"Should I install my cabinetry before my flooring or after?" After a number of years in the custom cabinetry industry, this is one question that I have answered countless times. I am a big fan of black and white answers, but in this particular case there is no right or wrong answer; there are pros and cons to either option. My personal preference is to have floor installed before installing cabinetry.
One of the main arguments for installing flooring first is that you do not need to be concerned with floating issues during potential remodels that may be done in the future. For example, if you want to replace your cabinets later and you only have tile down in the exposed areas you are stuck with the same footprint, or cabinet layout, unless you are going to put all new flooring down again.
From a financial standpoint, you really have to look at the trade-offs and examine what it is you are trying to accomplish. It may cost more in materials to floor the entire room but you may save in labor costs because there will be a significant number of measurements to take cuts to make in order to fit flooring around the cabinets. Additionally, if you do decide to install your cabinetry before flooring you will need to buy shoe molding, or some other type of architectural millwork to hide the transition between your toe-kick and flooring. If you are installing custom cabinetry , chances are that you already plan to use shoe molding. If that is the case this would not impact your decision as the molding would not be an unplanned expense. It all comes back to what works best for you and what your long-term plans are for your kitchen.
One other consideration many people do not think of in the before vs. after debate is the impact your decision has on dishwasher installation. If you install your flooring after the cabinetry and dishwasher are installed the floor height MUST allow for clearance of the dishwasher in the event that replacement is required. Finding out that tile has to be taken up before a dishwasher can be removed is frustrating for even the most patient of homeowners. Avoid this and other potential pitfalls by using a qualified kitchen design service to plan your project from start to finish.