Cabinets Over a "Floating" Floor

Can cabinets be installed directly on a floating floor, or should the flooring be cut away? August 29, 2005

I have had a couple of installs recently, and the floating laminate floor has been lifted for cab installation. The reason was that the floor couldn’t float if cabs were on it. Now I know what the flooring manufacturer will say, but my question is has anybody actually experienced a problem by putting cabinets on top of a laminate floor?

While one customer was explaining to me the amount of trouble it was to pull the floor (because the cabinet supplier insisted) .I asked what about the 30 foot oak entertainment unit on the other side of the room and apparently that wasn’t a problem. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor R:
Why didn't they just cut the floor around the toe kick footprint for the new cabs? The cabinet supplier could easily have sent a template for them to follow to make the cuts. Pulling the whole floor is too much.

I suspect the cabinetmaker wanted the cabs to sit on the sub floor because of the 30 foot entertainment center. The EC is/was holding the floor immobile on that end, so it has to float on the smaller cabinet end for expansion and contraction.

From contributor V:
I have been installing laminate flooring since the product first became popular. For installations that go over existing flooring in kitchens where cabinets are already installed, I leave a 1/4" gap for expansion and trim out around the cabinets with matching quarter round from the flooring supplier. On new kitchen installs or where the cabinets are not yet installed or are being replaced, I always install the flooring first, then install the cabinets on top and trim out with quarter round or base shoe if needed to hide gaps due to un-level floor conditions, or make up a separate kick cut to fit and install when the cabinets are in place.

I have yet to have a problem with the laminate flooring because of cabinets being installed over it. When I remodeled my own kitchen four years ago, I used Wilsonart Classic laminate flooring tiles and installed the flooring before the cabinets. It is much quicker installing the flooring without having to cut pieces to fit around the cabinets, although a bit more flooring is required this way. I have had no problems at all with the flooring installing the cabinets this way. The flooring I used was the glue together type. It does not lend itself to easily being removed.

The click together type flooring commonly available today is not designed to be repeatedly put together and taken apart. The joints start getting sloppy when used in this manner. Just check out a sample at your flooring distributor that has seen a lot of use by potential customers, the joint doesn't fit as tight as a piece out of the box snapped together for the first time.

From contributor B:
If you use leg levelers, the floor should be able to float no problem. They are plastic and the floor can slide under them while it expands and contracts.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor J:
I have installed dozens of floating floors and cabinets. Unless there are severe changes in the relative humidity, the floor will not move very much, and kitchen cabinets can be installed directly on the flooring. One trick I use is to install nylon chair glides on the underside of the base cabinets. If there is movement in the flooring, the nylon glides will allow it to do so quite freely. Then just trim out the gaps with shoe moulding.

Comment from contributor A:
To answer your question, yes you can install cabinets directly over a laminate floor. I just recently did a remodel to my kitchen and used Armstrong Pacific Heights wood laminate, the kind that locks together. I even had Aristokraft install the 7 foot island right over it. It has been over five years since the remodel and there is no buckling, warping or any kind of damage whatsoever.

Words of warning though - any damage that might be caused by reasons other than your cabinet installation and your problem area happens to be where your cabinets are (aka scuffs, scrapes and etc.) Don't plan on using the warranty that came with your floor if you have one - not following the companies policies will void the warranty. So yeah, it's a lot easier to install the floor first, and the cabinets second, but just make sure you aren't a high-risk for a warranty claim!