All kitchens are out of level, with irregularities that need to be adjusted for during a cabinet installation. However, once a floor is off more than maybe 3/4inch, the decisions get more interesting. Here are some methods we’ve used to achieve good results when working with the less-than-level floors common in our remodeling work.

Standard method. The easiest and most common method for installing base cabinets is to find the high spot in the kitchen and shim all the cabinets to that. We usually treat each run of cabinets separately, rather than trying to level up cabinets that aren’t connected; there’s less adjustment that way, and a slight difference across a kitchen isn’t normally noticeable.

Cabinets usually have vertical toe-kick trim that can be scribed to an uneven floor to cover any gaps. Shoe molding can also be used to cover a small gap. Either method is easy and quick and leaves enough vertical room for standard under-cabinet appliances.

Cut some cabinets. Sometimes, shimming all the cabinets would create an unacceptable gap somewhere. For example, the low point could be so much lower that the gap is too high for shoe molding to hide. Cabinet sides usually don’t have separate toe-kick trim, so making them look good can be hard if a gap is big. And lately, many cabinets have “furniture base” decorative elements that run to the floor and do not gracefully lend themselves to trimming out the bottom. For example, decorative legs with round profiles in the 2-to-5-inch-diameter range wouldn’t look right with a curved shoe molding, to say nothing of time to execute such a solution. Similarly, some decorative toe kicks have angled shapes that don’t look good if trim is installed around them. In these cases, we often trim the bottoms off the cabinets at the highest point in the run, so the decorative parts can land on the floor. Sometimes, we even cut off the bottom of the furniture legs on part of the run; though not ideal, it looks better than adding shoe molding. If the high point is at the back of the cabinets (as it often is), we may not need to modify the fronts much at all.

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