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Kitchen Renovation Tips: Should You Install Flooring or Cabinets First?

Fully renovating your kitchen will update the space, add value to your home and appeal to potential buyers. It’s a big undertaking, so you want to follow all the right steps to ensure the final results match your original design vision. In the pursuit to create the ideal kitchen, you may be wondering whether to install your new cabinets or floors first. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of either order:

Floors first

plan-kitchen-renovation-tablet

Pros
Many people like to put in flooring first to avoid having to cut the material around cabinets and appliances. This is the main draw for those who start with floors. What’s more, some worry that by installing cabinets first, it will be harder to switch them out in the future, as you’ll be stuck with the same cabinet footprint you had before. However, if you’re remodeling the kitchen, you’re likely doing so in a style you won’t want to change later. Finally, putting flooring down beneath base cabinets offers a clean look and saves you from having to install quarter rounds with your cabinets.

“New floors can get scratched during cabinet installation.”

Cons
Starting with floors can have many drawbacks. For starters, installing the floors throughout the kitchen, even under the cabinets, wastes flooring materials. You won’t see the flooring beneath your cabinets and appliances, so why pay for the material and installation? Then, if you replace the flooring, you’d have to take out the cabinets as well, making for a costly renovation down the road for you or future homeowners.

Finally, the material you choose may also affect the order of your installation. Wood floors expand and contract with changing temperature and moisture, and it needs room for this process. Installing floors beneath your cabinets could cause wood to buckle when it tries to expand. This will damage your new floor. For this reason, some experts recommend installing wood floors after you finish your cabinets. Also, floating floors can’t be installed under cabinets because the cabinets will be too heavy and restrict the floor from expanding and contracting. This could cause the floor to come apart.

Cabinets first

Pros
Starting with cabinets allows you to avoid many of the issues you’d face with doing things the other way around. You won’t waste time and money on flooring you won’t see. You’re less likely to damage your new floors by starting with cabinets – if you have your new floors down and add cabinets, you run the risk of scratching or denting them during installation.

Cons
By starting with cabinets, you essentially create a footprint you’ll have to stick to during future renovations. Additionally, you’ll have to cut your flooring to fit around the base cabinets, which makes installation more expensive and time-consuming. Built-in appliances will be trapped in place as long as you have this flooring. You’re basically cornering them with your flooring material, making switching built-ins much harder. Of course, you can purchase appliances that aren’t built in to solve this issue.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each installation order, though there are more risks if go floors first. For this reason, carefully consider the materials you chose, what appliances you have and your future renovation plans when making a decision. If you’re working with a contractor, ask which method he or she typically uses.

What other questions do you have about kitchen renovations?

Browse our selection of top quality flooring here.

(29) Comments

  1. Pixie and Rickey Mayfield - Reply

    Hi, I want to redo the living room, dinning room kitchen and morning room. Do not want carpet in any of these rooms. Currently have carpet in living and dinning, We have dogs and cats and I am really really wondering what is best to go with for flooring, Something that is going to be durable for the long long term , Should we go with Bamboom, Ceramice/tile or other. What would you recommend that would be easiest to keep nice and look beautiful with a house full of furbabies/dogs/cats and a bunch of grand kids coming over a lot.

    thanks for your repply and advice.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Pixie and Rickey,

      I would suggest going with porcelain tile or luxury vinyl plank. Both of these options are waterproof and very durable so they should stand up to the traffic you get and can be cleaned very easily. Vinyl plank has the easier installation method of the two options but porcelain may be a little more durable. Depending on the climate you get though, porcelain could get cold during the Winter months. Either will work well. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  2. Hi.

    I am looking at something like Mondulea and understand it needs a levelling glue first (can’t remember the name!) How does this work if you have fitted the cabinets first.

    Thanks

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Sonia,

      I am not familiar with Mondulea and can’t find anything when I search it so I won’t be able to comment on that product. Either way you can still use self leveller, you will just but it up to the kicker of your cabinets. You can run it under the stove and you will need to decide whether you want to run the floor all the way under the dishwasher as well. Be sure to measure the height difference so you don’t end up not being able to get the dishwasher back in. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. I am moving into a new place and am doing renovations. I need to paint, replace appliances, refinish kitchen cabinets and refinish hardwood floors. What comes first?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for getting in touch! I would highly suggest getting in touch with a contractor to help plan out the renovations. We have more knowledge of products rather than installation so it would be hard to say without seeing the entire project area. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  4. I am planning on renovating my very old kitchen; which is from the 1960s when the condo was built. However, before I moved in 15 years ago, I did tile installation in the condo, and to this day I am very happy with it. I do not want to replace it, and instead just want to the cabinets. Is this a good idea?

    By the way, when I bought it had white tile; apparently placed new by the seller, it was suggested to me to cut on cost to just put the new one on top of it; which I did. Not sure if this was a good idea.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Mlly,

      We don’t usually suggest installing tile on top of tile but if you have already done that and it is stable it should be fine. I can’t 100% say the cabinets will be okay on top of the tile but it shouldn’t be an issue. I would get a contractor to take a look before installing if possible to ensure it will work. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  5. Very realistic Pros and Cons. I agree with both. But I still prefer to do the cabinet first. A professional tile contractor will not get any problem if they are a real professional. You can ask an advice from them which needs to fix and how.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Jeremy!

      Thank you for the feedback, we’re glad you liked you thought they were valid points. We definitely agree it is best to speak to a professional installer before deciding as both ways will work.

  6. I have an existing kitchen and want to redo the floor to be hardwood floor and replace the cabinets. It seems it’s recommended to install cabinet first before installing the hardwood floor. My question is how to insure the cabinets are will be the same height since hardwood floors will be installed under the dishwasher and the oven.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Kate,

      Thank you for getting in touch! If you are installing solid hardwood that is being nailed or stapled down then you can install the cabinets on top of the floor. You only need to worry about the weight when the floor is floating (not adhered to the subfloor). Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  7. I live in South Florida. Can I use mud or cement under the cabinets? Is that cost effective vs $5.45 per sf for marble? What are the cons?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Marty,

      I can’t 100% guarantee there will be no issues but it is common to have the kitchen cabinets sitting right on top of the sub floor, whether that be cement or plywood. I would suggest having a vapor barrier beneath the cabinets if you are installing over mud or cement. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Dawn,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You will need to install your cupboards before installing the laminate floor. The cupboards will be too heavy for the floating laminate floor to expand and contract and the floor will come apart at the seams. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  8. My husband finally agreed to let me renovate the kitchen. I wasn’t sure where to begin. However, this gave me a better idea. In my opinion, the flooring sounds like it’s the better place to begin with. Being able to compare the pros and cons of each was quite helpful.

  9. Hi!

    Thanks for posting this information. It appears to me, though, this info is based on a completely empty kitchen.
    I want to change my existing kitchen cabinets and flooring but can’t afford to do it all at once. In this case, which would be best to do first? I don’t believe I’ll be changing the current footprint when I re-do cabinets. That being said, would an installer at least pull out stove & dishwasher to place new flooring under there?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your inquiry. In your case it is up to personal preference as to which you would like to do first. If you are planning on using a solid hardwood or a wood floor that will be nailed down you will most likely have to do both because that will go under the cabinets. If you are going with a floating floor you can just butt the floor up against the cabinets under the kicker. Installers will install the floor under the stove and fridge but I can’t answer as to whether they will pull them out or if you will need to do that before hand. Please feel free to give us a call at 1-877-631-2845 if you have any other questions!

  10. A very good blog. Makes a lot of readers understand the renovation techniques. Even during bathroom renovation, installers are carefully weighing the pros and cons during installation. Nevertheless, you can always hire a professional to do the thing. Thanks for posting.

  11. This is my method:

    1. Mark the layout of the cabinets and all floor based appliances.
    2. Install tile under cabinets and floor based appliances with a 2″ inset (this allows you to “move the pattern” and grout lines where needed).
    3. Install plywood in remaining area to exact height of tile floor to finish cabinet install.

    Result: No wasted tile and appliances can me moved for repairs without problems.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Karen – thanks for reaching out to us. It is usually recommended that the cabinets be installed before the flooring, as it saves you time and money by not purchasing or installing tile where it can’t be seen under the cabinets. You also don’t run the risk of scratching or damaging your flooring during the cabinet installation process. As you can see above, there are pros and cons to installing the flooring before or after, but there seems to be less risks by doing the cabinets first. If you have an installer doing this for you, I would highly recommend discussing your options with them, as they are the ones on site :). Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  12. Tile flooring in our kitchen seems not to be an option due to slight movement in the flooring. Due to 2X6 joist underneath. Of the wood flooring options, what would be the least problematic to use in the kitchen?

  13. I have been looking more seriously into remodeling our kitchen, and we are planning on having our floor and cabinets redone. I had no idea that starting with the cabinets can make sure that you won’t damage your new floor when it is done. I will have to ask my wife about the type of cabinets she wanted again.

  14. Do you provide instructions on installing the tile?
    Does the laminate floor come in square tiles?
    What is a good tile for the kitchen, moderate use?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Raz,

      Thank you for getting in touch. All our products come with installation instructions but we always suggest working with a professional installer if you have no installation experience. Unfortunately, laminate does not come in square tiles. For a kitchen with moderate usage you can use either a ceramic or porcelain tile, either would be durable enough for what you need. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

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