Trimming Cabinet Toekicks -- Whose Responsibility?

Other Versions
Should the finish toe kicks be fitted and installed by the cabinetmaker, or the finish carpenter. February 28, 2004

I manufacture frameless cabinets. I use case height applied ends and leg levelers support unfinished ends. I've been doing a lot of flush (to the front) kicks and remodels in high rise (high dollar) condos where the floors sag out an average of 3/4" per 8ft. I had one 10ft run lose almost 2". I'm not into scribing the kick to handle either situation, so I suggest a base shoe, which looks better anyway. I try to throw it into the rest of the base for the finish carpenter to install at job's end when I'm long gone. I don't want to come back but I get a lot of flack for that approach.

For those who use a base shoe for trimming kicks installed over leg levelers, who installs it, and when? How common is it for the standard house base or hardwood floor specie base to be used for this trim? I'm also curious how integral ends, which should be supported by legs (if using legs), can have any room left for a kick.

Forum Responses
From contributor J:
Wow! Where to begin? I trim houses as well as build and install cabinets.

1. The shoe does not look better on cabinets (my opinion) - it looks like a cheep fix to expensive cabinets. Scribing the kick to the floor is the only option, in my book.

2. One should always finish their work completely. When I trim a house before the cabinets (by others) are installed, I miter the base and the shoe and run it into where the cabinets are going, leaving plenty of extra. I tack the base onto the wall and leave for the cabinet installer to cut it to length (butt cut) and nail it off when he gets his cabinets in. It always amazes me when I'm called back to cut a new piece of base because the cabinet guy ripped it off and threw it away. I charge the builder for the second trip and we have a good laugh at the "high-end" cabinet guy that was too damn lazy to finish the job. 25,000 dollar kitchen and he wouldn't make a butt cut and nail off two feet of base. "Leave it for the next guy" attitude is bunk.

As a trimmer, if I showed up on the job and saw what you described as the way you leave your work, me and my crew and the builder/owner would be laughing. As a cabinet maker and kitchen installer, I think you help me look good. All that said, I bet you make much bigger profits than I do.

From the original questioner:
I add base shoe on higher end cabinets whether it needs it or not, especially on flush furniture grade type kicks. It's an upgrade - to me it looks better and it's also much easier than some of the scribing alternatives I run into. We disagree on that personal preference - no biggie. Cheaper kitchens don't usually get it. My point is that hardwood guys cringe if I add that base shoe before they do their final. My not putting it on is a courtesy, albeit expensive for someone (and a pain in the butt for me), if I have to come back to put it on. None of the standard house base goes up before. Why should it? I go back on many jobs, and charge for it, but don't understand why the cost savings of having a trim guy who's already there put it on is overlooked. I haven't gotten many comments on this here, True32 or the CMA, so I guess most shops leave gaps (leg levelers are a difficulty factor with this issue), some must scribe and the rest say screw the floor guy.

From contributor B:
I can't imagine doing a high-end or any other end, for that matter, without scribing the kicks. And my goal is always no callbacks, period. If you want me back on your property, it's because you liked the completed and qualified job I did for you before. I have some thoughts on those that pass the buck to people like me. After a long time practicing this art, I still believe it doesn't take any longer to do it right.

From contributor D:
It is the finish carpenter's job to apply base shoe, where needed. Just don't expect him to do it for you because you want it there. It is not his or your call. You should have a meeting with the job superintendent and the finish carpenter to figure a way to do it fairly. It seems like your builder really stinks. If I were you, I would suck it up and add a stipulation to your future contracts regarding these issues.

From contributor D:
I spoke generally. If I get to a cabinet and there are base pieces loosely attached to the wall, I may install it for the finish carpenter. It depends on a few issues. Do I know him or her and are they cool? How many situations are like this? Are the doors already hung and the base shoe installed? (Does he / she need to come back anyway?) Am I behind schedule or was he ahead of schedule?

If he / she is a jerk and ahead of schedule and expecting me to do their work for free, they will find their pieces in the dumpster. If it is just a few situations, I will tell him he is buying the beer that day after work.

From contributor G:
Scribe your kicks to the floor. It doesn't take that long to do, but coming back takes a lot longer. As far as the base goes, I don't ever rip out another trade's work. I'll let them do it if it needs removal, but I just scribe around the base. Then the toekick can still be removed if necessary and I stick to my own work.

Oh, and by the way, what's the deal with plumbers and the waste line coming out of the wall at an angle? Is that some new trick? Sure makes the cabinet back look like crap when you cut the big rectangle. And while we're at it, exactly how much money do you save not running the finish floor all the way to the wall under the cabinets? Must be a fortune...

From contributor D:
The base molding they are talking about is not really attached, but just tacked in place. The finish carpenter expects it to be removed. He and the cabinet installer know it would take 10x longer and may not even be possible to scribe the cabinet to the base molding.

The plumbing is a code issue. Many times the plumbing is needed beyond a beam. Generally, the kitchen sink is in front of a window and there are beams on both sides. In these cases, it is far cheaper for the contractor to build a wall that is not required it be even thicker to allow for the pass trough of that plumbing pipe. The code stipulates that the dirty arm cannot be longer then 48" or cut into the beam, so that is how they handle it. There are many cases when the location is a result of bad planning, but most times there is an engineering reason the pipe comes up through the mudsill where it does and you have to just deal with it. I will usually cut off almost all of it and only leave room for a sleeve to glue it back together or, if it is cast iron, I will unscrew it, then install the boxes and then screw it back in.

From contributor E:
Since you are using euro base legs, your toe kicks actually clip on and off, yes? How much easier do you want it? Fit it and forget it. Finish your work properly and get to the draw! And be nice to the trades on the job regardless; jobsite karma will get you. The shoe is chump if not part of the entire design, and a lazy alternative to scribing if added after the fact.