They are standard sizes and practices used in commercial and residential construction. They define the most commonly used materials, practices, spacing, and measurements in all architectural parts of a project. You’ll find an excellent reference guide to residential standards under Resources at the bottom of the page.
Every day we use many common measurements. We sometimes look them up. At times we even make them up. And this is where you might get into trouble. It is important to train and educate your staff and crews on the standards that you expect them to use on the job. Would you want one carpenter to install a toilet paper holder at 20” off the floor and 24” off the back wall, and yet another install one at 30” AFF and 36” off the back wall? It seems like a small thing, but standards can reduce mistakes, improve the convenience to your clients, and will make it clear to your crews what graphic standards they are expected to use.
Here are some standard kitchen measurements and terms that kitchen and bath designers use in most of the USA:
You’ll find that many cabinet manufacturers build their cabinets in 3” increments. The smallest will usually start at 9” wide, used in many tray base cabinets. From there they increase to 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, and 48 inches.
A 36” base cabinet will accommodate a standard double sink, which is 33” x 22”.
Cabinets that are under 24” wide usually have only one door. If the cabinet is 24” wide, you should specify whether to use one or two doors. 27” and wider cabinets usually have two doors.
There are three basic types of cabinets:
- Base cabinets that sit on the floor
- Wall cabinets that are hung on the wall
- Tall cabinets, sometimes called pantry cabinets. Some tall cabinets or combination of cabinets extend to the top of the wall cabinets.
Typically base cabinets are 34 ½” high and are 24” deep, from the face frame to the back of the cabinet. The depth does not include the door, which may be a full or partial overlay door, or a flush door with exposed hinges.
If a desk is used in a kitchen, many times it is 21” deep, which is typical of a vanity base cabinet depth. Vanity base cabinets can also be found that are 18” deep for special situations. Vanities base cabinet height used to be as low as 30” AFF. Now most are the same as kitchen base cabinets, 36” high.
The depth of wall cabinets is typically 12” deep. The wall cabinet box standard heights are 30”, 36”, and 42”. A 42” wall cabinet will extend to the ceiling when set 18” above the countertop in a kitchen with 8’ ceilings. In the 60’s and 70’s, builders used 30” wall cabinets and built a sofftit above to “dress” it up and prevent dust collection. This is rarely done now, and spaces are either left open or the cabinets extend to the ceiling.
The standard space between the base cabinet countertop and the bottom of the wall cabinet is usually 18”. This space will accommodate almost appliances that are made to sit on the countertop, such as microwave ovens, coffee makers, and food processors.
The standard tall cabinets are 72”, 84”, and 96” high. A 96” tall cabinet will probably ship with a detached base so that you can install it in a kitchen with 8’ ceiling without damaging the ceiling finish. For 9’ and 10’ ceiling, additional wall cabinets may be stacked in order to extend to the ceiling. For example, in a kitchen with 9’ ceiling you might use a 36” wall cabinet and place a 12” cabinet on top of it, or a 30” wall cabinet with an 18” cabinet on top of the 30”.
Here is a graphic that shows the typical standards of cabinets in the USA.
And some bathroom standards:
Doors and drawers come in many styles. I won’t attempt to name them here. I’ll merely mention the basic types of doors. Doors may be mounted flush with the face of the cabinet frame, called an inset mount. These will be hung with either an invisible hinge or a decorative exposed hinge, looking like fine antique furniture.
When they are mounted on the face of the frame they are called overlay doors. Less expensive cabinets use a partial overlay door that do not extend to the outer edges of the frame. A full overlay door extends almost to the edge of the frame, so that you will barely see any of the frame. Sometimes this is called a European style.
There is an on-going debate which frame style is best. An American traditional cabinet is usually a framed cabinet, while the European or modern cabinet styles are made framelessly. A framed cabinet has a box, and on the outside of the box a frame is attached. The frame members are typically 1 ½” wide x ¾” thick, and surround the entire perimeter of the box. There may be a frame piece between each door and drawer.
A frameless cabinet is merely a box with a back. It has no frame attached to the face. Instead the box edges are “banded” or covered with either a melamine strip or wood veneer. Both are good designs, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Don’t dwell on it too long unless you are planning on building cabinets. If you are, think long and hard. The edge-bander for frameless cabinet manufacturing is quite expensive, yet once you set up you can begin a very efficient production process. Framed, on the other hand, does not have a lot of start up costs, yet is labor intensive. Also you have to look at what is acceptable in your neck of the woods.
Those are a few graphic standards for kitchens. It is probably just a refresher course for most of you. If you are new to cabinets, I hope this gives you a quick look at what you need to know if you are going to build or design kitchens and baths.
This discussion centers around stock or semi-custom cabinetry. A custom cabinet shop will build anything you can dream up. Many times, especially in older homes, you need custom work. Older homes’ window and door openings were not laid out for modern cabinetry, so it is likely that you will need to have them custom built. There are also many semi-custom manufacturers that will fit most of your needs.
Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall
Randall S Soules
Remodeling coach, adviser, and educator
My one-on-one coaching will take your remodeling business to new heights!
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