Should Your Kitchen Cabinets Go Up to the Ceiling?

Planning for a new kitchen or major remodel? If so, you might be trying to decide if you should get ceiling-height cabinets or go the traditional route, with a gap above each cabinet.

Lately, ceiling-height cabinets have been getting a lot of attention and hype. In addition to providing more storage, this configuration can complement a variety of kitchen styles, from traditional to modern. 

So, should your cabinets run all the way to the ceiling? Let’s go over the pros and cons of ceiling-height kitchen cabinets and look at the many things to consider.

What Are Ceiling-Height Kitchen Cabinets?

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Tallahassee kitchen with ceiling height cabinets

Ceiling-height kitchen cabinets are just what their name suggests—they are cabinets that run all the way up to the ceiling. Cabinetry in some kitchens ends a foot or two below the ceiling. However, when you install ceiling-height cabinets, there won’t be any space at the top. 

In the past, the gap between the ceiling and the cabinet tops was standard. However, recent years have seen a rise in homeowners opting for the ceiling-height look. People seem to enjoy the extra cabinet space and style this configuration provides.

Things to Think About If You’re Considering Ceiling Height Cabinets

Ceiling Height

8 Ft Ceilings – use a 39″ or 42″ upper cabinet

It is generally recommended that wall cabinets be mounted 54 inches up from the floor, which means that for 8 foot ceilings, a 39 or 42 inch upper cabinet will reach the ceiling, depending on the height of the crown molding used at the top of the cabinet.

9 Ft Ceilings – use a stacked cabinet

However, for 9 foot ceilings there is no single wall cabinet tall enough to reach the ceiling. This is because making cabient doors taller than that can lead to the door warping over time. In order to take you cabients to the ceiling you need to use what is called a stacked cabinet.

Budget Stacked Vs Higher End

Stacked cabinets are simply when one cabinet is stacked on top of another. Instead of a single door the cabinet has two doors stacked over each other. The top cabinet is usually smaller than the bottom cabinets and often has glass door panels.

With budget cabinet lines the installer will literally stack the two cabinets. There is nothing wrong with this but it does create a seam where the two cabinets meet and this can be unsightly to some. Better quality cabinet lines will make a stacked cabinet as one piece, eliminating any seams for a higher end look.

For Ceilings Taller than 9 ft

If your ceiling height is over 9 ft you can still go to the ceiling but it may not be practical and can look overhelming. 

In kitchen with tall ceilings it might be best to create a soffit at the 9 ft mark to run cabients to or vary the cabinet height to add interest and break up the wall space. 

Tallahassee Kitchen without ceiling height cabinets

Stacked Cabinets Do Cost More

When you add stacked cabinets to reach the ceiling you are adding a lot of extra cabinetry. Adding 6 or 10 extra cabients to the design adds a lot costs. If you also add glass door in the stocked cabinet, a common feature, it gets even more expensive.

Alternatives to stacked cabinets include adding a drywall soffit (not our favorite choice but it does work), or a false cabinet panel that extends to the ceiling. The false panel cab be decorative and add interest to the design while still saving money when compared to stacked cabients. 

Check out our article about factors that affect costs in a kitchen remodel to learn more.

Beams, Vaulted Ceilings and other details pose a challenge

Beams and other architectural details can also  complicate the topic of cabinet heights. As a general rule, the tops of cabinets should be kept well below any exposed beams, whether they provide genuine structural support or are merely decorative (as is often the case). If you wish to have ceiling-height cabinets, then you should probably have the carpenters remove any decorative beams, because they’ll look awkward against the cabinetry.

There are other architectural features that can make things more complicated. For example, coffered ceilings require a symmetrical look. And extending cabinets to the ceiling can disrupt this look. 

Moreover, if your kitchen has elaborate, built-up crown moldings, they’ll likely need to be removed before ceiling-height cabinets can be installed. And it may be impossible to reattach them. When making a decision, think about which feature will appeal to you more, full-rise cabinets or decorative moldings.

There is No Right Or Wrong, Do What you

When deciding whether to get ceiling-height cabinets, you should also think about your design preferences and individual tastes. Are you interested in cabinets that extend all the way to the ceiling? In terms of functionality, do you find larger cabinetry appealing?

Having a continuous block of wall cabinets without an upper space might be appealing to some people. Others prefer continuous cabinets for their functional benefits: they provide more storage space and eliminate the dead space that collects dust.

Despite this additional storage space, keep in mind that the shelves near the ceiling are not very accessible. For most people, the top shelves are reserved for seasonal items or rarely used dishes and accessories.

If you like the idea of more storage but don’t like the look, a good compromise is to bring the cabinets close to the ceiling and put lighting over the top of them (like the picture above). This can create a similar level of functionality as bringing the cabinets to the ceiling while making the space feel larger.

Why You May Not Want To Use Ceiling-Height Kitchen Cabinets

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Tallahassee Kitchen without ceiling height cabinets

According to designer Ashley Noethe, “At a certain point, there’s no benefit to going higher because you’ll need more than just a stepladder to reach anything you store there. It’s better to keep things more accessible”. We agree with Ashley on this point. In many cases, it does not make sense to spend the money on more cabinets when they have trouble serving the main function of cabinets… Easy storage!

Furthermore, ceiling-height cabinets often require fillers to help make the uppers appear relatively even and fix areas in the ceiling that don’t seem flush. This limits you if you want to use some crown moldings as decorative elements. Additionally, crown molding is solely for aesthetic purposes, so you may choose not to sacrifice your kitchen cabinets to accommodate it.

Tallahassee Kitchen without ceiling height cabinets

Ceiling-height cabinets can create a claustrophobic feeling in a small kitchen. Cabinets that run all the way to the ceiling can turn an otherwise large room into a cramped feeling space. That is why it is important to understand your design preferences before making a decision. Some solutions to this problem include bringing the cabinets close to the ceiling and putting lights above them (as mentioned previously) or having glass upper cabinets (Like in the picture above). Glass cabinets can add depth and light to the space and will help break up the claustrophobic feeling.

It’s also common for some homes to have unusual ceiling heights. A kitchen might, for example, have a soaring ceiling that slopes down on one side. In these situations, you might avoid running your cabinets to the ceiling. The solution could be to get your ceiling-height cabinets fully customized, but this will likely cost substantially more because they have to be completely tailored to your space. Aside from looking odd, they may also require more labor to install. 

You might also come up with an answer that falls somewhere in between. For instance, if you have a beam that runs around your kitchen right below the ceiling, your cabinets don’t have to reach the ceiling. Instead, they can stop right at the beam.

The main takeaway here should be that there is no “One size fits all” solution when it comes to the conundrum of whether or not to install ceiling-height cabinets. The decision depends heavily on the dimensions of your space, your storage needs, and your individual design preferences.

Tough Time Making a Decision? McManus Kitchen and Bath Can Help

If you are having trouble finding the perfect solution for your next kitchen remodel, it may be best to contact an expert to help you with the process.

No matter what option you choose, McManus Kitchen and Bath is here to help you complete your dream kitchen remodel. Contact us today to learn more.

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