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I currently have tile on the floor of the kitchen that just butts up to my cabinets. I plan to change the floors and also change the cabinets. Is is best to rip out all the cabinets and tile, and then tile the entire floor? Afterwards, install the cabinets on top of the tile. Or should retile just butting up to cabinets again?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Why would you want to tile first, then lay cabinets on top of the tile? This ensures two things:

  • The person in the future who wants merely to replace the tile while not touching the cabinets will be cursing your soul to eternity. Remember, this might be you cursing yourself, if for some reason it turns out you need (or merely really want) to replace the tile.

  • That you will spend more money on tile than you need to spend. Tile is expensive, so why throw money away underneath a large block of cabinets?

Place the cabinets first, then butt the tile against them. Yes, you will be cutting some tiles to fit. Tile cutters are not difficult to use.

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The method woodchips recommended is definitely the most common for the reasons he states, but both ways are used, more for hardwood rather than tile. Do set any new or additional underlayment, such as concrete board under the cabinets before install. – shirlock homes Jan 22 '11 at 12:28
Yes, hardwood floors are sometimes done this way, but even there hardwood is expensive. Why waste the materials under a cabinet? – user558 Jan 22 '11 at 17:02
Easy enough. Thanks for the answer! – Web Jan 23 '11 at 3:10
+1 When we do our kitchen it will definitely be cabinets before tiling, for those very reasons. One additional reason, depending somewhat on how the floor is constructed, If there is any movement at a later stage that causes gaps to appear (perhaps just tiny cracks in the grout) you may well have problems with water getting through in areas you can't even see, let alone get to for repair. Remember, a kitchen is a wet area and must be treated accordingly. – John Gardeniers Jan 26 '11 at 23:31
I'm intrigued. Why the down vote here? – user558 Jan 27 '11 at 14:08

It likely depends on what type of cabinets you're planning on installing. If you're going for the 'european style' (what Ikea refers to as a 'free-standing kitchen', you need to fully tile first, as it'll be visible once the cabinets are installed.

And exactly the opposite of what woodchips said; if someone in the future wants to replace the cabinets while not touching the floor will appreciate the fully tiled floor.

I'm not sure which is worse, if you tend to be a spill-prone household -- with a fully tiled floor, the water's more likey to damage the kickplate of the cabinets (or legs, in a free-standing style), rather than the subfloor if things aren't sealed well.

One other minor consideration is that your cabinet height changes slightly between the two styles of laying tiles, but you can always put something down to make up the tile height if you don't want the full floor of tile.

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We tiled under the cabinets when we remodeled our kitchen. To tile up to the cabinets IMO is to stop short of finishing the floor.

A good tile, installed properly, will last a long time; probably longer than the cabinets.

The price difference for us between doing under the cabinets and not was negligible; couple hundred dollars.

Looking at our kitchen, we would not have known the floor was sagging 1.5 inches from corner to corner. Tiling under the cabinets allowed us to fix the floor and have a level floor across the room (20+ feet in total)

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Don't overthink it and worry too much about what you or someone else might want to do in the future. Will you want a new floor? Will you want a new cabinet configuration? You simply don't know. Just worry about what you want right now. Find cabinets you love and find a floor you love.

The one pro I can think of for tiling only up to the cabinets is that it will be cheaper. How much depends how expensive your tile is. Unless you have a huge kitchen and a ton of cabinets, I'm guessing it won't be much savings.

There are more pros to tiling the entire floor. Tiling the entire floor may actually take less time too. You won't have to worry about super-precise cuts against the walls underneath cabinets, but if you only tile up to the cabinets you have to be very precise, otherwise you will have uneven grout lines along your kickboards. You will also have to make more cuts around your cabinets. Your entire floor is protected from water and spills tiling the entire floor. If you do decide to change cabinet configuration in the future, you don't have to worry about the floor. If you want to change the floor, but not the cabinets, that would be the time to remove the old tile up to the cabinets and lay the new tile up to the cabinets. And if you want to change both, well, it all has to get ripped up anyway, right?

I'm tiling my kitchen floor this weekend and it's going wall to wall!

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