Counter Height vs. Bar Height: What's the Difference?

Three green pendant lights above unit with Silestone work surface in kitchen with raised bar and stools

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Remodeling a kitchen is an exciting but often challenging task since there are many elements to consider in terms of layout, materials, color and texture. Countertop height is one thing that might seem like a small detail, but it plays a big part in the visual impact and function of the design. And if you're introducing an elevated bar countertop, that's another design detail to consider.

So what exactly are the differences between counter height and bar height? And why would you choose one over the other for carrying out those common kitchen tasks? Thankfully, there are standard measurements to use as a starting point, and this guide will help you get to grips with what those are and why they are important.

How Tall Is Counter Height vs. Bar Height

As you would expect from something inspired by those hightop counters people sit at in bars and restaurants, kitchen bar heights are taller than standard countertops. But exactly how much of a difference is there?

Standard-height kitchen countertops typically measure from 34 to 36 inches off the ground. Bar height is usually 40 to 42 inches from the floor.

Bar height might only be a handful of inches taller, but it makes a surprising difference in form and function.

Counter Height vs. Bar Height Stools

Whether your going to be eating breakfast or just socially gathering around your dream kitchen island, you'll need stools to sit on. And don't just focus on whether you go for kitchen seating that swivels, has footrests, or is backless. The height of the stools you opt for matters just as much as the design. This decision can save your kids from getting sore backs or spilling food because they can't reach the counter comfortably.

 Counter height  34 – 36 inches
 Counter stool height  24 – 27 inches
 Bar Height  40 – 42 inches
 Bar stool height  28 – 33 inches

How to Choose Counter Height

Is standard counter height or bar height going to be right, or will you need a combination of both? There's no right or wrong answer. What works best depends on your kitchen design and how you want to use the space. Considering the following aspects will help you make a decision you won't regret further down the line.

Kitchen Size and Layout

Opt for standard counter heights if you want a snug fit for those standard built-in kitchen appliances and buy-off-the-shelf cabinets.

Kitchen islands often have a mix of standard counter heights and an elevated bar height section on one side. This is ideal in large, open-plan spaces as it divides the room and helps if you're not good at decluttering your lower countertops, as it hides them from view.

However, if you have small children or less mobile family members, remember that taller bar stools are more challenging to get up on.


Ergonomically speaking, standard counter heights make sense for most common kitchen tasks, like food cleaning, prepping, and cooking.

Increasing the height of the counters, even in just certain parts of the room, can make things more multi-function—ideal if your kitchen also acts as an entertaining area. It also offers extra storage capacity underneath the counters—ideal in a space-challenged kitchen.

Family Members

Standard counter height was designed with the height of an average person in mind. If your family is particularly tall, you might want to consider bar height counters all around.

If you have a large family that loves to gather in the kitchen as a hub for eating, socializing, and doing tasks like homework, adding bar-height counters for sitting around could be a practical move.


Naturally, taller bar height counters cost more than those with standard counter heights. Not only are more materials involved, but they aren't quite as in demand. Standard counter heights are the way to go if you are trying to remodel your kitchen on a tight budget.

  • What is the difference between bar height and counter height stools?

    Some stools might be referred to as "bar stools" because of their design, but they are actually meant to sit snugly underneath a standard counter height. Always check the measurements. Stools that fit under standard counters will typically be 24 to 27 inches high and those designed that fit under a bar height counter will be between 28 to 33 inches.

  • Are kitchen islands counter height or bar height?

    Standard kitchen islands have counter heights that fit with the rest of the countertops in the space. This is typically 36 inches. However, some islands have dual-height countertops with an elevated bar counter that runs around 40 to 42 inches. What you opt for depends on how you plan to use the island and what feels more comfortable for you and your family.

  • Is 36 inches counter height or bar height?

    Standard kitchen counters are 36 inches high, and standard residential bars are 42 inches. Standard counter stools and standard bar stools are designed for these heights. However, actual counters and bars can range several inches taller or shorter, so always measure.