How do I install new cabinets with old soffits that don’t fit correctly?

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Last updated on January 1, 1970

Hi Jake,

I have no idea about reno and stuff but we bought and moved in a 18 year old house two months ago. At first I thought we were just going to take out carpet and put in laminate. Anyway one thing leads to another… I went to an auction and bought a 36″ kitchen cabinets only to find out the top cabinets are too tall. I went on google and found a way to make it fit. I ran through your blog. My problem is I believe I do have a 5″ soffit on top of the old cabinets. The current cabinets are 30″ long that leaves about 19″ in between the cabinets. With my new cabinets being 36″ long. If I put it up where the current ones are now then it only leaves about 14″ in between top and bottom cabinets or should I take out the soffit (is it doable)? Could there be wires or pipe in there? We ran out of budget with all the unexpected reno, we were thinking of doing it ourselves. What’s your opinion? Should we just install it in with 14″ between cabinets or take out the soffit? What are we dealing with? I await your expert advise. Sorry for the long story. Best regards, Teresa


The standard distance between the counter top and wall cabinets is 18”.  I believe that taking the distance to 14” is a big mistake.  You most likely will feel the tightness.

I would recommend removing the soffit.  Yes, you could very likely encounter pipes and wiring in your soffit.  You can either relocate the wires and pipes, if they are in the way, or you can cut out the top of the cabinets to accommodate the wires and pipes.  If you cut out the tops of the cabinets, you will need to add some sort of covering inside the upper part of the cabinets to conceal the wires and pipes.

We have actually done it both ways.  I prefer to relocate the pipes and wires, however, this can run into several hundred $$$.  Cabinet modifications also take some time.  If you are handy, you may be able to do the modifications yourself.

Let me know how it goes,