In kitchen remodeling, creating an open floor plan is about removing impediments that block sight lines in a space. This usually means that full height walls come down, while bulkheads and even cabinets that came from the ceiling must go too. To replace the space lost from cabinets on walls or that sit perpendicular to walls and potentially block space, taller cabinets placed against the wall can reach the ceiling once bulkheads or soffits come down. The result is relocated space and a clearer view.
Many homeowners enlist contractors to take steps to create the open floor plan that is in vogue now. The result can be stunning, but the trade-offs made for an open floor plan can be not just less space, but less usable space. In addition, removing the soffit or bulkhead above kitchen cabinets can lead to unexpected problems.
The Challenges of Removing Soffits
Many times, the soffits above cabinets hide ductwork, plumbing, and electrical lines that run through the kitchen. When the soffit is just an empty box, removing the drywall that forms it is no problem; if there are mechanicals inside, these must be rerouted into the ceiling or into a wall. Especially in the case of larger plumbing pipes, moving them out of sight is not always possible.
In addition, depending how the soffits are attached to the ceiling, the wall, and the cabinets, you risk damaging walls and cabinets. If the ceiling above the soffit is not finished, you have an area of ceiling that is exposed that must be patched. The project can easily turn into an extensive one.
While a bulkhead may just came down a foot or so, and be far above the line of vision, hanging cabinets extend much further into the space and lock the site line. When the soffit is removed, you can make up some of the space by using 36” or 42“cabinets rather than the 30” that many homeowners use. The only problem with this extra space is that most homeowners have to use a stepstool to reach the top shelves. This changes the function of the cabinet from an easy-to-access unit to something that is more of an ordeal to reach.
Storage Space Versus the Open Floor Plan
When walls come down to make for an open floor plan, even wall-mounted cabinets can be a casualty. In keeping with the minimalist look of an open floor plan, one approach when removing upper cabinets and even base cabinets on walls is to streamline what you keep in the kitchen; by relegating seldom used appliances and dishes to other areas of the home, you can reduce the need for cabinet space. Another alternative is to build matching base cabinets in an adjoining breakfast nook or family room or to incorporates a pantry or other storage in an adjoining area, such as a utility room, mudroom, or attached garage.
Before solidifying your plans for an open floor plan kitchen, make sure to assess your space needs and consider the implications of having fewer cabinets. If you need the storage space, you may need to work with your contractor to modify your design. When remodeling your kitchen, Topp Remodeling and Construction can help you create the open floor plan or modified open floor plan design you want.