Height between pantry shelves?

alice462January 16, 2009

What is your favorite height between shelves in your pantry?

I came home yesterday and my carpenter had built shelves in my new, small pantry. He only spaced the tallest 12" apart -- I could not stand a cereal box upright on this and know that they need to be re-worked and would greatly appreciate any feedback.

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Hi Alice,
Measure the items you typically store in your pantry and plan accordingly. If your shelves are shallow or you have pull-outs for easy access to the back, you won't need much clearance for height. If your shelves are fixed and deeper, you'll need a bit more clearance to access items stored at the back without having to remove things from the front. It sounds like your carpenter is doing custom work, so you should be able to place your shelves at whichever distances work for you.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 8:53AM
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Our installer was terrific (and patient!); he worked with me to select the best heights for all of our pullouts, even moving a couple up or down a short time down the road.

We took boxes, cans, bottles, etc., representing both typical sizes and some of the extreme heights as our guides (e.g. the tallest cereal box or canned good we're likely to have), and then spaced the pullouts accordingly. Some items I knew I'd want to store/keep together (in same pullout), while other groupings developed along the way as I started to put things in/on the pullouts.

Always allow for the unexpected storage needs as well (our breadbox ended up on a pullout in our pantry when we discovered it was just too large to keep out on the counter, and the larger than my typical size box of rice that was on sale for less than the smaller one is stored on it's side so it will clear the pullout above).

Our non-pullout shelves are moveable and it took me a lttle bit of time to get them positioned where I wanted them. You just have to start trying things out with the shelves in cetain positions, and move them up or down until you're happy with the storage capacity (and reachability) that the shelf spacing(s) allow. I can change my shelf heights if/when I ever need to, but I highly doubt I'd ever go to the bother! LOL

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 9:28AM
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Part of my challenge is I don't have much in the way of "typical" at the moment. We have been in our temporary basement kitchen w/a frig., micro and very limited storage since Nov. so I what I have on hand is small versions of our usual cereal boxes, no plastic/tupperware for bulk items, and few cans. If I can't prepare it in the micro, we are not eating it right now. I am soooo looking forward to preparing a "fresh" meal from scratch!

I do like to stack two cans when I'm able, and I measured the diameter of my widest cans to get the side shelves the way I want them.

I could still use some actual measurements that others have used and found helpful when storing larger cereal boxes, stacking two soup can heights, or using tupperware or other storage containers for bulk items. These will all be fixed shelves - no pull-outs. Shelf depth is about 12" right now.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 9:47AM
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Go to the grocery store and pick up a few of the items you will be buying normally once the kitchen is done and measure. That's what I did. I have some shelves closer together and some farther apart. I made sure I could reach at least the bottom of whatever I stored on the top shelf (I'm 5'3") and I store mostly light tall things up there. Like cereal boxes (lots of headroom up there so who cares how tall they are), paper towels, paper napkins, etc.

I also wanted to store some stuff on the floor of the pantry, so I made sure the bottom shelf was far enough off the ground to accommodate those things.

One more thing, the light in my pantry is connected to the door so when I open the door, the light automatically comes on, and goes off when I close it. I love that, and plan to incorporate that system in all the closets in the house, eventually!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 10:38AM
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This is what we did in our corner step-in pantry:

[The MW, btw, didn't fit so it is not in the pantry as originally planned.]

Also, SharB once posted her measurements but the thread has long since fallen off. I saved them and here they are:


[Sharb's] pantry measures 4 feet wide by 5 feet deep.
Starting at the top:

18" top shelf to ceiling (Things I don't need often or are lightweight.)
15" to next shelf (cereal boxes, etc.)
10" to next (canned goods, etc.)
10" to next (canned goods, etc.)
16" to next (small appliances)
20" from bottom shelf to floor (extra waters, heavy items)

The depth of the back shelf and the right side 12". The left side is 6" and holds my [SharB's] husband's hot sauces and other small items.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 12:20PM
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Agree with above, do differing heights. In a perfect world, you'd have adjustable shelves. But if you can't or don't want them, do the different heights as listed above. That way you can store tall things and others accordingly.

Our MW is in the pantry, love it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 12:29PM
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I started with Sharb's measurements, then adjusted according to my needs, and things like where outlets were placed, etc.

My spaces between shelves, from floor to 9 ft ceiling are: 19", 15", 14", 10", 10", 14", 21 1/2". The 19" at the bottom allows for my roll-out bins for grains and pet food. The 10" are what I needed for cans stacked 2 high. The others fit cereal boxes, gallon jugs, my grain mill, etc.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 12:46PM
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THANK YOU! Just what I needed -- off to re-mark the walls!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 12:54PM
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I've just stumbled across here in my search to find pantry shelf height recommendations. I doubt you guys are still around 5 years later, but just in case you are-- THANK YOU! This was so helpful. :)
For my 10'x7' I have decided to go with 20" (from floor), 16", 16", 10", 10", 18", 18" (to ceiling.) If I can remember, I'll report back after living in it and hopefully help someone else. :)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 9:46AM
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My thanks too and to you swfr for resurrecting it. Having these dimensions will be a great help. Rhome, thanks for the pic of your pantry with container ideas.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:11AM
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modern life interiors


    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:45AM
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I am planning a pantry storage system. I'm looking for input from pantry planners and homeowners using pantries. Shelf height is one issue. Shelf depth is another. Cookware and utensils are storage issues. Cookware lids? Is there interest in a discussion of storage successes and frustrations?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 4:34PM
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Here's an old pantry thread.

Here is a link that might be useful: pantry thread

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 6:28PM
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Remember you can have different heights on different walls of the pantry, too. Ours are.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Remember you can have different heights on different walls of the pantry, too. Ours are.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 11:34PM
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Any time it is possible to install adjustable shelving, I think you should do that. If you have fixed side walls 30" or less apart, you can put in side standards. Then using clips you can have an infinite range of shelf spacing available. This system is SO easy to install and adjust.

If the side standards won't work, you can put standards on the back wall and use adjustable supports for shelves up to 12 or 15" deep.

I LOVE being able to change the shelf spacing when I need to.

If you can possibly use adjustable shelving, be SURE to have two or three extra shelves prepared.

When you look at pictures of pantries in use, notice how much space is wasted at the tops of shelves. I really hate wasted space above items. An extra shelf would slide in there and store short or narrow items.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 8:54AM
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I really like the idea of adjustable shelves, but the aesthetics of it are such a turn off to me. I want the "sturdy" look of solid wood shelves, but maybe that is silly? I'm meeting with some carpenters this week to go over the ideas I have. I'll be curious to see what they say.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 10:49PM
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I had to bump this up again, as it's going to be very helpful to me while redoing my pantry :)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Good to see members advising to have the centre shelves closer together than the upper and lower ones. We have done so in our kitchen pantry, but we went even closer than the oft recommended 10 ", and made the centre one 4 1/4" opening height, and the ones immediately above and below 6" opening height. Now we have load of space for the spice jars, and all the little things that usually waste a lot of 'head space'.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2014 at 4:20AM
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