Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray
Generally speaking, most houses built in the last fifty years were fitted with cabinets between 32” and 36” tall. As a result, there is usually a gap between the ceiling and the top of the cabinets of around one to two feet. Cabinets that reach ceiling height have recently become more popular.
No rule states whether your cabinets should go up to the ceiling or not. The additional cabinet height can afford the homeowner several advantages, the main one being extra storage space. There are also several disadvantages, however, and these should be considered.
Several factors will influence your decision to have your kitchen cabinets reach ceiling height or not. Before making your decision, consider the cost, ceiling height, and the presence of any architectural details such as beams, crown moldings, or coffered ceilings.
Should Your Cabinets Go Up To The Ceiling Or Not?
Most homes built within the last fifty years generally feature cabinets between 32” and 36”. The rule of thumb for the bottom edge of the cabinets is that they should be around 54 inches from floor level. As a result, the final installation of the abovementioned type of cabinet features a 1 to 2-foot gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling.
Cabinets at this height allow most people to reach the top shelves by simply standing on the floor or using a stepladder (for the more vertically-challenged members of society).
Recent times, however, have seen a significantly increased prevalence of ceiling-height cabinets. One of the main reasons people want to install these cabinets is the benefit of the extra storage afforded by extending the cabinets by one or two feet until they reach the ceiling.
Cabinets that reach ceiling height can naturally make it more difficult for people to reach the storage above their average reaching height. As a result, incorporating this feature may require additional interventions such as permanent movable stepladders or similar features.
Several design considerations will enter into your decision to incorporate ceiling-height kitchen cabinets in your home. Firstly, you will need to look at the project according to your design preferences.
While installing kitchen cabinets up to ceiling height will allow for a significant amount of storage while eliminating the dust-collecting space synonymous with traditional cabinets, there can be some challenges associated with this type of installation.
Firstly, you need to consider the height of your ceiling. With 8-foot-tall ceilings, you will have around 42” of wall cabinet space. If your ceilings are 9 feet high, 54” of kitchen cabinets can be built into your kitchen space.
Bear in mind that a ceiling higher than 10 feet would not be a good candidate for ceiling-height cabinets. Firstly, the cabinets will overwhelm the space in an aesthetic sense, unintentionally becoming the focal point of the entire room.
Secondly, kitchen cabinets that extend beyond ten feet will become exceptionally difficult for the average person to reach. With or without a ladder, kitchen cabinets at such a height will be difficult to use under most circumstances.
Installing ceiling-height kitchen cabinets will generally require a combination of multiple units to reach the ceiling. For example, a row of 36” tall cabinets and a row of 18-inch cabinets above will work perfectly with a 9-foot ceiling, provided the cabinets begin at 54” above floor level.
Any small gaps remaining between the cabinets and the ceiling can be filled in using crown moldings or other types of decorative trim.
Budget is another major consideration when opting for ceiling-height kitchen cabinets. Naturally, extending your kitchen cabinets higher than average will incur a significantly higher cost. The cost of your cabinetry is generally the most expensive aspect of your kitchen.
Resultantly, you should carefully consider whether the extra cabinetry height will be worthwhile in terms of the extra financial outlay.
Another major factor to consider is the architectural features of your ceiling. Some examples of these fittings include beams – whether structural or decorative – crown moldings or coffered ceilings.
Suppose there are beams in your ceiling that you do not plan to remove. In that case, these can interfere with your ability to install ceiling-height kitchen cabinets. From a practical point of view, ceiling-height cabinets will not be compatible with beams as the two features will interfere with each other.
Aesthetically, ceiling-height cabinets will simply look odd if combined with ceiling beams. Resultantly, kitchen cabinets should sit slightly below the underside of the beams to maintain aesthetic balance and overall functionality.
Coffered ceilings are a feature that relies on their symmetry for aesthetic appeal. Ceiling-height cabinets will interfere with this symmetry and, therefore, with the aesthetic of the entire ceiling.
Advantages Of Ceiling-Height Cabinets
Besides the main advantage of extra storage space, ceiling-height cabinets can create a dust-free display space if installed with glass fronts. Naturally, less maintenance is required when the cabinets reach ceiling height, as it is far more difficult for dust and dirt to make their way in.
Overall, ceiling-height cabinets help create a more finished and polished look for the kitchen space. The open space between cabinets and the ceiling tends to become a knick-knack storage area, potentially creating a cluttered aesthetic. Installing ceiling-height cabinets eliminates the chances of this accumulation of clutter happening.
Disadvantages Of Ceiling Height Cabinets
Due to their height, ceiling height cabinets can be difficult to access, especially for shorter people. While people who can’t reach the cabinets can use a stepladder, this also has the potential to create a dangerous scenario for kitchen users.
In some spaces, installing kitchen cabinets up to ceiling height can cause the space to feel tight and claustrophobic. When these cabinets are too tall, they have the potential to overwhelm the space.
Ceiling height cabinets are far more expensive than shorter cabinets, adding significantly to the overall cost of the kitchen. The addition of other architectural features such as crown moldings and feature beams can also become difficult when installing ceiling-height cabinetry.
Suppose you have ceilings under ten feet high, and there are no architectural features on your ceiling that can potentially cause problems with cabinetry. In that case, ceiling-height cabinets will be a great investment. If you have extremely high ceilings, coffered ceilings, or beams on your ceiling, ceiling-height cabinets may not be your best option.