Do Kitchen Cabinets Must Sit On Subfloors? (Explained!)

Building a new kitchen or renovating your kitchen space will upgrade and add value to the general home appeal to attract potential buyers. This is a significant project; therefore, it’s essential you follow the right steps to ensure the results match the beautiful pictures you have imagined. However, in the pursuit of creating an ideal kitchen, you may get confused on whether the kitchen cabinet should sit on the subfloor or install the floor first and install the cabinets after. This article extensively explores the best option for your kitchen building and renovation.  

Usually, contemporary kitchen designs have the kitchen cabinet sitting on the subfloor to prevent damaging the new floors during construction and since the flooring is the last design on the construction or remodeling list, sitting the kitchen cabinets on the subfloor before completing the flooring is sensible. 

Since the subfloor is a bottom structure attached to the floor joists to support the surface flooring, builders have no definite answer on whether your kitchen cabinets should sit on the subfloor or if you should install the finished floor first. The final decision depends on several factors, including 

  • Your budget
  • The type of floor
  • Long term expectation for the kitchen project
  • The type and grade of the cabinet you want to install

When used alone, most finished flooring materials don’t have the sufficient strength to sustain furniture, appliances, and other household objects and the weight of people and pets hence the importance of the different types of floors. Usually, new constructions install the cabinets on the subfloor to prevent damaging the new floors during construction. Since the floor is usually the last item on the construction or remodeling list, installing cabinets first before completing the flooring is much easier. 

The disadvantage of installing the kitchen cabinet first on the subfloor is that when future remodeling is done, the old cabinet’s color, design, and arrangement rarely match the new plan. It will be hard to switch the cabinets out in the future.

This means the homeowners can’t change the cabinet to the style they want later, and the homeowners will have to spend more on the budget with stitching gaps in the floor, matching color, material, etc., if they plan no remodeling the kitchen in the future.

However, making the cabinet sits on the floor allows the homeowners to avoid issues they would have faced if they had installed the cabinet into the subfloor. They run the risk of scratching or denting them during installation and are less likely to damage the new floors by making the cabinet sit on the floor.  

Do kitchen cabinets go on top of flooring?

Cabinets With Feet

If the kitchen cabinets have legs, installing them on the finished floor is advisable. That is, install them on top of your finished flooring. The legs will suspend the cabinet and leave a visible flooring underneath. This option gives the cabinet some breathing space, so there is less chance for mold or mildew to grow. Retail stores like IKEA makes a lot of base cabinets on legs.

Cabinets With a Toe Kick

A toe kick is a hidden area under the edge of the cabinet that allows users to stand beside the cabinet without bending over. Most toe kicks are recessed to run the flooring up the edge if you want without any obstacles. However, other cabinets with legs or arch in front of the toe kick will have to be placed on the finished flooring or adjusted to fit the flooring around the cabinet’s footprint.

If the kitchen floor is made of a long-lasting, durable floor like hardwood or upscale tile, another available option is to finish the flooring and then install the base cabinet on the finished floor. However, this is not advisable for vinyl or cheap flooring that will not outlast the cabinets, and if you’re doing the installation yourself, this is a cheaper alternative. This option requires less detailed cutting and fitting around cabinets.

It’s important to note that most European kitchens are designed to allow the new occupants to move in with their kitchen cabinets and appliances; North American kitchen cabinets and appliances are designed to fit the structure of the house.

Therefore, they are not moved. Hence, a European kitchen would usually have the flooring laid entirely and then have the cabinets installed on top, while the American kitchen design could either sit on top of the flooring or subfloor.  

Below are some of the reasons for sitting the cabinet on the top floor

  • Easy to clean
  • Easy exchange of cabinets without damaging the flooring.
  • Toe-kick cabinets provide a deeper and more spacious look.
  • Easier to lay tiles or other floorings independent from the layout of the kitchen.
  • Breathing space (air ventilation) under the cabinets prevents mold accumulation and odors.

Reasons for fitting flooring AROUND cabinets:

  • Save flooring materials. For example, a large percentage of the kitchen space can be under the cabinet in small kitchens.
  • Allows the flooring to float.

Why don’t you put flooring under kitchen cabinets?

The primary reason homeowners don’t put flooring under their kitchen is because of the cost. Homeowners will spend less and save more money on materials if they sit their cabinets on the subfloor.

Another reason why homeowners don’t put flooring under their kitchen cabinets is to allow them to install their flooring last. If the rest of the remodeling is carried out first, there’s less likelihood of marring your flooring when you install it. Finally, if the kitchen floor is of floating floor or vinyl flooring, it’s not advisable to install flooring under the cabinets to avoid putting something heavy on the flooring.

Are kitchen cabinets attached to the floor?

Most contemporary kitchen design sits cabinet on the subfloor. The primary reason for doing this is to avoid damaging the flooring design and to provide room for future remodeling during and after construction. Since the floor is usually the last item on the construction or remodeling list, installing cabinets first before completing the flooring is much easier.

Do I need to remove cabinets to install flooring?

You don’t necessarily need to remove the cabinet if you are installing linoleum or wood laminate flooring (also known as a floating floor.) This type of floor can be installed without removing the cabinet.

All the contractor has to do is get close to the cabinet using the whole panels and cut the linoleum or laminate pieces to shape so that they fit neatly against the cabinet base.

Can I install a cabinet on a floating floor? 

No, you shouldn’t install a cabinet on a floating floor. Contractors warn against installing cabinets on the floating floor, especially cabinets that have a heavy stone or granite countertop. The right way to go about this is to first install cabinets on floating floors and then install the flooring around the cabinets.

Which goes first, cabinet or flooring?

If your choice of flooring is the floating hardwood floor (or any floating floor such as cork or laminate), it’s best to install the cabinet first and install the floor after. However, if your choice is nailed or glued floorings, it is advisable to install the floor before the cabinet.


The kitchen cabinets are one of the most important structures in the kitchen. Hence, they are used and sometimes abused. There is no definite answer on whether your kitchen cabinets should sit on the subfloor or if you should install them on the finished floor first. A good investment is to purchase the best quality kitchen cabinet and flooring materials your budget can handle.