Should your kitchen cabinets extend all the way to the ceiling?

This is a very common question and the answer will depend on a couple of factors: ceiling height and style, cabinetry type, and, of course, what you like best.

When it comes time to install your kitchen cabinets, whether it be for a new build or a remodel, a very common question asked is whether or not the cabinets should go to the ceiling. The answer depends on a number of factors: ceiling height and style, cabinetry type, and, most importantly, what you like best.

The height of your kitchen cabinets may have an impact on how well they function. The most common designs are to either extend the cabinets to the ceiling or leave a gap between them.

Let’s talk about the spatial planning decisions that really make a difference for many people wanting to maximize the storage in their kitchen.

1. Ceiling Height

The first thing to consider when considering the height of your kitchen cabinets is the height of your ceiling. The average ceiling height is eight or nine feet. This height allows many homeowners to utilize many taller cabinet styles, including the ones listed below.

2. Filling the Entire Space

With a ceiling height of eight or nine feet, you may prefer to bring your kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling. This height won’t leave you struggling to reach any items on the top shelves. Stock kitchen cabinets come in a variety of heights, ranging from 12 to 42 inches, so there are many cabinet options available on the market without having to make any customizations. You may also consider combining two rows of smaller cabinets to create vertical columns.

3. Filling the Gap

Many people with gaps between the tops of their cupboards and ceiling opt to have a boxy structure built in to hide wiring and pipes or to simply cover up the space between the two.

These installations are called Soffits and are generally used for aesthetic purposes. It’s a fairly common practice for people to build soffits around the top of cabinets; sometimes as part of the wall cabinet design. With a soffit, you won’t have to worry about cleaning the top of your upper cabinets, where dust can often build up.

4. Crown Molding and Other Trims

Crown moldings and other equivalents can be used with tall kitchen cabinets to create a custom look that matches your home décor. Crown molding has three main functions: helping bring an element of design to the room, covering up a joint or seam between two pieces of trim or molding, and hiding any gaps that may be present in order to create a seamless transition from your tall kitchen cabinets to the wall above them.

5. Vaulted or Beamed-Ceilings

Besides adjusting the height of your kitchen cabinets, you may need to also consider using different cabinet styles or approaches depending on your ceiling characteristics.

If you have a vaulted ceiling, a ceiling that angles up toward the roof, tall and mid-height cabinets will look the best. Because of the slant, you won’t be able to go all the way to the ceiling without making some customizations with panels.

If you have beams running across your ceilings, full-height cabinets may not be the best option. The beams could interfere with the functionality of the cabinets and it may end up looking awkward.

6. Safety

For safety reasons, it is best to install your kitchen cabinets at a reasonable height. You wouldn’t want to have to stretch or strain yourself every time you needed something from the cabinets.

Homeowners often complain about not being able to reach far enough back into their cabinets. If you want your kitchen cabinets to function well and be safe for everyone who’s going to use them, aim for a height of about 34 to 36 inches.

Determining Factors


In general, taller cabinets tend to be more costly than their shorter counterparts. This is because taller cabinets require more materials and labor to produce.

What this really comes down to is considering what you value more for the project, short-term savings, or overall style. It’s up to you to decide whether this is an important factor or not when choosing cabinet height. Weighing your options can help you determine what is more important for your project


When determining the height of your cabinets, it’s important to consider how accessible they need to be for those who will be using them. Make sure that those responsible for food preparation and cleanup have no problems reaching everything they need. Make sure your kids can easily reach what they’re looking for as well, whether it’s their own snacks or items that are kept up high so they don’t get into them.


Short cabinets can work well if you have a lot of appliances or large items stored in the kitchen. It is best to not have tall cabinets near these types of things. If they are, make sure there is enough room above them to easily open and close the doors without hitting anything else stored nearby.

Design Preference – Ultimately It’s Up To You

While it is widely considered that tall cabinets will provide the best look, every home is different. Especially in the kitchen, it may be more functional to use shorter cabinets.

You can always have your cabinets custom-made to fit your needs. Customizing is also a great option if you are working with an old home that has unusual room dimensions or older homes with smaller-than-normal kitchen spaces.

Some designs can make taller cabinets look more proportionate while others can make them look awkward. Always keep in mind the overall design of your home while choosing a height for your kitchen cabinets.

Ready to Remodel?

McManus Kitchen and Bath is a design and build company specializing in kitchen and bath remodels.

McManus Kitchen & Bath

Phone: (850) 354-8090


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