A Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Sizes

An improperly sized kitchen cabinet will stick out like a sour thumb and ruin the design of your kitchen. Read on so you don't make any mistakes

Whether you’re thinking about selling your home or bringing your outmoded kitchen into the twenty-first century, it’s a fantastic investment. Modernizing your kitchen, in fact, provides one of the best return on investment percentage rates of any home improvement project you may undertake.

While you could perform a complete kitchen redesign, starting with your kitchen cabinetry is a terrific place to start — and it may be the only change you require.

There is always the option of hiring a professional to semi-custom construct or install stock cabinets, but there are many things you can do yourself as well. Whatever path you select, you’ll need to brush up on typical kitchen cabinet sizes and kitchen design.

Before you get out your tools and begin tearing down your room to the studs, you’ll want to know about cost-effective alternatives to a large order from the home improvement store. Once you’ve learned them and the answers to the most often asked questions, you’ll be well on your way to designing a brand new space.

Standard Kitchen Cupboard Sizes 

When it comes to the standard sizes of cupboards, you’ll need to consider the dimensions of the three basic types of them — base cabinets, upper (or wall) cabinets, and tall cabinets. Whether you want to add storage for brooms or a special place for spices, each cabinet should be appropriately sized to suit your needs. Depending on their function, they can also be fitted with a single door or double doors. 

A complementary mix of darkwood, stainless and marble on a kitchen interior.

Base Cabinet Dimensions

Lower (or base) cupboards are the set of cabinets that sit on the floor and are held against the wall with screws. These are the type of cupboards that house appliances like dishwashers, the food prep area’s sink, and an oven.

While you can build them yourself or hire a builder to create custom sizes, pre-ordered versions are typically uniform in size. Designed to be high enough to avoid stooping over and deep enough to allow for easy reach, the standard dimensions of lower cabinets are: 

  • Width: 12″ to 48″ 
  • Height: 34 ½” without the countertop; 35″ to 36″ with the countertop
  • Depth of 24″

Upper Unit Dimensions

The dimensions of upper cabinets offer more flexibility than their lower counterparts. Since they have shelves instead of drawers and they do not hold many appliances, a variety of standard depths and standard widths are easier for manufacturers to construct.

Whether you’re planning to add a corner cabinet or a microwave hutch, you can choose the size you need. Sometimes called wall cabinets, you can expect measurements in increments of three inches, including: 

  • Widths: 9″ to 48″
  • Heights: 12″ to 42″
  • Depths: 12″ to 24″ 

Tall Kitchen Cabinets

It’s not uncommon to find taller kitchen cupboards housing vacuums and mops called utility cupboards or pantry cupboards. Unfortunately, they are not designed for ceilings that are lower than 84″, so you will need a kitchen with higher overhead clearance or hire a custom build. 

When ordering these types of cabinets, it’s important to take three different measurements: 

  • Widths: 12″, 24″, or 36″
  • Heights: 84″ or 96″
  • Depths: 12″ or 24″ 
A small black and white kitchen with a patterned backsplash.

Money-Saving Alternatives 

Changing out your kitchen’s cabinetry is not an inexpensive endeavor, but having a smaller budget doesn’t limit your plans to update. There are several wallet-friendly things you can try, and they’ll make a big difference without all the major construction. 

Consider Open Shelving 

One of the latest trends is to forget about the cabinet doors altogether. Open shelving might be better for those with a knack for making pots, pans, and plates look tidy, but removing the doors will instantly open up your space. Many designs leave the doors on the lower cabinets, but open up the wall cabinets, leaving you plenty of space for things like a lazy susan. 

Replace Old Doors

One of the fastest and most budget-friendly ways to upgrade your kitchen is to replace the cabinet doors. Since cabinetry is built in many standard sizes, it’s easy to find coordinating doors. 

For those who want new doors, any hardware store should be able to help you order them. If you’d like to save even more, many organizations recycle old cabinet doors that you could easily spruce up. 

Cosmetic Updates

Are your existing cabinet doors still in good shape? It won’t be as fast as completely replacing them, but it’s fairly simple to give them new life. Both dated paint colors and stains can be removed with stripping products, and removing old handles is a breeze. Purchasing new stain, paint, and hardware is much less expensive than any of the other options. 

A traditional kitchen interior with gray cabinetries and contemporary elements.

Commonly Asked Questions Kitchen Cabinets

Should there be space between the top and the ceiling? 

Leaving a space between the upper cupboards and the ceiling depends on two things — personal preference and ceiling height. If you like the looks of crown molding that goes all the way up to fill in lofty gaps, it can add a nice touch. However, leaving space will leave room for you to decorate and for airflow. 

How high should the bottom of the cabinet be? 

Including the countertop, the standard height is 34 ½”. Although they can be made to stand between 32″ and 38″, anything other than 34 ½” will need to be custom ordered. 

When you choose the ultimate height, you should keep the thickness of the countertop in mind, too.

Should the refrigerator have cabinets above it?

If you need the extra storage space, installing a refrigerator with a short, upper cabinetry unit on top is no problem. Just make sure to leave at least an inch of clearance on the top and the back. It will help your refrigerator to get the proper airflow. 

A modern kitchen interior with clean lines and minimalist styling.

Will they be ready-to-assemble?

You can order cabinets in two ways if you choose to forgo DYI efforts. Generally, they will arrive either fully assembled or in flat, ready-to-assemble versions. Fully assembled versions tend to be a little more expensive.

Are countertops included?

Although each manufacturer will vary, countertops are usually purchased separately from the bones of cabinets. Counters can be made from nearly any material, and the price will depend on the type you choose.

From decade to decade, home design trends change, leaving our kitchens behind. If you’ve been giving your outdated kitchen the side-eye, don’t feel like you’re in over your head. Once you know how to properly measure your cabinets and the many ways to modernize them, you’ll want to jump in and get started. 

When it comes to cabinets, you don’t necessarily need to plan a major renovation or break the bank. Alternatives like ready-made and DIY can save you a lot of money. All you need to do is take the first step, and your kitchen will shine in no time.

Teresa Burns
Teresa Burns is a design specialist who has been in the business for over 20 years. She has seen design trends change from traditional designs to more simplistic modern designs. She not only has seen it all, she understands it all. She has a large collection of articles to help spread her love for design.
More ArticlesKitchen