Running Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling: What to Consider

Extending kitchen cabinets all the way up to the ceiling is an increasingly popular design choice that can make a kitchen feel more spacious and modern. Here is an in-depth guide covering everything you need to know about Running Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling: What to Consider.

Introduction to Ceiling Height Cabinets

Running cabinets to the ceiling, also known as ceiling height or full-height cabinets, removes the gap that typically exists between the top of the upper cabinets and the ceiling. This gives the illusion of higher ceilings and creates a streamlined, built-in aesthetic.

There are several benefits to using full-height cabinets:

  • Makes the kitchen appear larger and more open
  • Provides abundant storage space
  • Creates a cleaner, more integrated look
  • Easier to keep dust and grease from collecting on top of cabinets
  • Gives the kitchen a more custom, high-end look

However, there are also a few potential drawbacks:

  • Cabinets can be harder to reach and access
  • Installation is more complex
  • Won’t work with low ceiling heights
  • Limits options for lighting and crown molding

Overall, extending cabinets to the ceiling is a great option for contemporary, minimalist kitchens with higher ceilings. Careful planning is needed to make sure it is executed properly.

Benefits of Ceiling Height Cabinets

Reaching the ceiling with your kitchen cabinets offers several advantages:

  • Creates an upscale built-in appearance
  • Provides substantially more storage space
  • Enhances visual flow and openness
  • Makes small kitchens feel more expansive
  • No visible “dead space” above cabinets
  • Accommodates tall or awkward items
  • Allows for taller upper cabinets overall
  • More space for crown molding, trim and lighting

Maximizing vertical storage reduces visual clutter for a streamlined look.

Planning Considerations for Ceiling Height Cabinets

Installing Running Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling requires more forethought compared to standard cabinetry. Here are some key factors to consider during the planning process:

Ceiling Height

The most obvious consideration is whether your ceiling height accommodates full-height cabinets. Standard kitchen cabinets are 30-36 inches tall. Ceiling height kitchens can be 42 inches or taller.

As a general guideline:

  • 8 foot ceilings – Probably too low for full-height cabinets. Stick with standard sized cabinetry.
  • 9 foot ceilings – Full-height cabinets may be possible, depending on cabinet design. Measure carefully.
  • 10 foot or higher ceilings – No problem accommodating cabinets up to the ceiling. Gives you plenty of design flexibility.

Make sure to measure ceiling height carefully, accounting for soffits, ductwork or pipes that encroach into the space. Also measure window heights – you don’t want cabinets conflicting with tops of windows.

Cabinet Design

Think about how you want the full-height cabinets to look:

  • Filler panels – Simplest option. Attach a filler panel above the cabinet to reach the ceiling. Provides a clean, seamless look.
  • Integrated cabinetry – Continue the cabinetry all the way up. More complex installation but gives a true custom look.
  • Open shelving – Use floating shelves above the cabinets to create an airy, open aesthetic.

Also consider door design. Will upper doors be functional or just for looks? Glass door cabinets maintain visibility and light.

Lighting and Molding

Determine how lighting and trim will be impacted by removing the cabinet/ceiling gap:

  • For under-cabinet lighting, consider LED vertical light strips adjacent to full-height cabinets.
  • Ceiling mounted pots lights may need to be repositioned or converted to recessed lighting.
  • Crown molding can only be used at the room perimeter and not between cabinets and ceiling.

Structural Elements

Watch for potential conflicts with ductwork, plumbing, ceiling joists, or pipes. Adjust cabinet height and filler panel size to accommodate obstructions. Consider soffits or dropped ceilings if needed.


Full-height cabinets are more expensive than standard cabinets due to increased materials, more complex installation, the need for professional expertise, and potentially modifying lighting or electrical. Be sure to budget accordingly.

Design Options for Full-Height Cabinets

Once you’ve determined full-height cabinets will work for your kitchen, there are many stylish design options to consider:

Minimalist Look

Creating a slick, contemporary look with full-height cabinets is easy to achieve. Keep the cabinetry streamlined and accessorize minimally. Choose sleek hardware and modern fixtures. Opt for handle-less cabinet doors. Stick with a muted, neutral color scheme for cabinets/walls.

Rustic Vibe

The unfinished look of wood filler panels and open shelving has a great rustic vibe. Opt for exposed hinges and visible nail heads on cabinet doors. Add wrought iron accents. Use dimmable Edison bulbs or pendant lighting.

Glass Cabinets

Incorporating glass cabinet doors above and below maintains visibility while still extending all the way up. The transparency creates an airier look. Glass fronts also showcase items like collectibles or dishware.

Mirrored Cabinets

For a glam or retro vibe, use mirrored cabinets above and below. The reflected light makes the kitchen brighter and appear larger. Consider bold colors like glossy red or green.

Shelving Ladder

A fixed or sliding library ladder adds great function and character. Made of wood or metal, it provides access to top shelves. Perfect for a cottage kitchen motif.

Open Shelving

Floating shelves mounted above standard cabinets create an light, unencumbered aesthetic. Stagger shelves at different heights for display space. Looks great with exposed brick walls.

Tips for Implementing Ceiling Height Cabinets

Running Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling takes skill to get right. Here are tips to ensure your full-height cabinets are functional and look amazing:

  • Hire an experienced kitchen remodeling contractor familiar with ceiling height cabinet installation. Their expertise is invaluable.
  • Carefully measure and lay out the cabinetry design. Double check for potential issues with windows, lighting, trim work, and ceiling obstructions.
  • Stock up on sturdy step stools and ladders. You’ll need them to easily access top shelves. Consider pull-out shelves for base cabinets.
  • Make sure glass and mirrored cabinet doors can be reached for cleaning. Install them at reachable heights.
  • Use lighting strategically, like LED strips, to illuminate inside hard to see top cabinets.
  • Incorporate deeper wall cabinets with either adjustable shelves or roll out shelves to maximize vertical storage.
  • Handle ventilation properly so humidity and grease don’t collect on top of full-height cabinets.
  • Attach any filler panels securely to both the cabinet top and ceiling with adhesive and screws to prevent sagging over time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Full-Height Kitchen Cabinets

Many homeowners have additional questions about utilizing ceiling height cabinets in their kitchen design. Here are answers to some of the most common inquiries:

Are ceiling height kitchen cabinets more expensive?

Yes, extending cabinets all the way to the ceiling typically adds cost for materials, installation labor, modifying lighting, and other expenses. It requires greater expertise. Overall costs can be 15-30% higher than standard cabinetry.

How high are ceiling height kitchen cabinets?

Standard upper cabinets are typically between 30-36 inches tall. Full-height cabinets are typically 42 inches or taller in order to reach standard 8 ft ceilings. Variable refrigerator cabinet heights may also be needed.

Can you put crown molding on ceiling height cabinets?

Unfortunately crown molding does not work with full-height cabinets, since there is no gap between the cabinet top and ceiling. Perimeter trim around the room edges can still be used.

Should upper or lower cabinets be darker?

This is an aesthetic choice, but often lower cabinets are in darker tones, while uppers are lighter. The darker lower cabinets ground the space. Lighter upper cabinets draw the eyes up and make the room feel airier.

How deep are standard kitchen cabinets?

Basic kitchen cabinets are typically 24 inches deep and 25 inches deep for larger appliances. Full-height cabinets can utilize deeper box dimensions up to 36 inches to maximize interior storage space.

Can you put cabinets over a refrigerator?

Yes, with careful planning cabinets can be installed over the refrigerator. The refrigerator cabinet needs to be properly sized to account for ducting. Filler panels may be required.


Implementing Running Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling can provide a beautiful, storage-rich kitchen design when done properly. With good planning to address ceiling height, lighting, trim work, and cabinet accessibility, full-height cabinets create a custom, built-in look. Hire experienced kitchen professionals, utilize smart storage solutions, and choose attractive finish options for ceiling height cabinets optimized to suit your lifestyle and aesthetic.