seams to contend with.

In the new construction world, floors go before cabinets.
This is an excellent point. We install cabinets in hundreds of homes that get tile floors and almost always install the cupboards before the tile goes in.

With wood floors it sounds like it is more difficult to piece in the slats than it is adding a few pieces of tile.
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post #10 of 23 Old 02-07-2011, 09:13 AM
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mr mac is right in the new consruction world the floor should go first, its a great place to put your culls and it makes the rest of the job go smooth, what money is saved on flooring there, will be more than made up in laber to finish up the job.
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post #11 of 23 Old 02-07-2011, 12:20 PM
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floor first. i use the "bad" flooring boards under the cabinet areas to use them up, and save the good stuff for out where it shows.
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post #12 of 23 Old 02-07-2011, 12:40 PM
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I would never put the cabinets first. You would have height problems as stated. You also get a much better finished look if the cabinets sit on the floor.
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post #13 of 23 Old 02-07-2011, 06:19 PM
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I have installed cabinets in higher end houses for many years now and have never installed the cabinets before the floor. I would hate to risk having the guys sanding the floor accidentally scratch the sides of a $50,000 set of cabinets. If I am tiling the kitchen I also run the tile first. It just looks better in the end, and if you ever change the cabinets, and eventually most people will, it is nice to not have to tear up or patch the floor because the floor wasn't under the cabinets.
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post #14 of 23 Old 02-08-2011, 07:42 AM
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If cabinets are on base floor & flooring installed last I run flooring into appliance area so they slide in & out easily. If appliances sit on base floor under cabinets you will probably have a gap under counter top & servicing would be tough.

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post #15 of 23 Old 02-08-2011, 01:58 PM
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"if you ever change the cabinets, and eventually most people will, it is nice to not have to tear up or patch the floor because the floor wasn't under the cabinets."

Every flooring guy I've worked with doesn't completely cover the spots under the cabinets anyway so I think that's a moot point.



I prefer to have the flooring done after for tile and pre-finished hardwood. For tile, I just think it looks terrible to have the gaps caused by a cabinet straddling a grout line. Most people pick out a tile with an uneven surface as well so there are gaps all over the place even if you use base shoe. Some tile guys will do everything they can to convince you to lay down the tile first though.

As far as pre-finished hardwood, you have to work slower to avoid scratching it so I just think it saves labor by installing it after. It's not that difficult to cut around the cabinets.

In both cases, I install plywood strips the same thickness as the flooring before installing the cabinets. If you don't do this, it will cause problems with the appliances as has been mentioned.

If you are doing real hardwood floors, it becomes more reasonable to do the floor first. A hardwood guy I used to work with on a lot of jobs would just wait to put on the final coat of finish until the cabinets were done and all the other subs were out of the house.

Last edited by sketel; 02-08-2011 at 02:09 PM.
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post #16 of 23 Old 02-08-2011, 02:12 PM
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If cabinets are on base floor & flooring installed last I run flooring into appliance area so they slide in & out easily. If appliances sit on base floor under cabinets you will probably have a gap under counter top & servicing would be tough.
If the cabinets are installed lower than the floor, sometimes the dishwasher won't fit under the counter if you install flooring underneath it. That's if the counter has an overhang. Dishwashers usually have tight tolerances.

Last edited by sketel; 02-08-2011 at 02:17 PM.
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post #17 of 23 Old 02-08-2011, 02:15 PM
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Julian, not to get nit-picky but high end for $50,000? I'm assuming that's a small high end kitchen.
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post #18 of 23 Old 02-08-2011, 07:35 PM
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Yes, I was just tossing a number out there. I have installed cabinets in a 15 million dollar house that cost over $300,000, and again the floors were done first. I prefer to install prefinished just the same. scratches are not an issue as long as you cover the floor with rosin paper and tape the seams, then cover it with the empty boxes that the wood came in. For unfinished floors I like to install it then have it sanded stained and first coated. Then when all is said and done with tile trim and cabinets, and final paint, then I will have the finisher come in and do the final coat.
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post #19 of 23 Old 02-08-2011, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Julian the woodnut View Post
Yes, I was just tossing a number out there. I have installed cabinets in a 15 million dollar house that cost over $300,000, and again the floors were done first. I prefer to install prefinished just the same. scratches are not an issue as long as you cover the floor with rosin paper and tape the seams, then cover it with the empty boxes that the wood came in. For unfinished floors I like to install it then have it sanded stained and first coated. Then when all is said and done with tile trim and cabinets, and final paint, then I will have the finisher come in and do the final coat.
+1.








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post #20 of 23 Old 02-08-2011, 10:04 PM
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If the cabinets are installed lower than the floor, sometimes the dishwasher won't fit under the counter if you install flooring underneath it. That's if the counter has an overhang. Dishwashers usually have tight tolerances.
If you are doing the install you should have all appliance specs & should account for it in your installation. Most DIYer's are usually the ones that have trouble figuring out these situations as they rarely do them.

I started using separate bases as It's easier to adjust for flooring differences. Leveling them is easier so the cabs sit on a level platform. Not all scenarios are ideal.

James
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