Cabinets are one of the most expensive fixtures in a kitchen and there’s a range of potential configurations for kitchen wall cabinets. When planning out your kitchen it’s best to weigh all the options both for the size, and layout. Today, I will cover the standard and non-standard dimensions of kitchen wall cabinets to help you plan things out properly.
As a general rule, standard sizing is 30 inches (76.2 cm) tall, but they have a variable width of 12, 18, 24, 30, 33, 36, 48” (30.5 cm, 45.7 cm, 61 cm, 83.8 cm, 91.4 cm, 122 cm). Lower cabinets are raised 4” (10 cm) for the toe kick and are separated above by an 18” (38 cm) backsplash.
The backsplash needs to be a minimum of 15 inches (38 cm) to leave enough room for appliances on the countertop. Non-standard kitchen cabinets involve changing some of these dimensions.
So, below I’ll explain each of the different parts that separate kitchen cabinets, and how to plan out where your cabinets will go in detail.
Key Partitions for Laying Out Kitchen Cabinets
There are standard areas that a kitchen will have. On any wall starting from the bottom to the ceiling, you will always have:
- The floor level, also called above the finished floor (AFF). This is the part of the wall that is directly above the floor such as hardwood, or tiles. It’s a frame of reference to measure the height of a wall.
- Toe kick area. This is the area that makes it easy to get close to the countertops and the cabinets above the countertop. It’s a space below the bottom cabinets and above the floor. Above this is where the bottom row of cabinets starts. A toe kick is not always used but there are a range of advantages to them.
- The bottom cabinets. These are the cabinets on the bottom of a wall, that are directly above the toe kick area. They typically go from the toe kick area to the countertop.
- The backsplash. The backsplash is above the countertop, and below the highest cabinets. It has to have a specific height to accommodate appliances such as blenders. If it’s too short it will be hard to fit these in.
- The top cabinets. These cabinets are the top row of cabinets. They start directly above the backsplash. They can range in height and can go all the way up to the ceiling.
Dimensions of Each of the Areas on a Kitchen Wall
Here are the typical dimensions of each of the parts of a kitchen wall:
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- Toe kick – 4 inches (10 cm)
- Bottom cabinets – 30 inches (76.2 cm)
- Countertop – 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
- Backsplash – 15 inches minimum (38 cm)
- Upper row of cabinets – 30 inches (76.2 cm)
- Area above the upper row of cabinets – 12 inches (30.5 cm)
The height of the ceiling for some homes is taller than the typical dimensions. The average height of a ceiling is 96 inches (8 ft, 2.4 meters). Most people can’t reach beyond that height. Therefore, it’s very common to have a space at the top of the upper cabinets.
But it can make sense to have additional storage in this area. This will typically be long-term storage that you rarely access with a ladder.
If you do decide to use that space for cabinets, it’s a good idea to split it into two cabinets. One for long-term storage that you can’t reach without a ladder at the top. And another below that, that you use for items you use regularly.
The dimensions that are flexible and can be changed are:
- Height of the countertop
- Height of the toe kick area
- Height of the bottom cabinets
- Height of the upper cabinets
- Height of the backsplash
If the people using the kitchen are a bit shorter, a lower countertop can be more comfortable. The average height of the toe kick is more than enough room for a foot or shoe, so the toe kick can be reduced to lower the height of the countertop. This saves you having to compromise on lower cabinet space.
There are also what are called floating floors. Rather than the cabinets sitting on top of the floor. The cabinets are installed first, and the floor is installed afterward. The floor buts up against the base of the cabinets.
It requires a bit of forethought to account for the difference in the floor height. For example, it’s common to prop up the cabinets so that they start at the floor height.
How Far the Cabinets Should Stick Out?
There are a few different standard cabinet widths. This is how far they stick out from the wall. These are: 12, 18, 24, 30, 33, 36, 48 inches (30.5 cm, 45.7 cm, 61 cm, 83.8 cm, 91.4 cm, 122 cm). The cabinets can be flush with the countertop, or the countertop can overhang the cabinets. The typical overhang for a countertop is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm).
Is It Always a Good Idea to Have a Toe Kick?
It’s not always necessary to have a toe kick. Some people decide to have their bottom row of cabinets go all the way to the floor. The advantages of having a toe kick are that it brings the cabinets off the floor.
Therefore, if there is a spill or minor flooding it won’t get into the cabinets. As the name implies it also makes it more comfortable to work on your countertops.
A good way to experiment with this is to attempt to use a kitchen and place something in front of the toe kick such as a piece of lumber. You’ll see it’s more difficult to use the kitchen.
How to Plan the Length and Width of your Cabinets
There are permanent fixtures that will control the length of your cabinets. For example, as a general rule, the sink will always be in front of a window. There are various appliances that have a fixed size such as the fridge, oven, and dishwasher.
Therefore, you need to plan out where you would like these to be, and then plan cabinets around them. The position of the plumbing and electricity also requires that the appliances be positioned in a particular spot.
However, the top cabinets are a bit more flexible. And you can be more creative with their dimensions and position. In theory, a cabinet can be positioned anywhere, so you can work out a workflow in the kitchen.
When it comes to measuring the cabinets, you need to account for both the overlay and the door. This can get a bit tricky. It’s best to use this complete guide from Cabinetdoors.com.
The long and short of it is that the doors are bigger than the cabinet frame, called an overlay. And the doors have different thicknesses, which varies from cabinet to cabinet. So, you need to know the thickness of the door to measure it perfectly.
There are a range of different cabinet sizes you can use depending on the layout. For example, it’s common to have a very thin cabinet next to a big pantry. These very small cabinets aren’t suited to cutlery or foods, but, are great for things like washcloths, tea towels, and rubbish bags.
Typically at least one area where a cabinet will be, there’ll also be a set of drawers. These can be for cups, plates, bowls, or pots and pans. But pots and pans can also be hung on the walls, or on a special hanging rack.
This makes them easy to grab when you want to use them, and can also free up space. However, for the most part, even in a very small kitchen you will have more than enough room for everything.
Cabinets for Kitchen Islands – How They Differ
Kitchen island cabinets are very similar to the kitchen wall cabinets. The main difference is there will only be one row of cabinets below the countertop. The countertop can also be a different height from the countertop that runs along the walls.
However, you’ll need to consider the same things as you do with regular kitchen cabinets – the toe kick, and whether you have a floating floor, or the cabinets will be placed on the floor.
How High Are Wall Cabinets from the Floor?
When planning out your kitchen there are various parts of a wall that you need to allow for such as the backsplash. These need to be a certain height so that a kitchen is easy and comfortable to use. Here’s a summary of how high wall cabinets are from the floor.
As a general rule, wall cabinets start at 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) from the floor. Most kitchen cabinets have what is called a toe kick. The area is to make it more comfortable to work on the counters. The cabinets above the counter start at about 15 inches (38 cm) above the countertop.
A kick area of 4.5 inches is quite generous. Therefore, it’s possible to reduce it by about half. The only way this would be an issue is if a person is wearing large boots. These would rub up against the base of the kick area. The average
Why Is There a Space Above Kitchen Cabinets?
In a typical kitchen, the cabinets will be a size where there will be space between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling. Many people wonder why this is. After all, it seems like a bit of a waste of space, right? Well, there’s actually a good reason for this:
In general, the space above kitchen cabinets is there because it’s too high for an average person to reach, making it not useful as every kitchen space. It also gives a kitchen the appearance of having more space, as more ceiling space is visible.
Cabinets have the appearance of a wall when closed, so having space above it makes the kitchen appear bigger. This isn’t much of a concern if the kitchen is very large, but for smaller kitchens it can make more sense.
Some people prefer to install kitchen cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling, or place additional cabinets above the regular kitchen cabinets. This is extremely useful if storage space is a problem, and it’s a great way to store things that are not in regular use.
It’s fairly difficult to clean above the cabinets when you don’t use it as extra cabinet space, as you need a step ladder. However, it also creates space to put some interesting decorative items. For example, old bottles filled with beads, and cookbooks.
How Tall Are Standard Upper Kitchen Cabinets?
In a typical kitchen, there are cabinets below the countertop, and above the countertop. To plan out your cabinets it’s important to know how high the upper and lower cabinets should be. So, this is how tall standard upper kitchen cabinets are.
On average, upper kitchen cabinets are 30 inches (76.2 cm). They are 83.5” (2.12 m) at the top, and 53.5” (1.36 m), from the bottom of the upper cabinets to the ground. Directly below the upper kitchen cabinets is the backsplash.
Some people also use kitchen cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling which is on average 8 ft (2.4 m) high. Taller upper cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling are generally 45 inches tall (1.14 m). The limiting factors for upper kitchen cabinets are:
- The height of the backsplash
- The height of the countertop
- The height of the wall
Kitchen cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling are out of reach for most people, but they do provide extra storage space that is very handy.
The size of standard lower cabinets is also the same. This size allows for two shelves which are two enough to fit almost anything such as a bottle of wine, or soda bottle. Anything shorter than this and not all grocery items could fit.