Kitchen Planning: Choosing Upper Cabinet Height

Cabinets, Cabinets, and More Cabinets

The kitchen planning process is never finished without a conversation about upper cabinets. Because upper cabinet choices can aesthetically determine the appearance of space, style, and flow, upper cabinets are crucial to any kitchen plan. The shear volume of upper cabinet choices in this space is staggering. There is an upper cabinet for every type of architecture, color palate, and style. Every wood species is covered. Every stain available. Add to this the growing number of affordable semi-custom cabinet builders and Ikea, the cabinet choice is a headache in the making. Often times, the average kitchen consumer can get lost in this sea of finishes without taking a closer look at the upper cabinet sizes themselves. Unless you are having your cabinets custom built, there are basically three avenues kitchen remodelers can take while deciding on upper cabinets:


30" Cabinets

One of the most standard upper cabinet sizes in kitchen plans is 30". There are many reasons the 30" cabinet is popular, but most of them are construction related. If, for example, you are incorporating any soffits above the upper cabinets, the 30" upper ends up being a perfect height. Soffits are normally 12" high,  bringing the overall height to 42". It should be said that soffits aren't normally a sought after design element in a kitchen or anywhere else for that matter, but if they must be there for electrical considerations, the 30" upper cabinet is a viable solution. Another reason consumers may plan to utilize the 30" cabinet in the kitchen plan is to showcase space. Many loft spaces and older homes have ceiling heights greater than 8 feet high. Ceiling heights this high allow kitchen remodelers to showcase the static space by using a cabinet that is more shallow. If you have a ceiling this high, perhaps a floating shelf under your 30" cabinets would work. 

Floating Shelves and Open Storage

Sometimes, despite a pitch from their kitchen designer, homeowners dismiss from their plans the concept of open storage or floating shelves. Perhaps this is because open storage is a more modern choice or maybe people don't want their dishes to be out in the open to collect dust. Whatever the reasons against open storage are, floating shelves can be a great, cost saving solution for any kitchen plan for any architecture. Even if your style trends to be on the more traditional side, open storage can be milled to parallel your style. As we talked about before, open storage can be manipulated under a 30" cabinet or used exclusively if there is ample base cabinet storage below. Another great use for open storage is to mate with a 42" run on the opposite side of a galley kitchen. You will be shocked how much open storage "opens" your kitchen up.

42" upper cabinets installed directly to the ceiling
42" upper cabinets installed directly to the ceiling

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42" Cabinets

Perhaps the most popular of all upper cabinet heights is 42". A 42" upper cabinet has every benefit of the 30" I described above and more. However, a 42" cabinet has one limitation that the 30" doesn't. It wouldn't be recommended to raise a 42" cabinet high enough to float a shelf under them. By the time you installed the shelf, you'll notice half of the cabinet is virtually unusable. The strongest argument for 42" upper cabinets in any kitchen plan is for kitchens with standard 8' ceilings. With an 8' ceiling, the upper cabinets can either be installed directing to the ceiling with no gap, or be dropped down slightly to allow for crown moulding. Having your upper cabinets flush to the ceiling gives you the same benefit of static space aesthetic because the cabinets appear to be a seamless continuation or "draping" from floor to ceiling. 

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Comments 3 comments

thertastore profile image

thertastore 4 years ago from Oakland, NJ 07436

Nicely elaborate the topic...keep updating.


Sarah 23 months ago

If you have an L shaped coetunr. You measure from the corner to each end. Bring in both measurements to the store.The measurements should equal the combined cabinet measurements.You need to add 1 1/2" for an overhang at the end, where it's open.(where it doesn't end into a wall).At appliance openings, (like for a stove) the coetunr top stops even with the cabinet edge below it.


dollarmagazineclu 7 months ago from Jacksonville

wonderful post, thanks!

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