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Toekicks built separate from cabs?

mzelsmannjr Member

The shop I work for builds all the toekicks for base cabinets separate from the cabinets themselves. Our standard base cabs are 30" tall (762 mm) with a 4.5" (114 mm) toekick. The other guys in the shop (much more time in service than I) have suggested that they would prefer to change to all in one piece, but the boss writes the checks ;-)

Input ???

2/13/20       #2: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Paul Member

I had 29 years in the business, many of those as an installer. I always preferred to have separate toekicks. They are easy to make on the bench from stock 4" rips the benchmen have close by. Easier for installers to set and level toes before setting cabinets. Otherwise cabinet install will be out of level. Then the doors gaps will vary and not look good. In the end, more time is spent doing a lousy install job. And it is a good way for machinists to rid of the scrap, rip it up for toekicks.

2/13/20       #3: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
james e mcgrew  Member


I have always wondered why the in house shop figures this is easier or better, Yet the installer (and the shop) benefit from the use of the ladder back toe kick.

at 4.5" tall i imagine you are doing residential, in commercial with RB cove base it is 4" and specified in all of the medical applications here in my area. the AWI specs call for the ladder back so architects spec it.

2/13/20       #4: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...

The main advantage in a shop is that you can get 3 base ends out of one rip of plywood. Its a lot better yield when you get 6 base ends out of a sheet rather than 4. Your shop would have to do test to see how much more time it takes to build separate toe kicks vs. the material savings. With a cnc it is cheaper to build the whole cabinet. Also if your installer works for the business vs. contract. If the installer works for the business and uses them as separate to level, then it also saves time in the field. If he is contract, then who cares as long as he doesn't charge more one way or the other.

2/13/20       #5: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
David R Sochar Member

Many years ago, the Indiana shop I worked for had a job for several restaurants in New Jersey. The plan called for all the cabinets to have loose toe kicks. They even stipulated how to build them and a note on the drawings said inspectors were very attentive to this detail.

Only later did I find out why. It seems that the rats in that part of the world knew about those hollow toe kicks and would promptly move in - often before the restaurant opened. So - you would have the restaurant open and happy diners everywhere, including the hairy ones under the drink station..... So the State required all toe kicks be loose and filled with concrete before the cabinets could go on. That should keep those rats at bay.

When we build a run of cabinets, we make as many into one as we can rather than 3-4-5 separate boxes. Then these are placed on a nicely leveled and secured toe kick frame. We don't use concrete, as Indiana rats are content with what they have. Or maybe they are in there, in every toe space, enjoying the access.

2/13/20       #6: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
MarkB Member

We do the same incorporating multiple cabs into a single box whenever possible but I see why the production shops dont. Single hinge type, single hinge plate, single drawer front, and so on. I feel its a better job with loose kicks and large boxes and its much faster for the installers, but it is more expensive on the build side.

I cant say I agree that CNC and integrated kicks are better price wise. Its really hard to beat getting 6 sides out of an 8' sheet but for sure the extra parts and the finished ends eat that up at some point.

I rarely get commercial work that wants detached kicks. I dont get to make the decision. Its perhaps 1 in 30.

2/13/20       #7: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Ex-Pat Member

I've actually been playing with the numbers on this myself. Currently we do integral kicks but at my previous place of employment we did ladder style bases. So far, it looks like the material consumption would go down about 10%. Run time on the CNC on routing operations goes down about 6%. Time on the panel saw to cut the additional base parts goes up about the same, so the total machine time is pretty much a wash. The plywood needed to make the bases mostly comes from drop, so the increase in material there is negligible. Making the extra parts does add to labor, but our guys in casework can build faster than parts can be machined, so they have time to do it. We use our own installers, so the labor savings in the field would at least offset the additional shop labor - my instincts tell me it would actually outpace it. In either case, installation is usually our constraint, so adding time somewhere else to take it out of there would be a win. Even worse, we quite often have to hire contract installers to keep up. It gets the job done, but shrinks the margins. As far as finished ends go, when we currently use a ladder style base we hold the base a half inch in from the finished end of the cabinet. Now for the intangibles:
1) The greater part density on the routed sheets actually make each sheet take a little longer to machine - this would give the operator time to start banding the parts while the CNC runs.
2) The CNC is another of our constraints, taking run time off of it to add it to another machine is a win
3) The CNC is vital to our operations. If it goes down, we are down. Taking run time off of it and adding it to a different machine reduces stress on that piece of equipment. If the panel saw goes down, we can cut rectangles on the slider or the CNC. If the CNC goes down, we can't do line bore and dowelling on the panel saw or the slider.
4) Ladder bases are easy to assemble. If another department is short on work, they can be shifted there.

In case you can't tell, I'm a fan of the ladder base. My biggest hurdle is to get past ten years or more of "But this is the way we've always done it."

2/13/20       #8: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Matt Calnen

Ring, ring, ring.....hello, this is the 1980s and we want or way of supporting cabinets back.
Has anyone ever heard of adjustable leg levelers?

2/13/20       #9: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Alan F.

Commercial work, 2-1/2" , 4" and 6" ladder kicks.
1) We can install kicks, they can do flooring and we can comback and set cabinets

2) easier to level long runs, easier to control required ADA heights.

3) required in lots of buildings with connection details to the floor; public works and OSHPOD the connections need to be inspected before the cabinets are set.

4) no water weeping up the bottom of ends

5) 6 ends out of a sheet instead of 4.

6) easier to remodel when the owner changes their mind, you can pull a cabinet out and replace it without having to redo the floor. We just removed and replaced about 20 cabinets in a 4 story budilding before they moved in, they wanted a different layout once they saw it. The hardest part was moving the trash holes in the stone tops.

7) we make toe kicks out of plywood, in 95" lengths and then fillers of odd dimensions.

8) We make kicks 1/4" less and sleepers 1" less than face, if its laminate or wood face we do separate applied face out of 1/4" or 3/4" in the field and scribe to fit, easy to fit before cabinets are set.

9) We tried levelers in the 80's we couldn't get them approved on lots of commercial and we don't want to change the method every job.


2/15/20       #11: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
mzelsmannjr Member

Thanks for the input. By the detailed and thought out answers, I can tell I'm hearing from pros. I installed flooring for years, and I can say with regret that no one ever installed toekicks and let me put in the kitchen floors without the damn cabinets in the way.

Yes we are residential, you figured that out by the sizes. Our sheets are 49" x 97" 3/4" melamine, edge banded usually in 1mm maple or alder tape in my little Grizzly.

My previous job was supervisor of a major manufacturing facility. 35 on my crew, 3 beam saws, 5 homag ambition banders, 3 CNC machines, 3 Gannomats. Now I work in a small custom shop doing 3-5 kitchens a month. We have a table saw, a sliding saw, a boring machine, and a Grizzly 820 bander. Major adjustments to say the least. I've also seen major differences in the way designers design and installers install.

2/15/20       #12: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Pat Gilbert

On a related subject.

Should the toe kicks/cabinets go in before or after the flooring?

2/15/20       #13: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
jonathan mahnken


I see more and more often the floors going in first.not quite as easy as far as scribing toe skins but you do get a little cleaner, sometimes flatter surface to start with

2/15/20       #14: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...


Euro legs for the past 25years. Fastest and easiest to build and install. One customer had a major flood in house and we only changed the toekicks. Electrical work on island can be run easier as well.

2/16/20       #15: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Edi Silva  Member


For the guys doing Ladder base, how you handle the cabinetry around the shop/delivery when you have faced frame cabinets that the stile runs down to the floor and/or the frame end panel runs down to the floor? do you build a temporary cabinet base so this parts don't get damage around the shop or in transit to the job? or set the cabinet upside down? We used to do separate base with one base for each cabinet for this reason, so cabinets can seat upright, we end up going back to one piece construction, too time consuming. just wonder how you guys doing in a situation like this, thanks

2/22/20       #16: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Geoffrey Wirth  Member


I use a detached base on every cabinet. They are nested from the same material as the boxes. Itís nice to have a base on the cabinets in shop and during shipping. I can take them off to gang together, or fit to site, but rarely do. I used leg levelers for a number of years, but carpenters on site didnít understand how to use them. If we have a large face frame cabinet built from several boxes it will get a single ladder style base.

2/24/20       #17: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
jonathan mahnken


On FF cabinets we staple skids to the top and flip them upside down

5/8/20       #18: Toekicks built separate from cabs? ...
Al Gerhart Member

Man, using toe kick bases is stone age kind of work.

Start using leg levelers. Cheaper, better, pop off the toe kicks to spray, run wires, or clean out the rats. Had a customer break a 3/8" water line in their house seven years after I installed the cabinets. Cost them $550.00 for two doors and toe kicks, the cabinets were sitting 4" off the floor and came out fine.

Even paying retail the feet are cheaper than the scrap and labor making ladder type toe kicks.

Get the True 32 cabinet system book and follow it. No toe kick notches so your end panels are neither left nor right. True 32 has the feet too, around $1.50 per leg for leg and socket.

If you can import the legs and sockets can be bought overseas for as little as 8 cents. I air freighted a few thousand into the Philippines to my shop there and brought them in on the next container. Cost to the Philippines including freight was 24 cents per leg, maybe a nickle each to get them to the U.S..

Islands need a bit more support so be sure the island end panels hit the floor or once installed cut some 4" pvc pipe and run a bolt, red head, and a long nut/coupler down into the floor so the island is solid. But if you have three end panels sitting on the floor and trapped by the flooring the island isn't moving.

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