Help!! Spacing between upper-lower cabints, etc.

abymasApril 23, 2009

We are about to install cabinets but upper molding is perhaps an inch or two thicker than we anticipated. Contractor is telling us to forget the molding. We were wondering what is a reasonable/average distance/spacing between the counter top and bottom of upper wall cabinets?Also, we are particularly concerned about the overhead microwave that is positioned over the range and what is a good spacing between the two (e.g. we don't want to bend over in order to see the controls for oven and timers). Measurements are following: floor to ceiling is 98 inches; cabinets are 42 inches; molding is 3 inches; wood flooring will be approx 1 inch; and we are expecting the bottom cabinets with granite countertop to be 36".

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How much space will you have between the counter and cabs if you use the molding? I was disappointed that my cabinets are 20 inches from the counter. I think standard is 18. Mine seem high to me, but my custom cabinet maker says he always does this spacing to fit big coffeemakers, etc. underneath cabinets. I think less than 18 might feel tight. I am not good at math--is it possible that you will only have 15 inches? I don't think that is enough. If that is the case--I agree with contractor--don't do the molding. any pictures? I think 18 inches is perfect.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 9:56PM
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It would be about 16.5 inches

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 10:19PM
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That sounds a bit tight to me, but I will say a friend of mine who is shorter, specified that height for her new kitchen. Is there a compromise? A molding that is a bit smaller? I think 16.5 is doable, but getting a bit more might be good...

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 10:26PM
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Here's what I have:
floor to ceiling-about 96"
molding-about 2" (my dh made it to fit the gap)
cabinets are 16.5" above finished countertop

In our old kitchen, the uppers are 21" above the counter and they are way too high. I can only easily reach the bottom shelf, and it's a stretch to the next one up (I'm only 5' tall, though...). I like the spacing in my new kitchen.

If you do have any tall items that you plan to keep on your countertop, now would be the time to measure them! One cuisinart grind and brew coffee maker, for example, is 17 inches tall... My KitchenAid stand mixer is less than 16", so I could keep it out, but I don't plan to.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 10:28PM
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The cabinets we just removed were about that distance apart, they were actually only 16" separation and I never even knew they were that close until we began measuring for the new kitchen. They did the same thing on our old cabinets that you are thinking about doing, they dropped them down a bit to put in moulding.

Kat :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 11:14PM
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One more thing to consider is whether you will have any light rail under your cabinet. That usually takes up another 1 or 2 inches.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 11:18PM
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In relation the microwave check the manufacturers specs. My Mom has a Panosonic OTR and they claim it can be installed as low as 13.5" from the stove top - which seems nuts. My Mom is 5'5" and her microwave is about 17 inches from the stove top - it was suggested she go up 3" but this was too high to make it comfortable for her to use. Are you installing a light rail? My Mom has 18" and a bit between the counters and the bottom of her uppers but she also has a 2" light rail. Anything less than 16" may severely restrict the type of countertop appliances you can accomodate (even with 18" most flip top coffee makers were a no go - though those are easy enough to avoid).

This is with 18" - 2" for the lightrail = 16":

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 11:28PM
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My cabinets are 16" apart by necessity, not design(we're in an older log house). It's workable as I have counter space without upper cabs for the coffee maker, etc. In a perfect world my ceilings would be a little higher and there would be 18".Depending on your working style and preferences, 16.5" could work well for you.Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 11:32PM
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I have a 15" space in the rental house, and it's too small, but only by a couple of inches really. My coffee maker didn't fit well and it crowds the sink.

In our own home we had 19" speced, but the light rail takes up another 1" so we have 18 (it's more like 18 3/8) and it's plenty of room for the appliances. Our uppers are 15" deep verses the standard 12" so you can go lower with those if you're a shrimp (I would be one) because they hang closer to you than the 12" cabs.

I would never recommend 15" or less though...way too tight, and at 5' tall you'd think I'd like it, but the second shelf is still above my head so what does it matter?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 1:04AM
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Besides coffeemakers and the like, you have to consider how tall you are, esp. for the MW. Plus the MW installation instructions. I'm 5' 3" and have 18.5" b/t b/c I liked the more open look (only 1 small window) and wanted to fit appliances, but can't reach the back of the 2nd shelf in my corner cabinet (24" deep at that point), and just the very front of the top shelf in all the other cabinets (12"). Of course, not sure that a couple inches would matter there anyway.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 5:28AM
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18" is standard and you should try to not go much less than that..for both your sake and for resale (if you plan to sell in the next 2 or 3 years). To determine what is the minimum spacing you need:

(1) Measure the tallest appliance you will be using on your counter. Note I said using, not storing.

(2) Then, add 1/4".

This is the minimum spacing you should have b/w your countertop and the bottom of the light rail on your upper cabinets.

Why "using" and not "storing"? When you are working on your counters, you want to have the entire depth available to you, not just for the deliberate placing of an appliance but also to be able to move it around to get it out of your way, to better place it, etc. If you think about it, you only have about 12" or 13" of clear space on your counter (in front of the uppers)--if you have standard 12" uppers. If you have deeper, say 15", uppers then you further reduce that clear space to 9" or 10".

Can't reach past the 1st shelf in your uppers? Invest in a small step stool. Many here have them. They can be stored in a variety of ways. People here have been very creative about finding places for one. Toekick drawer, build a narrow cabinet to put it in (e.g., if you have 4" or 5" filler anywhere, like b/w the refrigerator & wall, put in a narrow cabinet instead and store the stool there), in a pantry, etc.

If you plan to sell in less than 5 years, then you probably should consider resale as well. Anything much less than 18" would cause me to wouldn't necessarily be a deal breaker if there was somewhere I could use, for example, my mixer, but it would definitely be a big negative.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 6:45AM
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Circus Peanut

Buehl is giving you sensible advice. I'll add my usual 'bucking the norm' input, which is that I deliberately put my wall cabs in at 16.5" above the counters and LOVE them at this height. Things on the shelves are vastly more accessible to me this way, and I am not the sort of person who could deal with carting a stool around the busy kitchen.

That said, I do have a lot of open counter without uppers where I can use all necessary tall appliances. This is key. If you can possibly achieve this, the lower uppers have made my daily food prep much more enjoyable.

I'll link my favorite article, which talks about human ergonomics in making these kitchen design decisions:

Here is a link that might be useful: Mise en Place: What We Can Learn from Commercial Kitchens

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 6:56AM
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After reading the posts about light rails, I went and re-measured. The bottom of the cabinets are 18" up, but the side panels, the light rail and the door fronts (which cover the light rail) are 16.5" up.

I also have a baking counter and island top where I can use mixers, etc.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 10:43AM
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I'm foregoing the lightrail so that I can drop my cabinets down to 16". Right now I can reach the 1st shelf fine, the 2nd shelf ok, the 3rd shelf not at all. Dropping it 2" will give me excellent access to 2 shelves and make the 3rd reachable. anything less tho I would think is a little tight.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 11:30AM
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This is from the kitchen we are getting ready to remodel. The ceiling is 96", upper cabinets 42" and counter is 37 1/2" high. Has not been a problem at all. Going with the same 42" in the new kitchen but counter will not be as high.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 11:41AM
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That's perfect! IMHO!!! Cuz I just went and measured too- and that's exactly what we have. With the light rail, just 16.5" clearance- I made DH cut down the light rail- he wanted it even deeper cuz he built a box so that just the UC pucks show and he had to modify his original construction method to made it narrower.

My coffee makers clear it and I keep a large toaster oven under the cupboards too.

Aren't you lucky that your ceilings are 2" higher than normal- just enough to get that molding in there! :>)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 12:13PM
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thanks for your opinions we feelmuch better. We won't have a light rail, at least for now is not in the plan. I will post some pics once they start to install the cabinets (maybe Tuesday)they installed the floor today, and the ceiling will be about 97 1/4 because the wood flooris 3/4 but still with that we can do the 16.5".I hope this works for us. I am 5'11" and my husband is 6'4", but anyway I will update on Tuesday, thanks to all.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 3:59PM
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