7 Reasons Why You Should Install Your Hardwood Floor Before Cabinets

November 08, 2017
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When remodelling your kitchen, you can install hardwood flooring before or after the cabinets. Most contractors will advise you to install hardwood flooring first. There are several reasons for this.

 1.     Flexibility When Changing Cabinet Footprint

Cabinet styles change everyday and you may need to make several changes during the lifetime of a hardwood floor, which can go for over 100 years with proper polishing, treatment and care. If you have to change kitchen cabinets or appliances in the future and you have no intention of changing the floor, installing a hardwood floor is important because you avoid being left with a footprint that is hard to fill. To fill such a footprint without incurring additional costs, you would have to bring in cabinets or appliances with the same dimensions, which is not always practical.

 2.     Achieving The Proper Height

It is recommended that your countertop level should be 36 inches above the floor. When you install flooring first, you can get this height right since no part of the cabinet or appliances are below the floor level. Once you get the cabinets right, you can use the adjustable legs which are in most appliances to achieve this height. Most people put plywood beneath such appliances to get height consistency, but this brings inconsistencies and it does not save you much money.

3.     Ease Of Installation

If is easier to install the hardwood floor and floor heating systems when there are no cabinets or appliances to go around (edging). This means fewer days and less effort doing the flooring and if you have hired a pro for the job, it means less money.

4.     Clean Look And Feel

You will have a clean look with your cabinets when you install hardwood flooring first since you will not need to add pieces of flooring to completely cover the floor outside the cabinets. Such pieces lead to a disjointed look and feel, but when you do flooring first you get a consistent flow of the flooring.

5.     Improved Safety

With consistent flooring that is done before cabinet installation, you will not have nicks or stains on your cabinets which are common during the demolition, installation, and/or sanding of the floor. If you get such damages, you either have to replace the entire cabinet or learn to live with the damage.

6.     Reduced Moisture Problems

Unfinished wood under your cabinets will retain moisture following a spill. There are arguments from some quarters that having plywood underneath cabinets and appliances reduces water damage, but this argument doesn’t hold water because the plywood would absorb water anyway. You should also note that plywood is untreated (while hardwood flooring is treated with polyurethane) and the plywood will, therefore, suffer more damage than the hardwood floor.

7.     Flat Surface For The Cabinets

Once the hardwood flooring is done, you will have a flat surface where the base cabinets can sit. The cabinets will require less shimming to fit perfectly level. This maintains the integrity of the cabinets and brings down installation costs.

A Few Exceptions

1)  You can start with the cabinets before the wooden flooring if you are not doing a full remodel due to budget, time, or other constraints. If it is easier and cheaper to install cabinets first, you should make height considerations (especially with appliances in mind) and leave sufficient allowances.

2) If you have large appliances and cabinets, it is not always necessary to install flooring beneath them. Starting with flooring will lead to unnecessary expenditure.

3) Depending on the wood you choose, there might be contracting with changing moisture and temperature and if you have used such flooring, installing flooring under cabinets will lead to buckling of the wood when it tries to expand. Installing wooden flooring is a no-no when using a floating wood floor which expands and contracts freely.

4) Installing cabinets first eliminates the risk of floor damage, but this should not be a problem if you have a professional doing the job. Note most contractors only install flooring and only do finishing after the cabinets have been installed to prevent imperfections such as scratches.

The right sequence when doing kitchen renovations using a hardwood floor

  • Demolish the cabinets
  • Demolish the floor
  • Install the floor heating system where present
  • Install the hardwood flooring
  • Sand and strain with more than 2 coats of polyurethane
  • Install the cabinets
  • Install the countertops
  • Add the final layer of polyurethane
  • Cover the floor and do not walk on it for 4 days

So, Why Should You Do Kitchen Remodelling In The First Place? 

Other than getting a fresh new look, there are several other reasons why you should consider remodelling your kitchen. These include:

  • Improved sustainability: You can use eco-friendly materials in your kitchen such as salvaged wood, bamboo, or recycled materials for flooring, cabinets and countertops. You can also install low-flow water faucets for reduced water use.
  • Reduced energy costs: If you have an old kitchen design, a new design can significantly reduce your energy costs. You can install fixtures like refrigerators and dishwashers that have an Energy Star label to be within what the EPA recommends.
  • Increased comfort: You get increased comfort with a kitchen remodel since you can achieve such things as better ventilation which reduces odours and heat when cooking.
  • Increased space and improved function: You will get more working space as well as storage space. You will be in charge of how to use space and, as an example, you could go for a larger countertop.
  • Increased home value: The kitchen is the first place prospective home buyers look at when shopping for a home. A remodel increases the value of your home and reduces the disposal time if you are looking to sell.
  • Improved safety: When you remodel your kitchen, you get rid of such things as slippery floors and chipped tiles, giving you a safer kitchen. The removal of clutter also adds to safety.
  • Greater satisfaction: With the latest in kitchen design, you will feel refreshed every time you walk into the kitchen and you will be more satisfied with your home. 

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