Extending kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling is a popular design choice that can make a kitchen feel more spacious and complete. Going from standard 8-foot tall cabinets to ceiling height cabinets can add valuable storage space while also creating a built-in, custom look. However, there are several important factors to consider before deciding to run cabinets to the ceiling.

Height of the Ceilings

The most obvious consideration is the actual height of your kitchen’s ceiling. Standard kitchen cabinets are typically 36 inches tall. When installed with a 1.5 inch thick counter and 4 inch backsplash, the total height comes to about 8 feet. So if your kitchen has the standard 8 foot ceiling, running cabinets all the way up will leave no gap.

For 9 foot ceilings, you will have 12 inches of space above the cabinets. With 10 foot ceilings, there will be 24 inches of space showing. And in rooms with vaulted ceilings, the gap above the tops of the cabinets could be several feet.

Consider whether you want to fill the entire space between the countertops and ceiling with cabinetry, or leave an intentional gap. Leaving some space can make the room feel more open and airy. Filling the whole space creates more of an enclosed, built-in look.

Measuring Ceiling Height

When calculating ceiling height:

  • Measure from the finished floor to the actual ceiling, not just to the bottom of ceiling trim or crown molding.
  • Look for any soffits, beams, or ductwork that hang below the main ceiling level. Adjust your measurements accordingly.
  • Account for any lighting fixtures that will hang down below the ceiling.

Make several measurements around the room since ceiling heights can vary. Use the lowest height to determine your maximum cabinet size.

Considering Other Design Elements

If leaving a gap between the tops of the cabinets and ceiling, also think about what will go in that space. For example:

  • Crown molding or other trim details
  • Decorative corbels, brackets or valances
  • Floating shelves
  • Artwork or decorative wallpaper
  • Pendant lights or recessed lighting

Any of these elements will visually fill the gap so it doesn’t just look like bare wall space.

Structural Considerations

Extending tall cabinets all the way to the ceiling involves more than just ordering cabinets in a larger size. The additional height and weight requires proper structural support.

Wall Strength

Walls need to be sturdy enough to handle the load of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry. This is especially important for upper cabinets that will be filled with dishes, glasses, and other items. Make sure walls are securely attached to studs or other solid structural framing.

Drywall anchors alone are usually not sufficient to hold extremely tall cabinets weighed down with contents. Taller cabinets may also require additional middle supports for stability. Consult with a contractor if you have any concerns about the existing wall strength.

Ceiling Clearance

Check that the ceiling structure has enough clearance for tall cabinets. In homes with closed soffits or bulkheads, the accessible space may max out before reaching the actual ceiling. Any ductwork, pipes, or wiring encroaching into the space must also be accounted for.

Modifications and Adjustments

Some situations may call for modifications like trimming ceiling height doors or relocating overhead lights to accommodate taller cabinets. Upper cabinets mounted on end walls often need to be set over a bit to allow clearance for the cabinet doors to fully open.

Identify any potential clearance issues beforehand to minimize construction hassles down the road. It’s much easier to shift cabinet locations on a blueprint than after they are installed.

Storage Considerations

One of the biggest appeals of taller cabinets is gaining extra storage space. But that storage space needs to be functional, not just empty void. Assess your organizational needs before finalizing cabinet heights.


Add adjustable shelves at varying heights inside the cabinets to actually utilize all the space. Upper cabinets should have shelves no more than 18 inches apart to maximize usability. At wider measurements, items in the back can be hard to reach.

Take inventory of your tallest dishes, drinkware, and pantry items and adjust shelf spacing accordingly. A few specialty deep shelves for baking sheets, stand mixers, and other bulky appliances are also handy.

Roll-Out Shelves

Roll-out shelves and drawer inserts also help capitalize on every inch of space in floor-to-ceiling cabinets. They allow you to easily see and access items tucked in the very back of deep cabinet boxes.

Consider roll outs for base cabinets that tend to collect a jumbled assortment of pots and pans. They make it much easier to organize and access those items.

Easy Accessibility

Pay attention to cabinet interior heights and depths in relation to your height. Can you comfortably reach the top shelf, or will you need a step stool every time? Are standard depth base cabinets deep enough to store large platters and serving bowls?

Test out sample cabinets in the showroom to identify any potential reach issues. Optimize storage spaces based on your physical abilities, not just the height of the room.

Built-In Ladders

For two-story height kitchens or incredibly tall pantries, built-in ladders allow safe access to top shelves. Track mounted ladders slide side-to-side, while ladder pulls fold down from the underside of a shelf. Both options can blend seamlessly into cabinetry with minimal visual impact.

Aesthetic Considerations

While extra storage space tends to be the primary motivation for extending cabinets to the ceiling, aesthetics are also a major factor. The look should complement your overall kitchen design.

Light and Airy vs Sleek and Enclosed

Leaving an intentional gap between the cabinet tops and ceiling creates a lighter, more spacious aesthetic. The gap allows you to incorporate additional design elements like beams, trim, lighting, or wallpaper. Extending cabinetry fully to the ceiling gives a more streamlined, built-in appearance. Consider the look and feel you want to achieve.

Door Styles and Details

Simple slab cabinet doors help keep the look streamlined and modern. More ornate door styles like inset panels or glass fronts fit better with traditional decors. Iron lattice and punched tin inserts add a rustic farmhouse vibe. Pay attention to door style proportions – overly busy patterns or massive amounts of intricate detailing can feel overwhelming when scaled to ceiling height.

Finish Colors and Textures

Neutral cabinet colors like white, gray, and ivory work well for a light and airy aesthetic. Bolder hues make more of a statement but can also feel imposing at extreme heights. Natural woodgrain finishes bring warmth. Mixing finishes, like a painted base with stained uppers, adds visual interest. Take material texture into consideration too. Glossy finishes expand space while matte surfaces feel more intimate.

Vertical Lines and Patterns

Wallpaper, tile, or other vertical elements aligned with the cabinetry draw the eye up and down to emphasize the feeling of height. Wide horizontal strips or patterns can actually make the space feel shorter. Vertical lines also have a slimming effect compared to wide horizontal bands.


Proper lighting is key when working with an all-vertical wall of cabinetry. LED tape lighting illuminates inside the cabinets for easy visibility. Under cabinet lighting casts a glow on the counter work area. Ambient ceiling lights, chandeliers, and decorative wall sconces provide overall illumination. Carefully placed lighting ensures the towering cabinets don’t leave the room feeling too dark and enclosed.

Cost Factors

Not surprisingly, extending kitchen cabinets to the ceiling impacts the bottom line. Additional materials, modifications, and specialty storage elements increase costs.

Cabinet Requirements

Taller cabinet boxes, wider face frame pieces, and more shelf material inherently add cost compared to standard sizes. Specialty organizational features like roll outs, ladders, and custom inserts add even more. Opt for budget friendly stock cabinets sizes when possible.

Design and Installation

Modifications to the surrounding walls, ceiling, and floorplan to accommodate taller cabinets also bump up the price tag. Custom designed cabinets require extra time to engineer precise dimensions. Professional installation expertise is a must for safely securing the tall structures.

Moldings and Details

Fancy trim finishes like crown moldings, accent lighting, and other built-ins push the design beyond basic boxes. While beautiful, these details can rack up costs quickly. Prioritize must-have features over purely decorative add-ons.

Appliances and Fixtures

If increasing cabinet heights requires shifting or altering the locations of lighting, vents, utilities, or appliances, additional costs arise. Appliance extensions, plumbing or electrical work, and buying new fixtures or appliances can all contribute to a growing bill.

Careful planning and selective splurges help control costs. Focus investment pieces on functional storage options and necessary structural modifications.

Considerations By Cabinet Location

Different locations around the kitchen present unique factors to weigh when considering extended cabinet heights.

Upper Wall Cabinets

The most common place to extend cabinets is on upper wall sections. This adds storage without impeding counters and workflow zones.

  • Check for ceiling clearance and conflicts with ceiling lights or vents
  • Account for needed space to fully open cabinet doors
  • Make sure walls have adequate structural support
  • Add roll-outs and deep shelves to maximize usable space

Pantry Cabinets

Floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinetry transforms wasted overhead space into a customized storage zone.

  • Optimize interior storage with a mix of shelves, drawers and pull-outs
  • Incorporate specialty organizer features like spice racks, tiered shelving and slide-out trays
  • Install integrated ladders or lifts for ergonomic access to top shelves
  • Pay attention to door size and clearance to avoid limiting storage capacity

Peninsula Cabinets

Extending peninsula cabinets vertically defines the boundary between kitchen zones.

  • Use taller heights to differentiate main kitchen peninsula from a dining or entertaining peninsula
  • Visually anchor peninsula cabinets to the ceiling instead of leaving a gap
  • Make sure adequate walkway clearance remains on both sides

Full Height Base Cabinets

Increasing base cabinet size all the way to the countertop maximizes storage closest to meal prep zones.

  • Check that cabinet depths accommodate large, bulky pots and pans
  • Make sure tall doors and drawers can open fully without hitting adjacent cabinets
  • Consider roll-outs, organizers and specialty inserts to optimize interior space

Built-In Refrigerators

Integrating refrigeration into floor-to-ceiling cabinetry creates a sleek, built-in look.

  • Select counter-depth or custom size refrigerator models that align with cabinet dimensions
  • Ensure adequate ventilation for refrigeration systems
  • Design cabinet facade trim details to match surrounding cabinetry

Full Height Backsplashes

Tiling from countertop to ceiling makes a dramatic statement in place of a standard 4-6 inch backsplash.

  • Use waterproof, durable tile materials suitable for wet areas
  • Incorporate decorative inlays, mosaic designs, or etching to add visual interest
  • Address transitions from tile to ceiling through trim details or caulking

Answering Key Questions

Still debating whether to extend your kitchen cabinets all the way up? These key questions can help guide your decision making process.

Is there adequate structural support?

Existing walls and ceilings need to be strong enough to handle the load of floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Improvements may be needed to provide adequate reinforcement.

Do I really need more storage capacity?

More height doesn’t automatically equal more usable space. Make sure you can comfortably access and utilize potential new storage zones.

Will the look complement my design style?

The aesthetic impact can be dramatic. Make sure the enclosed feeling or modern sleekness matches your overall kitchen decor goals.

What extra costs am I willing to take on?

From cabinet materials to structural changes to trim details, going to the ceiling impacts budgets. Determine must-have features versus nice-to-have add-ons.

Will the room feel dark and cramped?

Proper lighting and finishes choices help avoid an imposing or intimidating look. Leaving an intentional gap instead of filling the entire space also aids openness.

Can I install cabinets myself or do I need to hire a pro?

Due to structural modifications and installation challenges, professional expertise is highly recommended for floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinetry.

Final Thoughts

Extending kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling can help maximize every inch of available space. But it also impacts aesthetics and functionality. Carefully consider ceiling height, storage needs, design style, budget, and structural factors when deciding if it’s the right choice for your kitchen. Proper planning and smart design ensure the end result feels fully integrated rather than uncomfortably overwhelming. With attention to all the necessary details, floor-to-ceiling cabinetry creates a custom look full of storage possibilities.