Custom kitchen cabinetry can be made in any dimension you want, but if you are buying semi-custom or stock cabinets, either preassembled or RTA (ready-to-assemble), you will have to choose from standard dimensions that nearly all manufacturers follow.
This is normally not a problem, since the cabinets come in an impressive range of stock sizes, and because a variety of fillers and accessories can be used to fill nearly every space. Standardized cabinet sizes are anything but limiting. Instead standard cabinet heights, depths, and especially width make kitchen design far easier because the spacing is predictable.
Base cabinets, wall cabinets, and tall specialty cabinets all have their own range of standard sizes. When choosing a size for base cabinets, remember that the sizes are from the floor to the top of the cabinet box. Heights do not include the thickness of the countertop that will sit atop the base cabinets.
Kitchen Base Cabinet Height, Depth, and Width
Installed directly on the floor, base kitchen cabinets are the workhorses of kitchen design. Counters are laid on them, sinks installed within them, dishwashers and ranges bracketed by them, and pots and pans are stored within them. Kitchen base cabinets seem to be able to do everything.
Kitchen base cabinets are the most expensive of all kitchen cabinets, and for a good reason: We ask a lot from them. Kitchen base cabinets also help to form the footprint of the kitchen.
When buying semi-custom or stock preassembled or RTA cabinets, kitchen base cabinets are generally available in these dimensions:
|Kitchen Base Cabinet Dimensions|
|Height, without countertop||34 1/2 inches|
|Height, with countertop||35 to 36 inches|
|Depth (front to wall), without
|Depth, with countertop||25 to 26 inches|
|Standard widths||12, 18, 24, 30, 33, 36, 48 inches|
Kitchen Base Cabinet Height
Kitchen base cabinet height is the dimension that is the least variable. Virtually all base cabinets come from the factory at 34 1/2 inches tall, though exceptions can be made for disabled users and others who require different heights.
Building codes and accepted design practices like to stress accessibility, and the wrong height is the one aspect that can make a base cabinet inaccessible. Where different heights are needed—such as in a kitchen for a wheelchair user—the cabinets generally need to be custom-made to different heights.
After adding a countertop, the eventual height of most base cabinets is between 35 and 36 inches, depending on the material used in the countertop. Height is flexible. For example, Dupont allows for direct installation of 1/2-inch Corian directly onto a supportive framework, without a continuous underlayment. Adding an underlay might add another 1/2 inch to the height.
It is often said that countertops should fit the user. Due to individual needs, countertops sometimes go as low as 32 inches and as high as 38 inches, but these heights require custom fabrication.
Kitchen Base Cabinet Depth
The depth measurement for kitchen base cabinets is taken from the front outer front edge of the cabinet to the wall.
Stock base cabinets are generally 24 inches deep (not counting countertop overhang). Deeper base cabinets make it difficult for you to reach the back of the counter or to plug-in appliances. If you have ever had difficulty reaching items in a blind corner (where two sets of cabinets meet at a right angle), you will know how distances beyond 24 inches quickly become difficult.
Because countertops generally overlap the base cabinets at the front, the overall depth (with countertop) usually measures 25 to 26 inches, depending on the edge detailing.
There are also 12-inch, 15-inch, and 18-inch deep cabinets available for special circumstances, although not all manufacturers stock them.
Kitchen Base Cabinet Width
Base cabinet width is the great variable, and each cabinet tends to be aimed toward certain uses. Widths generally range from 9 to 48 inches in 3-inch increments, and are chosen both to meet space needs and to provide specific functions:
|Kitchen Base Cabinet Widths|
|Dimension (Inches)||Cabinet Type|
|9, 12, 18, 24 inches||Filler cabinets can accommodate pull-outs, those narrow rolling racks which are great for storing baking pans or spices.|
|30 inches||Single basin sink|
|33 inches||Double-basin, offset sink|
|36 inches||Double-basin sink|
|48 inches||Largest base cabinet size commonly found in kitchens|
Kitchen Wall Cabinet Height, Depth and Width
Wall cabinets are used for storing food and lightweight kitchen implements. They are attached directly to the wall studs with screws. In some cases, such as when forming a bank of upper cabinets above a peninsula or island, the cabinets can be suspended from the ceiling or attached to overhanging soffits.
Wall cabinets are the most visible cabinetry in a kitchen and serve as a showpiece. They're also the kitchen cabinets that get the most use.
Some owners save money by purchasing very basic cabinets for the base cabinetry, but splurging on wall cabinets that have more accessories, such as glass inserts or in-cabinet lighting.
|Kitchen Wall Cabinet Dimensions|
|Standard heights||12, 15, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42 inches|
|Standard depths||12, 15, 18, 24 inches|
|Standard widths||9 to 48 inches, in 3-inch increments|
Kitchen Wall Cabinet Height
Wall cabinet heights tend to be limited since the cabinets need to fit between the counter and the ceiling.
Common wall cabinet heights are 12, 36, and 42 inches. In standard kitchens, the wall cabinets are typically 30 or 36 inches tall, with the space above enclosed by soffits.
Where the cabinets run all the way to the ceiling, 48-inch cabinets are the logical choice.
A 12-inch or 15-inch tall wall cabinet fits neatly over a refrigerator. This provides a narrow space between the fridge and the bottom of the cabinet. The top of the cabinet will usually touch the kitchen ceiling and be attached to it.
Kitchen Wall Cabinet Depth
The maximum depth for wall cabinets is 24 inches because it cannot exceed the depth of base cabinets, but shallower cabinets are more common in order to maximize working space on the countertop.
Most commonly, wall cabinets are 12 inches deep, since this provides a good compromise between storage space in the kitchen cabinets and workable countertop space below the cabinet. Plus, shallower depth cabinets are safer to attach to walls. Deep cabinets, especially if overloaded with plates and food items, might tear out of the walls.
Above microwave ovens, a 15- to 18-inch deep cabinet is common.
Wall cabinets placed above the refrigerator are the lone exception to the informal rule that wall cabinets need to be shallow. Due to the depth of most refrigerators (24 to 36 inches deep), wall cabinets placed above fridges need to be equally deep or at least close. So, a 24-inch deep cabinet is standard.
Kitchen Wall Cabinet Width
Wall cabinet widths run from 9 to 48 inches in 3-inch increments, though it is rare to install cabinets wider than 36 inches. Most common is the 30-inch side single-or double-door wall cabinet, which offers the best proportions for most storage needs.
Kitchen Tall Cabinet Height, Depth, and Width
Most kitchens have at least one extra-tall cabinet, often installed in an alcove alongside the refrigerator. These tall cabinets are sometimes known as pantry cabinets or utility cabinets. As befits the name, tall kitchen cabinets can even extend from floor to ceiling.
|Kitchen Tall Cabinet Dimensions|
|Height||84 or 96 inches|
|Depth||12 or 24 inches|
|Width||12, 24, or 36 inches|
Kitchen Tall Cabinet Height
Tall kitchen cabinets are most typically 84 or 96 inches tall. A 96-inch tall cabinet will run floor to ceiling in a standard 8-foot room, while an 84-inch-tall cabinet provides a foot of breathing room, and can offer a uniform line with surrounding wall cabinets.
Kitchen Tall Cabinet Depth
Tall cabinets are typically available either at 12-inch or 24-inches deep. The 12-inch variety is typically used for pantry cabinets that store canned goods, while 24-inch-deep cabinets make good utility cabinets for brooms, mops, and appliances. Pull-out and slider hardware can give greater functionality to 24-inch-deep cabinets.
Kitchen Tall Cabinet Width
Tall cabinets are typically available in 12-inch, 24-inch, and 36-inch widths:
- 12-inch: Narrow pantry cabinets hold far more food than you might think, especially if equipped with storage accessories. Plus, they can fit into otherwise-neglected spaces.
- 24-inch: This is a good middle-of-the-road option that fits many homes.
- 36-inch: If you want pull-outs and storage on the doors of the cabinet, you'll need a wider kitchen pantry cabinet.
How deep should kitchen cabinets be?
Base cabinets are usually around 24 inches deep. And wall cabinets are typically around 12 inches deep, though they can come in 15-, 18- and 24-inch varieties as well.
What is the standard distance between the countertop and upper cabinets?
The bottom of the upper cabinets is generally around 18 inches above the countertop. This usually works for people of average heights to be able to access all parts of the upper cabinets.
How high should a shelf be above the lower cabinets and countertop?
Hang shelves between roughly 15 and 20 inches above your countertop. Find what feels good to you based on your height, but make sure you won't bump your head on them or limit the vertical space on your countertop if they're too low.