How many kitchen cabinets do I need? 
When planning a kitchen renovation, whether you’re buying pre-assembled or RTA cabinets, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is how many cabinets you need. More cabinets mean more storage, but they also mean a higher price tag. So how do you answer the question of how many kitchen cabinets do I need?
Here are a few factors to consider:
- The size of your kitchen. If you have a small kitchen, you may be able to get away with fewer cabinets. But if you have a large kitchen, you’ll probably need more storage, and that means more cabinets.
- The layout of your kitchen. If you have a lot of floor space but not much wall space, you may be able to get by with fewer cabinets. But if your kitchen is long and narrow, you’ll probably need more cabinets to make the most of the space.
- Your storage needs. Take a look at what you typically keep in your kitchen and how much space it takes up. If you have a lot of small items, you may be able to get by with fewer cabinets. But if you have large items or a lot of food, you’ll need more storage space, and that means more cabinets.
Once you’ve considered all of these factors, you’re ready to start determining how many actual cabinets you need.
This article will look at how to determine the number of cabinets you need, and provide some examples of kitchens of different sizes and how many cabinets they use.
Table of Contents
- Estimates: how many kitchen cabinets do I need by kitchen size?
- Sizing your kitchen: how many kitchen cabinets do I need?
- Determining your storage needs: how many kitchen cabinets do I need?
- Using a sheet of paper to determine cabinet layout
- Calculation: how many cabinets do I need?
Estimates: how many kitchen cabinets do I need by kitchen size?
If you’re not ready to design a kitchen just yet, and you only want a ballpark estimate of how many kitchen cabinets you need, I have provided some examples of kitchens by size.
Most of these examples are from real kitchens that I have built. For context, I try to give the layout of the kitchen, the room size, and the storage requirements of the owner which motivated the design.
|Kitchen size and layout (in feet)||How many kitchen cabinets do I need? (Estimate)|
|10×6 galley kitchen||7-10|
10×6 galley kitchen
Here’s a 10×6 foot galley design that I built for a small apartment kitchen. This particular owner wanted to get more storage space, so she requested a smaller fridge, but she also needed a dishwasher.
Total number of kitchen cabinets used for the 10×6 galley kitchen: 9.
This kitchen is 15×15, which is slightly larger than the average single family kitchen, which is around 13×13. The kitchen has cabinets on 3 sides, but no island or additional wall cabinets. It has a refrigerator, as well as a dishwasher, sink, and 36″ range.
Total number of kitchen cabinets used for the 15×15 kitchen: 20
20×20 large kitchen
This kitchen is significantly larger than an average kitchen, at 20×20 feet, and has a 48″ range and 48″ refrigerator, as well as an island. However, it doesn’t have cabinets on any full wall due to windows and doors.
Total number of kitchen cabinets used for the 20×20 kitchen: 24
Sizing your kitchen: how many kitchen cabinets do I need?
The first step to determining how many kitchen cabinets you need is sizing your kitchen properly. To do this, you need to take some measurements.
If you already have a kitchen in place and are just replacing cabinets and appliances, measuring is easy. Just measure the length (wall-to-wall), the width (wall-to-wall), and the floor to ceiling height of the kitchen.
What to take into account if you’re starting from scratch
However, if you’re doing a complete renovation of an existing kitchen or building a new kitchen, measuring is a bit more complicated. This is because you will need to take into account additional factors such as wall width, stud and sheetrock (and potentially strapping) width, flooring height, and leveling issues.
For instance, let’s say you’re gut renovating an old kitchen in a 1900s house. If the house has horsehair plaster on the walls, the thickness of the new sheetrock (and skim coat if used) will be change the size of the room. Also, if the floors are saggy and need to be leveled, that difference may affect the height of cabinets you can purchase — and thus the number of kitchen cabinets you will need.
If you’re doing such a renovation, the best way to determine the exact kitchen size is to talk to your contractor or architect.
Determining your storage needs: how many kitchen cabinets do I need?
How much storage you need, and the types of storage needed are personal choices and will greatly affect how many cabinets you need in your kitchen.
If you don’t do too much cooking, or you only cook for a small number of people, you storage requirements will be different from someone who cooks often with a big family to cook for.
When considering how much kitchen storage you need, think about what you typically use on a daily basis. Coffee cups, dishes, silverware, and food storage containers are all items that you will need to have quick and easy access to. For these items, you will likely need a combination of cabinets, shelves, and drawers.
Think about what you use less often, such as serving platters, baking pans, and large pots and pans. These items can be stored in a less accessible location, such as in a cabinet near the floor or in the back of a high shelf. If you entertain often, you may want to have dedicated storage for items such as tablecloths, extra dishes, and serving utensils. A cabinet or pantry near the dining room or kitchen table is a convenient spot for these items.
Finally, consider what you need to store in terms of food. If you cook often, you will need space for dry goods, spices, and other ingredients. If you eat out often, you may need less space for food storage. In either case, be sure to leave room in your kitchen storage for items such as small appliances and table linens.
Using a sheet of paper to determine cabinet layout
Once you have determined your kitchen size, you can determine a cabinet configuration.
Nearly every cabinet seller will offer to do this for you. Don’t do it — you’re much better off taking a piece of paper (or a free layout tool online) and building a layout yourself. Why? Because you want something that you can give to multiple cabinet sellers, with standard cabinet sizes in a design you want. You won’t get that if you have a cabinet store put together a design for you.
The easiest way to do this is take a paper and draw the shape of your room. Write down the inner dimensions of the room along the sides.
First, figure out what size sink you need, and the size of your refrigerator, dishwasher, and range or oven and stovetop.
Choose a sink base cabinet (generally 30, 33, or 36 inches wide).
Then, use this table of common base cabinet sizes to begin filling the room. All base cabinets are 2 ft deep:
|9″ wide base cabinet||36″ wide base cabinet||33″ wide base drawers|
|12″ wide base cabinet||9″ wide base drawers||36″ wide base drawers|
|18″ wide base cabinet||12″ wide base drawers||39″ wide base cabinet|
|21″ wide base cabinet||18″ wide base drawers||42″ wide base cabinet|
|24″ wide base cabinet||24″ wide base drawers|
|27″ wide base cabinet||25″ wide base drawers|
|30″ wide base cabinet||27″ wide base drawers|
|33″ wide base cabinet||30″ wide base drawers|
Draw a rectangle for each appliance and your sink base, and then fill the areas around these with the common cabinet sizes above. You may have a little bit of space left over — this is fine and can be solved using fillers at the end.
Although it’s not strictly necessary to get an estimate, you can do the same thing for the wall cabinets on a second sheet of paper. Remember to leave space for the refrigerator and hood. Use this table of wall cabinet sizes to help you.
Once you’ve done this, you can calculate how many cabinets you will need.
Calculation: how many cabinets do I need?
If you have laid out your kitchen, you can now count the number of cabinets you need. If you’ve only done the lower cabinets, you can multiply by two to get a ballpark estimate of the number of wall cabinets you need.
Otherwise, count all of the cabinets on the two sheets of paper. This is the total number of cabinets you need.
You can then think about whether you want to use RTA cabinets or pre-assembled ones, and you can choose a style. Of course, check out our best RTA cabinets article for our picks for the best cabinet options.