How to Measure Linear Foot for Cabinets

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Though somewhat ambiguous, linear measurements are typically used to get an idea of the scope of the project. When armed with linear measurements and a few other parameters, you can get an overall price estimate.

Common Methods

When calculating linear footage, some dealers or cabinetmakers argue that a linear foot is 12 inches of the base and upper cabinets together. Others claim that a linear foot is base plus uppers. The most accurate bid calculates uppers and lowers separately. Make that clear before measuring or ordering.

Measure It

Step 1: Measure the Walls

Draw a rough vertical diagram of the walls where the cabinets are located. Measure each wall and write the dimensions down on the sketch. Draw in windows and doorway openings.

Step 2: Draw a Sketch

Make a rough drawing of your proposed cabinets from an overhead perspective in relation to the walls. It doesn't need to be drawn to scale. Draw in proposed appliances.

Step 3: Measure Along the Wall

Measure from one corner where the cabinet begins to the other side where the cabinet terminates. Linear measurements are typically taken along the wall. Write the measurement down on the sketch in inches. If cabinets are fastened together, measure the accumulative length, corner to corner.

Step 4: Measure Additional Walls

Repeat Step 2, measuring cabinets along other walls that join at 90 degrees or angle off from a corner. Write down the measurements.

Step 5: Subtract the Allowances

Subtract the allowance where two cabinets merge at 90 degrees and overlap each other. The typical allowance for this is 24 inches for base cabinets and 12 inches for upper cabinets. Write the measurement on the sketch.

Step 6: Appliance Allowance

Subtract the width of freestanding appliances. The most common is 30 inches wide. Write that measurement on the sketch.

Step 7: Calculate Linear Foot

Add the relevant measurements together to get the linear measurement in inches. Divide by 12 to get the total linear footage.

Figure Square Feet

Square footage is calculated by multiplying the width by height. Divide by 144 to get the square footage. For example a 48-by-36 inch base cabinet consists of 12 square feet. This measures the face of the cabinet.

Add Options

Lineal-foot measurements don't tell the whole story. Adding up your options will get you closer to the final cost estimate:

Expensive Options

  • Exotic, imported hardwood
  • Raised-panel doors
  • Full-extension, side-mount hardware
  • Structural materials made out of plywood

Midrange Options

  • Red oak, maple or ash
  • Inset-panel or Shaker-style doors
  • Bottom-mount drawer slides
  • Particleboard structural material

Affordable Options

  • Alder, birch or fir
  • Flat-panel, plywood doors
  • Center-mount slides, underneath
  • Thin particleboard structure, less than 3/4 inch

Cheap Options

  • Vinyl or plastic on particleboard
  • Flat-panel doors, also vinyl
  • Single, center-mount slides
  • Coarse particleboard jambs, thinner than 3/4 inch

Uppers and Bases

The most complete linear measurements include two drawings, featuring separate lineal-foot calculations for upper and base cabinets. Differences between them include windows, spaces, appliances, dimensions, moldings, trim and other options that will make a difference in cost and planning.

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