Bathroom Cabinet Height:  How to Avoid a Big Mistake

When you’re building or remodeling a house you will be faced with seemingly insignificant decisions like bathroom cabinet height.  But your decisions will have a big impact on your overall bathroom design and the value of your house. If this is the first article you’re reading on this subject I’ll try to keep it simple. If this is one many articles you’ve read, I’ll try to shed some additional light on the subject.

The Progression of Bathroom Cabinet Heights

Back in the day standard bathroom cabinets were either 29”** or 30”** inches tall. Later this standard changed to 32”** tall which sets the finished cabinet at about 32.5”. Depending on the age of your house, you may have several different heights of cabinets.  The standard height has been steadily increasing probably as a result of the average human height steadily increasing.  As a last note, bathroom cabinets are usually 21” deep. This is compared to kitchen cabinets which are typically 24” deep.

The 34” Standard

Today, the standard (I use standard loosely) of most cabinet builders is 34″** which puts the finished height of the cabinets at about 34.5″. My visit to the local Home Depot to do some measuring confirmed this. I’m 5’10” and consider myself an average height guy and I find this cabinet/counter height to be perfect for me. Interestingly, I saw a drawing on the packaging of a 34″** bathroom vanity picturing a 5’3” woman to demonstrate ergonomic comfort. All that said, what is perfect for me or a 5’3” woman may not be perfect for you, your family, your kids or any special situations you might have. You will see cabinet heights all over the map. I found a few at 33.5 inches**, most at 34 inches**, and some at 34.5 inches**.   The big idea here is MOST were 34 inches**. Bathroom Cabinet Height** This is the measured cabinet height. Cabinets are usually set on the subfloor and the finished floor is laid around the cabinets in essence sinking them into the floor a slightly. This height doesn’t include the counter top which adds about 1”/1.5” to the total height. The finished cabinet is approximately .5” higher than the actual measured cabinet height. This fluctuation is related to the thicknesses of the materials you use for the floor and the countertop.  It will vary depending on the materials you’re using for your flooring, your counter top and the countertop preparation.  You need to consider all this when planning.

Things to Think About

  1. Finished Height is What Matters – (See Diagram Above) The measured height of the cabinet is just a starting point. Will the cabinet be set on the subfloor or the finished floor? How thick will the material be on the countertop? All of this should not change things too much but consider it to make sure the FINISHED HEIGHT is within your range.
  2. Resale Value – Every realtor has an opinion about what enhancements will have the biggest resale price impact.  Improving the price of your home will depend on how many potential buyers are happy with your upgrades. So even though 30” cabinets might be great for you and your two little ones, it might not have been the best choice when it comes time to sell your home. Just something to think about.
  3. Aesthetics – Certain heights just look right. If you have 10’ ceilings lower cabinets don’t look appropriately sized for the room. My opinion but ultimately your call.
  4. Design Compatibility – This is one of those areas where you really need to think through the design of your bathroom. Consider how things will function once the room is complete.  Make sure to check clearances on everything.  Spending extra time considering every detail will save you a lot of headaches later. For example, if you open your medicine cabinet door and it hits the top of your beautiful new faucet it will be an expensive and time consuming problem to solve.
  5. Special Needs – You and your family may have special needs. If this is the case it might override any of the previous considerations.
  6. Raising Existing Cabinets – I have on occasion increased the height of existing low cabinets to a standard 34” height. It requires removing everything and replacing it after putting down a framed “spacer”.  It involves a lot of labor and sometimes you cannot remove things without damaging them which means higher costs.

The NET NET

The bathroom cabinet height you choose is entirely up to you.  There is really no RIGHT or WRONG height but there may be some options that better suit you, your family and your goals.  I hope this helped you make your decision.  Happy bathroom designing.