Should you tile under kitchen units?

We often get asked whether it’s better to tile wall-to-wall under the kitchen or just up to the kitchen units. The quick answer is wall-to-wall is better, however as with many decisions regarding kitchen layouts there is never a one-size-fits-all.

This article discusses floor tiles. For wooden or other floors the advice may be different.

There are times when floor tiling must be done after the kitchen is installed and the option of wall-to-wall tiling is ruled out. In cases where there the option of tiling before or after the kitchen is installed, we find the decision is often based on cost so let’s cover that one first.

Cost –  How does the cost compare between the 2 options?

People often look at the cost of the tiles as the deciding factor on whether to tile wall-to-wall or just go up to the units. They do a rough calculation in their heads or whip out their phone and fire up the calculator. They ask the length of the cabinet run and multiply it by the depth of the worktop (typically 600mm). Multiply that by the cost per square meter of their chosen tile, then smile at the potential saving.

Firstly, what many fail to factor in is that although worktop depth may be 600mm, the cabinets are 580mm deep (excluding the door) and the plinth (or kickboard) sits back of that by around 30mm. The plinth is normally around 20mm thick, and the tiles need to go under the plinth for a neat finish also allowing for easy removal in the future. So, the tiles need to be fitted to around 500mm from the wall, not 600mm. The saving is therefore not as great as many first calculate.

Secondly, the tiles should also run underneath the appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine and any stand-alone fridges. This is so that the appliances can be easily slid in and out for fitting and maintenance. Factor in all the tiles (including cuts) for these spaces and the potential saving is reduced further still.

In your kitchen, if the potential saving in tiles is still making you lean towards tiling up to the units instead of wall-to-wall, read on.

Installation

There is another all-important factor to consider and that is the cost of installation of the floor tiles. A good tiler can easily be half the overall cost of tiling a kitchen floor and if you are considering tiling up to cabinets and not wall-to-wall then I suggest you will need a good tiler. You see, tiling up to cabinet legs and into appliance bays requires a lot of intricate cutting and all this takes time and planning so as not to end up with small slithers of cut tiles. In contrast, tiling wall-to-wall often takes the tiler less time overall and can often be the cheapest option if the tiler charges for the job rather than a flat square metre rate.

Add the cost of the tiles plus the cost of the labour and often the difference between the two tiling options is often negligible.

Which leads on to what we believe is the over-riding consideration:

Leaks – What happens when an appliance like the dishwasher, washing machine or even the sink leaks?

When a kitchen has been tiled up to the cabinet legs (and under appliances) and say the washing machine develops a leak, it is unlikely you will notice the leak till significant damage is done. Water will obviously follow the lowest point and the ‘wells’ left under the units without tiles is perfect for it to pool and spread. If left unchecked, it can then start getting drawn up into the plaster on the walls and is often only found months later when a musky smell starts to override what should be the sweet smell of cooking coming from the kitchen.

In contrast, if the kitchen was tiled wall-to-wall then the chances of seeing the leak coming out from under the appliance is vastly improved. The water does not get a chance to soak into the concrete floor and instead runs across the tiles. Often the first sign of even a minor leak is spotted by the grout line changing colour as it gets wet near the appliance.

If you are still not convinced that wall-to-wall tiling is the best option, then we will leave you with one other consideration and that is:

Future-proofing

Now I know when most people are considering installing a new kitchen will be thinking ‘I am not changing this layout for years’ so there is no reason to tile under the units.

The funny thing is that we often come across exactly this scenario when modernising dated kitchens with new doors and drawer fronts. Home circumstances have often changed in that time and people ask for minor alterations to the layout as part of the work. “I’ll have to check the garage and loft for spare tiles” is heard more often than one would think.

If your situation is unique and you would like help deciding the best options for your kitchen contact us. We are more than happy to help.

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