How to Determine Countertop Overhang in 2020
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True statement #1: When you are putting in a new countertop you need to determine how much of the countertop overhang should extend past the top of the cabinet.
True statement #2: You can never have too much counter space.
When you put these two ideas together you might realize more countertop overhang equals more work space!
However, you want to be able to reach the soap behind the kitchen sink. Even worse, too much overhang just looks weird.
Once I decided I was going to build granite tile countertops myself, I realized I had no clue how much overhang there should be in front or on the sides of my cabinets! I had never paid attention previously. I had just taken all countertops I had ever used for granted and never thought about their dimensions. Ever.
A quick search on Google revealed a recommended standard countertop overhang ranges from 1” to 1-1/2”. My own “go and measure world results” ranged from 3/8” to 1-13/16” (photo documented for your own viewing below).
1-13/16” is 385% more than 3/8”! That is a huge difference! OK, perhaps not so much in the real world application, but it does make a difference in the final look of your design.
While the online rule of thumb is 1” to 1-½”, I was surprised to find that the slab countertop overhangs in my current home are both 1-⅞”. One was installed prior to me owning the house and the other is a prefabricated slab installed by professionals in my master bathroom only a few years ago. So these are two separate test points with the same overhang measurement results!
Alternatively, a flush counter with zero overhang makes sense with modern style cabinetry. Flush and sleek cabinets and countertops are a major part of the design. There is a trade off between design and functionality (protecting cabinets against spills), but sometimes we choose based on looks, right? Otherwise, I would not have as many cute high heel shoes as I do!
Just to be clear, these measurements are from the cabinet box, not the cabinet doors.
Is there a standard countertop overhang measurement?
Allowing countertop overhangs past the door and drawer faces has the added bonus of protecting the cabinetry facing from spills, snagging and other possible damages. This functionality alone is perhaps the most important for a growing family living in the space!
As a first time rental property owner, this is why all of a sudden I started paying attention to countertop dimensions. It may sound funny, but I started measuring the countertops at my apartment, my friends’ houses, and even displays at Home Depot just to get an idea of the proper measurement.
How to determine countertop overhang for YOUR project
Since there is so much variation in the measurement I would recommend finding a counter overhang you think looks good. Then pull out your own tape measure and go with that measurement. That is, of course, after you measure a countertop overhang that looks smaller and one that looks larger. By eliminating what looks wrong for your personal taste, you are building confidence in your final decision.
If you are measuring with the intent of installing a slab countertop, this measurement is pretty much all you need. However, if you are about to build your own tile countertop there are a few additional thoughts to take into consideration while designing the rest of your countertop.
When determining the overhang, consider the surrounding surfaces. Are there any irregular or inconsistent walls, custom cabinetry or adjacent doorways you need to take into account? Similarly, is there a refrigerator door swing that needs to be taken into account?
Sample countertop overhang measurements and countertop choices
The following sample pictures are here to give you a feeling for the different countertop overhang measurements on various kinds of countertops. The adjacent side view gives you the effect of the countertop to the cabinetry it overhangs.
Additional thoughts for a larger countertop overhang
If you are looking to add on a bar area or additional work space on an island, you may want to extend the countertop further. Slab countertops can extend outward without additional support. Yet, countertop extension support requirements depend on how much material is currently supported by a cabinet or some other structure(s). Beyond a certain point, extended countertops will require additional support from corbels, legs extending to the floor, or steel plates properly attached to a pony wall or other supporting structures.
I am intentionally being vague about the tipping point between needing support or leaving the extension unsupported. There are many aspects to consider here. For example, there is a big difference between an indoor space intended for making Christmas cookies with too many sprinkles and an outdoor area designed for bar top dancing with moves from the movie Coyote Ugly.
General Countertop Overhang FAQ
What is countertop overhang?
The amount of countertop that extends past the base of the cabinet (not the cabinet doors). The purpose of countertop overhang is to protect the cabinets below from drips and other mishaps.
What is standard countertop overhang?
3/8” to 1-13/16. It really depends upon the design of your cabinets. If a vanity or cabinet base is modern with doors that sink into the base, it could be as little as 0″ for a sleek and contemporary look. Traditional cabinets will have a larger overhang.
What is minimum countertop overhang?
At a minimum, countertops should line up with the front of the cabinet doors. In general, there is some overhang from the cabinet base since the doors protrude from base. However, the purpose of countertop overhang is to protect the cabinets below from drips and other mishaps. A minimum countertop overhang will not provide this kind of protective measure.
*In my defense (and yours too), I knew there needed to be *some* lip for the countertops in my project house. This was my thought process… The cabinets I planned on installing have shaker style doors. So, traditional countertops with some overhang looks normal. A flush countertop would make my cabinet doors and drawer faces stick out. What would happen if there was not enough overhang? If I added door pulls and knobs they would easily catch on pockets and such. Next would be collateral damages made to clothing and other textiles. Fixing ripped pockets and belt buckle loops requires new sewing skills. Who has time for that? Admittedly, I’d probably end up taking out a cabinet drawer or door instead… Too much to worry about!