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Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

We're gutting our kitchen and replacing the cabinets and flooring that runs throughout kitchen and family room. We will use either engineered wood (glued) or tile flooring over the cement slab. The home center recommends installing the cabinets, then flooring. Several TOH shows I've seen show flooring THEN cabinets at times. I know that I'll have to ensure there is enough height in the diswasher opening. One book says to raise the cabinets on plywood underlayment to match the eventual flooring height to avoid the diswasher dilemma (flooring height could be as much as 1/2 inch). If I'm going to do this...why not just put the floor down first, even though it costs me a few more square feet?....THanks in advance for help

A. Spruce
Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

I prefer to install the cabinets first, then the floor. There are several reasons, from wanting the floor to be the last thing done so as not to cause any damage during other phases of construction, to cost of burying expensive flooring under cabinets. A sheet of plywood, underlayment or just about any other sheet good will likely be cheaper than any finish flooring (per square foot). Another consideration is that if the floor you are installing is a "floating" floor, the cabinets will effectively lock them down which can cause a few problems later on.

I would recommend using another material under the cabinets and dishwasher and leave the finished floor to the visible areas so that it can expand and contract without restriction. :)

Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

In my opinion, it would make more economical sense to adjust the level of the cabinets with the addition of sub flooring rather than flooring material. The only time I've seen the flooring run under the cabinets is for linoleum to prevent curling

As far as the dishwasher goes, I have a dishwasher that was installed before the ceramic tile was laid. This tile was laid over the old linoleum though and that extends under the toe kick. Removing the dishwasher was a hassle because the adjustment feet had corroded in place so I couldn't clear the tile. I finally had to remove the feet with a reciprocating saw.

I vote for raising the floor level under the cabinets but don't waste valuable money on actual flooring material.

Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

I myself can see both sides on this issue, and different builders have strong opinions both ways. as far as my opinion for what little that is worth, I would put the flooring in first even if it isn't going under the cabinets, for one reason it makes it easier for the person doing the flooring. as in less cut ins. and can actually use scrap pieces under the back side of the cabinet, and run the flooring under dishwasher and stove this allows for easier removal of both. on the other hand if doing ceramic tile I say run it solid all the way under the cabinets so if you are ever doing a remodel and change layout it isn't a problem

Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

I would say, if you're doing a ceramic tile floor, cover th entire floor the cost difference between that and laying plywood the same thickness under the cabinets is insignificant.
If you're doing a floating floor you do not want the cabinets on the flooring.
If you 're doing a glued down lam floor it can be done either way.
If you're doing hard wood do the entire floor.

See and you thought it would be simple to get a consensus.:)

Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

With the exception of laminate flooring, I like the flooring to be installed before the cabinets, as well as underneath them. This method is much less labor-intesive than laying the flooring around the cabinetry. This method also saves you from shimming the cabinetry up the thickness of the flooring, which I believe to be a waste of time. When dealing with unfinished hardwood, I finish the floors before installing the cabinets as well. Again, it is much easier to sand and apply the finish without any obstuctions. When the finish is dry, I cover the floor with rosin paper and work on top of that, being careful not to dent the wood.

Mike McGuinness
Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

If you are going to be paying someone to install the flooring, the added labor costs from having to cut around the cabinets will more than likely offset any additional costs from just running the flooring right under the cabinets. I was installing wood flooring in my kitchen and I didn't want to remove the cabinets because they were fairly new.... the stress and aggravation of having to cut around the cabinets and the island that was in place was not worth it.

Mike McGuinness
Kitchen Cabinets

Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)


It seems that much of the discussion I've found on this subject surrounds new installation. I have a tile floor in my kitchen that goes under the cabinets to the wall. I want to remove the tile and install wood floors - how do you accomplish this task? Does the whole kitchen need to be gutted?

Just a real world example of the chicken/egg discussion you've been having!

Thanks for your perspective,


Re: Floor or Cabinets? (Chicken or the egg?)

As others have posted, whether to install the cabinets first or the flooring first depends on labor costs vs. materials costs. In most cases the labor savings of installing the flooring first outweighs the additional cost of materials. Another benefit is that the subfloor or underlayment under the cabinets is somewhat protected in the event of a spill.

There are of course some types of flooring that should NOT be laid under cabinets. Floating floors such as click-lock laminate shouldn't have cabinets permanently installed on it as that will prevent it from expanding and contracting.

If, as one poster asked, the cabinets are already installed (such as when you simply want to replace the flooring) on top of the existing flooring, it may be worthwhile to remove the cabinets. This depends on how the cabinets are installed: in some cases irreparable damage to the countertop may result and you'd end up replacing that, too.

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