What’s that thing called? Cabinet Terminology, Part One

August 13, 2016

Thinking about new cabinets? Knowing a little cabinet terminology can make your experience a whole lot easier.

White Shaker cabinets with modern hardware

“I want the thingamabob on the doohicky to look just like the doodads on the whatchamacallit.” Yeah, even if you don’t know the proper cabinet terminology we can usually figure out exactly what you mean. After all, we have been creating custom built cabinet solutions for our customers for a long time now.

No matter what terms you may use, we create three dimensional renderings of our layouts during our design sessions. This allows you to see how it all fits and avoid costly mistakes and misunderstandings before anything is ordered. We pride ourselves on extracting the perfect design for you, from you. No one can design your kitchen better for you than you with the assistance of our design team. Kitchen design, flow and function is different for every family and household.

That being said, we are cabinet design professionals here, and part of our job is educating our customers. To that end, here are some definitions of cabinet terminology you’ll hear used by our designers and installers. We’ll start with the basics today, and get more into the nitty gritty in future articles.

A Note On Measurements: You’ll notice we use qualifiers like “generally” and “usually” when talking about cabinet measurements. Many factors can alter the finished height and depth, especially on custom built cabinets. The thicknesses of your counter tops, the construction and installation methods used and any custom details can all affect the finished sizes. If you’re looking to replace your older cabinets, be sure to have one of our team members come and measure your existing cabinets for free!

Base vs. Wall Cabinets

Let’s start right at the beginning: There are two very simple classifications of cabinets – base cabinets and wall cabinets.

Base Cabinets

Custom cabinet with pull-out storage and distressed finishSometimes called floor or lower cabinets, base cabinets are the lower section of cabinetry that is installed on the floor. Makes sense, right? They are almost always capped off with a countertop of some sort, and are usually 24” deep and 36” high in American kitchens. Bathroom base cabinets (sometimes referred to as a vanity) are generally the same height but only 21” deep.

If your kitchen design incorporates a bar or breakfast area, the finished height can be as high as 42” (bar height) or as low as 30” (table height). When purchasing bar stools or chairs for these areas, check the actual height of your counter. Chairs are made for table height surfaces (about 30” high off of the floor), and bar stools are made for either counter (36”) or bar height (42”).

Wall Cabinets

Glass front cabinets and wine glass rackWall cabinets, also known as upper cabinets, are the cabinets installed on the wall above the base cabinets. Most wall cabinets are around 12” deep, but they can be as shallow as 4” in a smaller bathrooms or as deep as needed for specialty cabinets.

The standard installation height for wall cabinets is around 18” above the finished countertop. Most areas have minimum clearance requirements when wall cabinets are installed above stove tops.

Stay Tuned for More Cabinet Terminology!

Simple, right? We knew you would get it. Be sure to check back soon as we delve into the more complicated aspects of cabinet terminology. If you have any questions, just let us know! We love talking cabinets and sharing our knowledge with our friends and neighbors. Talk to you soon!

Read the other articles in this series: