Installing new cabinets and flooring can significantly upgrade the look and feel of a home. Many homeowners undertaking kitchen or bathroom remodels face the question of which to install first – cabinets or flooring? There are good arguments on both sides, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each approach.


When renovating a kitchen or bathroom, installing new cabinets and flooring are typically two of the biggest projects. They can also be two of the most disruptive. Doing them in the right order will make the process smoother, while doing them backwards can create extra work and headaches.

The main factors to consider are:

  • Protecting cabinets from damage during flooring installation
  • Achieving the right cabinet height relative to the new floor
  • Streamlining the installation process

Evaluating these factors for your particular remodel will dictate the best sequence for new cabinets and flooring.

Cabinets First

Installing cabinets before putting in new floors has some significant advantages:

Protecting Cabinets from Damage

Flooring installation often involves multiple tradespeople coming in and out while working on the floors. Installing cabinets first eliminates the risk of accidental damage during the flooring process. New flooring can also be easily damaged by dropped tools, debris, construction dust, and spills, so it’s best to install cabinets beforehand.

Proper Cabinet Height

Cabinet height and placement is usually determined relative to the floor. If new flooring adds height, it can make existing cabinets seem too low. Putting cabinets in first means you can install them at the proper height for the planned flooring.

Easier Installation Process

When cabinets go in first, the flooring can be installed underneath and around them more easily. Trying to fit in flooring with cabinets already in place generally makes the process more difficult.

However, there are also a few potential downsides:

  • The existing floor may need to be removed or covered to protect cabinets from damage during demolition.
  • Leveling and support issues for cabinets will need to be addressed prior to flooring installation.
  • Transition areas from existing flooring will need extra work for a finished look.

Flooring First

Installing new floors before cabinets also has some advantages:

Easier Flooring Installation

Without cabinets in the way, new flooring can be installed quickly and easily. There is ample room to work, measure, cut, and maneuver new flooring into place.

Immediate Visual Impact

New floors can dramatically change the look and feel of a space. Many homeowners prefer to lay the floors first so they can get an immediate sense of the new aesthetic.

Cabinets Can Hide Transition Areas

Putting flooring down first means you can use cabinets and toe kicks to hide any transition areas between old and new flooring. This provides a more seamless finished look.

However, there are also some potential cons to look out for:

  • New floors are unprotected during cabinet installation and could get damaged.
  • Determining proper cabinet height and placement relative to new floors takes extra planning.
  • Leveling and support issues for cabinets won’t be evident until after flooring is down.

Key Considerations

When deciding between new cabinets or new floors first, here are some key factors to keep in mind:

  • What are the current floors? If you have hardwoods or a floor you want to keep, cabinets should go first to avoid damaging floors during installation.
  • How extensive is the remodel? If you’re doing a full gut job down to the studs, order doesn’t matter as much since everything will get ripped out and redone.
  • Are you changing floor height? If new floors will change the level of the current floor, installing cabinets first at the right height is critical.
  • Are you moving walls or changing layout? If so, new flooring may make sense first to establish the new footprint.
  • Is installation access easy? Tight spaces or difficult access may dictate doing floors first before squeezing in cabinets.
  • Do existing cabinets need to be removed or protected? Assessing demo needs may sway the order of the projects.

The Best Sequence

In most cases, installing cabinets before installing flooring is recommended. This sequence has more advantages and helps protect cabinets during the flooring installation process. It also allows cabinets to be installed at the proper height relative to the new floors.

However, for some remodels flooring first may work better based on access, demo needs, or project scope. Carefully evaluating the pros and cons for your specific kitchen or bathroom remodel will determine the ideal order of operations.

Some general tips to make the process smooth:

  • Communicate with flooring installers to coordinate cabinets first.
  • Protect existing or new cabinets during demolition and installation.
  • Address leveling, plumbing, and electrical needs for cabinets prior to new floors going in.
  • Use floor levelers, subflooring, or shims as needed for transition areas.
  • Touch up and install final decorative trim pieces after both projects are complete.

With proper planning and communication, installing new cabinets and flooring can efficiently transform the look of a kitchen or bathroom without causing headaches. Determine the best sequence for your project, and the process will go smoothly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you install cabinets or flooring first in a kitchen remodel?

In most kitchen remodels, it is best to install the new cabinets first, and then install the flooring. This protects the cabinets from damage during flooring installation, and allows the cabinets to be installed at the proper height relative to the new floors.

What issues can occur if flooring is installed before cabinets?

Putting in new floors before cabinets can lead to damage to the floors during cabinet installation, improper cabinet height or placement, and difficulties hiding transition areas between old and new flooring.

Can new floors be installed under existing kitchen cabinets?

It is possible to install new floors under existing kitchen cabinets, but it is generally not recommended. This approach is more complex, may damage cabinets, and does not allow cabinets to be installed at the proper new floor height.

Should you install tile or cabinets first in a bathroom remodel?

Similar to a kitchen, it is typically best to install new bathroom cabinets prior to installing new tile floors. This provides cabinet protection during tile installation, and allows proper cabinet heights and placements.

What precautions need to be taken when installing cabinets first?

If installing cabinets before floors, the existing floors should be covered/protected during construction. Cabinets may also need shims or levelers to account for any unevenness prior to new floors going in.


The sequence of installing cabinets versus flooring in a kitchen or bathroom remodel depends on the specifics of the project. In most cases, installing cabinets first provides protection, proper placement relative to new floor height, and easier installation order. However, flooring first may work better in some situations. Carefully weighing the pros and cons will determine the best order for your remodel. With proper planning among tradespeople, the projects can be staged smoothly. The end result will be a beautiful new space bringing together your dream cabinets and floors.