Get Your Cabinet and Floor Order Right the First Time

Planning a kitchen renovation? One of the most common dilemmas homeowners face is deciding whether to install new cabinets or flooring first during the remodel. Get this order right from the start, and you’ll sidestep hassles down the road while ending up with your dream kitchen.

But get it wrong? Be prepared for complications like damaged floors, gaps needing filler strips, tricky appliance modifications, and other issues ruining your final reveal. Not sure where to begin? Let’s explore the smartest order for installing cabinets and flooring based on your goals, surfaces, and layout.

Durable Flooring First

When to Install Floors Before Cabinets

Installing durable, seamless flooring types first while renovating your kitchen provides a few key advantages:

  • A cleaner finished look since new floors won’t risk damage from cabinet installation later
  • Faster project completion without the need to modify floors around existing cabinets
  • Nogaps, chips, or scuffs from construction traffic and tools after flooring’s finished

What kinds of ultra-durable floors work best going in before cabinets ? Popular options include:

cabinets or flooring first
Tile or stoneNaturally hard surfaces resistant to dings, water, heat. Can handle heavy use over time.
Poured concreteIndustrial, seamless finish. Can incorporate bold colors or finishes into material.
Epoxy resinLiquid material creates smooth, glossy floor. Waterproof and highly durable.

Case Study: Epoxy Resin Floors First

Homeowner Jane D. shares her recent experience installing new floors before cabinets after working with three contractors bidding on her condo kitchen remodel:

“I decided to go with a sleek gray epoxy resin floor poured across my entire kitchen and dining space. Since epoxy flows in as an even coat, I didn’t have to worry about damaging tiles or seams later during cabinet installation. It also cured to an incredibly hard, glossy finish able to withstand years of heavy use from multiple tenants.”

Jane had considered switching to laminate plank floors but didn’t want to risk contraction gaps or alignment issues after her custom cabinetry was all set. Her epoxy floor still looks freshly poured two years after finishing her remodel.

Cabinets First

When to Install Cabinets Before Flooring

Installing kitchen cabinets first while renovating does have its perks in certain scenarios, like:

  • Allowing flooring to freely expand/contract inside footprint later on
  • Custom cutting any tricky corners/edges after cabinetry set
  • Avoiding filler strips, gaps if floors shift down the road

What kinds of finicky floors benefit going in after cabinets? Think:

Laminate plankFloating planks prone to slight shifts from humidity and temperature changes over time.
Engineered hardwoodMulti-ply sheets glued together may subtly expand and contract with climate.

Case Study: Laminate Flooring After Cabinets

Homeowner Lee R. experienced what happens first-hand when you install laminate plank floors before cabinets during his recent condo renovation. Here’s what he learned:

“I decided on a nice mid-range laminate floor to upgrade from my old vinyl tiles in order to save some budget for a high-end fridge and stove. I had the planks installed first since I thought it would speed things up not having to cut around cabinets.”

“Just three days later after my cabinets went in though, I noticed slight gapping near the edges from the floor already expanding and contracting with weather. I had to spend over $200 on white filler strips along the walls to hide the gaps so they weren’t noticeable under the new cabinets. Definitely wish I had them reverse the order!”

Key Considerations

Along with expansion factors and durability of your specific materials, a few other variables should guide your install order decision:

Appliance/Fixture Moves

If you’re shifting around larger appliances like ovens and fridges, focus on their new flooring footprint first before installing surrounding cabinetry to get positioning perfect.

Ease of Installation

Consider potential corners being cut or tricky areas being rushed through if one material goes in before another. You want high-quality installation for both.

Modifications Needed

Will doors need trimming later to accommodate floors? Will quarter-round trim hide uneven edges down the road? Understanding adaptations both materials may need helps guide timeline.

Eco-Friendly Options

If you’re prioritizing sustainability, install eco-friendly bamboo or cork plank floors before cabinets to reduce waste and environmental impact.

Accessibility Requirements

Those requiring wheelchair access should have any specialty cabinetry like roll-under sinks installed first simultaneously with flooring to ensure seamless transitions and minimal tripping hazards.


If financing requires you to phase installation, factor cost and current deals on materials into your order decision.

Making the Final Decision

Weigh Your Variables

Ultimately deciding between installing floors or cabinets first during a kitchen remodel depends most on:

Expansion potentialSeamlessnessDurability
Moisture resistanceSusceptibility to damageEase of installation

By rating the importance of each factor for your specific floors and cabinet materials, the right order should become clear based on potential risks.

Trust the Experts

Don’t rely on your own analysis alone. Consult with both flooring installers and kitchen remodeling contractors on their recommendations for sequence and timing. With decades of experience between them, they may highlight considerations you hadn’t realized before.

Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

Installing floors and cabinets in the wrong order can mean living with regret over easily avoidable issues for years or even needing to undergo a second kitchen remodel down the road.

Watch for Red Flags

During consultations, if you notice a contractor pushing strongly for installing floors or cabinets first without asking about materials or usage, consider it a potential red flag they may be more focused on speed or profit over quality.

Ask About Expansion

Be sure to specifically ask flooring installers how much expansion they expect to see long-term for the materials you’re considering and if that factors into an order recommendation.

Leave a Time Buffer

Even if you end up deciding to install floors first, leave a few days before installing cabinets so any minor expansion from climate or setting has already occurred.

Should I install kitchen cabinets or flooring first?

The decision depends on the flooring type. Durable, seamless materials like epoxy resin floors can be installed first since they won’t need to expand around cabinets later. But flooring prone to expansion like laminate should go in after cabinets.

What are the benefits of installing flooring before cabinets?

Installing seamless, durable flooring like tile or epoxy first provides a cleaner finish since cabinets won’t risk damaging a brand new floor later. It also speeds up the remodel since the flooring won’t require any modifications.

When should cabinets go in first during a kitchen remodel?

If using laminate, engineered wood, or other flooring that expands and contracts, install cabinets first so the flooring can have room to move. This prevents buckling or gapping issues later on.

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