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Wall Cabinet and counter-top height code

Posted by bmudd3701 (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 7, 10 at 21:07

Does anyone know if there is such things as a "code" for the height between the wall cabinet and the counter top. I have heard both, that there is and that there isn't.

Thanks


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Wall Cabinet and counter-top height code

In most areas there is not a code regarding height of a wall cabinet above counter. The standard is about 18". But the wall cabinet could actually sit on the counter if you wanted it too and you didnt need the counter space.

The exception is the height of a wall cabinet over a range or cooktop. Generally it is 18" to nonflammable material over electric, 24" over gas (say metal range hoods) and 30" to flammable materials.


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RE: Wall Cabinet and counter-top height code

I don't know what you intend to do regarding backsplash height (that's the distance b/w the finished counter and the bottom of the upper cabinet and light rail), but here's what I usually tell people when they're considering the height for their backsplash.


The standard is 18"...regardless of the reasons why, it's still the standard..

How this affects your kitchen....

  • Refrigerator and other tall cabinet heights...Because wall cabinets are meant to be mounted at a standard height, cabinet manufacturers take this into account when designing tall cabinets. Tall cabinets are designed to be the same height as the installed wall cabinets so the tops all line up. When you change the height a wall cabinet is installed at, it affects cabinet top alignments.

    • With the refrigerator you can usually mount the upper cabinet a little lower OR order a shorter upper cabinet, but be sure you don't make the alcove any shorter than 72" tall b/c newer refrigerators are 70" to 72" tall (and seem to get taller each year!)

    • With other tall cabinets like oven cabinets and pantry cabinets, they're a standard height and designed so they're the same height as the wall cabinets when those wall cabinets are installed 18" above a 36" high counter. If you have custom cabinets, this may not be an issue b/c your cabinetmaker can adjust the cabinet heights. But, if you are using stock or even some semi-custom cabinets, you cannot change the height. You can often get taller cabinets for use w/36" or 42" tall wall cabinets, but not shorter for 30" mounted lower. But, even those that are taller are also adjusted based on standard wall cabinet heights + an 18" backsplash height.

  • Small appliance height...Small appliance manufacturers often design their products to meet this 18" standard...for example, my KA stand mixer (bowl lift) is around 17" and many coffeemakers and blenders are just short of 18". So, you need to be sure you have room under the cabinets + light rail to fit those appliances.

Small appliances...

Keep in mind that if you're using an appliance on your counter, you must be sure you have room under the base cabinets to move that appliance around easily. Don't, for example, tell yourself you're only going to use it in front of your upper cabinets so you don't need to worry about its fit. In reality, you will be moving things around on your counter while you work and most likely your appliance will be moved under the cabinets at some point. You don't want to tear your light rail off or damage it (or the cabinets).

Also remember that "standard" upper cabinets are 12" deep + 1" for the door...so they stick out 13" over your counter...leaving you only 12" or so of workspace in front of the upper cabinets...not much room to work in by itself! (If you have deeper upper cabinets...say 15", there's even less counter frontage in front of your upper cabinets...3" less, so 9".)

Vertical workspace...

Another consideration is vertical work space for you and your family. If anyone in your family is tall, you want to be careful not to make the backsplash area so short that it makes the work area cramped vertically.


Measuring for your minimum backsplash height...

So, how do you determine the minimum backsplash height for your kitchen and how high to install the upper cabinets?

  1. Measure all your small appliances and anything else you'll be using on the counter, If they have a lid, measure with the lid open (i.e., the tallest the appliance would ever be). Not just what's planned for the space, but what could potentially be used....stand mixer, coffeemaker, blender, food processor, breadmaker, etc.

  2. Take the tallest measurement and add 1/4" to 1/2" (I recommend 1/2")

    Why did you add 1/4" to 1/2"? It's to give you some "wiggle" room in case everything isn't perfect...you may have slight differences in stone thickness or even how the cabinets and/or light rail was installed. It will also keep you from scratching the cabinets/light rail w/the top of the appliance (or vice versa!)


  3. This is the minimum height you will need for your backsplash

  4. But wait, you're not done! To be sure you have that space, you need to determine how high off the counter to mount your upper cabinets...

  5. Determine how tall your light rail will be. [Light rail is the molding that goes on the bottom of the upper cabinets that hides lights, differently-finished cabinet bottoms, and Plugmold (if you have it).]

  6. Now, add this to the backslash height from #3

  7. This is the distance above the finished counter your upper cabinets must be installed.

  8. Usually, though, your countertop has not yet been installed, so you will need to do one of two things...

    • If you will have standard height cabinets & counter, then add 36" to the distance in #6
      • This is the distance off the floor the upper cabinets should be installed
      • If you have lower (or higher) cabinets + counter, use the finished height you are installing instead of 36"

    • If you cannot measure off the floor b/c your base cabinets are already installed, then add 1-1/2" to the distance in #6
      • This is the distance off the top of the base cabinets (with no counter material) the upper cabinets should be installed

    • Note: If you are using countertop material thinner or thicker than 3cm or so, you will need to adjust the finished counter height measurement by the difference b/w the standard 3cm or so and your height. [If you will have a thicker counter, add the difference to the measurement in this section; if thinner, subtract the difference.]


Please note that this recommendation has nothing to do w/upper cabinets that are installed down to the counter. Cabinets of this type have no backsplash b/w them and the counter, so the above does not apply.


Lowering wall cabinets/shorter backsplash...

If you lower your upper cabinets a couple of inches, how much more can you realistically reach? The depth of one or two plates? What makes more sense is to plan your storage so that frequently used items are on the bottom shelf (or in drawers in your base cabinets) and progressively less-used items move up the wall cabinets.

Another thing that will make it easier to get into upper cabinets is to make them a little deeper...say 15". Not only will it bring things in front 3" closer to you, but those 3" add a surprising amount of extra storage...and allows you to store platters and larger dinner plates in your cabinets when 12" isn't quite deep enough.


In the end, it's up to you and your family...do what will work best for you. But, if you (or anyone else reading this thread!) are going against a standard or guideline, be sure you're doing it with all the information so you can make an informed decision.


Good luck!


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