Wood floor first or base cabs first??

breezygirlFebruary 17, 2011

I am our GC now (lucky me) and I'm clueless about construction. I'm getting conflicting info on what comes first--wood floor or base cabs. We will be putting new, site-built oak floors down throughout the main part of the house shown here, including the kitchen. Here's the general floorplan to give you an idea. (Fridge and ovens have swapped places. Furniture won't be like that. Windows and upper cabs have changed slightly, but ignore those parts.)

From a post many, many months ago I remember reading that floors should come first. I think that's my preference, but don't really know enough to understand the pros and cons. What should be installed first?

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Breezy- One HUGE pro of doing the floors first is that when/if a remodel occurs somewhere down the road, the layout won't matter as much because you will have the wood floors everywhere. They may not match exactly because of fading, scratching, etc. but they will be way closer than trying to find a matching wood to blend with the older floors. This could also apply if something happens with an appliance and it needs switched out. Just a thought...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 4:30PM
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Very, very good point. That had crossed my mind at one time. To me, that falls under the category of "doing it right the first time." I've seen many folks here trying to reno that have that exact problem. Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 4:33PM
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Our close friends are doing a complete gut job on their kitchen but leaving the floors the same. They are stuck with a peninsula coming off the wall at a 45 degree angle due to the floor running up to but not under the current cabinets...good luck with being your own GC. sounds like you are almost done...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 4:39PM
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The main downside to putting the floor down first is potenital damage when the cabinest are installed and extra cost for material you don't see.

Even if you don't put it under the cabs, you shuold put something under the cabs to bring the bottoms up to the level of the final floor - you have to be careful that you don't end up with a "drop" where your dishwasher will go, and you have to make sure that the opening will still be tall enough if the cabinet bases are lower than the finished floor height.

Depending on the style of base (mine has feet in front to look more like furniture) setting the cabs first could cause major problems.

Personally - I'd put the floor in first.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 4:45PM
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It really is the whole chicken/egg story all over again. When you say site built, do you mean site sanded and finished?

When I sold hardwood, *we* preferred to go in after cabinets but before toekicks. This was mainly to protect the floor from the cabinets getting installed. In new home builds it was usually careless trades coming in after us that damaged the floors.

Floors first, pros;

--you can change base cabinets easier at a later date

--the cabinets won't get dinged by the flooring install (and finishing equipment in site finished floors)

--you don't have to deal with the sanding dust in your new cupboards (site finished)


--the floor is likely to get some damage with cabinet installation. You can do the final site finishing after the cabinets to hedge your bets.

--you're using extra square footage of wood

--you can't easily change your mind on the floor after the cabinets are in

things to consider:

if you install your cupboards first and run the hardwood just under the toekicks, you'll need to remember the 3/4" thickness of the wood when installing your cabinets.

some people install their base and wall cabinets, do hardwood and THEN install the island. With small/midsized non-plumbed islands you can just lift and move them slightly to install underneath *if* you don't have multiple electrical coming up form the floor.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 4:51PM
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Our wood floors were site finished BEFORE cabinet install and there was no damage to the floors. I think if the guys are careful and put something down to protect the floors where they walk/etc it'll be fine. But also, the floor guy waited until after the cabs/appliances were installed to come in and do a final 3rd coat of poly, which would've covered any minor damage.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 9:12PM
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If you are site finishing, I would lay the floors unfinished and sand first, then install cabinets, then final finishing (and spot sanding if needed) of floors. That way, floors are under cabinets (and I am a big fan of this for all the reasons outlined above) but you don't have to stress if they get a nick here or there because they will get finished afterwards. We did our floors first and the cabinet guys covered them very carefully---our only scratches were from appliances, which would have come after the floors no matter what.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 9:34PM
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If you're doing your own floor, it's much easier to sand and finish the floor if it's a wide expanse. More likelihood to gouge with sander or make an uneven finish if you're working around installed cabs...and the floor will take longer to work on because you're constantly working with different light, different angles, different different different.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 12:32AM
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collins design

Put the floors in first, then when they're totally cured, cover with several layers of rosin paper (red stuff in rolls at the Home Center or lumberyard) with the seams taped and taped to wall edges. That will prevent grit and screws and stuff getting underneath, which would scratch the floors. If something happens during the kitchen construction phase, like a spill which wets/damages the paper, or a tear, simply cut out and patch that are, sealing it with tape again.

This has always worked well for us :)

Best wishes from a fellow CG!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 8:30AM
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Our cabinet guy told us we could do either, but as someone already said you have to take into account the height of the flooring if you do flooring later. We are DIY'ing prefinished hardwood, so we have decided to spend the little extra and put the floor in first and go under the cabinets before they are installed.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 10:29AM
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We did the same thing as mountaineergirl. Floors were installed with two coats of poly, base cabinets and island were installed and then the third coat was applied. The only problem that we're running into is that a few floor boards that were patched in with the existing floors are having issues and need to be replaced. Not sure how our flooring installer is going to accomplish that. Anyway, I'd still put the floors under the cabinets.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Blog

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 10:39AM
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bumping this up for Clueless_in_pgh.

And I never came back to thank everyone for their responses. Bad Breezy.

Thank you everyone. I'm definetly doing hardwood FIRST!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 1:28AM
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