Kitchen cabinets and bathroom cabinets serve different functions and have different design requirements. For example, bathroom cabinets tend to be less ornate, while kitchen cabinets often have a more decorative style. However, the way the room is used can make a big difference in what the cabinets look like.
Bathroom cabinets are exposed to higher levels of moisture, but kitchen cabinets need to maximize storage space. The increased height and depth of kitchen cabinets may make them unsuitable for bathrooms, especially if there are children in the house. Kitchen cabinets are more cusomizable.
While there are some key differences between kitchen and bathroom cabinets, choosing cabinets that meet your specific needs and design preferences is important. Let’s look at the difference between kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Can You Use the Same Set of Cabinets in the Kitchen and the Bathroom?
Yes, it is possible to use one set of cabinets in both the kitchen and bathroom. However, it’s important to consider the differences in the environments and use of the spaces, as well as local building codes and safety standards, to determine if it’s appropriate and feasible.
Size requirements and the items stored in the kitchen and bathroom differ. Kitchen cabinets need to accommodate larger items such as pots and pans, while bathroom cabinets need to accommodate smaller items such as toiletries and towels, so, depth is one of the measurements that starts to be meaningfully different in these cases.
Kitchen cabinets are usually 23.5 inches deep whereas vanity (or bathroom) cabinets measure 21 inches. Whilst a 2.5 inch difference may not seem like a lot, in a small bathroom it could make things troublesome. That extra 2.5 inches will probably behind the bowl so you’ll need to lean further to use the mirror and additional cleaning implications. Also, larger cabinets in the bathroom may look out of scale.
You can easily use a table saw to trim off a couple of inches of depth from a kitchen cabinet for use in the bathroom. Also consider using kitchen wall cabinets in the bathroom – they aren’t as deep at around 15 inches.
Similarly, you may face issues using a bathroom cabinet in the kitchen. The standard kitchen sink is 22 inches front to back and so this couldn’t be mounted on a vanity cabinet.
Kitchen cabinets are normally 36 inches tall whereas vanity cabinets are 31 inches. For the average height human who does everyday cooking and cleaning, 36 inches as a kitchen cabinet height is ideal.
Bathroom cabinets experience very different usage – people (of all ages and heights) lean over the sink to wash and brush teeth. This posture isn’t something you’d typically do in the kitchen, so you need that extra 5 inches of clearance.
Kids also need to use the bathroom vanity daily and for this reason bathroom cabinets are made shorter. But if you don’t have kids in the household then having taller bathroom cabinets is less of an issue.
Outlet and Sink considerations
Kitchen and bathroom sink designs differ and they are suited towards the standard kitchen and bathroom cabinet dimensions. You may need to modify the drain height if you wanted to use kitchen cabinets in place of bathroom cabinets or vice verca.
If you are going to use taller kitchen cabinets in the bathroom, I’d also recommend not using a vessel sink which sits above the countertop. This would make the sink way too high for bathroom usage.
Lastly, consider the height of existing outlets. Often outlets sit just above the countertop height in both the bathroom and the kitchen. If you want to replace the cabinet with a taller one, ensure this won’t obstruct the outlet.
One advantage to using kitchen cabinets in the bathroom is that they are more versatile and customizable. Lots of people use customized cabinetry in the kitchen to fit various appliances whereas bathroom cabinets tend to be more vanilla.
So if you are looking to design a very bespoke bathroom set up with pullout hampers, towel holders or unique storage options you might want to look into customizable kitchen cabinets.
Material and Usage
Consider how the cabinets will be used in each room. Kitchen cabinets tend to see more use and wear than bathroom cabinets, whereas bathrooms are more moist than kitchens.
Also consider the different environments of the kitchen and bathroom. While both rooms are exposed to moisture, the levels of moisture are typically higher in the bathroom (thanks to steam). Cabinets used in the bathroom (or at least their paint) will need to be able to withstand the higher humidity levels and any potential water damage that may occur.
Third, it’s important to consider any building codes or safety standards that may need to be followed when installing cabinets in a bathroom. For example, some codes may require that electrical outlets be installed a certain distance away from water sources, or that certain materials be used in a bathroom environment. Make sure to check with your local building codes and safety standards to ensure that the cabinets you choose are appropriate for use in a bathroom.
Many kitchen and cabinets these days are made from a similar type of material. For example with Ikea cabinets the engineered wood quality is the same when comparing kitchen and bathroom cabinets. But not all manufacturers are the same and in order to avoid ongoing water damage (such as peeling and bubbling), consider carefully the type of wood used.
For bathrooms, you really want cabinets that are solid wood or plywood as these materials expand a lot less from changes in humidity compared to particleboard, OSB/wareboard and fiberboard.
Secondly, consider how well sealed your cabinets are. Most bathroom cabinets have a laminate finish that is waterproof and very durable. The surface protects the wood underneath as its nonporous and moisture wipes right off, whereas exposed wood is porous and can absorb moisture if it’s not been treated.
Therefore solid oak kitchen cabinets (or exposed wood) should be sealed and treated before being used in a bathroom. Bathroom cabinets are sealed everywhere. So even inside a draw, you’ll find that the surface has been sealed to protect it from moisture. Whereas many kitchen cabinets have hidden areas of exposed wood.
Therefore if you’re going to use kitchen cabinets in the bathroom you should ensure all hidden surfaces are sealed. Also, make sure your bathroom has a good fan and is well ventilated.
Top tips for using kitchen cabinets in the bathroom
There are many advantages to using kitchen cabinets in the bathroom:
- Kitchen cabinets are larger and allow more storage space
- Kitchen cabinets are more customizable therefore enabling unique bathroom storage solutions
- Kitchen cabinets can be cheaper to purchase
- Whilst remodelling your kitchen, you may have leftover kitchen cabinets you’d like to put to use
- Kitchen cabinets are taller and may suit taller or elderly adults better
However there are some key considerations you should pay attention to in using your kitchen cabinets in the bathroom to ensure it’s a great set up:
- Kitchen cabinets are easily cuttable, so you can use a table saw to reduce either the height or depth of the cabinet
- Seal all hidden areas of the kitchen cabinet before being used in the bathroom. A Clear protective finish stain (on Amazon) is easy and cost-effective to use
- Ensure kitchen cabinets do not have exposed hard wood such as Oak as this will get damaged and warped in the bathroom
- Use a drop-in sink to ensure your sink height isn’t too tall, and carefully consider the under-sink plumbing dimensions
- Think about the height and location of existing plug outlets
- Use a high quality bathroom fan to ensure a good circulation of airflow
- Kitchen wall cabinets are less deep and may be a good option for smaller bathrooms
- Two of the cheapest kitchen cabinet providers are Lowes and Home Depot – check out another article I wrote on the differences between the two