Counter, Range Hood, and Cabinet Clearances

      Cabinet clearances around ranges and hoods can get tricky when under-cabinet lighting enters the picture. December 27, 2008

We are starting to have a problem with inspectors regarding the clearance from countertop to bottom of upper cabinets on each side of a hood. We know that 18" is the standard, but we are having problems with the decreased clearance after we install a light valance/rail for undercabinet lighting.

It is not an issue with some inspectors, while others make it one. Jacking up stock pantry cabinets makes the toe uneven when in line with other cabinets. Soffits become an issue if an optional light rail package is purchased (especially since we work mostly in tracts). Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor S:
If your cabinet design fits the range manufactures specs there should not be an issue. Have the range installation specs on site so the inspectors can see what is required for clearance. Most ranges only have vertical clearance specs, but some manufactures also have additional side clearances that do affect light rails. These problems should be taken into account in the design phase.

I do installations in the Aspen area and I have seen inspectors make contractors put metal with air space around cabinets that encroach on clearances. If you are not designing the cabinet package inform your designer of the problem.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for responding. That actually has worked on custom, individual jobs. We are a high volume tract dealer/installer occasionally doing customs. We have seen designs where smaller cabinets are designed in each side of the hood that are less tall, but this necessitates the outboard cabinets being deeper to accept the light rail - causing price and possibly more soffit (depth) problems. Jacking up uppers 2 or 2-1/2" inches for light rail makes stock pantry and oven cabinets a problem - nobody makes them 2 - 2-1/2" taller.

Imagine the toe kick variances. 57" or more off the floor puts the second shelf out of reach for shorter homeowners. We got stuck a couple of times in the past after we had already installed and actually cut the light rail back 8-3/8" from the upper finished ends to satisfy the inspector and manufacture's specs. You can imagine what that looks like - but it meets code.

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