How High Should You Hang Upper Kitchen Cabinets

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Last updated: March 7, 2023

I never noticed that the standard size for my standard cabinets in my kitchen were different heights and widths. Most upper cabinets only have 12 inches of depth and have shortened interior heights with adjustable shelves. The standard height of upper kitchen cabinets is 30, 36, or 42 inches from the bottom of the upper cabinet. 

Understanding how high you should hang upper kitchen cabinets depends on many factors. One feature in today’s taller cabinets has baffled me. I was at a party recently where a new 3-story, 6-car garage housed the event. I marveled at the tall ceilings and the wall of windows that surrounded the living/dining area.  

The ceiling-height cabinets in the open-concept kitchen soared 14 feet in height. All I could think of was the 12-foot ladder that would be necessary to access this type of storage. The kitchen designer had included a high-end custom-built look to offset the ocean view outside the wall-length glass.  

While this powerful portrait of luxury may work for a showplace home, most homeowners are unwilling to sacrifice easy-reaching storage for a high cabinet focal point. A new kitchen with ergonomic standards and easy reach cabinets is usually preferred. 

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Should Upper Cabinets Go All The Way To The Ceiling

There are other ways to add luxury to your kitchen without turning to custom cabinets. Consider first any obstacles or architectural details that can affect the general rule for standard wall cabinets.

Wood Beams

kitchen with wood ceiling beams

Wood Beams are a fine architectural detail found on 9-foot to 12-foot ceilings. However, this feature will prevent you from having tall kitchen cabinets that reach the ceiling, and keeping an empty space on top of the cabinets is necessary for wood beams.  

Coffered Ceilings

stunning kitchen room design with large bar style and coffered ceilings

Coffered Ceilings are becoming a focal point in many new homes, and kitchens are no exception. Although it is not impossible to bring upper cabinets to ceiling height, this can disrupt the symmetrical appearance, making your ceiling appear off-balance and funky. A good idea for the open space above the cabinet frame is the placement of lighting that can highlight your coffered ceiling. 

What Is The Standard Upper Cabinet Height From The Floor

There are no code requirements for the ideal upper cabinet height, only personal preference. Manufacturers of kitchen cabinetry follow standard upper cabinet measurements according to industry standards. 

The most comfortable working spaces take into consideration the height of family members. The standard male height in the US is 5’9″, while the average height of females is 5’4″. Considering the average person’s height, an upper cabinet height of 54″off the floor is ideal. However, your own height can be a determining factor. 

Eighteen inches is the right height between the standard upper cabinets and the countertop. Proper height practices in this area can guarantee you enough space for preparing meals and other kitchen duties. The thickness of the countertop should be measured before placement and added to the entire space. 

The top of the base cabinets typically runs 34.5 inches from the floor. However, countertop heights raise this measurement to 36 inches. Builders state that this is the ideal height for the average user. I am a mere 5 foot 0 inches tall and have always considered the counter too tall. 

However, recently I visited a friend that lived in a handicapped apartment. The height of the base cabinets immediately caught my attention, and the bottom of the cabinets above also appeared lower. No step stool was needed in this kitchen.  

The difference was the height of the lower cabinets at 30 inches, which brought down the height of the upper cabinets. Wow. What a difference in the comfort level that I experienced. The standard distance of the backsplash height was 18 inches, making this the best option for short people or those with a walker or wheelchair. 

corner of luxury panoramic kitchen with white walls, white kitchen cabinets, wooden floor, white countertops with built in appliances and windows with a blurry cityscape

How Tall Should Upper Cabinets Be For 9 Foot Ceilings

Older homes often have taller ceilings than newer homes. The standard base cabinet in existing kitchens still carries the 36-inch standard kitchen cabinet, but the upper wall cabinets can fluctuate from 36 to 42 inches. 

While a higher level cabinet is not unheard of, the extra space on the tops of the cabinets is more common. I found ceiling height to be one of the most important factors in planning for new cabinets. As much space was available between the bottom edge of the upper cabinets and the ceiling, many decorating choices were available. 

Smaller matching cabinet doors, open shelves, or crown molding could change the look of a kitchen with 9-foot ceilings. 

How Tall Should Upper Cabinets Be For 8 Foot Ceiling

An 8-foot ceiling carries options for a lower ceiling, just not as much for extra storage space. Standard construction practices teach us that 54 inches are the normal vertical line from the floor to the cabinet’s bottom edge of the cabinet (upper cabinet, by the way) and this gives you choices between 30, 36, or 42-inch tall upper cabinets. 

If you have thought about seeing how a high cabinet would look in your kitchen, visit a kitchen designer in a home improvement store or a cabinet shop. Most decorators use software that can mimic your kitchen and provide pictures of the different pictures of the different locations of the kitchen wall cabinets, double or single door, and however much storage you need.  

Most people decide that high cabinets are too inconvenient for everyday cooking. A lovely crown molding or short doors are good ideas for removing the bare spot above your cabinets.  

Other Considerations in Kitchen Cabinet Heights

The dimensions of kitchen cabinets can be custom-made to fit any space you have. For example, a corner cabinet can be created to a certain recommended height for an unusually small space. A kitchen island can share the same even horizontal line as countertops or lower for seating. 

A range hood can become a problem if you change the style to a top kitchen hood that reaches the ceiling. The highest point may not match the surrounding cabinets, which can lead to changing the location of the wall cabinets and using upper shelves instead of upper cabinets. 

I really wanted a new range and a tall stainless steel range hood. My contractor and I devised a plan to tear out the cabinets and resize them for new cabinets with a new cabinet style. In hindsight, starting from scratch with all-new cabinets would have been easier than matching cabinet fronts and manufacturing custom cabinets.  

Everything needed for hanging new cabinets is in a partial cabinet hang. Using a stud finder, we had to find the wall studs and mark the stud locations. The ledger board needed to be set for cabinet hanging, and slip shims and filler strip took patience to balance the entire wall. 

Hiring a professional anytime hanging cabinets is involved is a good idea. No matter how simple the process looks, the slightest imbalance can cause a cabinet door to fly open and refuse to stay shut. No one wants to see the back of the cabinets that refuse to mind. The right leverage with the proper tools and knowledge will guarantee a perfect fit and an outstanding job. 

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