Hanging upper kitchen cabinets at the proper height is crucial for creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen. The standard recommended height for upper cabinets can provide enough storage space while allowing easy access. However, your personal needs and preferences should ultimately determine the ideal height for your kitchen design. This article will discuss the factors to consider when determining how high to mount your upper cabinets.

What is the Standard Height for Hanging Upper Kitchen Cabinets?

The standard height for installing upper kitchen cabinets is 18 inches above the countertop, measured from the bottom of the upper cabinet to the top of the countertop below. This means if you have a typical 36-inch high countertop, the bottom of the upper cabinets would be 54 inches off the floor.

This 18-inch height clearance follows the guidelines set by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). It provides enough space under cabinets for most kitchen tasks, while also maximizing storage capacity. The standard kitchen cabinet height also enables the average person to easily reach into the upper cabinets.

Considerations for Hanging Upper Cabinets Higher or Lower

While 18 inches is the standard, you may want to hang your upper cabinets higher or lower based on your personal needs:

Hanging Cabinets Higher

Some reasons to consider mounting cabinets above the 18-inch standard include:

  • For very tall homeowners – If you or other family members are above average height, raising upper cabinets can make access easier. Add a few inches above 18 to better accommodate your stature.
  • High ceilings – If your kitchen has unusually high ceilings, going above 18 inches can help fill the visual space rather than leaving an overly large gap between countertops and cabinets.
  • Add interest – Creating different heights for your upper cabinets can add architectural interest and character to your kitchen design. Just a few inches of variation can make the space more dynamic.
  • Wall ovens or tall appliances – To clear space for a wall oven, microwave, or tall appliance, you may need to hang cabinets higher to leave the required clearance above the appliance(s).

Hanging Cabinets Lower

Some reasons you may want to install upper cabinets below the standard 18 inches include:

  • For accessibility – If any household members are of short stature or use a wheelchair, decreasing upper cabinet height makes access simpler. As little as an inch or two lower can improve reach.
  • Contemporary style – A minimalist, contemporary kitchen might have a sleeker look with shorter clearances between cabinets and countertops. Just avoid going so low that you lose functionality.
  • Smaller room proportions – In a kitchen with lower ceilings, hanging upper cabinets lower can help make the space feel more proportional. Go an inch or two below the standard 18 inches.

Other Height Considerations

Along with the height of the base of your uppers, keep these other vertical measurements in mind:

  • Standard cabinet depths are usually between 12 and 24 inches. Deeper cabinets increase storage but can also reduce accessibility.
  • Maintain at least 18 inches of clear walkway space between countertops and upper cabinets to allow room for tall items.
  • Leave a minimum of 42 inches between countertops and the bottoms of upper cabinets if you have high-sided cookware that requires ventilation space.
  • Consider the height of light fixtures or vents – be sure upper cabinets will not block necessary overhead elements.

Achieving the Right Height

When preparing to hang your upper cabinets, follow these tips:

  • Mark carefully measured lines on your wall to guide installation at your ideal height. Use a level for accuracy.
  • Most cabinets have adjustable shelves, allowing you to place them at effective levels after you set the hanging height.
  • Work with an experienced kitchen installer if you lack expertise hanging cabinets and installing supporting hardware securely. Improper installation can make cabinets unstable.
  • Consider the thickness of flooring materials – your cabinet installer may need to account for the flooring height so cabinets align properly with countertops.


The standard recommendation for upper kitchen cabinet installation height is 18 inches above your countertop – a good guideline to ensure functionality and accessible storage. However, your kitchen layout, personal ergonomics, and style preferences should ultimately inform the ideal upper cabinet height for your unique space. Mark cabinet positions carefully, verify alignments, and work with experts as needed to hang your uppers at just the right elevation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hanging Upper Kitchen Cabinets

How high should upper cabinets be above a peninsula?

For a kitchen peninsula, standard height for upper cabinets remains 18 inches above the countertop. The accessible walkway clearance of 15 inches from the countertop to the bottom of cabinets should also be maintained on peninsulas, even if not required by code.

What if my ceilings are higher than 8 feet?

With a ceiling higher than 8 ft, going above 18 inches for upper cabinets can help utilize the extra vertical space. Just don’t go so high that cabinets become difficult to reach. An extra 2 to 4 inches above standard height is usually still functional.

Should I hang wall cabinets lower over the sink?

It’s common to install wall cabinets just 12-15 inches over a sink instead of 18 inches. This limits splashing on the underside of the cabinet. Just be sure there is still adequate clearance under the sink for faucet height.

How do I hang upper cabinets by myself?

It’s best to have two people for safe and easy upper cabinet installation. If working alone, use braces or cleats attached to studs first. Then mount cabinets on the cleats, screwing into them from inside the upper cabinet with an electric screwdriver. Take precautions on a ladder when working overhead alone.

What if cabinet heights are off after installation?

If installed upper cabinets end up slightly higher or lower than your intended height, you can adjust shelf placements to maximize storage and accessibility. Use filler strips or panels for small countertop height gaps. For major height gaps, refitting or reinstalling cabinets may be required.