I am installing 3/4 hardwood oak nailed down to plywood sub-flooring. If hardwood flooring is installed first, wouldn't buckling of the floor be a issue since hardwood expands and contracts?

  • If cost of flooring it all is not prohibitive do it all. Unless it is prefinished. In that case cabinets should be set up off floor 3/4 inch and flooring installed last to avoid damaging it
    – Kris
    Mar 24, 2019 at 13:18
  • The main issue I want settled is....can cabinets be installed over hardwood flooring is buckling a factor since hardwood floors need to expand and contract.
    – T King
    Mar 24, 2019 at 17:48
  • no buckling is not going to happen as long as there is an appropriate margin left at the walls. I installed my hardwood and placed cabinets on top 20 years ago never had an issue.
    – Kris
    Mar 24, 2019 at 17:56

3 Answers 3


There are several factors to consider. Buckling would be the least concern if the hardwood floors are installed properly. I would lay the floors first and then install the cabinets. I have been involved in the construction of hundreds of new homes and we have always laid the hardwood floors first.

  • Appliances - The height of the cabinets needs to be 36 inches from the floor. The appliances will need to be the same height. Do you really want to be forced with having a lip in front of all the appliances? You would basically be sealing them in. Imagine having to pull out a refrigerator when it's boxed in with hardwood.
  • Labor - In relation to the appliances, you would need to place some plywood, etc. underneath the cabinets and appliances to raise them up. What would be the point? Both options probably cost about the same.
  • Leaks - Imagine an unnoticed sink leak. If water runs under that flooring you will definitely have some buckling issues to deal with. A sink leak on a hardwood floor would be bad anyway, but you would be creating an easier way for the water to enter underneath the hardwood.
  • Insects - Roaches love cracks and crevices. You would be creating a welcoming environment for all manner of insects given the warmth and moisture from your appliances.
  • Remodeling - Hardwood flooring will outlast the cabinets. You might also want to change cabinets someday for a different style. You will be faced with having to go back with the exact size cabinets.
  • 2
    Thank you .....buckling of floors was my main concern. I am glad to hear your in the business and have done it hundreds of times. That put my mind at ease. HOWEVER, the brand of hardwood oak I am having installed states,"Do not install cabinets or appliances over hardwood floor." I will be calling them tomorrow for clarification since 80% of hardwood job are done floors first
    – T King
    Mar 24, 2019 at 17:52
  • @TKing the floating type floors should not be installed under cabinets You stated yours is a 3/4 oak to be nailed down do you mind sharing the brand and specs?
    – Kris
    Mar 24, 2019 at 18:39
  • The brand of hardwood flooring 3/4 oak is Shaw. It is the golden opportunity line. I just got off the line with corporate office 8004417429. The woman just quoted the install instructions to me. Did not tell me the reason why cabinets could not be places on top of flooring. Give them a call maybe you can get a answer out of them.
    – T King
    Mar 25, 2019 at 16:00
  • That is 3/4" solid red oak hardwood flooring. It is safe to install under cabinets and appliances without the fear of abnormal buckling. Mar 25, 2019 at 17:22

Definitely flooring first! Your ends do not have to be perfect that go under the cabinets, so if you have boards with bad ends or flaws, they can be placed so that flaw is hidden by the cabinet. I'm 6' something and every 1/4" of higher cabinets counts, so I'd do it just for the fact the cabinets are not 3/4" shorter/sunk in. Some appliances allow you to remove the feet to shrink them down to your lower cabinets but it would be an absolute nightmare and would easily damage the floor when moving them without feet. It's more intended for a retrofit job - this is NOT the case!

Floor under the cabinets! If you're worried about damaging the floor, buy a roll of construction paper and tape it down to the new hardwood. Then put an old drop cloth over it if you have one.

  • 1
    +1 for the exclamation point. One should not even think about omitting flooring under cabinets. There are all kinds of ways this will come back to be a nightmare if you do. Mar 25, 2019 at 1:39
  • 1
    @R.. i just bought a house, and after moving the fridge saw that the hardwood floor in that spot doesn’t even quite go all the way to the cabinets. sigh
    – Stephen R
    Mar 25, 2019 at 10:57
  • sigh I don't know why people take such a beautiful flooring material then do stupid things like that to screw it up. Mar 26, 2019 at 3:25

In the case of an existing kitchen installation where the existing flooring (vinyl, for example) was replaced with hardwood, the new flooring goes up to and around the cabinetry. It's done, but not ideal because of what happens around or under the appliances. It also lowers the effective height of the countertop by the flooring thickness.

Since this is a full reno, far better to lay the floor first and then install the cabinets.

I had my kitchen replaced, kept the original tile floor. What I found when the old cabinets were removed was that the tiles didn't cover the entire floor - they only went far enough under the cabinets (a few inches) to provide for a finished look at all the edges, and I think also to provide a level surface for the cabinets to rest on.

The flooring covers every inch of floor area visible when all appliances are removed, is the supporting surface the cabinets rest on, but doesn't have to run where it has no job to do (as either support or finish).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.