Cabinet Clearance – Small Error, Big Impact

February 16, 20164 comments

It is common for a customer to send us a kitchen layout with a small but significant error – a corner where a door, drawer or appliance will not open freely. If such a kitchen is built as drawn, it may be impossible to correct the problem without tearing out the new cabinets and countertop and starting over.

Gray kitchen with shaker cabinets and large bank of windows

Kitchen design by Jayelynn Carlson

Typically this issue arises in a corner or where a cabinet or appliance is next to a wall. In watching for obstructions, a designer considers not only cabinets, but the style of cabinet hardware and appliance specifications. The U-shaped kitchen above has two inside corners – at each, there is the risk of obstruction, made greater by projecting cabinet hardware.

closeup of light gray shaker cabinets with lazy susan base open to display turntables

In the corner near the cooktop, we used a classic corner storage solution, the lazy Susan cabinet with a bifold door. Note that our Super Susan cabinet has no center post, so large items fit easily on the rotating trays.

closeup of white shaker cabinets in corner showing spacer by the drawer base and door-only cabinet used to allow cabinets to open freely past projecting bar pulls
The corner near the refrigerator presented a challenge. Inside of the corner, the floor rises to accommodate the basement stairway, eliminating the lazy Susan as an option. So we used two base cabinets. A spacer between the drawer base and the corner provides clearance for drawers to open without obstruction. On the right, a door-only cabinet with roll-out trays eliminates the need for a second spacer.

Don’t assume your “standard” appliance will open

sketch of dishwasher opening into refrigerator door
Refrigerators can vary as much as four inches in depth from one model to another, and dishwashers and ovens vary in the clearance needed to open a door. Your designer will need the exact models and measurements of your appliances to visualize all movement in the kitchen and ensure you don’t run into a problem like the one in the sketch above.


The design on the left failed to take into account clearance required by the over-sized door on the tall dishwasher. Caught before cabinets were built, the error was easily corrected by moving the refrigerator to the right and using a wider cabinet in the corner.

Let us review your kitchen design – no charge

If you have a design – one you’ve drawn or received from a studio or cabinet retailer – and you would like it reviewed, please send it to our design studio (email: or call toll-free: 888-350-1242). One of our pros will examine it for errors and missed opportunities. Our design service is always free, with no obligation to buy. We just want you to get the best kitchen possible.

Showing 4 comments

  1. Roda Youngblood Reply

    Do you have black kitchen cabinets on clearance

  2. Donna Barcomb Reply

    I would like to remove a desk in my kitchen and make it a breakfast bar. I have purchased a two drawer refrigerator 24" so there will be room for two base cabinets. Can I order for such a small job?
    Thank you.

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