Learning the Lingo: Toe Kick

Oct 13, 2022

What is toe kick and do you need it?

unfinished toe kick on a wood cabinet.
Unfinished cabinet toe kick

If you’re taking on a kitchen renovation, you’ll probably come across terms you haven’t heard before. We’re tackling some niche cabinetry lingo one by one to help you with your next project. First term we want to cover, toe kick. 

At the bottom of every base cabinet in your kitchen or bathroom, you’ll notice a recessed area between the bottom of the door and the floor. This area is called a toe kick, and it’s an ergonomic feature to make it more comfortable to work at the countertop or sink.

It gives you a spot to slide your toes under the cabinets without bumping into the front, so you can get up closer to your work. Without a toe kick, you’d have to bend forward and put strain on your back.

Most cabinet lines come with an unfinished bottom, showing the raw wood or particle board at the bottom. Toe kick in a matching finish or paint color allows for a cohesive, professional look.

One question we get a lot is what is a perfect toe kick height? The optimal height for a toe kick is about 4.5 inches, but it’s not uncommon to see a various size range in toe kicks. Taller sizes in toe kick are necessary when planning for cooks with varying abilities in your kitchen. If one of your cooks is wheelchair bound, a 9” toe kick will allow them to comfortably access the counter tops.  Whereas the 4.5” provides an adequate recess to stand comfortably and maintain balance while working at a countertop, without sacrificing any visibility or workspace. 

finished toe kick on a white cabinet
Finished toe kick

So, if toe kick is necessary why isnt it built in? Well, not all floors are perfectly level, and not all cabinet bases are perfectly level either. An important step in base cabinet installation involves shimming the cabinets to make sure they’re all level at the top. And those shims mean there might be a gap between the bottom of the cabinet, and the floor.

That’s where toe kick comes in. Because it’s a separate piece, you can trim it to the exact shape you need, to make sure there’s no gap, and to ensure that your cabinets look fully finished.

Stay tuned while we unpack common home renovations terms to help you sound like a pro on your next project!