The question of doors vs floors first is one that comes up on nearly every prehung door installation we do. Often when this question comes up, it is not appropriate for me to express my opinion. So, this blog entry is sort of a vent for me to share my thoughts without reservation. Hopefully, those who are planning a home renovation or new home build will give consideration to these points far enough in advance to benefit from my experience working as a finish carpenter for nearly two decades.
I believe that for the homeowner, you will end up with the highest quality results by having your new flooring installed before the installation of prehung doors and baseboard. The only exception to this is for specific rooms that will have carpet installed instead of hardwood/marble/tile. Carpet installation tucks under the bottom edge of baseboard, and as long as the space below the baseboard is not excessive, the carpet will hide any variation in the flatless of the subfloor/foundation.
By having the floor installed first, then doors and baseboard, followed last by painting, the painting crew is able to work on the interior of the home without other trades in the way slowing them down and potentially damaging their work. But, the greatest benefit is that all the moulding and millwork (crown moulding, window and door casing, baseboard, doors, etc) are painted with a consistent uniform coating without the need for touch ups. It also means there will be no more traffic in the home after the painters complete their work.
So, why does this question come up so regularly? Perhaps it has to do with the priorities of the new home builder/contractor. Although the reasons may vary by each situation, I’ve found that in most cases in their push to complete the home and get on to the next project, their goal is to get the painting crew started as soon as possible. And the reasoning they give for putting in the floors after all the millwork is that the paint crews will be able to paint the interior more quickly without having to protect the new floor. But, the problem with this approach is that when new floors are installed after the installation of prehung doors and baseboard, the new floors invariably end up with spaces below the baseboard which require the addition of base shoe moulding. This happens because the foundation/subfloor is never completely flat.
When baseboard is installed before flooring, spacer blocks are used to raise the baseboard off the ground and provide the space needed for the flooring to slide in underneath. The problem is, no one can ensure a gap-free flooring installation when installing flooring under pre-installed baseboard. When the floor has been installed and the ugly gaps are visible, the only option is to add base shoe moulding to conceal this gap.
Home builders tend to push to have doors and baseboard installed before flooring gets installed. Putting doors in at this time requires the flooring installers to cut the door jambs so that flooring can be installed underneath which changes the gap at the bottom of the door. And, installing baseboard prior to flooring involves raising the baseboard off the subfloor/foundation using blocks that approximate the thickness of the new flooring. Although their reasons vary, its usually based on the strategy that the home can be painted without the additional cost of having to cover the newly installed flooring. New home builders get paid when the home is finished, so the goal is to get the home painted as soon as possible even though a newly painted home without flooring will always require additional carpentry work to trim door bottoms as well as install base shoe moulding to conceal the visible gap between the flooring and the baseboard. It also requires additional paint work to touch up doors, walls and the new base shoe moulding.
Crown moulding, wall trim, window casing, and other details can be installed prior to the installation of new flooring, but I recommend installing doors and baseboard after new flooring has been installed. 20+ years of experience has taught me that for best results, painting a home’s interior walls comes after all the trimwork has been installed. Doing so, ensures that all nail holes, splices, corner joints and imperfections are concealed, caulking has been coated with primer, and the finished work gets a uniform and consistent top coat of paint. Installing doors after flooring ensures that the doors will hang and swing properly, because they will not need to be removed and leaned against a wall and risk being damaged during the flooring installation phase. Painting after all the trimwork has been installed is actually the most efficient for a painting crew to work, and the way most high quality painting crews prefer to work.
You wouldn’t have your car painted first and then have dents in the body fixed after. So, unless you want to keep your painters working for some reason, why would you paint the inside of your new home until all the finish work has been done?