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How high can I make a cabinet in a room with low ceilings?

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I have a customer who wants a freestanding wardrobe in a room with low ceilings. does anyone know of a formula to determine how high i can make the cabinet and still leave enough room so that it can be stood up without wedging into the ceiling?

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My first thought would be to make the diagonal of the sides fit within the height of the ceiling since when you stand the cabinet up. Assuming you are lifting it up front to back and not from the side, you will be pivoting off of the front bottom edge, therefore the highest point would be the top back of the case.

Using some math: a2 + b2 = c2

Where a would be the depth you need the case to be and c would be the height of the ceiling.

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Diagonal = square root ( Height squared + Depth squared)

You want the the Diagonal to be less than the height of the ceiling, so that you can tip the piece up.

Notes:

  • The ceiling may not be the same distance from the floor in every spot.
  • You may be able to tip it up in one spot and then slide it into place.
  • You may be able to tip it up out side the room and then slide it in. Think about the heights of the door ways.
  • If you want the piece to fit flush against the ceiling, you can add a crown molding after the piece is in place.
  • Think about how you are going to get the piece from the shop to the room. A narrow hallway or stairway with a turn might be the limiting factor.

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Ok. You guys are better at geometry than I am so.....if C is 84 inches and A is 24 inches that gives me a diagonal of 80 1/2 inches or less to fit. That being said, I now know my diagonal (thanks to you guys) but now how do I figure the maximum height?? Thanks again. Rich.

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Below just reiterates what Russ and Matthew have already shown but in steps. To answer your question, the diagonal is the height of the ceiling not the height of the cabinet - b (Russ's H in his sketch). So you probably want the height of your wardrobe a few inches under 80-1/2" to avoid scraping the ceiling when tipping it upright.

formula.jpg

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Build a toe kick as a separate part.

If you do this, the toe kick can be installed, leveled, and attached, then wires and air ducts can be easily extended to the front. If the face shape is not straight, including jogs, you can relocate the electrical outlets to the parts that don't face the room for better appearance.

Even better, the case can be straight (flat? ;^) )lifted and slid on to the perfectly level base, eliminating diagonal geometry. I can build these precisely enough where a tiny molding covers the top gap, for cases where a crown isn't wanted or in the budget.

Once the case is in place, the toe kick can be left as an open toe kick and clearcoated, painted, or carpeted, or closed, covered with a proud wide base molding, depending on design requirements.

The bases are simply 4" high rails of cabinet plywood screwed or finish nailed together into a ladder shape. If the kick will be visible, you can use nice hardwood plywood for the front rail, and build it so no fasteners are visible from that side. I often build the bottom of the box face frame to hang 3/4" below the bottom of the case, to hide the box / toe kick joint.

For bonus points, the separate kick can include a secret drawer if there are no wires or plenums to accomodate. This is a really cool idea in a closet.

Basic example:

post-5634-0-91681700-1334665288_thumb.jp

Have fun!

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Cessnapilotbarry is right on. No math, no fuss, and really no problem. I am building floor to ceiling bookcases for my new library here at the ranch just exactly that way. Base separate and then sliding the top unit into place.

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Opps! I just caught the key word FREESTANDING! :D

Aside from all the geometry posted above, consider making the cabinet in two easily assembled parts. Think along the lines of a china cabinet on a base of drawers. You can get a lot more cabinet into the same space this way.

Always happy to lead the pack away on a tangent... Sorry about that! :rolleyes:

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Always happy to lead the pack away on a tangent... Sorry about that! :rolleyes:

But a very informative tangent. Thanks, Barry.

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Thanks for all the help and tips guys but don't forget that in my original post I indicated the customer wanted a freestanding wardrobe and that I was looking for the formula to figure out how to stand up with no wedging into the ceiling. obviously the easy answer is to put something together in pieces to make it fit but it's not what I was looking for. The formulas provided by matt, Beechwood, rmac and pagel are great help. Thanks for the formulas everyone.

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Just remember that there is historical precedence for multi-piece items. The break doesn't need to be anything near 50/50, it can be a removable legged base on an armiore, or the top drawers and finials of a tall chest. There are many, many, historical examples of multi-part construction to fit into specific spaces, or able to be moved through tight openings or staircases.

In many cases, people not familar with the build have no idea the furniture is not a single item.

Part of a top notch job often includes customer education.

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I always measure on my way out of the room. How big is the doorway? Size of the hallway? Any tight spots need to be noted.

Usually a piece like this goes down the hall on it's side on a 4 wheel dolly, so turning a corner is a choke point. Once you get it into the room it needs to be laid flat on its back, then stood up.

Some large cases like this were made to be assembled in place. I once repaired and reassembled a 150 year old armoire which had a base, cap and paneled sides which assembled to yield a case 1 inch shorter than the ceiling. Much easier to deliver and relocate a large case built this way.

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Here is the fomula I use:

B = (square root of c squared - a squared) - 0.25 inches

a = finished width of cabinet

b = maximum finished height of cabinet

c = ceiling height

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