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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. This could be for scheduling reasons and therefore the option of wall-to-wall tiling is ruled out. In cases when either option is on the table, we find this 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 tile up to the legs on the kitchen cabinets. 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 cost saving.

WRONG!

Firstly, what many fail to factor in is that although worktop depth may be 600mm, the cabinets are 560mm deep. (This is excluding the door on the front). The front face of the plinth (or kickboard) sits back of that by around 30mm. The plinth is normally 18mm thick and the tiles need to go under the plinth for a neat finish. (This also allows for easy removal in the future). Therefore, the tiles need to be fitted to around 510mm from the wall, not 600mm. The saving is therefore not as great as most first calculate.

Consider your kitchen. If the potential saving in tiles is still making you lean towards tiling up to the units instead of under, 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 is easily half the overall cost of tiling a kitchen floor.

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. 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. It 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 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?

Consider this all-to-common scenario. A kitchen which has been tiled up to the cabinet legs (and under appliances) and the washing machine develops a leak. It is unlikely the leak will get noticed until significant damage is done. Water naturally flows to the lowest point. The ‘wells’ left under the units without tiles is perfect for it to pool and spread. If left unchecked, it will start getting drawn up into the plaster on the walls. It is often only discovered 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 replacement 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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