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On finished floor or subfloor?


Just for curiosity's sake....What is the norm in your area for setting cabinets on the floor? On top of the finished floor or cabinets first then flooring to cabinets? Most of my cabinets have furniture bases and are very difficult to cut and install flooring around. It's also a PITA to go back after flooring install to apply the base trim/feet on top of the finished floor....Thoughts??

11/6/18       #2: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
Edi Silva  Member


Finish floor here, I don't want see floor guys installing floor around my finished cabinets, I have enough trouble dealing with other trades damaging my cabinets.

11/6/18       #3: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

Same her Edi, but my current client has been told by two flooring companies that they can't sit cabinets on their floor or it voids the warranty due to it being a floating floor. I'm about to give up the fight and let the homeowner live with it. I've set on finished floors in nearly all of my jobs and have always made provisions for wood movement under an island or peninsula. Funny thing is, they are telling the customer they are fitting the floor tight against the cabinets with no base shoe moulding so they are not allowing for any floor movement at all.

11/6/18       #4: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

90% of the time here cabinets get installed before flooring. I know what you mean with the furniture bases though, there isn't really a good way to deal with that that as far as iv'e found. It would make it easier if all floors were level and flat. Lol

11/6/18       #5: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
dustin orth


So are that saying that installing a refrigerator or dishwasher will void the warranty also? Cabinets on top of floating floor would be no different than a 500 pound fridge.

11/6/18       #6: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

I'm not saying anything. The floor installer is. It's ridiculous that they are claiming to bring the floor tight to the cabinets and in the same breath say you can't add weight to the floor. I truly think the salesman really didn't know what was going on. I got a call back today and they said as long as my cabinets were "adhered" to the wall, it would be ok....LOL!

11/6/18       #7: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
Edi Silva  Member


"as long as my cabinets were "adhered" to the wall, it would be ok", that's funny. Jeff few years ago I had the same problem but not furniture base, just regular toe kick, because I couldn't set the cabinets over the floating floor, I request a solid surface (same thickness of the floor) to set my cabinets, so I went over the job site and lay out to the GC where to install, so they don't F&%$@#, the flooring company installed the floor up to the solid surface and then I install my cabinets and toe kick, work out just fine, hope it helps you,


11/7/18       #8: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

I just go with whatever gets me done the fastest, customers choice. For myself, I'd do cabinets first, how else you going to get that old flooring out when they decide to change flooring in a few years?

11/9/18       #9: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
D Brown

I think the answer depends on what type of floor is going in. On tile I want the cabinets in first with standard toe kicks, I make the kick taller to accommodate the thickness of the finished floor. Then they can grout up to the kick or you can run a base shoe before the floor goes in. For me it is easier to level cabinets when they are not on tile and very difficult to mold over tile since it may not really be flat.

11/11/18       #10: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
Mark  Member

Always on finished surface, trapping cabinets with finished flooring is a fools errand IMO.

11/11/18       #11: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

Think about it .... if you had the responsibility
of installing both the cabinets and the finish
floor, would you install the cabinets first, and
then the floor? The only smart (IE money making)
way is to put down the floor, and then
the cabinets.

You can fly on the floor 'cause no fussy
fit cuts around the cabs, and then put down
some building paper/whatever
(or not), and go ahead with the cab install.

Only someone interested in losing money
would do it the other way around,

11/11/18       #12: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
dustin orth


Another way to look at it. Have you seen how tile or hardwood floor guys work? They swing hammers and all sorts of other beasts near your pretty and time consuming cabinets. Some of the other trades are like a bunch of gorillas and don't care what they hit or bump into. I always say cabinets last, if I could put them in after countertops I would do that to!

11/11/18       #13: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

Website: http://morantz

As cabinetmakers we can all agree that other trades are rarely considerate of our cabinetry. They yank out soft close drawers because they donít know how to unlock them, they scratch out drawer fronts with electrician tool belts and stone countertops, they destroy our drawer sludevteacks with granite dust. In new construction we have to install both ways, tile floors generally go in first, if there is no a/c yet and there are hardwood floors we install cabinets first and Allie for a talker toekick to accommodate, in new condos the apartment canít be sold without a kitchen and the floor tile selection will depend on new owner and we will use a 6Ē toekick to allow for a tile over mud set, we surveyor legs and add toekicks later in this case. We just include this in our original costing, itís trickier with integrated appliances that need critical heights.

11/27/18       #14: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
MarkB Member

Late to this one but this is always an interesting topic for me as I come from a GC and cabinet/millwork/molding perspective and as Im sure many here did, went through the cusp of the break over into what is now called "home building".

Came up in the trades when everything went in unfinished. Case and base went up sanded and dead raw. Miters were sanded in in place, tight, clean, by the finish carpenter who made sure his miters and copes looked perfect before finish. Stain went on, got all over the walls and the subfloor, 2-3 coats of clear went on, all over the walls and subfloor, and then all subsequent trades installed with respect and to make their work meet the standard of the woodwork. Makes total sense.

You cant install prefinished trim without it looking like prefinished trim. You will have doctored up miters and joints that have been buttered up after the saw blade got a little age on it an the clear coat, or the clear and stain, splintered back to the bare wood and a field wipe of stain, clear, stain mixed with clear, or just a gob of putty, fixes the situation.

We installed all our cabinetry prior to flooring, and often times prior to finishing, so the finishers could come in and dress all the joints, make everything beautiful, flat and smooth, and fly on a finish that made the cabs and the trim look like it grew out of the walls. Of course even as late as the 80's you were talking about plastered walls that were floated in on grounds tacked to the jambs with darby's so your door openings were perfectly flat with no humps and bumps so your casing and base landed dead tight to the plaster and there was never a need to caulk, and your walls were smooth and as hard as glass. Now the only argument is that a factory applied finish is more durable which is not to be argued.

Then you moved through the 90s and into high end homes being finished with level 2 drywall, if you were lucky, level 3 or 4 if you were on a really nice job. Most jobs today have no idea what a level 5 finish is even suppose to look like forget about a rock solid top of the line skim coat veneer job over blue board. Youve got guys dumping a half a bottle of dishsoap in a bucket of compound in an attempt to drop the 3 gallons of compound they are going to sand off for every 5 they put on directly to the floor so they dont scatter dust around the whole job.

With the onset of low end drywall everywhere we moved to caulking in all our work with a tiny rad of caulk between all the casing, base, millwork, and drywall to try to accomodate the "surfs up" waves across narrow floated but joints, fat corners, hollow corners, and so on. All the while watching the HGTV, DIY, and home center world, smacking trim and cabs in with zero scribe, zero caulk, zero cutting your paint in. Its just blow and go. Gaps are just the norm.

Then we land in the disaster zone. You pre-paint all your trim on saw horses (forget about stain and natural finish because its too much work), you prime and two coat your walls before any of the trades to follow come in the job so that the finish painted walls get boffed, dented, smudged, destroyed, and at the end they pay a $10 an hour guy to go around and spackle and roller and brush touchup that will stick out like a sore thumb for the duration until the house is repainted. Or even better now we have "primer and paint in one" so the days of us scuffing plaster, prime, scuff again to denib, first coat, scuff again, and fly on a flawless second coat... your in the one flew over the cuckoo's nest world with that one.

You install all your tile and hardwood prior to any other work so you can be sloppy around the edges and not have to make nice cuts. Dont have to rake out your grout, and run a nice bead of color matched caulk that will come and go with the building over time leaving a nice cleanable, livable, moppable, joint at the base/tile connection. Instead you have to live with pre-finished base, dropped on top of tile, all of which has a rad and a recess at every grout joint, so now you have a nice little gap at every grout joint that in a single year will turn black with crap and crud growing out from under the base that unless a cleaning lady gets down on her hands and knees with a tooth brush will stay there forever. The base was likely only pre-finished on the face so its wicking up mop water in each of those grout gaps destroying the finish in 5-7 years.

Hardwood is no different. Walk into one of these new homes with heavily scraped, prefin, floating or staple down hardwood, and the base is dropped straight on top with 1/16" to 3/32" gaps at every valley in the scraped floor. Each of which will be filled with pet hair, grease, trash, lint, scrambled eggs, and ketchup, for the forseeable future. Not to mention how some marketeer managed to con a bunch of people into installing "hand scraped" flooring that creates massive valleys in the floor concentrating all the wear in the wafer thin engineered flooring to the .5% of the surface area that remains in the peaks. In a few years we will be tearing out miles of hand scraped flooring that the finish has broken off from because all the peaks broke through the finish but the valleys are completely in tact. Heck, carpet installers back in the day would float out a hump because that hump would

Now comes the real winner. The logic behind installing your flooring first is because its faster and saves money. How is burying perhaps 50-100' of flooring on an average large kitchen (20-30' of base cabs anda large island) saving any money at $15 a foot? It doesnt cost $750-$1500 to cut around cabs. There are cuts in every job. They cut around every obstacle in the job. Why would anyone roach a grand of flooring under boxes that will never be seen?

Its just plain lazy. But thats the world we operate in.

11/27/18       #15: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
Mark  Member

Sorry MarkB-
Been through all the decades also as well as the subdivision builds of 3 houses finished a month to projects taking 2 years. If the carpenter is good enough to put up trim raw with perfect joints, he can put up prefinished with good joinery; if he can't or won't he's down the road - (and we often will spray touch up in place for chipped or scratched finish).
It was different when you could brush on varnish, or shellac and get away with it, but today you'll find few that will even attempt to spray conversion varnish, pre-cat or even acryllic onsite- too many control points lost outside the booth.
And who wants to look down into the floor joint next to the cabinet that's open or cracked in 6 months because things dried out and or settled....
If the flooring is too expensive to run under the cabinets, we install grounds 2" inside the bases and then scribe the kicks and panels down tight to the finished floors, not so hard.AND we advise the client to store enough extra flooring to fill in spaces should they choose to change the layout or cabinets- happens more frequently these days it seems. Our painters caulk baseboard to tile so the water you're so frantic about doesn't seep under at the grout line and use a clear acrylic for stained work
Things have changed since I started in the late sixties, not always for the better to be sure, but to call everyone lazy for not doing it using 50 year old methods just isn't justified- you just can't find or keep the people that can do it using current materials and methods. Never stop learning and step into the 21st century.

Now, all that said, I will install over a subfloor- hell, I'll even run jambs and casing down to it - but it's in the contract shrinkage and gaps to any adjoining material and finish is not covered and we photograph all work and have the owner or contractor sign off on the condition of our work before finished floors- we're not fixing any subsequent damage not cause by us for free....

11/28/18       #16: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
MarkB Member

Not a lot of disagreement with regards to moving with the times. The last ground-ups a couple years ago were LVL's, I joists, Advantec, Zip roof and wall, laced with Pex, USB charging receptacles, 100+ LED recessed cans on a small home, synthetic underlayment, on and on. If you dont move you die. But its hard to argue when comparing them side by side that a lot of todays accepted standards with regards to the subject are not there through any form of advancement but rather a new (in my opinion) lower standard set by the big boxes, the DIY TV movement, and of course the never ending drive to increase shareholder profits while driving quality as low as possible.

No one is going to argue that pre-fin trim cant look good. But again, compare it to the other side by side and the difference is unquestionable which is why what use to be done in average three bedroom subdivisions is now only done in the uber high end. Now will the average customer see that difference and be willing to pay for the alternative? Likely not because for the most part now we are driven overwhelmingly by cost and homes and their contents are seen as transient now more than ever. Again, agreed, move or die.

I have lived in, been in, and worked in, many older homes that should be suffering the maladies of "settling in" you mention. Yet the hardwoods are all still tight, the trim and millwork are all still very nice for their age, the tile laid after the base is as good as it should be or better. Of course materials change, framing material isnt what it was, but a lot of the other materials in a job have gotten immensely more stable that years of old yet were talking and dealing with gaps and "settling in" more.

It is what it is.

12/3/18       #17: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

If you love the good old days then go back to plaster on wood lath, rough sawn 2x lumber that varied by 1/4" on a good day and was 20% moisture level. Deck it with 1x8's that are "right on" if not off more than by more than an 1/8th. Lay the foundation in limestone with mortar that was 50% slacked lime. Galvanized steel water pipes and lead/okum caulked CI drains. In my much younger days I tore down a lot of houses, using a crawler loader. There would always be a group of retired guys watching saying "They sure don't build them like they used to." Implying that the ones I was crushing up were better than what were then being built. That was 60 years ago. Seems little really changes, just the guys standing at the fence.

12/5/18       #18: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

I think this has everything to do with the flooring material. It's "floating" so it can't bear weight (Is that true?). In any event, I would not want the flooring company to hold us responsible for any one thing to go wrong. What we do: Tell your client that they need to provide a matching substrate (Just barely over floor thickness) to slightly inside the boundary footprint of your cabinetry. Then let the flooring co run the floor up to, and slightly under your cabinetry.

12/7/19       #19: On finished floor or subfloor? ...
dan Member

I'm with you Ted. Cabinets need to be on top of the floor. I have seen too many dishwashers trapped behind the floor. We want the floating floor in first. We then lay out our ladder base and cut holes in the floor for our feet.

12/9/19       #20: On finished floor or subfloor? ...

Ended up installing on top of the finished floating floor which is what I wanted from the beginning. Drilled oversized holes where I had to mount an island so the floor could theoretically move (not sure how much it's moving now that there's an 8' island with a huge slab of granite sitting on it). Seems like it's always a warranty issue or someone thinking they know what's going on and not really knowing anything.

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