Installing Kitchen Cabinets – To the Ceiling Or Leave a Space?

Should you install kitchen cabinets right to the ceiling or leave a space? This is a common question that most homeowners struggle with. There is no right or wrong answer to the question, but there are some challenges and design features to consider

1) The height of your ceilings- ceiling height will not only have an impact on whether you will have enough room to leave a space above your cabinets, but it will also impact the size cabinets you can use. With 30″ wall cabinets, if you use the industry standard of 19 1/2″ between your base and wall cabinets, you will need a minimum of 84″ in height, and with 42″ cabinets you will need a minimum of 96″… if you planning on installing crown moulding or leaving a space, that will have an impact on the size of the cabinets that you can use and whether you will have to install them to the ceiling or leave a space

2) Contour of the ceiling- one of the biggest misconceptions is that your ceiling is completely level. Even in new construction the ceiling, just like the floor, will have some variances in height (the better the builder, the more accurate they will be). While it may not be obvious when just looking at your ceiling, trying to install cabinets right up the ceiling can reveal some significant high and low spots. Since your cabinets should always be level, regardless of the ceiling conditions, you will want to accurately note all of the high and low spots before deciding how you are going to install the kitchen cabinets. This is one of the reasons that most people leave some empty space above the cabinets or use crown moulding. The crown moulding can help hide all the imperfections in the ceiling.

3) Crown Moulding and Trim- As I mentioned before, it may be necessary to use crown or trim above your kitchen cabinets to help hide any variances. Even if your ceilings are level, it is quite common for people to use crown moulding or trim at the top of the cabinets to add some architectural detail to the kitchen. Depending on whether the crown moulding has to be attached to the top of the cabinets or to the face frame, it will have an impact on what level you can install your cabinets at.

4) The style of your kitchen cabinets- with European-style cabinets and some of the newer trends on the market, the kitchen cabinets have a full overlay door, which means there is little or no room between the door and the top of the cabinet. Because of this, it make it difficult to install the wall cabinets right up to the ceiling.

So before shopping for kitchen cabinets, it is important to consider the look that you are going for, the style of cabinets that you are going to buy, and the condition of the space you will be installing them in.