How High Should You Hang Your Upper Kitchen Cabinets? (2023)

A client of mine once raised a good question: “Do upper cabinets have to be installed the standard 18 inches off the countertop?” It got me thinking outside of the usual cabinetry box. Of course there are lots of ways to install your upper cabinets, and if you’re willing to have an open mind, you might find that elevating them comes with unexpected benefits. Here are situations where you might want to hang your cabinets a little higher.

Rycon Building Group

What Is the Standard Height?

The standard height for upper cabinets has changed somewhat over the years. At one point the most common height was 18 inches above the countertop, but this number has started to creep up to 20 inches to give people a little extra breathing room. Go lower than 18 inches and you may find that certain small appliances don’t fit below the cabinets, or that the upper cabinets start to block your view of the countertop.

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The Furniture Union

Although 18 inches is a typical minimum height, kitchen cabinets can start much higher than this. The trade-off is that for every inch you raise the cabinets you will have more open space to work in but less storage space at an easily reachable height.

Finding the right balance will come down to a lot of personal preferences and situational factors, but here are some cases where raising the upper cabinets might be a good move.

Croma Design Inc.

When You Should Raise the Upper Cabinets

When the home chefs are tall.
Standard heights are just that: a standard height that works for a lot of people but isn’t necessarily best for everyone. If the people using the kitchen are on the taller side (say 5’10” and above), they’ll see the cabinets from a different angle than the “average” eye line.

Raising the upper cabinets a few more inches will ensure an unobstructed view of the counter and give a bit more elbow room for working.

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Condovate Interiors Inc.

When you have a tall faucet or a big sink. Restaurant kitchen-inspired faucets, with their tall, arching necks and industrial flair, are popular because they’re not only stylish, they’re also highly functional. Paired with deep sinks, they can make hand-washing an oversized pot or small appliance a snap.

But these conveniences are somewhat reduced if you have to struggle to get the pot into the sink. Having higher cabinets above the sink (installed at, say, 24 to 30 inches off the countertop) will ensure you have lots of room to work, no matter what new kitchen contraption you need to wash.

When you have a pantry nearby. While it can sometimes feel like no amount of kitchen storage is enough, if you have more than you need you might feel compelled to fill it, creating clutter in your home that can quickly get away from you.

When you have a good, functional pantry wall in your kitchen already, it can be a smart choice to balance it out by reducing the size of your wall cabinets for a more open look. That way you have a place for everything you need without feeling like you’re working in a pantry closet.

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When you want your backsplash to make a statement. Form and function are both important to a kitchen. After all, if you spend a lot of time in the space, it’ll be more enjoyable if the space is beautiful. A beautiful backsplash makes a strong statement in a kitchen, and raising the upper cabinets gives you a little more square footage to feature a stunning material.

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Lisa Breeze Architect

Whether this material is a cool tile, a slab of stone or an exposed brick wall, raising the cabinets will let the backsplash become a point of focus, so much so that it might even catch your eye before the cabinets.

Domus Nova

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When you have dark cabinets. Sometimes the backsplash isn’t so much a statement of its own as it is a visual break between other dramatic elements. Rich charcoal-toned cabinets can give a kitchen a mature air, but visually they could read as a bit heavy.

A wide stretch of crisp white-based marble slab (between the lowers and the very high uppers) balances out the dark cabinet finish to achieve a look that is rich but airy, and not overwhelming.

Elizabeth Matthews Interiors

When you have a mirrored backsplash. A mirror backsplash makes an attractive style statement, but it can also make your kitchen feel significantly bigger. The effect is even stronger when you have higher upper cabinets, allowing for a taller stretch of mirror that reaches up higher into your eye line.

antonio perrone architetto

When your cabinet finish is a bold accent. Two-tone cabinets are a popular trend, and a fun way to add some personality to your kitchen without investing heavily in a look you might grow tired of. When choosing an especially bold finish or an exotic wood grain, using slimmer upper cabinets will balance the look so you get a controlled dose of color.

Paula G. Furió

When you have a closed-in kitchen. Not every kitchen can be an open concept with a vast island in the middle to gather around. If you have an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen that forms a tight room, the area can start to feel a bit closed off, and even cramped.

Lifting your cabinets 6 inches won’t magically knock down a wall, but it can make the entire kitchen feel a bit roomier and more open, without any serious reconstruction.

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Raison Home Nouren Agencement

When you want to hide a hood fan. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Hood fans are often designed to sit a certain height above the counter, which can ruin the clean lines of modern cabinetry — if you let it. Rather than using cabinets at two different heights, keep the look elegantly simple by installing all the upper cabinets at the same height to create one single line straight across.

Maurizio Giovannoni Architetto

When you love hanging storage. Having higher upper cabinets doesn’t necessarily mean having less storage. A hang bar running across the backsplash provides a great place to hang tools like spatulas, oven mitts and other essentials within easy reach. Higher upper cabinets will give you a little extra room for longer tools like ladles, so measure the longest tool you’d like to have at the ready, add 3 to 4 inches for the hang bar itself, and then use that measurement as the height for the bottom of the uppers.

Browse utensil and pot racks

When you have cabinets over an island. Upper cabinets aren’t only found along a wall. Sometimes it helps to add a bit of storage above your island or peninsula, especially in a more open-concept space with few walls to put cabinets on.

Hanging cabinets just 18 inches off the island counter can block your views to a neighboring space, ruining the “open” part of an “open concept.” However, cabinets starting above the eye line won’t shrink your perception of the space nearly as much. Using cabinets 48 to 54 inches above the counter instead will give you a good balance of extra storage and a sense of visual connection between the spaces.

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How high should upper cabinets be hung? ›

There are no building codes that establish a standard upper cabinet height. However, the prevailing “standard” among kitchen remodelers is 54 inches from the floor to the bottom edge of the cabinet. That leaves an 18-inch space between the countertops and the upper cabinets.

What is the standard space between countertop and upper cabinets? ›

The standard placement for upper cabinets has long been 18 inches above the counter. Modern installations now often hang 21 to 24 inches above, or even much higher, to give the work surface below more of an open feel.

Should upper cabinets go all the way to the ceiling? ›

With ceiling beams, whether they offer genuine structural support or are merely decorative (which is often the case), it is usually best to keep the tops of the cabinets well below the ceiling.

How tall should upper cabinets be for 8 foot ceiling? ›

Using 36" Tall Upper Cabinets

This is by far the safest choice when designing around an 8-ft ceiling.

How tall should upper cabinets be for 9 foot ceilings? ›

42” upper cabinets are a very common selection for 9' ceilings. You will have 12” of space above 42” cabinets; if you want them to meet the ceiling you will have to install 12” of crown molding.

What happens if kitchen cabinets don't go to the ceiling? ›

Fill in the space with trim.

If the gap between your upper cabinets and the ceiling isn't particularly large, you can fill it in with trim running along the top of your upper cabinets. This makes for a cohesive, built-in look, and a lot less potential for collecting dust.

Why don t kitchen cabinets go all the way up to the ceiling? ›

According to Wolf Home Products, the main factor why cabinets don't reach the ceiling is because of the preferred appearance. Some people think that too many cabinets can make a space look overly crowded or cluttered.

Do kitchen cabinets have to touch the ceiling? ›

There's nothing wrong with going for a modern kitchen design with high ceiling wall cabinets. At the end of the day, the aesthetic appearance of your cabinetry will depend on your personal preferences. However, there are several reasons why home design experts don't recommend ceiling-touching kitchen cabinets.

Should kitchen cabinets go to 9 foot ceiling? ›

Cabinets come in standard sizes, and to reach the ceiling, you will need to figure out what size works best. Most kitchen ceilings are 8 to 9 feet high. You can likely use 42-inch tall wall cabinets, with 12-inch additions on top if needed, to achieve the height you want. You can fill any gaps with crown moulding.

Are 9 foot ceilings more expensive? ›

She elaborated: 'In this study the difference in one particular area, as defined by zip code, homes with 9ft or higher ceilings sell for on average about 11% more than homes with 8ft ceiling heights.

How high should cabinets be for a 10 foot ceiling? ›

So if you have 10ft foot ceilings, consider bringing your cabinets all the way to the top. Not only does it look grand, but there is no room for dust to fall on top of your cabinets in hard-to-reach areas.

Do my kitchen cabinets need to go to the ceiling? ›

While the decision is entirely personal, it pays to consider the benefits and disadvantages of taking your kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling. The main factors to consider are; budget, room size, design preferences, and ceiling height.

Are 10 foot ceilings too high? ›

Ceilings can go beyond the industry standard, to 10 and 12 feet high. Higher ceilings, up to 12 feet, are not uncommon, especially in renovated loft apartments and pre-war style architecture (between 1890 and 1940). A new house can also be designed with varying ceiling heights.


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