Are you remodeling a home? Are you building a new home, or perhaps replacing the flooring and cabinetry in your kitchen? These are a few of the primary reasons questions about flooring and cabinet installation are encountered. And the big question inevitably is: Should I install the floors or the cabinets first?
While many questions have cut and dried or yes and no answers, this question doesn’t always have an answer that is so straightforward. The good news is that there is an answer. The not-so-good news is that determining what that answer is will require some further planning.
The Rule of Thumb Answer
When it comes to the question “should I install floors or cabinets first,” it isn’t like the chicken and egg question. No, this question has a much more definitive answer, and a standard answer, too.
The standard answer to the question is that the floors, in the majority of cases, should be installed first. There are several reasons for this, along with a few exceptions (and varied opinions) that will be discussed momentarily.
The “Floor First” Reasoning
There are several reasons why most remodeling and flooring professionals advise installing the floor first. The first reason is appearance.
In most cases, a big reason for installing new flooring and cabinetry is to improve the appearance or looks of the kitchen. Installing the flooring first eliminates the need for adding any material, trim, or filler around appliances or cabinets.
The chances are good that cabinets and appliances will need to be replaced before the flooring. For this reason, it is always a good idea to install the flooring first to make for easier and cleaner removal and installation.
If appliances or cabinets are installed before the flooring, then when it is time to replace them or even relocate them, there will always be the cabinet or appliance footprint to contend with. There is also one more practical reason to install the flooring first.
Another reason why the rule of thumb is to install the flooring first is to keep the cabinets safer. If the flooring is installed after the cabinets are installed, the cabinets stand a greater risk of being damaged during the flooring installation process.
These are the most common answers to the “should I install floor or cabinet first” question. As it was mentioned at the onset, however, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
The Exceptions to the Rule
While the typical rule of thumb answer is obviously the right answer in most circumstances, there are a few exceptions to the rule. And there are also a few debates to the rule of thumb answer that do have some merit and validity.
It is arguably the biggest argument against installing the floor first, and flooring isn’t without some considerable expense. In cases where there will be a large amount of cabinetry and appliance space needed, it could be much more costly to lay flooring first.
The other valid concern and argument against installing the flooring first is the concern about wanting or needing to replace the flooring in the future. If the flooring is installed first, this becomes a more expensive and timely process. It also means the cabinets and appliances will have to be taken out as well.
Although it isn’t a common issue it has been known to happen. In rare cases, some flooring (such as wood flooring) can either swell and or contract based on moisture and temperature conditions. When those floors have cabinets and appliances sitting on top of them, the weight from those appliances or cabinets can often create a problem. Some floors will buckle or even separate when this happens, and that can be a costly repair.
Another consideration is the length of residency. Do you plan to stay in this residence for decades, or just a year? If this isn’t intended to be a permanent residence, or if you don’t plan on living there for an extended amount of time, it may be best to wait or install the cabinets first. This will not only save yourself expense, time, and effort, but it can make it easier for the next residents if they want to make a change.
Should I install floors or cabinets first? As it has been discussed, there are many variables and factors involved. If you aren’t sure of which process is the best for your situation, then seek professional remodeling or flooring help.
The answer to the floor or cabinet first question will ultimately depend on each situation and scenario. The important thing is to determine what your circumstances require, then you can feel good about your decision, and floor beneath your feet.