bulkhead in kitchen

Bulkhead in Kitchen | Expert’s Explanation & Tips for Beginners

Have you ever heard of “bulkhead” or “soffit”? These two terms are frequently used interchangeably. This word exchange is usually expected because the two words cannot be separated. For starters, what is a bulkhead and its purpose in a kitchen? A kitchen bulkhead is a box-like structure placed under the ceiling. Let’s learn about a soffit to better understand a bulkhead in the kitchen for this matter. A soffit is a space between the kitchen cabinetry and the ceiling, and bulkheads are usually placed to occupy this space. Are you still wondering about the real purpose of a kitchen bulkhead?

What is a kitchen bulkhead?

A bulkhead sits on top of the kitchen cabinetry, between the ceiling and the cabinet soffit. In a glimpse, the primary purpose of a bulkhead in a kitchen is to conceal ductwork, pipework, electrical wiring, and ventilation that would not otherwise go over the ceiling. In modern-day interior designing, bulkheads have been advanced. Bulkheads perform the concealment function and offer aesthetics and dimension to the kitchen space. For instance, a wooden bulkhead kitchen renovation is done to add texture. We shall explore more about this in the article.

Types of bulkheads

Before getting on to the step-by-step guide on how to carry out kitchen bulkhead construction, let us learn the types of bulkheads.

Bulkheads around the perimeter

The most frequent type of bulkhead in the kitchen is a perimeter bulkhead, it goes around the perimeter of the ceiling. Perimeter bulkheads mostly occupy the kitchen soffit and the basement, where they help to conceal ductwork, pipes, and HAVC.

Bulkheads at the center

A center bulkhead protrudes like a fallen ceiling a few inches from the top roof. It is an ideal and recommended alternative to a kitchen island bulkhead design. They increase the overall aesthetics of the room in which they occur if the lighting system has been adequately added as part of the central bulkhead.

Bulkheads with an L form

The frames of L-shaped bulkheads extend along the wall like a perimeter bulkhead and then fall along a vertical wall. It is appropriate for fridge cabinetry.

Bulkheads with a U shape

The U-shaped bulkhead, like the L-shaped one, verifies the shape of the room in which it is present. U-shaped bulkheads provide a transition between interior spaces and are ideal for light-through-set situations.

Bulkheads with two steps

Double-step bulkheads, also known as two-step ceilings, produce a two-step layer overlapping like typical steps. Double-step bulkheads are great for adding dimension or the appearance of space to a room or kitchen, and they are also commonly encountered in commercial building entrances.

How to install a kitchen bulkhead

Before we start our discussion on how to install a bulkhead in kitchen, let’s get to know the tools required for the project. A point to note is that bulkheads are commonly made using lumber woods or metal frames. Generally, both methods are more or less the same. For this particular guide, we shall explore the metal framing technique.

Tools needed

  • General purpose cutting wheel.
  • Impact driver.
  • Sander.
  • Miter saw.
  • Nailer kit.
  • Screwdriver set.
  • Tape measure.
  • Spackling compound.
  • Corner bead.
  • Metal studs
  • Drywall
  • Scraping tool.

Step 1

Determine the measurement requirements of the bulkhead. Using a tape measure, measure the soffit area where the bulkhead will sit. Measure the soffit height from the ceiling to the cabinet surface. Measure the depth from the wall up to the protruding end. The depth depends on how you want the soffit to protrude. Add additional inches from the cabinet end if you are planning on adding lighting accessories to the bulkhead. Lastly, measure the length where the bulkhead will be running along.

Step 2

Now that you have measurements assemble the bulkhead metal frame. Mark the measurement fittings onto the metal stud with a pencil. Using a grinder, cut out the exact measurements for the horizontal bottom wall plate, vertical wall plates, top horizontal ceiling plates, vertical ceiling plates, and hanging plates. When using the metal studs, straighten the metal’s ends, forming a corner for the frame to enhance the perfect square finish. Wear protective gloves when dealing with metal plates.

Step 3

Before installing the ceiling and vertical plates onto the wall, mark the area where the bottom metal wall plate will sit. Do this for all the vertical wall plates as well. Marking where the metal plates will fit before screwing the metal plates into place saves a tone, saves you time when working alone, and ensures a straighter finish. 

Mount the bottom metal plate at the marked position with everything in place. With a screwdriver, drive the screws into the wall. Ideally, the bulkhead will occupy the whole soffit. Install the vertical metal wall plates where the kitchen bulkhead ends at both ends. (The vertical metal wall plates aligning with the cabinetry give the room a spatial dimension and character.)

Step 4

Mount the vertical metal ceiling plates (a ceiling plate goes to each side-end of the bulkhead) as in step 3. Adhere to the previously marked positions where the extra protruding length of the bulkhead box will reach. Use a lever to check whether both ceiling plates match the same level depth. Mount the top horizontal ceiling plate across the ceiling and into the joists. Ensure the top plate aligns with the two vertical metal ceiling plates. While at it, double-check to see if the straight lines are maintained. Add additional screws to ensure that it is firm.

Step 5

Mount the bottom vertical wall plate next to the wall that is located in the bottom soffit area. While screwing, use a lever to ensure that it aligns with the vertical metal ceiling plate. Paste the same steps onto the second side of the bulkhead frame. After screwing in the bottom vertical plate, screw in a hanging vertical metal plate to join the vertical ceiling plate and the bottom vertical wall plate. It should form a square-like shape. Add another vertical metal plate to the other side and ensure they align. Use a lever to check for any crooked lines.

Step 6

Add a hanging bottom horizontal metal plate to run parallel to the top horizontal ceiling plate. Screw it onto each side of the square side frames. Add more vertical plates to the front end between the top ceiling horizontal metal plate and the hanging bottom horizontal metal frame. 

The middle vertical plates should be 16 inches apart. This specification offers extra support while enhancing the firmness of the bulkhead. Once done, the front end of the frame should look like a horizontal metal ladder.

Step 7

Add the vertical bottom metal studs between the horizontal wall plate and the horizontal hanging plate. Similarly, align the metal plate studs with the ones screwed at the front end of the frame. 

Step 8

Measure the drywall for the bulkhead’s front, side-ends, and bottom parts. Screw the drywall onto the metal frame, starting with the front part of the bulkhead. To guarantee a firm grip, for every 8 inches of the drywall, ensure that there is a screw. Similarly, install the bottom drywall onto the bottom part of the frame and finish by screwing the measured drywall onto the bulkhead’s sides (Left and right). Now, they cover the whole structure with drywall.

Step 9

Add a corner trim (the trim formed from the joint between the front and bottom drywall) to conceal it and give the bulkhead a smooth trimmed corner. Prepare drywall spackling compound and apply it to the drywall. After it has dried out, sand it down to the desired smoother finish. 

Step 10

Grab a roller and a primer and paint the bulkhead to prepare it for the color choice that will complement the kitchen cabinets.

Benefits of bulkhead in kitchen

Unique look

Establish a unique design for the kitchen structure from L-shaped to double bulkheads. Aligning the kitchen cabinetry with bulkheads offers an eye-soothing feeling that spells a modern, sleek, and over-the-top kitchen.

Adds dimension

Bulkheads create a dimension of flair in the kitchen. The shape of the bulkheads aligns well with the cabinetry and kitchen countertop to create an intriguing and welcoming feel in the kitchen. 

Adds space

Bulkheads add space in the kitchen. Space is crucial to a kitchen’s ability to be sufficiently functional. Adding bulkheads to a kitchen makes the kitchen look vast and seamless. While adding space to the kitchen, they also define the kitchen area. This modern design definition is seen in a kitchen island bulkhead.


Kitchen bulkheads offer a new way for interior designers to get creative. Bulkheads have been incorporated with functional kitchen lights, color, and texture of the kitchen space, enhancing a transformed and modern kitchen. There are multiple ways to emulate bulkhead ideas to add a personal touch to a kitchen.


Soffits often accumulate dust over time, giving one the hustle of cleaning the top-cabinetry section. A modern kitchen bulkhead occupying the soffit saves time—no more cleaning the once-empty space. 


Here are tips to help you choose a perfect design makeover for your kitchen bulkhead and its tricks.

  • Combine the bulkheads and the cabinets. Add smaller cabinet doors to the bulkheads, for example, to give the impression of two rows of cabinets.
  • Treat the bulkhead in the same way you would the kitchen walls. Choose a color combination or surface texture that complements the bulkhead and the rest of the kitchen.
  • When installing crown molding over the ceiling, include it along the kitchen bulkhead to give it a unified look.
  • Add beautiful and practical lighting to protruding bulkheads to obtain an integrated and intentional design for your kitchen. A stair bulkhead in the kitchen is a perfect scenario showing how you can add light to a bulkhead design.
  • Extend shorter bulkheads to cover the whole length of the room. An extended bulkhead improves camouflage while also adding flare to the kitchen.
  • Materials used to finish the bulkhead can assist provide the desired touch to your kitchen, depending on the aesthetic you want to accomplish.
  • When installing a bulkhead, ensure all the metal frames are correctly aligned.

Bulkhead in kitchen: FAQ

What do you put in a kitchen bulkhead?

Ductwork, plumbing pipes, electrical cables, and HAVC are all found inside a kitchen bulkhead, which is sometimes positioned above the joist. These are components of the house’s water, ventilation, and electrical systems.

How do you dress up a kitchen bulkhead?

There are several ways to personalize the bulkhead. These alternatives include lengthening the bulkhead, hiding the bulkhead, and beautifying the bulkhead. All of these alternatives will be useful not only for decoration but also for utility, space, dimension, and space definition. Extending the bulkhead improves the room’s seamlessness. Use color, texture, and crown molding to hide a bulkhead. All of this is part of the process of adorning a kitchen bulkhead.

Can you remove the stair bulkhead?

It is quite impossible to remove a bulkhead. If the stair bulkhead is removed, the costs will be too high, rendering the project unviable. Instead of worrying about how to eliminate a bulkhead stair, consider incorporating it into the room’s design to get a functional yet elegant aesthetic. They are frequently combined with wardrobes or other storage functionality. As a result, removing the stair bulkhead is not ideal.

How much does it cost to put in a bulkhead?

The cost of installing a kitchen bulkhead varies depending on the materials used and the square footage of the bulkhead covering. The materials required for such a project can cost up to $100 at a home improvement store near you.


A bulkhead in kitchen is not always viewed as perfect for filling up a soffit. For those scenarios where you can’t avoid having a bulkhead in the kitchen, removing it is usually the idea that comes to one’s mind. Removing them is not always the silver bullet to having a better kitchen. Many creative ideas for kitchen bulkhead improvement can be incorporated into the kitchen space to achieve a modern finish. Let no bulkhead hinder you from liking your kitchen.


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