How to Install Hardwood Floors Around Kitchen Cabinets

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Hardwood floors around your kitchen cabinets look great.
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Installing hardwood floors around kitchen cabinets requires a little more attention to detail than installing floors in a room with basic dimensions. You'll need to precisely measure the floorboards before cutting them to size to ensure they fit tightly underneath the cabinets. However, using quarter rounds to cover the gap between the toe kick and the floor gives you a little leeway.

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Remove Kitchen Appliances

To start, you'll need to expose as much of the kitchen floor as possible by moving the appliances to another room. It may be tempting to just work around your stove or refrigerator since the floor under these never sees the light of day anyway, but doing so can cause problems down the road when you cannot move the appliance over the hardwood lip, install an appliance with different dimensions or experience a water leak on the subfloor. Take the time to install the kitchen floor everywhere except under the cabinets.

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Remove the Old Flooring

As long as the surface is smooth and level, technically you can install hardwood floor over your existing flooring. However, it may be best to completely remove the old kitchen floor covering and expose the subfloor. Vacuum all dust and debris from the floor and smooth out any raised areas.

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If you notice the floor is significantly sloped or pitted, you may need to stop and call in a professional to help you strengthen the floor joists or develop a plan to even out the subfloor.

Be sure to also remove your baseboards, quarter rounds and wooden toe kicks (if applicable). This will allow you to scoot the planks of wood as far under the cabinets or as close to the wall as possible (leaving a small space for expansion) and then cover the gap, giving the impression that the floor continues seamlessly under the wall.

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Installing Hardwood Floors Around Cabinets

Most modern hardwood floor planks fit together in a tongue and groove fashion. According to Swiss Kronos, the "groove" side should face toward you when you lay the first plank flat on the wall. Then, hold the "tongue" side of a second plank at a 45-degree angle to the flat plank's "groove" side. Once the tongue is in the groove, snap the second piece flat to the ground and make minor adjustments by tapping the wood into place with a rubber mallet.

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But it's hard to snap planks underneath a cabinet. There's just not much room. You have two options: to line up the tongue and groove with both pieces flat and tap the tongue piece into place from the side using a rubber mallet or to lay the first row of hardwood planks underneath the kitchen cabinets and work your way out toward the opposite wall. Anywhere the hardwood planks meet a wall or cabinet, use a floor spacer to prevent the wood from pushing upward when it expands. Cover this gap with a quarter round.

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You'll also need to carefully measure and cut planks to fit in all the little nooks where your kitchen appliances go. Consider using a contour gauge to help you accurately measure around corners. Keep in mind that you should only measure the surface of the plank and not the "tongue" in order to make accurate cuts. Using a table saw will give the most convenient cuts, but you can also use a jigsaw or even a miter hand saw.

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