I guess I am too short-armed

phoggieOctober 25, 2012

How many inches do you have between cabinet tops and the bottom on your upper cabinets? The tallest small appliance I keep on the counter is a bit over 12 inches. Is that too low? I have short arms and can not even reach the upper shelf and I have a balance problem and have been prohibited from getting on a stool...so no use putting in anything but 30" tall cabinets. Do you think 12" is enough....8' ceilings.

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I think that it would feel claustrophobic trying to work at a counter with cabinets that low. I would go 15". All my uppers in my last two houses have been 16" above the counter, and I find that to be a good height.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 10:12PM
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I would still go for 36 inch uppers, since they would be lower on the wall, and see if you can get clearance for a single step with handle, like the one below. I can absolutely understand avoiding stools. But perhaps a single step with wide base and handle to hold may be acceptable. Worth asking.

Here is a link that might be useful: Example of step with handle

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 10:29PM
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I threatened the folks installing my cabinets not to dare let there be anything less than 18 inches clearance. I also have 42" uppers, so I must be taller than you are, but I couldn't deal with cabinets that low. I want the work space on my counters.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:04PM
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phoggie, I'm short too so I understand where you are coming from. But I'd still put in 36' cabinets and with 15-16 inches between counter upper, for resale if no other reason.

You can put everything you use all the time in lower drawers, and the bottom shelf of the uppers, and save the upper shelves for things you seldom use, like Christmas decorations, and let someone else get them all down when you need them.

When I raise my mixer, it is about 18 inches, and I have nicked the bottom of my upper cabinets, which are about 17 inches. It would be hard to use a lot of my appliances if there was only 12 inches.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:08PM
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I have to agree that 36" cabinets should be the minimum and 15-16" between countertop and upper cabinets. I am not "vertically challenged", but I am unsteady on a step stool. Mid-50s, extra weight and a few knee surgeries keep me somewhat close to the ground. :-) I like Marti8's idea to have lower drawers and get help for the taller cabinet items.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:16PM
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boy, do I know about short arms! (and legs). So much I can't do because of those things! That's why my son had to clean some higher cabs. I could get up on a stool but my arms wouldn't reach into the cabinet far enough! Same with even a few lower cabs. It seems so ridiculous to me.

I would do what marti said - use the top shelf for items you only use on a special occasion. When you know you'll be needing it / them have you son drop by and get it down for you.

I can't reach past the outer edge of the 2nd shelf - so I might be able to reach a plate and get it down by grabbing the edge of it. Anything that isn't grabable at that outer edge I won't be getting without a step stool. I also have balance problems and have to be very careful on one. I really like my 1 step rubbermaid stool.

the stool linked above looks very good also.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:28PM
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I suspect that, like me, you are the perfect height but dealing with the fact that everything is made for those who didn't know when to stop growing :).

I will not have upper cabinets again because I no longer intend to look wistfully at things that are stored on them and wish they were just a few inches lower so I could reach them without dragging out a step stool.

This is your chance to build a home that is right for you - and I think that is what you should do. If 12 inches of space between counter and cabinets works for you then do it - and enjoy your home. Can you do a mockup to see if you like it? Seems to me that would give you the best idea of whether it would be a good fit with the way you plan to use your kitchen.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:33PM
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I have 13" inches between my lower cabinets and upper cabinets; the lowers are only 34" tall. It's amazing! I can't describe how wonderful it is to be able to reach the back of the second shelf and front of the third shelf. However, I have a workspace next to the range that has no upper cabinets and I do most of my prep there because I find it hard to work in that 13" of space, so I'd recommend keeping an area open for work.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:58PM
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Have you considered shorter base cabinets? I am vertically challenged too and am getting 33.5 in counters but keeping the 18 in clearance. I can reach the first shelf of the upper just fine. Also 18in was minimum per code in our area.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 5:12AM
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Fori is not pleased

Phogg--I'm short and I hate working under low cabinets.

Ya know, if this is your forever house, totally go for 30" cabinets if it looks right and if it's cheaper. Resale be damned. This is for you. If you aren't going to use the upper parts of the cabinets, why pay for them?

But do look into other ways to make your kitchen work for your short arms before deciding on how to hang the cabs. You've heard the routine. Now go get some boxes and tables and blue tape and do some mockups! SHorter base cabinets makes sense to me! Or shallower. Or hanging the cabinets low like you suggested if you don't mind it.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:02AM
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Have you thought about....
Pull down shelf systems from Ref-A-Shelf, Shelf Genie. Google pull down shelf hardware and you'll find several images of different systems.

You can also have step stools built into your toekicks like this. http://www.houzz.com/step-stool

Store lightweight items on top shelves, paper towels, cereal boxes and use one of the reaching tools available. Nifty Nabber, The Grappler, EZ Reacher, etc sold at Amazon and other places. I don't have a problem reaching the top shelf of my cabs, but I do have a problem reaching the back of the top shelf of my pantry. Rather than pull over a chair I'd try to grab stuff with my long barbeque tongs then I was in a store and saw a sales person use one of these devices to pull something off the top shelf. Don't know what mine is called, but I love it.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 12:41PM
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What about the upper cabinets that come down to the countertop...they seem very popular and give you a hutch feeling.

You can also add shelves and cuphooks below the upper cabinets, to store all kinds of extras. Something like this?

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

Or this?

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 12:42PM
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Another "shortie" here...barely 5' if I stand up real straight. My uppers are 15" above the counter, and I could easily live with them being shorter. I can reach the bottom two shelves easily, and the third shelf is a stretch to reach things right on the edge. I keep a folding step stool hanging on my pantry wall. Using a step stool is just part of my life. I have a very large kitchen, so I don't have alot of uppers. I don't keep appliances on the counter anyway, they are all stowed in lower cabinets when not in use.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 3:13PM
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In our current kitchen, we have 15" clearance between upper and lower. The main issue that I've had is the coffee maker - I can't open the lid on it completely unless I pull it way forward. We're going with standard 18" clearance when the new kitchen goes in. I wouldn't even begin to consider 15" or less. (I am 5' 3" and there are shelves that I can't access without a stepstool even with the lower height.)

Some other thoughts:
In regard to what you should consider regarding resale - if you aren't planning on selling within the next 10 years, do what best suits your needs. If it's after or around 10 years, your kitchen is likely to look dated and need updated anyway (either by you or the new owners).

Can you get away without upper cabinets at all? If you can, maybe it would look better than having short upper cabinets?

Not certain of your budget, but I think it's either Rev-a-shelf or Hafele that makes an insert for upper cabinets that allows the upper shelves to pull down for easy access...maybe that might be a good idea for you as well.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:09PM
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lov_mkitchenIOWA zone 6b

Hang your cabinets lower. I've done three kitchens in my life. the first old rip out had 13 inches between bottom of upper and counter. It was perfect for me. I don't leave the coffee pot under the cabinet when it's turned on no matter what the clearance is. Steam is not good for any thing. I'm the one accessing the first two shelves. I'm the one who paid for the cabinets. I'm the one using them. My kitchen. If someone doesn't like it then they should do THEIR kitchen their way.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 10:39PM
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Elraes Miller

I stayed at an old adobe BB that had a huge kitchen for wheel chair access. They didn't build it this way, was the former owner. It was beautiful and had so many easy to use layouts. Lower counters and cabinets. I saw a wonderful kitchen when first walking through, the changes were not obvious until using it. And using it was great. Am 5'3", always a small step stool around.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 9:13AM
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Do you have a wall in your kitchen that could be all cabinet storage with no counter top, maybe even shallow pantry style? This would give you fantastic storage, and it would be at the best, safest height for you to reach.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 10:23AM
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Make sure you watch for clearance heights above cook-tops.

18 inches to adjacent cabinets is rather common.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 11:26AM
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I'm 5'3" and loved the 16" clearance of our former kitchen - didn't even realize it was not standard until moving into our rental house for the reno. I asked my KD and cabinet maker (2 separate entities) about having the new ones 16" and they reluctantly agreed to indulge me in this, but then the 48" Capital Culinarian range top specified/required/strongly urged 18" clearance at least. We have so many drawers that I just said "fine" and planned everything above/behind the first shelf to be the weird things my 6'1" husband likes/needs. I have a short stepladder but I'm not wild about it.

As for appliances fitting under the 16" vs 18", they *FIT* under the 16" just fine but weren't necessarily usable there! On the other hand, I am *so* short-armed that I pull all appliances out toward the middle/edge of the counter so I can really get at them, and that gets them out from under the uppers anyway.

As for the Capital Culinarian, I'm not sure 18" is enough! Even after the adjustments are made to get simmer (crossing fingers), which will hopefully also make the flames rocket less than 12" into the air (seemingly), I will probably personally stick to the middle burners not right next to the uppers.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 1:40PM
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I am in the short camp (5'3") and drbeanie2000 hit the nail on the head! I can't comfortably use the appliances unless I pull them out more toward the edge of the counter. I think I am going to put my shelves at 16" and not worry about it. I am actually skipping upper cabinets and doing shelves because so little of the upper is usable to me that I might as well just use upper shelves to display seldom-used pieces. I can see the challenge with working around a gas range though! I have and will have an island induction. Actually, the gas range in my summer home is not very ergonomic for me because the range plus the grates put my pots almost a full two inches higher than the induction...something I could find a fix for if I was designing my kitchen with a gas range, I'm sure...

I have no idea why it feels so intensely inconvenient to use a stepladder... but it really does!!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 6:58PM
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I found this thread because I'm planning pin stallion floating shelves 12" off counter on either side of range. I have an electrical sub panel I'm trying o work around, and doing this would enable me to stack plates in front of it. But now I'm worried its going to look odd. Does anyone with less than 'recommended' clearance have pics to share?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 10:47PM
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