Cabinet toe kick and flooring question

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by AnthonyC posted 10-20-2010 04:07 PM 8651 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View AnthonyC's profile


50 posts in 3104 days

10-20-2010 04:07 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cabinets flooring plywood kitchen

This may be a really stupid question, but it’s been bugging me.

The background: 3/4” wood flooring in the kitchen over plywood subfloor. Building the cabinets myself.

Do I:
A) Put the cabinets directly on the subfloor and make the toekick (and overall cabinet height) 3/4” higher; then do the flooring up to the toe kick.

B) Put 3/4” plywood down where the cabinet bases will be and make the cabinets to “standard” dimension

C) Put the flooring underneath all the cabinets and just put the cabinets directly on the floor.

A sounds tricky to get right, but since I’m building the cabinets, might not be that difficult.
B looks cheaper, but I’d have to VERY carefully measure the plywood and make sure it’s a perfect fit under the cabinets
C seems easiest but the most expensive.

Your all’s thoughts?

-- Amateur woodworker, professional mess-maker.

11 replies so far

View quartrsawn's profile


146 posts in 3410 days

#1 posted 10-20-2010 04:15 PM

If the room is m.t. i think it would be best to install cabinets over finished floor.Cost shouldn’t be that much more.How many square feet of cabinets do you have?? There would also be no cutting and fitting around the cabinets. Looks better too.

-- Nat - West Sayville,L.I., NY

View AnthonyC's profile


50 posts in 3104 days

#2 posted 10-20-2010 04:26 PM

We’re looking at about 32 sqft of countertop, so that’s about what the cabinets will be + pantry and fridge area.

Overall, it’s about $200 of extra flooring, but the budget is tight. It can be empty—bit trickier to schedule (and we’re down the rest of the kitchen for longer, but I can work with that.

It’s the kind of thing that DIY shows and home improvement books never talk about, but to a pro it’s a no-brainer.

-- Amateur woodworker, professional mess-maker.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16280 posts in 4415 days

#3 posted 10-20-2010 04:39 PM

I would install the cabinets flat on the floor. let the flooring be installed right up to the toekick, then come back with a shoe molding after flooring is in.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4019 days

#4 posted 10-20-2010 04:45 PM

The biggest drawback with installing the flooring up to the cabinets is that the dishwasher and stove will be below the level of the finished flooring. With remodels that I have done I remove the base cabinets and run the flooring to the wall. This saves a lot of headaches later when the appliances need to be replaced.

Another option would be to run the flooring under the front edge of the base cabinets and finish it out with plywood. It won’t look pretty but no one is going to see underneath the base cabinets anyway. If you go this route just remember that the dishwasher and stove will have a visible gap on either side so I would opt to run hardwood completely under them.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3864 days

#5 posted 10-20-2010 04:53 PM

Do it right the first time. Put in your floor and then set your cabinets.

As Scott mentioned, all the appliances are based off a nominal cabinet height, also in the future, should you change the layout, there will be no floor repairs.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View ClayandNancy's profile


520 posts in 3212 days

#6 posted 10-20-2010 04:58 PM

Scott Bryan has the answer, run your flooring so it goes just under the front edge of your cabinets then finish with plywood. Make sure where any appliances are that you go far enough under to give it that finished look. If you don’t keep the cabinets at finish floor level, you’ll have problems installing your dish washer and stove. Plywood vs flooring saves bucks.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3048 days

#7 posted 10-20-2010 05:22 PM

+1 for Scott Bryan’s plan.

I often do separate toe kicks too, and this would be an ideal application for that. Build them first and lay them in there and you’ll know exactly how far in and where you need to complete the floor. Add the ply, level the kick, attach it to the back wall and down with the occasional pocket screw, and plunkety plunk those boxes in there!

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3158 days

#8 posted 10-20-2010 05:53 PM

I worked for a cabinet business for 2-1/2 years (custom and factory built). We always installed the cabinets after the flooring was down (whether tile or hardwood). If you put the cabinets on the subfloor and run the hardwood up to the toekick, you will have gigantic problems if you or anyone else ever replaces the cabinets with another layout. Oh yes, if you have any substandard hardwood pieces, put them under the cabinets where they won’t be seen and use the good wood for the rest of the room. When my son’s house was built, the tile guy set odd pieces of tile under the vanities.

View AnthonyC's profile


50 posts in 3104 days

#9 posted 10-20-2010 05:59 PM

wow, thanks for all the info guys!

Sounds like I should just floor underneath. The area under the cabinets is only 10% of the total area, so some of that could come out of my “extra” pieces for mess-ups and irregulars (in which case, it would not cost me anything, since I was planning on 15 to 20% extra).

-- Amateur woodworker, professional mess-maker.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3266 days

#10 posted 10-20-2010 06:08 PM

I’ve been designing, building, and installing cabinets for a few years, and have done it all three ways. There are pros and cons to each of them.

Installing directly on the subfloor is easiest for the cabinet installer, but often makes the flooring installation more difficult since there will probably be more “cut and fit” work. Since opposite walls are seldom parallel, the flooring installer will also have to be careful to make grout lines or seams parallel with the cabinets. The cabinets will also need to be somewhat taller to account for the thickness of the flooring.

Installing the flooring first forces the cabinet installer to “tweak” the installation so the cabs are parallel to any obvious seams or lines in the flooring. If the flooring is installed wall to wall, quite a bit of it is “wasted” because it will be covered with the cabs. If it’s a tile floor, it can be more difficult to get a solid attachment of the cabs.

On my last installation, I snapped chalk lines on the subfloor where the base cabs would go, and had the flooring installer cover the chalk lines. This worked pretty well, although I had to fur out a 15’ line of base cabs to make the cabs parallel to the tile grout lines.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3168 days

#11 posted 10-20-2010 07:17 PM

I’m about to be having the same situation. I asked my flooring guy, who used to be a cabinet maker, which way was best. I thought he’d say floor to the wall, since that seemed easier for the floor installer, but he said it depends on the type of floor.
- If its “pre finished” wood floor, then install the cabinets first, so the floors don’t get damaged during the cabinet install. He also suggested plywood or cheap hardwood under the cabinets; not on the subfloor.
- If its “finished on site” wood floor, he’d install the raw floor first, then the cabinets on top of the floor, then sand and finish the floors last.

I think this is pretty important, because I haven’t seen anyone else mention the prospect of damaging the wood floor during cabinet installation. I hadn’t thought of it either. I was only looking at the cost of the floor that would be wasted under the cabinets.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics