Do Floors Go In Before Cabinets? Here’s What You Must Know.


As lovely as a home remodel can be after it is done, before and during can be challenging. To avoid a few of those challenges, a homeowner needs to get educated. Even if you are not going to be doing the work yourself, you should know what the correct procedure is. Going into the project with the wisdom you need will help you prepare properly and achieve the results you are dreaming of!

Do floors go in before cabinets? Here’s what you must know. There is a system to floor and cabinet installation. The general rule is if the flooring material gets secured to the subfloor with adhesive or hardware, that you can lay the flooring before installing your cabinets. The things you want to keep in mind are the weight of your cabinets, the strength and durability of your flooring, and also the alignment of floor covering patterns. This is a general rule and does not work for every situation, though.

If you are only replacing over the counter cabinets, you won’t need to worry about which comes first. Everyone else: pay attention.

Do Floors Go in Before Cabinets: The Simple Answer

When you are remodeling a room like a kitchen, you may be replacing your cabinets and your flooring at the same time. But, you’re not sure if you should lay the flooring and then install the cabinets, or vice versa.

The answer to your question will depend on a few factors.

  • Which type of flooring are you going to be laying? 
  • What type of cabinets/countertops are you going to be installing?
  • How heavy are the cabinets and countertops?

It is important to do all of your research from every angle of a demolition and remodel before you even get the tools out or make any purchases! The broad answer is if it gets glued or screwed down, you can usually install cabinets on top of it.

Remember that when flooring gets installed first, you should be mindful not to damage the floor while moving the heavy cabinetry and appliances around.

Settling on a certain type of flooring also means that you will need to decide what type of trim you’ll be using, as well. You may go for strips of trim, baseboards, or a filler such as caulk or grout.

You may even need to remove existing baseboards to correctly install your new flooring and cabinets, then replace them after the install. Leaving gaps can provide space for dirt and debris to get trapped.

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood floors are a popular choice due to the durable nature of the material and the beautiful finished look. In most cases, hardwood floors are always best installed before cabinetry.

Since hardwood floors are installed directly to the subfloor, there is no need to be concerned about the structural integrity when installing cabinets on top. Most hardwood floors use either or both glue and hardware fasteners.

If you’re installing hardwood floors after cabinets have been installed, then make sure to check heights to ensure there is enough space under benchtops for appliances. You will also need to install a kickboard or quarter around the cabinets to give a clean look.

Floating Flooring

The term floating floor means flooring that is not secured to a subfloor with adhesive or hardware like nails or screws. Hence the term floating.

Rather than securing it to a subfloor, the floating floor is typically sold in pieces that have a tongue and groove running along the edges of each piece. The tongues and grooves will snap together, and get tightened with a rubber mallet or a pull bar and a tapping block.

The benefit of installing a floating floor is that the job is typically quicker and easier than other types of flooring to install. Floating flooring comes in a ton of different finishes and patterns from wood grain to marble-like finish.

If you decide to go with a floating floor, you will need to first install the cabinetry, then the flooring. Floating floors cannot withstand the weight of a cabinet and/or countertop. They will pop apart, shift, and possibly crack. Therefore, you should not install cabinets on top of a floating floor.

Stone or Ceramic Tile

When it comes to tile flooring, there is no single yes or no answer on installing before or after cabinetry. The steps of your process will depend on you factoring in the weight of the cabinets and comparing it to the recommendations of the tile on how much weight it can bear.

Another thing to factor into this build is your subflooring and the structure of your home, plus the area that you live in. Weather and nature can play a part in this job. For instance, if you live in an area that experiences a lot of earthquakes, tiles may not be the best choice for you because of potential shifting and cracking.

If you have chosen to go with tile and have done the necessary calculations to conclude that you will be laying the flooring before the installation of cabinets, you should allow time for the grout to settle and cure before stressing it with the weight of your cabinets. Typically, stone tile is much stronger and durable than ceramic.

One thing to think about when laying flooring under cabinetry is that when the time comes to replace the flooring, you may have to remove the cabinets, too. Whether you want to or not.

Vinyl

Vinyl flooring is easy to clean and easy on the budget. Vinyl comes in tiles and also on a large sheet/roll. Working with the vinyl tiles is usually much easier than laying a large sheet. Vinyl tile usually comes as a self-sticking backed product, but some people do use extra adhesive.

Vinyl flooring is also sold as a floating floor tongue and groove type, but we’ve already covered floating floors. For this section, we will only be referring to vinyl tiles or sheet/roll type.

The general rule of thumb for flooring is that if it gets secured to the floor with adhesive or hardware, that you can usually lay it before installing cabinets. Since most vinyl flooring gets glued down, you can likely install your floor before your cabinets.

Something professionals warn about is that vinyl can be the least durable of the flooring material options. So, if you do lay it down before installing cabinets, just beware that if it gets damaged, it could be challenging to replace without removing cabinets, too.

Carpeting

Installing carpeting in a kitchen is not very common, but there are definitely instances where you’ll want cabinets in a carpeted room. Professionals normally warn against installing cabinets on top of carpeting. 

The nature of carpeting is that there is padding underneath plush carpeting, both the padding and the carpet can and will settle over time, especially under the weight of cabinets and countertops.

When the padding and carpet begin to condense under pressure, the cabinets can shift, causing noticeably crooked doors and unlevel countertops. Depending on the style of both your carpet and cabinets, it may be suggested that you actually run the carpeting up the base of the cabinets before finishing it with trim.

If you are not going to run the carpet up the base of your cabinets, you will want to use a kickboard or other heavy-duty trim piece to finish the cabinetry on the carpet edge.

Down The Road

It is never a bad idea to think ahead when remodeling. Though you may not want to think about redoing your brand new floor, again, you may want to do your future self a favor and at least put some thought into it.

Homeowners tend to replace or redo flooring more often than they do cabinets. Why? Flooring tends to wear out quicker than cabinetry does. Constant foot traffic, pets, kids, and just the normal amount of wear and tear on flooring can lead to damage beyond repair.

Though you may have your heart set on a style of flooring that gets installed before cabinets, is it really the best solution for your present lifestyle, and also for your future?

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