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Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabinet?

Posted by island (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 16, 12 at 14:33

Just started gathering info and inspiration for a kitchen remodel and have some questions.
I have 8' ceilings in my kitchen nook and family room with a stupid 4 or 6' drop in height over the work area of the kitchen. In the remodel we're getting rid of the drop so the whole space will have 8'.

-Can you please tell me what height or minimum height is recommended between the counter top and the base of the upper cabinets?

-Can you recommend a good website or 2 that covers basic kitchen and bath design questions like this and recommended aisle space, height, clearances, lighting suggestions, "things to consider", etc so I can educate myself instead of nagging you guys with Qs like this?

Thank you!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

Typically, 18" between counter top and base of upper cabinets. Some people change this by an inch or two depending on individual height and so on.

In the kitchen we inherited, the space is 16", I'm fine with it at 5'3", but we will go back to standard height when we redo our kitchen.

Maybe someone else can suggest a website, but honestly, just by reading through here, you are going to find a tremendous number of answers to your questions.


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

You'll find the "STICKY: New to Kitchens..." thread at the top of page one to be very helpful and informative. It's a fantastic resource, and will help you answer a lot of your questions.

And since I love visuals, here are a few:
Photobucket Photobucket
These might be from This Old House's site. Some around here want more than 42" aisleways, especially if things are opening into the aisle, or there are handles sticking out. And long-legged friends appreciate a deeper, say 15", overhang for barstool seating. Hopefully this will get you started, though. : )


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

This is just a general FYI for anyone considering a backsplash less than 18"...........


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. (Note: With custom and some semi-custom cabinets, this is a non-issue b/c the cabinetmaker/manufacturer can adjust for this.)
    • 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. For a stand mixer, measure when the head is tilted up as well.
  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

    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...

  4. Determine how tall your light rail will be. [Light rail is the molding that goes on the bottom of the upper cabinets that hides under cabinet lights, unfinished or differently-finished cabinet bottoms, and Plugmold (if you have it).]
  5. Now, add this to the backslash height from #3
  6. This is the distance above the finished counter your upper cabinets must be installed.
  7. 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 of course, it's up to you and your family...do what will work best for you. But, if anyone is considering a shorter backsplash (or going against any other standard or guideline), be sure you're doing it with all the information available so you can make an informed decision.


Good luck!


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

I've 8' ceilings (96"), I chose 36" cabinets. There will be a 6" space to the ceiling if I put the cabinets at 18" above the counter. I also have an 18" above the microwave cabinet, which puts the microwave lower than I want. I'd like to put the cabinets 20" above the counter. 4" of molding looks and sounds better than 6" for my small kitchen (& budget) and it raises the microwave just enough. I am a tall woman. Will that be a problem for resale in the future? Should I stick with 18".?


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

Tish, no one is going to buy your house or not based on a 2" difference in the distance between the counters and the upper cabinets. Also, there are plenty of people, like me, who prefer a space greater than 18" (I prefer 21").


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

Something to keep in mind when planning for and figuring this dimension is if you will have a light rail attached to the base of the upper cabinets. If so you should know how big the light rail will be. For instance if the base of your upper cabinets are set 20" above your countertops and your light rail is 1 1/2" you will have 18 1/2" between your countertop and the bottom of the light rail while still being able to place your microwave where you want it. I hope this helps.


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

bump


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

The biggest issue is the top alignment with the other cabinets in the room. If you do something other than 54" above the floor for the bottom of your uppers, then the tops don't line up with the tall cabinets like the fridge and oven or pantry. It looks haphazard and unprofessional, which is never a good look.


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

True but not an issue if you can alter the heights of the talls which even many semi custom brands allow nowadays.


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

I'm 5'7 and I have about 20-1/2 inches right now because the current cabinets were put in high to allow clearance for one of those old first-generation giant microwaves.

It's not that much difference from normal, but it's amazing how awkward it makes reaching way into even the second shelf in the cabinets.


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

It's not that much difference from normal, but it's amazing how awkward it makes reaching way into even the second shelf in the cabinets.

True, so you have to decide what's more important to you. I'm short, but I'd prefer to have what I consider to be a visually more appealing distance between countertop and bottom of cabinets and have to stand on a stepstool to reach into the upper cabinet shelves than to have the lesser distance.

Also, dittoing what SaltLifesaid about the rail. The rail made it difficult to put our SodaStream device under the upper cabinet (I think it fit under, but was hard to get in and out, so we had to move it elsewhere).


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

SaltLife631 and others - in the Sep 16, 12 at 20:40 post above, see steps 4 & 5 under "Measuring for your minimum backsplash height..." where the light rail is accounted for.


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

buehl- I think your original post was well thought out and did a great job of outlining the process. I wanted to highlight this aspect of the process for the individual who bumped the thread because your post stated it was for anyone looking for a backsplash less than 18" and the person who bumped the thread was looking for a backsplash greater than 18".


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

Thank you for all the advice. It really helps. Yes I will raise the pantry 2" for cabinets @ 20" above the counter. The moldings should be the same throughout.
Lowe's has a neat on line visual aid called Virtual room designer.(most of their employees, even kitchen design,, weren't even aware of this) You can see if your design looks good or even fits,


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RE: Recommended height between counter and bottom of upper cabine

My cabs are 20" above by my design and I love it. Never any issues with the blender or other appliances fitting underneath, and it's a perfect height for me at 5'8.

No issues reaching to the back of the second shelf or the front half of the top shelf, and that's over extra-deep bases. I can only reach the wine glass stems in the back of the top shelf from my tippie toes ... but still no step stool needed. I think I may have gorilla arms though!


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