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California Code for space btwn countertop & cabinet?

Posted by hypersparkle (My Page) on
Wed, Dec 12, 12 at 1:44

We are doing our first ever remodel (kitchen) and having major issues. One of the upper cabinets was installed today and it was not the same size as our previous ones. They are 36" so they are currently 60" from the floor and the contractor is telling us that the spacing is 21" with granite because "that meets california code which is 20-24". Our previous cabinets appear to have been 42" (even though he's saying they were 39", but that seems wrong based on old holes & paint lines).

Is there really such a code? All my research is indicating that standard top cabinet should be 54" from floor and standard spacing is 18". As of right now, as an average woman of 5'5", I can't even use my upper cabinets! My husband is 6'2" and he feels uncomfortable w/ the height.

We're to have a talk in the morning with him. He expressed over text message though that this was "his bid". As I said, we're new to this and well, don't have any parental units we can go talk to about this. Could really use some advice before our "talk". We did not get copies of the plans with our contract so I cannot tell you if it said 36" in them. Even so, isn't it a reasonable expectation that all cabinet space should be usable?

We didn't just pick this guy off the street. He did a friend's kitchen and did a great job. He seems to have a good body of work, but man. I just am so worried that we're going to get screwed here. :( Our kitchen is VERY small. We need all the usable cabinet space we can get. It's bad enough that he didn't include a silverware width sized drawer in the design, but completely unusable upper cabinets? :( Well, this pregnant lady is freaking out.

Thank you so much in advance for any help you can provide.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: California Code for space btwn countertop & cabinet?

The only building code requirement for cabinets I am aware of is that combustible materials cannot be closer than 24" to the top of the range but I don't know what it is in California.

I couldn't understand from where most of the dimensions you mentioned were taken but I don't see why they would be relevant unless it causes the installer a problem. Perhaps there is a handicap access code in California that applies to a single-family residence but I haven't heard of one in the US.


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RE: California Code for space btwn countertop & cabinet?

It sounds as if this guy is covering his ass, at your expense.

42" uppers are more expensive than 36", so he raised them and laid to you, in the hopes you had been so taken with your friends project that you wouldn't question him.

By the way, did he do the same thing at your friends?

54" from the floor is standard for uppers.

"based on old holes & paint lines)."

Based upon this statement, you've already been screwed.
Any responsible contractor repairs the wall to a paint ready surface, whether it will be painted or not, prior to setting cabinets.

Tell him to show you the "code," IN THE BOOK, not just something he has copied. Then call the building department and under the pretext that you are "contemplating a remodel," pose the question.

Time to put on your grown-up clothes.


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RE: California Code for space btwn countertop & cabinet?

Grown pants are on and a conversation has been had. He kept swearing that it was standard, that 21" is code, and a bunch of other BS. In the end, I think what happened was he wanted us to have crown moulding up there, we said no, and he didn't adjust the cabinet height and spacing accordingly on his plans. In other words, he screwed up and he will be eating his mistake. Not us. Our friends send a LOT of work his way and I think he'd hate to lose those referrals. Luckily, we had a picture of me standing in our old kitchen and you could clearly see that my head came over the first shelf so that I could easily reach the first shelf and the front edge of shelf #2. As of right now, I can barely reach the front edge of these 36" shelves.

We clearly just told him that we want 42" uppers, just like we had before. Not lowered. Our kitchen is TINY. We cannot afford to lose that upper shelf space for pitchers, tall bottles, etc. Grumpy whispering is coming from the kitchen and grumbling about how he cannot return the 4 36" upper cabinets... but it seems like he is moving forward to make us happy. Time will tell.


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RE: California Code for space btwn countertop & cabinet?

"The only building code requirement for cabinets I am aware of is that combustible materials cannot be closer than 24" to the top of the range "

Many ranges require adjacent cabinets (if they are flammable) to be at least 18 inches about the range.

The clearance requirements are normally part of the 'listing' by the test lab for the appliance, and shown in the installation sheet.

This post was edited by brickeyee on Thu, Dec 13, 12 at 16:53


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