How to Choose a Countertop Overhang

Kitchen Countertop Edge

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Planning to install countertops in a kitchen or bathroom means frequently having a tape measure in hand. Most of the time, you’re measuring the countertop length from side-to-side. That’s the measurement that most homeowners are interested in because it affects the total cost of the countertops. 

But countertop overhang is a measurement that sometimes comes into play prior to installation. In a few cases, your choice of overhang makes a great difference in how you can use the countertops and cabinets.

What Is Countertop Overhang?

Countertop overhang is the distance from the leading edge of the countertop to the front of the base cabinets. 

If you stand over the countertop and look straight down, the edge of the counter that is closest to you and facing the room is the leading edge. Measuring from this point back to the base cabinets will give you the countertop overhang measurement.

Countertop overhang is important. It prevents countertop drips from continuing down the face of the base cabinets. It also hides the junction between the countertop and the cabinet.

Countertop overhang in kitchens helps anyone standing at the counter to work more comfortably since they can get a little bit closer to their work. With countertop seating, an even greater overhang distance is needed because the user’s legs are bent while seated.

Ideal Countertop Overhang Measurements

 Countertop Section or Type  Dimension
 Front of counter or room side  1-1/4 inches
 On the side, against an appliance  1/8-inch to 1/4-inch
 Against a wall  No overhang
 Countertop seating  8 to 10 inches
 Bars  8 inches

Countertop on the Front or Room Side

Most semi-custom and stock kitchen base cabinets are 24 inches deep. A standard countertop that is 25-1/4 inches deep will leave a countertop overhang of 1-1/4 inches.

You usually don’t need to specify the countertop overhang when planning standard countertops with design professionals. The depth is pre-determined.

Countertop Against an Appliance

On the side, where the countertop butts against appliances such as a refrigerator, the countertop overhang should be about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch.

Countertop Against a Wall

Where the countertop meets a wall, whether in back or to the sides, there should be no countertop overhang. Adding an overhang would create a slit that isn’t large enough to use, yet is large enough to collect dust. 

Countertop Seating

Countertop seating must have an overhang, and this should always be more than the standard. The amount of overhang is often one of preference, but it will usually be eight inches or more.

When countertop overhang exceeds eight to ten inches, additional bracing will be required. An overhang of 16 to 22 inches, though not common, would require vertical supports or posts.

Bars

A home bar countertop overhang is also usually around eight inches. If space is tight, you can shave off a couple of inches by decreasing the overhang to six inches—especially if you expect that most users will be standing at the bar. Generally, though, overhangs of less than eight inches are uncomfortable for users.

Best Way to Measure Countertop Overhang

Measuring countertop overhang is an easy process and it uses just a tape measure. Stand over the edge of the countertop. Press the tape measure against the cabinet frame. Read the measurement on the tape, directly below the edge of the countertop.

Tip

Whenever using a tape measure to measure against (rather than away) from an item, be sure to press firmly toward the item. The hook ends of tape measures are designed to slide back and forth. If you do not press forward, the hook may not slide and you will get an inaccurate measurement.

If you want to be even more precise about measuring the countertop overhang, use a tape measure, a Speed Square or anything with a 90-degree angle, and any straight, rigid item such as a book. Follow the process outlined below.

1. Put the Square on the Countertop

Rest the Speed Square or another 90-degree item such as a box on the countertop. The room side of the square item should be flush with the edge of the countertop.

2. Hold a Straight Item Against the Square

Press a long straight item such as a book or ruler against the square, so that the long side of the straight item points downward.

3. Measure the Overhang

Press the end of the tape measure against the cabinet. Note the spot where the straight item meets the tape measure markings. Be sure to look at the wall side of the straight item, not the room side. This figure is your countertop overhang distance.