Cabinet Installation and Trim Carpentry

Installers discuss how trim carpenters and cabinet installers should work out the kinks where their workflows intersect. July 3, 2006

I've about had it with the trim guy running his base wild and disinheriting it like the red-headed step child that it is. If I have to cut and nail on a few pieces of trim once in a while, no big deal, but all the returns in the house? I trim about 10 houses a year myself and never expect the cabinet installer to finish my work. I'm in southeast Florida and this has become an issue recently. How is this dealt with in your part of the country?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor A:
The issue came up on a job I had earlier this year. The general contractor and his trim guy thought I should scribe all of the toekick faces around the baseboard. I told them that it would look like crap that way and take me too much time. I just pulled it off the wall and cut it myself and nailed it back on. They even got bent about me doing that. Next time it will be in the contract.

From contributor B:
I did 15 years as a trim guy and have another 15 as a cabinet builder, so I've seen both sides. As a trim guy I've had many installers drop off shoe moulding for cabinets, expecting me to install it for them, and I've had trim guys run their base wild. I try to get them to leave it loose and cut and nail it myself. Some do and some don't. Bottom line, a jerk is a jerk regardless of job description.

From contributor C:
We don't have that problem here in the Northeast. Most trim guys I know including myself are the cabinet installers as well. First I install the cabinets, then itís off on my merry way and start trimming.

From contributor D:
Around here (east Seattle) we set most of our own cabinets and back trim them ourselves. Occasionally the cabinet builders will sell the builder an installed set of cabinets. When they do, the installers donít touch trim and the trimmers donít touch anything having to do with cabinets - not even scribe. Whenever any other sub has an issue with our installed trim being in their way, it is ripped off and left lying close to where it was installed. Then we usually get a complaint fax of non-completion and have to make a trip back in. we usually will try to back charge for a trip charge and re-install, but the super needs to be on site to sign off or the back charge doesnít get paid. Itís a constant battle.

From contributor A:
Here in sunny Northern California where everything is done right the first time, most base is left off kitchen or bath or laundry floors where tile vinyl or hardwood would be laid. After the cabs are in, the trim guy (we call them installers now because most of them are so still wet behind the ears, still to soon to call them an actual carpenter) would then come back and install the base after the fact. It's been done this way as long as I can remember around here.

From contributor E:
Here in NW Florida the standard is initial trim first, then cabinets, then pick-up trim. We leave all intersecting base and crown moulding off until after cabinet installation. After cabinets, a pick-up trip is made to install all missing base and crown, shoe mould if specified, and door hardware.

I, like all other contractors here, take this extra trip into account when we bid. I imagine the painters do too, since they have to come in after us to do pick-up and touch up painting.