Do Kitchen Cabinets Sit On Subfloor? (4 Factors To Consider)

Man installing kitchen cabinets

Renovating a kitchen is by no means easy. Between plenty of decisions to make, you get lost looking for answers.

One of the particularly tricky tasks is installing the cabinets and determining the best way to do it.

This brings us to the question of whether kitchen cabinets should sit on the subfloor?

Kitchen Cabinets On Subfloor

Generally, kitchen cabinets sit on the subfloor. However, if you’ve installed the kitchen flooring first, you should avoid placing kitchen cabinets on the subfloor because you’ll have to damage the flooring to do it.

This article will explain everything you need to help you decide whether to install kitchen cabinets on subfloors or finished floorings.

Should You Install Kitchen Cabinets On Subfloor Or Finished Floorings?

Both methods have their pros and cons.

Installing kitchen cabinets on the subfloor prevents denting and scratching the flooring.

However, you’ll be stuck with the same cabinet footprint for future renovations if you choose to mount your kitchen cabinet on a subfloor.

What’s more, you’ll have to cover the gap between the floorings and the kitchen cabinet with shoe molding or baseboards, which adds more steps to the construction process.

In contrast, placing kitchen cabinets on finished flooring doesn’t require much cutting and fitting, giving a more polished look—this method is better if you want to do the kitchen flooring yourself.

When To Avoid Installing Kitchen Cabinets On Subfloor?

You should avoid installing kitchen cabinets on the subfloor if the flooring’s height is higher than the cabinet’s base—more than 2 inches.

This can be a problem when you try to slide kitchen appliances like dishwashers between the cabinets.

You can try to even out the height difference by putting wood risers underneath the cabinet, but that won’t always work.

When To Avoid Installing Kitchen Cabinets On Finished Flooring?

Even though installing kitchen cabinets on subfloors is common, placing cabinets on finished floorings is gaining popularity.

Installing cabinets on finished floors gives better aesthetics and provides more flexibility—you can install different cabinet designs without worrying about the underneath flooring or having a cabinet footprint.

However, the major disadvantage of placing kitchen cabinets on finished floorings is that it can be pricey.

You’ll have to use sturdy floorboards or tiles to withstand the heavy cabinet’s weight, which usually costs more.

Another downside is that you can’t use click/floating or loose lay floorings if you want to install the cabinets directly on finished floorings.

Putting heavy kitchen cabinets on top of click floorings may damage the lock system, causing them to come apart.

Factors To Consider Before Installing Kitchen Cabinets On The Subfloor

Before deciding whether you should install kitchen cabinets on the subfloor or finished floorings, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Flooring Types

You should install your kitchen cabinet on subfloors if you choose laminate or vinyl for your kitchen tiles.

These materials are thin, so they’ll most likely get damaged by the heavy kitchen cabinets.

On the other hand, kitchen cabinets can sit comfortably on sturdy floorings like hardwood—this is perfect if you plan on future remodeling and don’t want to worry about the cabinet’s footprints.

As for tiled floors, it’s generally preferred to place the kitchen cabinets directly on them.

Tiles are long-lasting and don’t need replacing. It’s also harder to reshape a cabinet’s footprints on tile floors.

2. Your Budget

Installing kitchen cabinets on the subfloor may be a better option if you’re on a tight budget, as you’ll need less finished flooring.

If your cabinet has an intricate design, you’ll need customized floorings with accurate cuts to fit the cabinet’s edge.

Customized floorings may cost you more than just covering the floor under the cabinet.

On the other hand, some construction contractors don’t floor the entire area under the kitchen cabinet all the way to the wall, so it’ll cost you less.

This depends on the cabinet design and whether it’ll cover the unfloored areas or not.

3. Cabinet Designs

Kitchen cabinet design

Cabinets with feet certainly require full coverage of the underneath floor because it’ll be visible.

So installing them on the subfloor will be inconvenient.

In contrast, if you’re going to install kitchen cabinets on a skirting board, you don’t need to cover the underneath floor completely.

You can mount the cabinet with skirting directly on the subfloor.

4. Future Renovations

Future remodeling plans can help you decide whether you should put kitchen cabinets on the subfloor or finished floorings.

If you intend to redo your kitchen somewhere in the future, you’ll want to be smart with your cabinet footprint and the floorings.

Generally, putting your kitchen cabinets on a finished floor gives you more flexibility to change the design later on.

However, if you’ve bought furniture-grade kitchen cabinets—after all, it’s one of the most used and abused fixtures in every house—you may not change them any time soon because they’re of high quality.

In this case, installing them on the subfloor is fine, especially if you have weak floorings.

Should You Install Kitchen Cabinets On Subfloor Before Or After Placing Floorings?

The norm is to install the cabinets on the subfloor first, then do the floorings.

However, you can choose to install the floorings first if they’re durable and long-lasting.

Contractors usually prefer the traditional way of installing kitchen cabinets first—especially heavy granite cabinets—to avoid damaging the flooring.

Still, you can overcome this problem by mounting the cabinets on the walls.

The installation method also plays a role in the decision.

Floating floors expand and shrink with temperature, so the cabinet’s footprint measurements may change.

That’s why you should install the cabinets on the subfloor first if you choose floating floorboards as your kitchen floorings.

On the other hand, you can place the cabinets after installing nailed or glue-down floorings.

Downsides Of Installing Kitchen Cabinets On The Subfloor

Now that you have all the knowledge you need to make a decision; you need to weigh the pros and cons.

There are some downsides you should consider before installing kitchen cabinets on the subfloor, including:

  • It’s harder to detect a water leak in the subfloor as it acts as a barrier and stops the water from running on the kitchen tiles. You’ll start noticing water leakage at a late stage when the subfloor becomes spongy and squeaks.
  • It’s harder to clean under kitchen cabinets placed on subfloors.
  • If the cabinet’s edges aren’t sealed properly, they may allow liquids to ooze underneath the cabinet, as well as food. That’ll provide the perfect environment for mold to grow and flourish.
  • Kitchen cabinets sitting on subfloors are harder to move, so if you plan on moving with your kitchen to another house, it’ll be more difficult.

Can You Install Laminate Or Vinyl Floorings Under Kitchen Cabinets?

It’s not recommended to use laminate or vinyl floorings under kitchen cabinets—at least not the cheap ones.

While both types of floorings are popular and affordable, they’re not durable.

Any change in moisture or temperature will damage them.

Tiles and hardwood floorings are a better option to install under kitchen cabinets, but unfortunately, they’re pricey.

If you insist on installing vinyl or laminate floorings, make sure they are glued down so that they don’t expand or contract with temperature.

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