How To Easily Add Height To Your Kitchen Cabinets
Learn how to easily add height to your kitchen cabinets and close in that empty space. An easy project that will make your kitchen feel about 10 feet taller!
Let’s talk about that empty space seen in kitchens. You know…that extra 10-12 inch gap between the top of the cabinets to the ceiling. When it comes to that space, all I have is one little question. Why? Why does this space even exist? Why not just build the cabinets all the way to the ceiling?
So, maybe that was three questions. But I think it’s getting pretty obvious to you that I don’t like that empty space. So I came up with a solution.
If your kitchen has this same empty space, this tutorial is for you! You will learn how to easily add height to your kitchen cabinets while filling in that gap and loving the end result!
Selecting the Right Materials
So let me start by telling you what materials and tools you’ll need to get the same look as I achieved in my kitchen. (disclosure: some affiliate links used )
You will need these building materials:
I also used these tools:
- stud finder
- painting tape
- Kreg Jig
- nail brad gun (with air compressor and nails)
- protective eye wear
- saw (or have home improvement cut for you)
I started by finding all my studs in the ceiling right above my cabinets. I used my stud finder and marked each one with a pencil scribble.
Then I cut my 2 x 2 boards into 12 inch pieces (the height of my gap). Once cut, I used my Kreg Jig to make one screw hole in each end. Then with my drill, I screwed one end into the ceiling (into a stud) and the other end into the top of the cabinet.
This is an important step….remember to take note of the thickness of your front board (that will cover the gap). You want that front board (my MDF) flush with the top of your cabinet all the way to the ceiling. If you are too far back or forward you will not align. I used my level to double check all my support boards when installing into place.
Be sure to mark on the front of the kitchen cabinet where the 2′ x 2′ is located with a piece of painters tape. (I’ll explain why in a minute.)
Here’s what it looked like once I had all the boards installed…
Now it was time to install the MDF on top of the cabinets. I do not own a table saw so I had all my MDF cut at a home improvement store (Lowes).
The cheapest way I found to get all my boards was to buy a 4′ x 8′ sheet. I measured out all the cuts I would need, starting with the longest first.
Here’s a big tip to you! This is the only thing I regret about how I had my MDF cut…I should have had the long boards cut to match the break in my already installed cabinets.
Notice where the arrows are pointing in this picture below.
If I had measured differently, the seams would line up on bottom and top. I feel this would have given the makeover a more professional look.
Of course, I used caulk to smooth and hide any seams but when the light hits it just right you can see it. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me (my husband would say so) but I wanted to offer that tidbit of advice to you. 🙂
So with the cuts made it was time to install the MDF and kiss those gaps goodbye. Remember those little painter tape markers I mentioned earlier? This is where they come into play.
When I placed my MDF on top of the cabinet to block the gap, I also covered up my 2 x 2 supports. So if I didn’t have those markers, I wouldn’t know where to aim my nail brad gun to attach the boards. That’s all I did to install.
I love my nail brad gun and anytime I get to use it, I always have fun!
Once the MDF was up I added all my molding. For my kitchen I only used two different styles of molding but it looks like I actually have three. My crown molding (labeled A) hides where the MDF meets the ceiling and give the cabinets a built-in look.
The smaller, thinner molding (labeled B ) served two purposes. One, to hide the seam where the top of the cabinets meet the MDF. And two, to add a more custom/finished look to the bottom of the cabinets. The top B molding I installed up right but for the bottom I installed upside down.
By flipping the bottom molding, I thought I would get a cohesive look but add a different flare at the same time. 🙂
After everything was installed I went over every single little seam, crevice, and gap and filled it with caulk.
Another little tip: caulk is your friend in this kind of project. It can hide all kinds of little imperfections when cutting molding. Plus it gives strength to those thinner strips of molding (like on the bottom of my cabinets).
I allowed the caulking to dry over night, then I primed and painted and the rest is history!
I will admit for me, the hardest part of this project was my 45 degree angles in the corners. If you don’t have those…you will have this done in a day…..easily! I promise you, if you attempt this tutorial you will discover just how easy it is to add height to your kitchen cabinets.
Your project looks amazing and very professional, I especially like the paint job on cabinets. Thank you, Pat
Thank you so much Pat for your sweet comment! 🙂
I love it! I’m fixing to start my cabinets as well, so this was very useful! Thank you!
Glad to help, Megan. Good luck on your cabinet makeover! 🙂
As I am sitting here at a complete stand still and a case of information overload from the internet, Lowe’s, Home Depot I stumbled on your blog. It was like the Angels came to save me. I’m now up and moving and ready to add the height to my cabinets and start priming. I love the Chelsea Grey and I will use this color as well. I think it will go with my dark distressed floors. I hope to have the results you did. I’ll send pictures soon. Thank you for being my cabinet “Angel”.
Oh yea! I have never been anyone’s cabinet Angel! I can’t wait to see how your cabinets turn out– so please send pictures. Good luck!
I love how you cabinets look! I would love to do that to ours. Did you nail your crown mold and trim directly into the mdf? Also, how did you attach the trim to the bottom of the cabinets, glue or nails? Thanks
Thanks, Kim! Yes, I did nail the crown molding and trim directly to the mdf. I attached the bottom trim with nails too. Hope that helps! 🙂
Thanks so much for you reply, I really want to start this project this weekend:) I have another quick question, when you screwed your 2×2 into the cabinet did it leave the end of the screw sticking out in the top of your cabinet. I was wondering if I could screw up into the support from the inside top of the cabinet.
When I screwed my 2×2’s in, I used my Kreg Jig and that tool helps prevent the screw from going in too deep. So no, I don’t have any screws sticking out in my top cabinets. You could screw going up from the inside, but you will have visible screws showing when you open your cabinets so just be cautious of your placement. 🙂 Good luck and I’d love to hear how it all turns out!
How did you get your 45 degree angles cut? I have those too but I don’t have a good saw at home…..
Lauren, I used a compound miter saw to cut them. Those corners were a little tricky and definitely took some time! 😉
I’m thrilled that I found your site! Your cabinets look awesome! I have hideous 80’s cabinets (laminate with oak trim) and a bulkhead overtop the cabinets. I plan to paint the cabinets and use molding on the bulkhead. Can tell me the names of the molding that you used, Style A and Style B? The quick links in your description no longer work. Thanks!
Hi Dana! Thank you so much for letting my know the links were no longer working! I have updated the post. If you click on the Style A and Style B in the post….it should take your right to each moulding trim. Hope that helps! 🙂
The cabinets look fantastic! I may have to give it a go when I do ours. Thanks for sharing!
But the space is now unusable… (???)
It was totally unusable before, Naomi. Now it just doesn’t collect dust. 😉
I love how this turned out . I am currently redesigning our kitchen on a budget so this was very helpful. I think I am going to have my husband raise the cabinets first and then add the molding . I need to remove an old backsplash and re do it anyhow ! So exciting .
That sounds like a great plan. Good luck with the remodel, Eileen! 🙂
Did you drill pilot holes into the ceiling joists prior?
Hi Misty! No, I did not. Hope that helps!
Laura. I just found you on Pinterest. I’m in heaven!! I subscribed & looking forward to see what you do next . I have been trying to do this exact thing to my daughter’s cabinets .. now I can! Thank you!
Hi Vickye! Welcome – I’m so glad you found this tutorial. And I hope it’s helpful! 🙂
This looks amazing! Is the top space you created functional for storage, or does it just visually fill in the gap? We live in a small NYC apartment so we do store things in the gap since we hardly have any room.
Thank you, Donysa! I thought about making the space above the cabinets storage space, but it’s really small – less than 10 inches. So I figured any thing I ‘stored’ up there would just collect dust. 😉 So I just filled in the gap. But I understand living in NYC – any storage space is a must!
I admire your initiative and your tasteful choices. One thing that I might attempt if I were to undertake such a project, would be to add doors to that space you created.
Naturally, that’d significantly increase the complexity, as well as costs for materials, but it’d sure be nice to gain all of those cubic feet to store everything I’m too dumb to give away to Goodwill.
Still, your work was magnificent!
Thank you for your kind words, Greg! And you may be surprised to know, the space above my cabinets is actually storing something. A bubble level I forgot to grab! 🙂