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Find Your Optimal Space Between Base and Wall Cabinets

December 23, 2023 | Updated on: December 23, 2023

white kitchen cabinets with a big clearance and under-cabinet shelves

The distance between base and upper cabinets in a kitchen is commonly referred to as the "clearance" or "gap." Following the standard height between upper and lower cabinets is crucial for both functionality and aesthetics, ensuring there's enough room for countertop appliances, ease of upper cupboards access, and maintaining an open, balanced look in the kitchen.

If you are wondering how much space between top and bottom cabinets is considered the standard, the answer would be 18 to 12 inches. This is considered the standard height between countertop and upper cabinets that are commonly applied in pre-fabricated kitchens in some stores.

However, the height between base and upper cabinets is not set in stone. They’re more like guidelines for your kitchen optimal functionality and aesthetics. You can still tweak the height between counter and upper cabinets depending on your style and cabinet design preferences. Just make sure that the distance between kitchen cabinets and countertop leaves enough room for you to prepare meals and make your kitchen activities without bumping your forehead to wall cabinet fronts. It is also wisely to provide enough space for coffee maker, blender, and other appliances in the counter without feeling cramped.

In this blog, we will tackle about everything you need to know about that space between your base and wall cabinets. It will help you create a customized cabinetry that works for you. Or, if you’re planning on purchasing pre-fabricated ones, knowing the right space between top and bottom kitchen cabinets will make your purchasing process a breeze.

Why are precise measurements important?

dark matte kitchen with the minimum gap between top and bottom cabinets

Precise measurements play a pivotal role in ensuring a seamless and functional kitchen design, particularly concerning the arrangement and alignment of base and wall cabinets. Here's a breakdown of why accurate measurements matter:

  1. Functionality and ergonomics

The height between lower and upper cabinets directly impacts usability. An optimal height ensures convenience in accessing items stored in upper cabinets without causing strain or discomfort.

  1. Aesthetics and design cohesion

Maintaining a standard distance between upper and lower cabinets contributes to a visually appealing and balanced kitchen layout. Consistency in spacing creates a harmonious aesthetic appeal.

  1. Installation accuracy

Precise measurements guarantee proper fitting during cabinet installation. The space between the wall and base cabinets must align flawlessly to ensure a secure and stable setup.

  1. Appliance and workspace integration

The distance between the counter and cabinets is crucial for accommodating kitchen appliances, like coffee makers, ensuring they fit seamlessly into the available space without compromising functionality. Ensure that you can prepare food and do other kitchen tasks comfortably without hitting your head on the cabinet fronts.

  1. Efficient utilization of space

Establishing the standard space between upper and lower cabinets optimizes storage capacity. Accurate measurements allow for efficient utilization of the kitchen area, maximizing storage potential without wasted or unusable spaces.

By meticulously measuring the height to the bottom of upper kitchen cabinets, homeowners or designers can ensure a well-designed and functional kitchen space that meets both practical and aesthetic requirements.

Balance for a comfortable cooking and storage experience

well organized space between upper and lower cabinets

The standard height between base and wall cabinets significantly impacts the comfort and functionality of a kitchen space. Here's how the right spacing fosters a balanced and comfortable cooking and storage experience:

  1. Efficient workflow and accessibility

A well-measured space between lower and upper cabinets ensures an ergonomic and efficient workflow. It allows for easy access to frequently used items stored in upper cabinets without causing discomfort or strain.

  1. Optimal storage capacity

The standard space between upper and lower cabinets directly influences the storage capacity of the kitchen. Adequate spacing enables the utilization of available vertical space, maximizing storage for various kitchen essentials.

  1. Unobstructed workspace

Maintaining the distance between countertops and upper cabinets ensures an unobstructed and functional workspace. It prevents interference while preparing meals, providing ample room for cooking activities without feeling confined.

  1. Aesthetic balance and design harmony

The distance between counter and upper cabinets contributes to the visual balance and overall aesthetics of the kitchen. A well-proportioned space creates a harmonious look, enhancing the appeal and ambiance of the cooking area.

  1. Safety and ease of installation

Accurately determining the distance between wall and base cabinets ensures a safe kitchen use and secure installation. Proper spacing allows for easier mounting, reducing the risk of misalignment or instability during cabinet installation.

By adhering to the standard distance between upper cabinets and countertop, designers or homeowners can achieve a kitchen space that not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also offers comfort, efficiency, and safety in both cooking and storage experiences. This meticulous attention to spacing directly contributes to a harmonious and functional kitchen environment.

Height between countertop and upper cabinets

LED lighting illuminates distance between counter and upper cabinets

The height between kitchen counter and upper cabinets is a crucial aspect of kitchen design, significantly impacting both functionality and aesthetics. Typically, the clearance between counter and upper cabinets ranges between 18 to 20 inches above the countertop surface. However, it's important to note that the actual height between countertop and wall cabinets can vary based on the material used for the countertop.

Common countertop materials like granite, marble, or quartz usually have a standard thickness of about 1.25 to 1.5 inches. For these materials, the recommended distance between countertop and wall cabinets ranges between 17.75 to 18.75 inches to ensure sufficient room for daily kitchen tasks without feeling cramped.

However, materials like butcher block or concrete countertops can vary in thickness. Butcher block countertops, for instance, can range from 1.5 to 3 inches in thickness, impacting the distance between top of countertop and upper cabinets. For thicker countertops, the space may need to be adjusted to maintain the standard space between countertop and upper cabinets, possibly ranging from 17 to 19 inches.

The significance of this height lies in its impact on usability. Adequate space between the countertop and upper cabinets ensures a comfortable working area, for easy manipulations at the worktop. It accommodates common kitchen activities such as food preparation and cooking without feeling constrained or restricted by the overhead cabinets.

Moreover, the distance between kitchen counter and cabinets isn't just about functionality; it greatly influences the visual appeal of the kitchen. A well-balanced height creates a sense of openness and spaciousness in the kitchen, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the space.

When designing a kitchen, it's essential to consider not only the chosen countertop material but also the personal preferences and needs of the individuals using the space. Ultimately, finding the standard distance between countertop and upper cabinets involves striking a balance between functionality, aesthetics, and the specific characteristics of the countertop material to create a harmonious and practical kitchen environment.

Space options between top and bottom kitchen cabinets

A shelf mounted in the spacing between upper and lower cabinets

Determining the space between counter and upper cabinets involves a balance between functionality, aesthetics, and storage available. Here's a breakdown of various height options and their suitability based on individual needs:

Clearance height

Ideal use cases

15 inches between countertop and cabinets

Ideal for compact kitchens with shallow upper cabinets. This distance between bottom cabinets and top cabinets provides a cozy, snug feel, maximizing storage while maintaining a compact design. Might suit shorter individuals for ease of access.

16 inches between countertop and cabinets

A slightly increased spacing between upper and lower cabinets offering a balance between a snug fit and a bit more breathing room. Suitable for kitchens aiming for a subtle openness while ensuring efficient storage utilization.

17 inches between countertop and cabinets

Offers a moderate clearance, providing a sense of openness without sacrificing storage space. Ideal for those seeking a balance between visual appeal and practicality in a kitchen design.

20 inches between countertop and cabinets

Provides ample space for larger appliances like blenders or mixers on the countertop while maintaining a traditional and classic look in the kitchen. Offers enough room for ventilation between countertops and cabinets.

22 inches between countertop and cabinets

A comfortable clearance for those who prefer a more spacious feel in the kitchen. Offers flexibility in appliance placement and allows for taller items on the countertop without feeling cramped.

24 inches between countertop and cabinets

Ideal for a more contemporary or airy kitchen design, providing a generous space between countertops and cabinets. Offers an open and expansive feel, suitable for showcasing decorative items or accent lighting.

The choice of clearance height between top and bottom cabinets ultimately depends on individual preferences, kitchen size, the need for storage versus open space, and the desire for a specific aesthetic. Understanding the minimum distance between countertop and upper cabinets and these various options will allow you to tailor your kitchen design to best suit your lifestyle and preferences, ensuring a harmonious and functional space that reflects your unique style.

Distance between range hood and cabinets

Well-thought space between hood and upper cabinets

The space between hood and upper cabinets in a kitchen typically falls within the range of 18 to 24 inches. This distance is crucial to maintain efficient ventilation and capture of cooking byproducts. A recommended minimum distance of 20 to 22 inches between the bottom of the hood and the cooktop surface allows the hood to effectively extract fumes, smoke, and grease.

Factors like the hood's suction power, the specific model's guidelines, and the width of the hood concerning adjacent cabinetry should all be considered to strike a balance between functionality, safety, and aesthetic appeal in the kitchen space.

Space between kitchen cabinets and ceiling

The gap between ceiling and cabinets commonly ranges from 12 to 24 inches. However, this distance can vary based on factors such as ceiling height, design preferences, and crown molding installations.

For standard ceiling heights of around 8 to 9 feet, leaving a 12 inches gap between the cabinets and the ceiling allows for a visually balanced and aesthetically pleasing kitchen design. Adjustments might be made to accommodate taller ceilings or to integrate decorative elements like crown molding, ensuring a cohesive and polished look in the kitchen space.


Safety considerations and easy access for children

Ensuring safety and easy accessibility for children in the kitchen involves meticulous planning of the distance between base and wall cabinets. Here are essential considerations:

  • Childproofing accessibility

Maintaining an appropriate distance between top and bottom cabinets is crucial for child safety. Lower cabinets, within easy reach of children, should store non-hazardous items or have childproof locks to prevent access to potentially dangerous objects or chemicals stored in upper cabinets.

  • Safe reach and usage

Designing with a safe height between base and upper cabinets ensures that children can safely reach items stored in lower cabinets without the risk of heavy or sharp objects falling from upper cabinets. It fosters independence without compromising safety.

  • Optimal viewing and supervision

The distance between upper and lower cabinets should consider the line of sight for parents or guardians. Keeping the lower cabinets open and visible while working in the kitchen allows for easy supervision of children, ensuring their safety.

  • Accessible countertop space

Maintaining a reasonable countertop height is essential. It ensures that children can access the countertop for simple tasks or meal preparations under supervision, promoting a sense of inclusion while ensuring their safety.

  • Child-friendly organization

Designating lower cabinets for snacks, plasticware, or utensils within easy reach establishes a child-friendly zone. This arrangement promotes independence and safe exploration in the kitchen while restricting access to potentially harmful items in upper cabinets.

By adhering to the standard distance between lower and upper cabinets and considering the standard distance between base and wall cabinets, homeowners can create a kitchen environment that not only prioritizes safety for children but also facilitates their involvement in simple kitchen activities under proper supervision. This thoughtful design approach ensures both safety and accessibility for children in the kitchen space.


Article by:

Valentina Melnikova - Lead Designer at Cut2Size

Office 403.366.7411

Hi there! I’m a millwork designer and an owner of a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company. With a team of professionals, I work on designing and manufacturing high-end millwork. Combining professional designing and manufacturing skills is what allows us to develop and translate our plans into a reality through our uniqueness and exclusive ideas. Our employees are highly skilled and creative thinkers that also utilize their professionalism and experience to take millwork to the next level. I’m very familiar with the industry and I take on each project from the design to the final product. With that said, if you’re looking for design advice or technician help, you’re in the right place.