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Trim vs Flooring: Which Goes on First?

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If you’re tackling a renovation project and you’re completely redoing one of your rooms, you may have some questions when it comes to the flooring. For example, should you install the trim before the flooring or vice versa?

It doesn’t matter if you install trim before flooring as long as you leave adequate room for each. Some people prefer one installation way over the other.

Solid oak wood flooring material and hammer

One way may be easier for certain types of flooring or trim. Ultimately, which one goes first is up to the person installing them.

In this article, we will address the advantages of installing your trim first as well as the advantages of installing your flooring first.

We will also cover other topics including if you should remove trim before installing the flooring, if you should install carpeting before trim, how to install trim with wood flooring, and if you should leave space between the trim and flooring.

Carpenter brad using nail gun to Moulding trim

What Are the Advantages of Installing Trim Before Flooring?

Some contractors prefer to install trim before the flooring to ensure that the trim will match the walls. Also, if you would rather paint the room before the flooring is installed, you can put in the trim to match the wall paint.

You won’t have to worry too much about painting spills and drips on the subfloor since that will be covered up.

If you do install trim before the flooring, it is important to remember to leave a gap for the flooring to slide under.

Some contractors prefer this method because it helps the floor fit tight and avoids issues of the boards floating.

Having the trim already installed will also be a good reminder to not put the floor flush with the wall to allow for natural expansion.

Carpenter installing laminate wood flooring

What Are the Advantages of Installing Flooring Before Trim?

Some contractors prefer to install the floor before the trim to make sure there is enough room for the trim once the floor settles. This way it is easier to set the trim on top of the flooring instead of making sure to leave enough room and hope you did once the trim is set.

Installing flooring first also allows you to compensate for any unforeseen issues with the subfloor before setting the trim. You can comfortably install the trim and account for any issues in the floor by simply sanding down the trim if you need to in order to fit it correctly with the flooring.

You can always use shoe molding to compensate for any gaps and this is more easily installed after the floor has been put in.

Poor joint of the corner of a white plinth on the floor of ceramic tiles and parquet

Should You Remove Trim Before Installing Flooring?

You do not have to take out the existing trim if you plan to install new flooring. As long as you account for any expansion the new flooring may have, the old trim does not need to be removed. However, most of the time the old trim is taken out with the old flooring for a few different reasons.

One reason the old trim may be removed is if you are renovating the entire room. If you are redoing the floors, you may want a fresh look for the trim too or the old trim may not match the new flooring.

Even though it is a lot of work, taking out the old trim and then replacing it with the new floor will also make the project look a lot nicer and cleaner.

Installation of carpet layingcovering stairs flooring stairway

Should You Install Trim or Carpeting First?

Carpeting can be tricky. Just like with any other flooring, it is up to you whether or not you want to install trim or carpeting first.

Some people find it easier to install the carpeting first so then you can set the trim to lay on top of it.

Since carpeting can come in a range of thicknesses, this may be preferable to trying to accurately leave enough room by installing the trim first.

Other people would rather install the trim first and then the carpeting. That way the carpeting will fit snugly under the trim.

Usually, most people who do this may underestimate the height of the carpet and choose to trim back the edges that will slide underneath the trim for a snug fit.

Carpenter using nail gun to Moulding trim

How Do You Install Trim with Wood Flooring?

Whether you choose to install the trim or the flooring first, you need to be away of a few special circumstances when it comes to wood flooring.

Wood flooring will swell and shrink with the temperature and humidity so you always need to leave space to allow the wood to adapt to the changing environment.

If you don’t, the wood floors can buckle and create hills or leave gaps between the trim and the floor. When you’re installing trim with wood flooring always make sure to leave an appropriate amount of space to compensate for this.

If nothing else, shoe molding is perfect for touching up trim to allow the space to exist but also hide any gaps that may appear and linger.

wooden flooring installation

Should I Leave Space Between the Trim and Flooring?

While you always want to leave space between the wall and the floor, most of the time you don’t want to leave any space between the trim and the floor.

This extra gapping can allow for bugs and small rodents to easily access your walls, and it gives the floor wiggle room to undulate. From an aesthetic perspective, it just doesn’t look good.

The only exception to this room is if you plan on using carpet. If you want to carpet the room, make sure you leave about an inch from the bottom of the trim to the top of the base flooring.

This should give you sufficient room to install the carpet padding and the carpeting itself.

If the carpet is too tall, you can always trim it down so that it fits snugly underneath the trim. If you choose a thinner carpet, you may want to include a thinner gap.

Measure the height of the carpet plus the padding for an estimated gap height.

father and son helping each other for house renovation


When it comes to installing trim and flooring, the good news is there is no right way to do it. You can choose to install the trim before the flooring or vice versa. Each way has its advantages.

By installing the trim first, you can paint more easily and slide the floor into place when you’re ready. By installing the floor first, you can set the trim flush with the floor so there are no unsightly gaps.

If you need to install new flooring but want to keep the old trim, you don’t need to remove it, but it may look cleaner if you do.

For different kinds of flooring like wood flooring or carpeting, there are special circumstances to consider for installation and subsequent (or beforehand) trim installation. Wood flooring always requires space to expand and contract. Shoe molding can help trim overcome any miscalculations in meeting the trim to the flooring.

For carpeting, you need to factor in the thickness of the padding and the carpet if you install the trim first. Alternatively, setting the trim down after you install carpeting may be cleaner.


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