Installing Cabinets On Top of a Floating Floor

There are at least two ways to do it so that the floor is free to expand and contract. However, water damage to flooring is still a risk to consider. November 19, 2005

I have a client that wants to install a floating laminate style floor and then have me install the cabinets on top of it. I told him it was a bad idea because the floor needs to move around for seasonal expansion and contraction. He told me that the sales rep said it would be ok. The cabinets will be on 3 walls, so the floor would truly be trapped. I am looking for some responses to this so that I can show him I'm just not making things up. I told him if I do this I will put in my contract that I told him about floor problems in advance and will not be responsible for any buckling or separation.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor W:
If it were one wall I might consider it, but 3 walls is not a charm. The floor has no where to go during expansion, especially in the short span between cabinet bases. In many situations heavy furniture is placed on these floors after the install, but at least you could move them if a problem arises.

From contributor J:
I recently did a church that had laminate flooring installed, and was surprised at the amount of expansion and the force it creates. They had to come back and cut the flooring around the perimeter after about a month, and they removed 3/8"- 1/2". If he'd sign off on it, go for it, but he will have expansion and contraction issues with the floor, guaranteed. It would be better to lay the flooring after the cabinet install for a variety of reasons - floor damage during construction, expansion issues, being able to solidly shim the cabinets to the floor, and etc. Let it be his call.

From contributor E:
They will have to greatly improve on laminated flooring before I would ever buy it. I just don't like it at all. Most of it is made out of masonite. Get a little water on it and watch it swell up. You better write up a contract stating you are not responsible for the floor. Have the guy sign it.

From contributor C:
I have installed cabinets over laminate flooring in the past. What I did was drill oversized holes in the laminate for my leg levelers. There were no problems, and the kicks hide the holes and the floor can move all it wants.

From contributor G:
Contributor C has a good idea. I hadn't thought about drilling holes for the levelers. We install Euro cabinets on leg levelers over existing wood floors, and there hasn't been a problem so far. In other words, put legs on your cabinets and let them float on top of the floating floor. Depending on the look you want, you could have euro style legs with a detachable kick or traditional cabinet legs (which would cost more).

From contributor H:
I wouldn’t install these under any circumstances. I moved into a condo in South Florida and had Quickstep flooring with a 25 year warrantee including water. The installers would only install after I installed the cabinetry in the kitchen. I used euro legs and fit the toekick in after. Then we had a main drain stack back up into our sinks and flood the floor badly as well as the inside of my sink cabinet. I build the sink cabs with ply and Formica and put silicone on the joints before assembly. The cab was fine but the floor swelled in two places. It was a simple job to remove the toekick and cut out the damaged area and patch new strips back in. You cannot tell that anything happened to this floor. This would not have been possible to do if the flooring ran under all the cabinets.

From contributor F:
To the original questioner: Can you attach the cabinets in two places along the back and not the floor? This will still allow the floor to float. If you must attach to the floor, drill oblong holes for your mounting screws to go into. If you don't install on the floor, someone else will. The unfortunate event described by Contributor H is really the owner’s responsibility and has no affect on your cabinets if it is discussed prior to install.

From contributor M:
I had a tech advise me on this very subject. He had me put metal cabinet protectors nailed to the bottom of the bases. The floor can slide on the metal caps. It’s been about 2 years and there have been no problems. The floor did expand, yet there was no buckling. Have the homeowner sign off anyway to cover yourself.