Cabinets first, or floors?

blackchamoisApril 23, 2012

I am remodeling my kitchen (completely gutting - new cabinets, counters, appliances, floors, etc.) My contractor is suggesting installing the floors and then putting the cabinets on top. I have mentioned this to sales people at the flooring stores, and most of them say you should install the cabinets first, then lay the flooring up to the cabinets.

I would like to hear from the community out there on the pros/cons and your thoughts.

I will be doing an engineered hard wood with a glue down installation due to the type of subfloor I have.

Thank you kindly!

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I would do the floor last. We are in the middle of remodeling the kitchen also. We found out that the KD ordered the wrong type of crown molding. So we had to stop the cabinet and do the floor now. I am very worried that when the crew returned to finish counter top and cabinets, they will damage the hardwood floor again. They were really rough on the floor. My contractor kept telling me they will behave very different now that the floor is done. I will have to wait and see. I would not choose to do it in this order if I can help. I am not really good at hold someone responsible in case something goes wrong.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:33PM
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The answer seems to be what kind of flooring you install. What you don't want is to have the surface of the floor higher that the bottom of the cabinets. If your floor is 3/4" and you don't install over it, then the cabs need to be raised 3/4" when installed so the floor will meet up at that level. As for whether to floor first or second, I would go with the flooring store presuming it's a good store with lots of experience (vs. the person at Big Box who got hired last week).

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:34PM
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We are in the middle of renovation as well and the unfinished hardwood floors go in first, then cabinetry. The floor finishing will be the last large operation for the kitchen. My GC is a stickler fine detail and am confident this is the right way to go.

Our floors go in tomorrow and cabinetry will start to be painstakingly installed on Thursday onward. From the reviews I got for my CG, I was told that every one of his kitchen cabinet installations are picture perfect level and granite installers love his craftmanship, since it makes their job a lot easier.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:51PM
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We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel now. I just asked our cabinet installers last week if we should have put the stone down first before the cabinets. They finished a split linen with posts and moldings at the base. I am worried about the stone going right up to it vs being underneath. He said if you were putting wood down, we'd want the wood in first. But with stone, we install cabinets first, then your floor goes in. He said if we wanted it the other way around, we could. I said no.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:55PM
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My new hardwood floors will be installed before the cabinets. My GC assured me that they would protect the floors by covering them with some type of paper. When I first started the process every kitchen designer I spoke with recommended installing floors first which will be wall to wall. That way there will never be an issue if later down the road the cabinets are replaced. Not that I am concerned...I won't ever be doing this again! :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:56PM
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My kitchen is being torn out as I write. (VERY LOUD!) We're having the cabinetry installed first on 3/4" plywood "platforms", then the prefinished bamboo flooring will go in after. I think the fact that it's prefinished has a lot to do with our GC's recommendation to do it this way.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:01PM
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Floors first always

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:05PM
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My unfinished oak floors went in first. Protected with Ram board. Then cabs.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:10PM
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breezy did they sand and finish before cabinet install? We are doing unfinished as wel and I thought the order would be floors, refinished, then cabinets etc etc. Reason being in the refinishing process with the sander it could damage the cabinets, poly could get on them and get dust all over the appliances/cabs. Please tell me this is accurate or we will be homeless even longer than anticipated as we can't move in until floors are done. (but can be there for cabinets/kitchen install)

I think the order might not matter as much if your flooring does not need to be refinished or is tile. But for unfinished HW I always assumed you sand and poly first.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 6:46PM
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My flooring will not need to be refinished. Does that make a difference as to whether to put the floors down first, or the cabinets?

Thanks for all the feedback!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 7:16PM
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Ratrem--Here's the order recommended by everyone involved along the way.

Unfinished floor install across the entire area
Poly #2
Ram board cover over
Cab install
Remainder of reno work done
Floors get a final sand and poly
No one/no work/no HVAC on/nada in the house for 24 hours drying period

The last step threw us off also. I had the last weeks of work scheduled to the hour until I found out we couldn't move back in when I thought. The owner of the house where we were staying was not a happy human either. I suggest you double-check with your flooring company to be safe.

Oh, and we had zero damage to the cabs or to the installed and painted trim with the last flooring step. I lost sleep over that worry. My cab maker came in a couple weeks later to install a toe kick skin over the cab toe kick area.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 2:35AM
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About 60% done with my remodel and put the floors in first.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 5:49AM
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Floors first, then cabinets. The floors were protected with big sheets of cardboard taped together and then covered with that heavy, reddish paper.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 6:51AM
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I think you can do either, but generally it seems to be more common to do floors first for site finished hardwood, and cabinets first for prefinished/engineered.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 10:13AM
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Our floors are going in first. FWIW, the original floors were tile and were put down after the cabinets. They did a pretty terrible job and the grout lines up to the cabs were awful.

There wasn't enough room for them to expand/contrast and we ended up having broken tiles and grout coming out everywhere.

Two flooring guys looked. Both recommended the flooring go down first. I'm sure if it's done correctly, it wouldn't be a problem to put it in after, but I do like the idea of having the wood there if I ever decide to change the footprint.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 10:24AM
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BTW - forgot to mention that ours is pre-finished flooring. We discussed on-site flooring and both guys wanted floors in first.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 10:27AM
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My cabs are up on 3/4" boards.
When I put in the cork flooring I've had stored in the dining room for 3 years, it'll tuck under the cabinets and match.

I'm even considering leaving the 3/4" where it is, simply because 1/2 the kitchen has a countertop built in over those cabinets. We'll see.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:07AM
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We're in the midst of the remodel. The old floor just went to the edge of the cabinets. The new granite tiles went in first, wall to wall, after the kitchen was gutted.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:40AM
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I'm having new hardwood, site finished installed. I would have preferred Breezy's installers' method, but they're doing mine:
- unfinished wood installed and feathered in with old floors
Floors protected with flooring paper (not nearly as nice as Breezy's installers' surface - which I suggested to the GC - but I guess isn't necessary, as they hadn't even been sanded yet
-cabinets installed (but not yet island),
-Sand,Stain (today)
-Sand, Stain (Wed.) (we're doing the entire first floor and they have to stain the new wood to blend in with the natural old, so there's a lot of time spent staining only the new up to where it abuts the old, but keeping it off the old wood
-Poly (Thursday)
-Poly (Friday)
We're allowed in on Saturday, but no furniture until reno's completed,
-install island on floors
-install appliances, paint walls and finish trimwork
-final sand and poly

I wish there was stain and poly underneath the perimeter cabinets, but everyone assured me it wouldn't be an issue with them being unfinished. I think it was a matter of flooring guys not available to finish until after cabinets arrived - but the nice thing was I was able to move most of my kitchen items from our temp. kitchen in the DR to the cabinets, instead of moving out to the garage. Of course it will all have to come out again to be put in correct locations...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:55PM
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There are many GW threads on this topic, and I've learned a lot. We'll be going with floors in first. There are many things to consider. Here are the few of the issues that were important to us:

- Appliance height: If you install the cabs first, be sure to shim them up so your dishwasher (or the one you buy in 20 years) can slide into place under the counter.

- What do you think you or a future owner will replace first? If floors, perhaps put in the cabinets first so you don't have to cut out the flooring around the cabs.

For us, we're doing floors first in part because we're DIY and too lazy to make sure the cabinet height is correct for the appliances. We're doing ceramic or stone tile over electric in-floor heating (walkways and sitting areas only), so it will be hard to estimate the exact depth of the floor, and it would suck if the DW didn't fit under the cabs. Also, we're DIY in phases, and won't get to building the peninsula until several months after the main work triangle is installed, and it would be weird to have plywood in spots and tile in spots. The tile floor is very durable, so even if there is a catastrophic water event, it's unlikely the floor will need to come out before the cabinetry. Lastly, we're doing a lot of custom cabinets (32 inches deep in some areas instead of the standard 24), so if we installed cabs first and we (or a future owner) removes them before the floor, it would leave a very strange pattern to fill in.

In a nutshell, for us, floor first is easier and about the same cost as only having plywood under the cabs.

Here is a link that might be useful: GW chicken or egg? Floors or cabs first?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 2:21PM
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Floors first if wood
If other surfaces, I would put plywood down of the same height as the flooring
Our house was built without flooring UC - and we are retro during remodel.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:01PM
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Another vote for floors first. We've done it both ways and found doing floors before cabinets is better. Like breezygirl, we also just throw a layer of Ram Board down on the floor to protect it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ram Board's floor protector

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Great info!
How you make sure the cabinet height is correct for the appliances? I am little confused.

Should the cabinet maker check how tick the new floor would be + appliances and then do the drawings? I just want to understand what we should be careful about. We have old hardwood floors in the dining area which we'll continue with new floors in the kitchen. Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 2:30AM
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I would install floors under the appliances, regardless of whether I installed floors or cabinets first.

The issue with cabinets before floors, for people who prefer that approach, isn't really an issue with appliances because appliances unlike cabinets are easy to remove.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 3:06AM
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