Building Cabinets in a Kitchen with an Un-Level Floor

The consensus advice is to build a level base platform and let the toe-kick take up the discrepancy in cabinet heights. January 19, 2011

I am building kitchen cabinets on a floor that is two inches out of level. I'd like to have the stove and kitchen sink at the same height, but they are off by two inches, so I am thinking of having the stove cabinets be at one height and then the sink cabinets at a different level. Any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor J:
Scribe a 21" deep deck from the back wall by the width under where the cabinets are to go and move on up from there.

From contributor E:
Agree with contributor J - make a long base frame and level it. Let the base and shoe grow, not the cabs.

From contributor L:
Split up the cabinetry and make them staggered in height, just like you would with uppers. Stick a 30" or 32" cabinet in the line so that it looks intentionally staggered. This way, as the level of the floor goes down, you can still have your sink and dishwasher and stove at 36" countertop levels.

Or build all your cabinets at 36 1/2" and cut them down as you go along; same reasoning as building a scribe-able ladder deck. You made me laugh when you said 2" was a lot of drop, as I have done kitchens with 4-5" of drop over 14' and pantries with 1 1/2" of drop over 5'. I worked in a lot of 18th century homes with foundations that have moved considerably.

From contributor J:
We have also had to spread the pain (I have a rental house like this) where we compensate from the center 1" up in one direction and 1" down in the other, and plan the dishwasher accordingly.

From contributor C:
Making different height lowers compromises the usability of the counter space. You want continuous counters. Makes no sense to design a new kitchen around some existing flaw. What about fixing the problem? I would at least point that out as an option and discuss the pros and cons of different approaches.

From contributor N:
Make loose toe kicks that grow with the drop in the floor. Two inches is a lot, and if at all possible, the floor should be floated some before the cabinets go in.

From contributor O:
I have done installs close to this bad. I would find the high point, then shoot a laser line at this point plus your toe kick if you can. If not, shoot toe kick height plus cabinet height and then subtract cab height.

I wouldn't bother trying to scribe the toe kick. Rather shim up as you go and cover with a scribed trim. When you're done, nobody will know but you.

From contributor C:
Contributor O's method works. That is basic to just about any install. Start at the high spot. The only thing that may come up is the need to platform an appliance if it happens to coincide with an extreme low spot in the floor.

From contributor S:
I also would have to say spread the pain. A 38" high countertop would grab an eye faster than one that varies.

From contributor F:
I say start at the stove, then vary the toe kick height. Make sure the dishwasher will still go under the counter if you start at the stove. Looks best to avoid having a stove that is above or below the counter. They do have some height adjustment, so make sure the dishwasher will still go under the counter, and make sure the stove can still be adjusted flush with the counters.

From contributor V:
Is it better to have a dishwasher that is taller than a stove top? If you position the stove where it might have to move up a little, that is not good. Have you thought about using leg levelers instead of a base?

From contributor M:
I had a similar situation in an old farmhouse - 8" off level in 15'. I offered to help level the floor first, but he just said do what I need to do, so we built a platform first, leveled it and set the cabinets on that. Felt like a bar where I could rest my elbows on the deep end.