Finding Your Ideal Pantry Shelf Height and Depth

Pantry shelf height/depth

When you travel through the DC/Northern Virginia/Baltimore region, one thing you notice is how quickly things change. You go from vast and modern urban areas to hidden dales and winding forest roads in the blink of an eye. Hills and rivers roll and flow near to high-tech suburbs. Soon you realize that there is no one shape or size to the region. You’ll probably come to the same realization with your pantry.

Jars, cans, bottles, boxes, and more come in all heights and widths. You have to stack cans of beans, bags of rice, various olive oils of various heights, and much more. And if you have standard shelves and drawers, you might be packing things where they just don’t fit.

That’s why at Closet America, we are proud to create custom-designed pantries with adjustable shelves for our clients. We know that your lives aren’t designed around uniformity. You like creativity and variety. You like changing things up and we do, too.

We’ve created this guide that features the heights of common pantry items so that you can understand what you need and how to get there. We know that you’re not just buying same-size canned peas to open for dinner. Things change. So why should a pantry remain the same?

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Average Heights of Common Pantry Goods

What kind of items do you store in your pantry? Do you buy things based on what you want, or what you think can fit in your existing pantry? We think your pantry should be built to store all of your wants and needs.

Here are some “Goldilocks” measurements for the most common dry pantry goods. As a rule of thumb: add two inches for accessibility.

Canned Goods: Most cans are around four inches high. So if you have a lot of chickpeas, canned fruits, or vegetables, and (especially common) dog and cat food, you’ll want a shelf that can fit six-inch goods.

Spices: Spices can vary, but for the most part, the common spice jar is four inches tall. There are other considerations for storage, but we’ll get to those below.

Mason Jars: Mason jars are one of the most popular ways to store things, especially if you are doing a lot of pickling. That standard mason jar is 6.6 inches high, which with a little bit of adjustment can fit nicely alongside your canned goods.

Baskets: These days, baskets are a common way to store things. They are decorative and functional. They’re a great way to make the most of a space. Of course, there are a lot of basket sizes, but eight inches seems to be a common height.

Wine Bottles: The pantry is a good place to store wine bottles which are typically 12 inches tall. It’s cool; it’s dark; it’s easy to get to. And while both our walk-in and reach-in pantries have slide-out wine and bottle racks, you may need more space.  

Olive Oil Bottles: Some olive oil bottles are as tall as 12 inches, while some can be much shorter. Olive oils, which have a wide variety of flavors and styles, also have a wide variety of sizes.

Cereal Boxes: The average cereal box is a little more than a foot high. So if you have cereal-loving kids (or are a cereal-loving adult) you’ll want a shelf with enough height to accommodate these and other boxed goods.

Large Goods: This may include bags of potatoes, boxes of sparkling water, and more. You’re always going to have big items that just don’t fit well elsewhere. So you’ll need at least one larger catch-all shelf. These usually go on top, though of course it is up to you.

Pantry shelf height and depth

Tips For Getting Your Shelving Just Right

If you don’t have enough height in your shelves they easily become cluttered and inaccessible. If you have too much height then there’s the chance that you may have a lot of wasted space.

So how do you get it just right? Here are a few tips.

  • Don’t go too deep. Most experts recommend that pantry shelves be no more than 12 inches deep. Any more, and things begin to get buried. You forget you have them, you buy redundant goods, or things expire. Make sure you can see just about everything in your pantry.

  • Store like with like. We know you have a large variety of goods in your pantry. But you can start to store things of similar height together. If your system is just to hold various oils together, regardless of height, you’re probably going to end up with wasted space.

  • Take advantage of the whole pantry. If you have storage for baskets, use it. If you have wire racks for bottles, use them. This doesn’t mean things will be cluttered. It actually means the opposite. When your pantry items go to the right place, everything starts to make sense.

  • Get adjustable shelving. Adjustable shelving means that you can create your pantry the way you want it when things change. Maybe you get a new taste in olive oils, or your pickling starts to require jumbo-sized mason jars. Don’t you want storage for that?

  • Get a custom-designed pantry. A custom-designed pantry is one that takes into account your space and your needs. When you work with Closet America, we send someone to your house to create a free 3D digital rendering using precise measurements and your requirements. We then hand-finish pieces made uniquely for you at our own local factory.

When you have a custom-designed pantry with adjustable shelves, you have something just for you. You have a walk-in or reach-in pantry created around your needs, with the knowledge that your needs can change. When they do, the pantry can change with them, adjusting to fit the new size and shape of your life. We’d love to get started on your pantry. Contact us today to start sizing things up.