Full video tutorial: raising kitchen cabinets to the ceiling to add space for open storage underneath.
See how I raised our kitchen cabinets to the ceiling and added a floating shelf underneath to maximize storage space in our small kitchen.
Making the kitchen work for us has been a real struggle in this house. After I banished all of my baking supplies to a cabinet in the dining room, I was still struggling with a lack of counter top and work space.
In a small 1940s kitchen, space is at a premium. Our kitchen cabinets didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, leaving about a foot of wasted vertical space up top. After contemplating different scenarios involving extra cubbies or mini cabinets up top, I decided that the best approach would be to raise the cabinets to the ceiling.
This project was just one step of our complete kitchen makeover done on a teeny-tiny $350 budget.
Upper Cabinet Height
Before, the clearance between the counter top and the bottom of the cabinets was 16 inches. After raising the cabinets, that clearance increased to 27 1/2 inches. That left plenty of space to add a floating shelf below for open storage.
How to raise kitchen cabinets
Do you know how most upper cabinets are attached to a wall? Before tackling this project, I envisioned complex adhesive and hardware galore. Boy was I wrong! I was shocked to discover that the only thing holding up this set of cabinets is a handful of screws. That’s it!
What you’ll need:
- an extra set of hands
- drill and drill bit for your cabinet screws
- length of 1×4 board (or similar) to use as a ledger
Here’s how it’s done. Watch the video below for a full walk-through of how I raised our cabinets:
- To prep, you’ll want to completely empty the cabinets and remove the doors. I had already removed the doors, since we painted the kitchen cabinets at the same time.
- Identify the screws attaching your cabinet to the wall. There will either be 2 or 4 screws into a stud, depending on the size of the cabinet. I had to use a special square drill bit on my cabinets, so make sure you have the right kind of drill bit.
- While someone else steadies the cabinet box, unscrew the screws from the wall. This sounds really scary, but my dad and I were able to do this with no problem. The empty cabinet frames are actually quite lighter than I was expecting them to be.
- Once you decide how far up the wall you want to move your cabinets, use the level to mark off the new height on the wall. Identify the original screw holes, and the measure straight up using the level. You may not want to go all the way to the ceiling, since not all ceiling are level. I left about a 1.5-inch gap and will add trim later.
- Grab a scrap 1×4 or similar to use as a ledger. Screw this ledger board into the wall at your new upper cabinet height.
- Using your helper, raise the cabinet back up, resting the box on the ledger board. While your helper secures the cabinet box, drill the screws back into the wall. I drilled pilot holes straight through the holes in the back of the cabinet box, and then I added the screws.
- I can’t tell you how easy this project was. I’m so glad I did it.
- Some people may be worried about the cabinet height being too tall. Full disclosure, I am 5′ 7″ and I can still easily reach the bottom cabinet shelf. I keep a step stool handy in the kitchen so I can reach the upper shelves.
- I was able to add an open shelf 8-9 inches inches under the raised cabinets for additional storage space. Since counter top space is at a premium in our small kitchen, it’s nice to have the open shelf available when I’m doing food prep. I’ll often rest my recipe on the open shelf, or use the additional horizontal space as a landing spot when I’m trying to keep my counter space clear.
I still need to add trim at the top, between the cabinets and the ceiling, but for now I’m just so happy to have a bright and open kitchen.
Don’t forget to pin this Kitchen Cabinet DIY for later: