Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Step 25 - Flooring

First off, when I have existing cabinets that don't need to be pulled out, I leave them in place.  Same with flooring.  However, on a renovation gut job (or with additions and new construction) the next thing I do after the drywall is hung (and insulation is blown up top) is flooring.

I still remember being a little surprised by this when my career progressed into the residential side of the construction industry.  I had this mindset that all flooring should come at the tail end of the project.  Carpet and the finishing of raw or salvaged hardwoods do come at the end of the job, but tile, laminate, wood, vinyl, and linoleum get installed before the cabinetry.

There are some technical reasons why flooring comes next.  For one, this could limit moisture from finding it's way into base cabinets (unlikely, but possible if the units are directly set onto a concrete slab).  Another technical reason for installing flooring before cabinetry is related to cabinet height.  If you put down floors after a 36" kitchen cabinet or bathroom vanity, you can lose over an inch in height (depending on the type of flooring).  Some people will be oblivious to this height difference, but others appreciate every inch of height when they lean over into a sink and can pick up on this subtle loss.  And on top of this, you'll lose this inch of space at the toe/kick area and it can be noticeable there as well.

However, the main and most obvious reason to install the flooring before the cabinetry, doors, and trim is money.  It's easier, therefore cheaper, to do Step 25 before Step 26 and the others that follow.  It's less labor intensive and you can really blow and go without the cabinetry in your way.  Another reason why this is the time to install flooring is that you can hide more of your cuts when you put the floors down first.  You can be less spot on with wood or laminate flooring at the edges of the room, you can have jagged or inexact cuts on ceramic and marble tile in comparable conditions (the perimeters), and you'll get away with more play in your vinyl or laminate placement/glue downs.  Then as I just said, you can hide all these cuts under the cabinets, the base trim, and the casing at your doors. 

If you do the flooring later you'll have to hide all your cuts with quarter round/shoe mold and you'll be finding yourself getting creative with caulking at the bottom of the door casing where it meets up with the floor.  It can be done, but it will take longer and may make your floor finishes look jacked-up.  So, if you can install your flooring before cabinets, interior doors, and trim, then get it done.

The Fire House at the Kitchen Window during demo. 
The Fire House at the Kitchen Window after heart pine was installed.  The previous owners had installed the hardwood in the foyer and hall and I continued this flooring into the kitchen.
The Fire House at the Kitchen Window after cabinets and trim.

One of the units in the Duplex before I opened things up and carried the existing laminate flooring into the rest of the unit.

Same view.  I didn't pull out flooring if I didn't need to, I left the base cabinets where they were in the kitchen, and installed the flooring around them. 

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