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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

  • Claire Douglas

How to fill the gap above kitchen cabinets in 6 easy steps

Updated: Apr 15

Ok, so this one’s probably a bit niche, but for those who are bothered by the annoying and awkward space between the kitchen cabinet tops and the ceiling… you’re gonna love this tutorial! 

I recently wrote about ways to decorate the space above your kitchen cabinets so if you landed here by accident and actually don’t mind the space above your kitchen cabinets but would like some tips and ideas on ways to style it to look fab and add additional storage and organisation for your kitchen then perhaps pop over and read that instead. 

Still here? You must be an awkward space hater and I’m going to show you exactly how I dealt with mine. I need to apologise in advance for the lack of detailed photos as I completed this project under quite a lot of time pressure (a photographer was booked to do a Christmas-themed photoshoot for Your Home magazine in less than three weeks), so my focus was very much on getting the DIY done, rather than being a good DIY blogger! Luckily, it was a really straightforward process, so my descriptions and the photos I did manage to take should hopefully see you right.

I’ve completed not one but two DIY kitchen makeovers over the past couple of years. The first kitchen makeover was brilliant because it transformed the previously dark and dull space into a light and bright kitchen that I actually wanted to be in (handy when you spend half your life in the kitchen!) and the second kitchen makeover added the finishing touches.

How to fill the gap above kitchen cabinets

You will need

Scissors or utility knife

MDF sheets (I went for fluted ones)

Strip wood


Decorator’s caulk


Sandpaper or sanding sponge


Template the infill panels.

Green kitchen units with cabinet removed from the wall and gaps above the units.

Create a template for the strips of fluted mdf required to fill the gap above the kitchen cabinets using a sheet of card. I found this was the best method because the ceiling was uneven, so taking measurements and marking them onto the MDF it’s harder to account for the imperfections. Whereas holding a piece of card (Amazon packaging works well) up to the space exactly where you want the infill panel to sit and literally marking the lines of the ceiling and the cabinet tops along it then cutting it out with scissors or a utility knife worked well.

Cut the infill panels using the template.

large sheet of fluted MDF

Place the template you created directly onto the mdf, draw around it and mark the lines to cut along. If you are using mdf sheet which only has the fluting on one side (as seen in the large sheet in the photo), then you need to make sure you place the template on the front of the mdf. Cut along the lines to produce your infill panels. Clamp the mdf while you cut to get precise lines, otherwise, it can move above as it's quite bendy on account of the fluting.

Make a frame to attach the panels to.

Attach batons of wood to the ceiling and top of the kitchen cupboards to hold the mdf strips in the right place. I like to use offcuts and leftover pieces of strip wood for this task as you won't ever see it so this upcycling strategy saves money and waste. You can screw or glue the baton into the ceiling and cabinet tops (or both for extra security).

The bottom part of the frame is easy to position because it is on the cabinet top, so you know exactly how far back to sit it; the corresponding piece on the ceiling is trickier as you don't have the cupboard for reference. Therefore, it's best to fix the bottom piece first then, you can place the MDF where it will sit and line up the top baton accordingly. Use a spirit level to check that the mdf is flat and once it's in a good position, mark the line of the top baton for reference. Then you can put the mdf panel down and fix the top baton in place with screws of glue. If you are screwing into the ceiling

  • Check first that the material isn’t untested artex which can contain asbestos

  • Use a stud finder to check there aren’t any pipes, wires or cables where you need to drill.

  • Pre-drill pilot holes through the wood and mark the ceiling (either with a very thin pencil or by pushing a screw through the hole enough to make a dent)

  • Drill holes in the ceiling where you've marked the positions for your fixings (rawl plugs or plasterboard fixings for example)

  • Insert your fixings and screw or tap in securely

Prep the panels

Strips of fluted mdf being primed with paint

If the edges are rough on the mdf panels you have cut out, then gently sand them to produce a smooth line. I also found it a good idea to gently sand the fluted side of the mdf to remove the hairlike fibres from where the sheet has been cut. I used a sanding sponge as this moulds to the shape of the surface you are sanding which makes sanding the fluted grooves a breeze. I then applied two coats of MDF primer.

Attach the infill panels to the frame

How to fill the gap above kitchen cabinets

The next step in the process of how to fill the gaps above your kitchen cabinets is to attach the primed infill panels to the frame you have made. I didn't want to mark the panels by drilling through them because the fluting would make it harder to make good than for a flat MDF panel, also I'd chosen very thin mdf panels so they would be easily held in place with grab adhesive.

I applied some grab adhesive to the front of the strip wood frame and moved the fluted mdf sheet into position before applying pressure to bond the two together. Then I left them to dry overnight to ensure the panels were securely stuck before doing the finishing touches.

Painting and finishing touches

how to fill the gap above kitchen cabinets

The aim of this DIY project was to make the panels look as though they were meant to be there and as if they always had been, so they needed to blend in and not look like they were retrofitted. To do this I filled along the join lines with the decorator’s caulk and smoothed with my finger to completely seal any gaps. I wiped away any excess caulk with a damp cloth and left to dry. Once the caulk was dry, I painted the panels in the same colour as the cabinet doors and the kitchen ceiling so it all blended in as one.

how to fill the gap above kitchen cabinets

I was so pleased with the results of this kitchen DIY because it solved the problem of there being clutter all over the top of the kitchen cabinets which used to drive me mad (even though I was one of the culprits of the crime!).

As you can see from the photos, I was in the middle microcementing the kitchen cabinets (I had recently used microcement on the wall between the units where I built my IKEA hack shelves and DIY coffee station so ignore the mess and general chaos in the kitchen at the time!

If you’re looking for kitchen inspo, I’ve just written a post packed full of kitchen breakfast bar ideas and other about pantry ideas to improve kitchen storage which you might find helpful.

Where next?

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