One inescapable feature of kitchen wall cabinets: the long, open soffits that run across the tops of the cabinets. Cabinet soffits are, at best, dark spaces that need aesthetic attention. At worst, open cabinet soffits eat up valuable storage space.
The soffits problem begins with ceilings: most are 8 feet high, minimum. Some homes are fortunate enough to come with generously elevated 10-foot ceilings. High ceilings and humans do not mix. Comfortable height for most people to reach items in cabinets is between 5 and 6 feet. Beyond 6 feet, the stretch becomes more uncomfortable. Most shorter people simply cannot reach that top shelf without the help of a stool or a grabbing device.
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Build Wall Cabinets That Reach the Ceiling
From a functional perspective, the best solution to open cabinet soffits is to build ceiling-high wall cabinets. Taller cabinets must be purchased and installed in the first place; there are few, if any, acceptable retroactive methods of making your cabinets taller. Shoving the existing cabinets upward is not an option. While this will fill the upper open space, it also means that lower shelves can become too high.
Standard wall cabinet height is 30 inches. Tall wall cabinets will be either 36 inches or 42 inches high. A reliable footstool that tucks out of the way is a necessary component of owning taller wall cabinets.
- Maximizes potential storage space
- Eliminates dust collection on top of cabinets
- Gives the kitchen a smooth, seamless appearance
- The top shelf is so high that some users may find it to be essentially unusable
- Taller cabinets will be more expensive than shorter cabinets
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One popular way to deal with wall cabinet open soffits is to install crown molding along the tops of the cabinets. A nail gun, an electric miter saw, some furring strips, and several strips of crown molding are about all you need to do this project. Crown molding on kitchen wall cabinets dresses up your kitchen with ease. Add rope lights behind the crown molding for a luminous glow at night.
- Low cost in relation to other soffit-filling methods
- Easy to build
- Adds a fancy touch to a kitchen
- Requires purchase or rental of a nail gun and miter saw
- Only an aesthetic improvement; function is not improved much
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Keep the Cabinet Soffits Open
The most common response to cabinet soffits is to keep them open and clear. As an example, 30-inch high wall cabinets would maintain about a 9-inch between the top of cabinets and the ceiling.
- Provides a visual relief and gives the cabinets less of a bulky appearance
- The greatest range of kitchen cabinet options with this sizing choice
- Top shelf within cabinets can still be reached by many people
- Dust and other debris collect in open soffits
- Flat items stored on top of cabinets will be visible
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Create a Bulkhead in the Cabinet Soffits
When installing taller cabinets or adding embellishments to open soffits do not work, consider building a closed bulkhead. A bulkhead is any solid structure that covers up unsightly areas or items such as vents and pipes. Cabinet soffit bulkheads can be constructed of drywall, metal, wood, or any other structurally sound material. Paint the drywall, burnish the metal, or stain or paint the wood.
Another approach is to use the bulkhead as a base for applying other decorative items. A row of ceramic tiles can be applied to the bulkhead. Or a line of metal or faux metal ceiling tiles can be applied, with construction glue, to the face of the bulkhead. Basically, anything that fits that space and which fits your tastes is appropriate.
- No dust collection problems
- The bulkhead can be a decorative base for other items
- Covers stray vent tubing, wires, and pipes
- Potential storage space is sealed-off and wasted
- Difficult to build well