Upper Cabinet Height Standard

Conventions and codes for upper cab height have changed over the years, with some practical implications. July 28, 2012

Are most people still at 52 inches or have they moved to 54 inches for upper cabinet height standard?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor Z:
54” for me.

From contributor W:
With some of the large ranges in kitchens today, 54" is sometimes a code requirement on wall cabinets next to range hood.

From contributor M:
54" has always been the standard.

From contributor D:
I have never heard of 52” for a standard height.

From contributor S:
54 1/8” for me so that 18" of tile fits with no trimming.

From contributor Y:
Building codes require that the appliance installation instructions be followed for clearance from the range or cook top to the bottom of the uppers. This is usually a minimum of 18" which puts you at least 54" for the bottom of your wall cabs.

From contributor V:
There’s nothing worse than a client not being able to put their mixer on the counter under their uppers for storage. I have had to raise cabs that others have put in and have learned this before I made a similar mistake.

From contributor K:
In older homes, circa 1950's and previous, it was more common than you'd think to find houses with ceiling heights less than 96". Additionally, these older homes do not always have level rooms anymore, and if crown is involved it’s another story. So, if you are installing prefab cabs with preset heights that did not take this into account, you work with what you have under grandfathered site conditions, or you make up for them by adjusting the height of the cab. I've been in homes where they reduced the toe-kick to make up for it, but 18" is the standard for ergonomic reasons. You also need to take into account the customer.

From contributor O:
What about the light valance? Do you include it in the 18"? So with a 2" valance your uppers are actually at 56" AFF? I do not include it so often my finished opening height or clearance above a range (to the sides) is only 16" to the valance.

From the original questioner:
Contributor O - our cabinets are built with 1" of the FF lower than the bottom for a natural light rail, valance. I bought this company two years ago and they have always set them at 52". We finished a job a month ago and were required to come back and raise the microwave above the range to 18". This was what made me wonder. We will be changing our practices and setting at 18" from now on.

From contributor J:
I have a remodel coming up where the couple wants all the uppers lowered 3" as there both short, and can't reach the second shelf in the kitchen. The cabinet maker (who is a good friend) set the uppers at 55". It's a strange job, where they want the entire kitchen changed around, cabinets lowered, stove moved, knotty alder cabinets painted white. They just bought the house, it's brand new and the cabinets are fantastic and built by a great cabinetmaker.

From contributor T:
52" was standard for many, many years. For at least the last 30 years it has been 54". I don't know what specifically caused the change, but 99% of all counter-top appliances (blenders, etc.) still fit under 52" high upper cabinets.

From contributor P:
In Ontario it's 54" or 18" above stove or countertop. We just leave valance off until final inspection is done.