Do Hardwood Floors Go Under Kitchen Cabinets?

by Charlie
Do Hardwood Floors Go Under Kitchen Cabinets

If you are putting in a new kitchen, you might be thinking of adding hardwood floors to give it some lasting class and beauty. Hardwood floors are extremely popular – for good reason – but you might be wondering at what stage they should be installed. Do they get laid before the kitchen cabinets are added, or afterward?

It’s important to understand this so you can plan your kitchen refit (or initial build) accordingly and make sure that everything is done correctly. After all, you need to know whether you’re getting the flooring company in before the cabinet fitters – or, if you’re doing it yourself, you need to know which to tackle first. Do the floors go under the cabinets, or not?

Do hardwood floors go under kitchen cabinets? Either option can be okay, but in general, it’s better to fit the hardwood floors under the kitchen cabinets. This ensures that the floors run from wall to wall, and it means that you can later remove and replace the cabinets if necessary, without having to worry about filling in gaps in the floor. You can install cabinets first if you want to, but there are some drawbacks.

Should Hardwood Floors Go Under Kitchen Cabinets?

Ideally, you want your hardwood floor to run under your kitchen cabinets, rather than stopping at the edge of the cabinet. This is mainly because a hardwood floor is likely to last for longer than the cabinets – and you don’t want a gap if your next cabinets are a different size.

If you fit your floor around your cabinets, rather than under them, you will be forever tied to the same size, shape, and layout of cabinets (unless you relay the whole floor or patch the gaps, which are not great options). Adding or removing anything from the kitchen will be much harder, and you can’t change the layout or update the cabinets very easily.

It is very challenging to match existing hardwood floors, especially a few years down the line, so you really don’t want to end up in a situation where you are trying to lay new hardwood because you’ve swapped your oven for a smaller one and now there’s a gap. Having the hardwood underneath makes refits so much easier.

Another advantage to installing the floor from wall to wall is that it’s much easier to seal it effectively, and this protects it from water damage. If you only run the floor to the edge of the cabinets, there’s a greater risk of leaks and splashes ruining the floor over time. Water can get between your hardwood and the subfloor, and ruin it.

Furthermore, it’s easier to install a hardwood floor under your cabinets if you’re fitting the whole kitchen, because you won’t have to cut the wood to fit around the cabinets. You will be working with a standard rectangle (in most cases), rather than dealing with parts that jut out.

When Shouldn’t Hardwood Floors Go Under Kitchen Cabinets?

Some people prefer to fit the floors to the cabinets because this can save some money. You’ll need less floor material overall. Since hardwood is expensive and won’t be seen under the cabinets, it may seem wasteful to install the floor in that space. You also can’t install floating floors under cabinets, as these need to contract and expand.

If you want the advantages of a floating floor, you will have to add it after the cabinets are in place. If you install a floating floor under the cabinets, it won’t be able to move as it should, and this could lead to it splitting and warping, ruining its appearance quite quickly.

In other cases, you might be fitting a new floor in a kitchen that already has cabinets. If these cabinets are built-in and challenging to remove, ripping them out to lay flooring under them may not make much sense, and could be costly.

However, if you are going to fit your floor to your cabinets, be aware that it can be quite a lot more complicated and time-consuming, because the floor has to be cut to exactly match the cabinets. Even then, it may not look quite as good as floors that go beneath the cabinets, although it may be unnoticeable if it’s done very well.

Will Installing Cabinets Afterward Damage the Hardwood Floor?

There is a small risk of the hardwood being damaged while the cabinets are being installed, which is another point in the favor of doing cabinets first. However, this shouldn’t happen if the installation is done carefully. Sometimes, the hardwood will be sanded and sealed a second time after the cabinets are in place.

Sanding and sealing after the cabinets have been fitted means that you can sand out and varnish over any damage that has been done. The floor does still need to be sealed before the cabinets are installed to prevent any water from seeping under it, but you can do a secondary sanding and sealing after the cabinets are in place.

The drawback of this is that it will cost more and take more time, but these may be worthwhile payoffs if you have the time and the budget. It’s probably the best way to ensure that your hardwood floor lasts as long as possible and looks great once the kitchen is finished.

If you are using pre-finished hardwood flooring, you might need to be more careful, because you won’t be finishing the floor later – so any damage will show up. In these cases, think more carefully about whether to install the cabinets first, so you can protect the floor from the risk of damage while you are putting them in.

You may still decide to install the pre-finished hardwood flooring first, but there are more drawbacks in this case.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are pros and cons to installing hardwood floors before you put your kitchen cabinets in place. In some cases, it will make more sense to put the cabinets in and fit the floors around them, but it’s generally better to fit the floors first if you are able to.

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