Is a Walk-in Pantry in Your Future?

If The walk-in pantry style is the most popular pantry design today in modern kitchens.  This pantry type is the ultimate in practicality, ease of use, and functionality.

Walk-in pantries range in size from a tiny room to a multi-functional area that may share space with other task locations, like laundry facilities.  The larger rooms even incorporate appliances such as an extra refrigerator or freezer. 

In a hurry? Skip ahead to common pantry sizes.

Pantry Measurements

Looking for pantry measurements? Visit our Walk-in Pantry Dimensions page. 

Justifying a walk-in pantry

Is a walk-in pantry necessary? A walk-in pantry is not necessary in a home. Food storage can be found in other places, such as kitchen cabinets and rooms outside of the kitchen. A large walk-in pantry is a luxury because it requires a bigger house to allow for the extra needed space. Many average-size homes can get by with a modest step-in pantry or smaller versions of a walk-in pantry.

Is a walk-in pantry a waste of space? Large walk-in pantries are not an efficient use of space when looking at the house plan as a whole. Walk-in pantries uses traffic space inside the room to turn around and maneuver, especially when handling groceries. In contrast, a reach-in closet pantry shares traffic patterns with other parts of the room, therefore conserving space.

As a rule, when a “square” pantry increases in size, more floor space is wasted. This can be seen in the floor plan examples in “Walk-in Pantry Dimensions.” However, by staying with minimal clearances, wasted space can be reduced.

walk in pantry wire shelves
Walk-in pantry with wired shelves. Photo 216257784 / Pantry © Jack Schultz |

Despite the fact that space is wasted, walk-in pantries are a coveted home feature. Kitchen owners enjoy visually being able to easily see food contents on shelves.

The mega walk-in pantries have morphed into second kitchens, leaving the main kitchen on perfect display. Smaller homes do their best to mimic the space of the larger showcase pantries, albeit on a smaller scale. Let’s look at the benefits and downsides to having a walk-in pantry.

The pros of a walk-in pantry

  • opportunity to see all the food items at a glance
  • ability to close the pantry door and let the main kitchen take center stage
  • more economical when using open shelving versus expensive cabinets
  • cabinets and appliances don’t have to match the main kitchen and can update the main kitchen separately

The cons of a walk-in pantry

  • space can be a black hole
  • can be oddly shaped when given the “leftovers” of a floor plan
  • floor traffic space takes away from other square footage of the house
  • greater pressure to keep tidy
walk in pantsry with counter cabinets wire shelving
Walk-in pantry with cabinets, counter, and wire shelving. ID 104846513 © Ala2017bn |

Things to consider when building a walk-in pantry

Walk-in pantries, even in beautiful luxury homes, can get the “leftovers” – a pocket of space that just happens to work for it. A walk-in pantry, like all pantries, will often get an interior room, rather than sacrifice a precious exterior wall that could enjoy a window with a view.

If you were strategically placing a pantry, it would go in the northeast corner of your house. This is the coldest location. In homes that have floor heat, builders leave out heating coils in pantry floor zones, otherwise the pantry would get too warm.

Other things to consider is adequate ventilation for the room and the door type. Many people will install a door with a more significant gap at the base, a louvred door, or a transom window above the door for increased air flow. Air flow is important in a pantry, otherwise it can get stale, as well as moldy (definitely not the right conditions for food storage).

walk-in pantry narrow
Walk-in narrow pantry. ID 182342514 © Michael Turner |

If the walk-in pantry is of good size, you will want electrical outlets put in. Local building codes will have to be observed. Second refrigerators, small freezers, and wine coolers will need sufficient electrical supply.

Will you have a counter in your walk-in pantry? How about food prep? There is a fine line between “just food storage” and the irresistible urge to see what else that can sneak in there. Once a sink is installed, it begins to hover into second kitchen territory’ your walk-in pantry may need a name change (modern butler’s pantry seems to cross this line as well).

Shelving will have to be decided. There are numerous forums on the Internet that continually debate the pros and cons of wire shelves, and which is better, solid shelving or wires? It’s pretty easy to get lost in that decision.

Where do you put a walk-in pantry? Near the garage door where groceries are unloaded makes sense, but that might not be very close to the kitchen. A pantry located a close to the kitchen is the most ideal.

The question of walk-in pantry size

The size of a walk-in pantry is not such an easy question. Some people desperately want to squeeze a walk-in pantry in at all costs. The bottom line is that one’s body has to bend, reach, and turn around in the space. Ultimately, that is the deciding factor on how big a walk-in pantry will need to be.

Designing the space for accessibility for those with disabilities requires greater space. The good news is if the walk-in is designed big enough for accessibility to begin with, all future homeowners can enjoy using the space.

I would classify a small walk-in pantry as 4′ x 4′ or 4′ x 5′. This is more of a step-in pantry, but a body of an average person could step into it. The problem is that people are not so “average” anymore. The next generation always seems to be taller and bigger than the previous.

In response to “how narrow a pantry can be?” A minimal width for a walk-in pantry is 3.6″. This allows 30″ of space to walk-in (the same clearance as a door) and barely enough room to turn around and retrieve a food item from a 12″ deep shelf. It is not ideal, but it works.

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walk-in pantry bill wilson flickr square
Walk-in pantry design style example.

Of course, you can have any width for a pantry that you want. At some point, there has to be a limit, since the more width results in more floor space. This is not efficient, unless floor space is needed to roll in carts. Please be in tune with local building requirements and fire codes requiring sufficient escape access.

There is no standard depth for a walk-pantry, only common depths. Therefore, a common depth in small to medium new construction is 4′-6′ deep. A walk-in pantry can be as deep as space allows or what the homeowner deems necessary for their needs. 

Some walk-in pantries are gloriously long – as much as 12 feet or more! The truth is that more space will be filled with more stuff. Even a small pantry, when efficiently utilized, can be a real organizing marvel.

To get an idea for space allowance for a pantry, refer to these popular pantry sizes to visualize how much space you need (the list is compiled by informal research of multiple pantry users):

Common sizes for walk-in pantries are:

  • 4′ x4′
  • 5′ x 5′
  • 4′ x 6′
  • 6′ x 6′
  • 5′ x 7′
  • 5’x 10′
  • 10′ x 10′


walk-in pantry shelves wood
Walk-in pantry. ID 216257784 © Jack Schultz |

These are favorite pantry sizes, but not the only ones. Often in remodeling or new home design, you “get what you get” and sometimes that can result in oddly-shaped walk-in pantries. It would not be uncommon to see some angles and L-shapes. If you have a set vision of your end goal, I encourage you to try your best to make it happen.

The cost of a pantry

A walk-in pantry comes at a cost. Having open shelving rather than expensive cabinets has always been an argument in support of a walk-in pantry. Beside the monetary cost, there is the cost of space in a home. Although many of us dream of gorgeous and lavish walk-ins, the truth is a modest and smaller walk-in will get the job done and save money.

Will a pantry add value to your home?

Any kind of storage space adds value to a home. A pantry is specialized food storage. Not all buyers will put an emphasis on having a walk-in pantry. But just like luxury bathrooms, fireplaces, and trophy kitchens, a walk-in pantry is a tantalizing perk.

How much does it cost to build a walk in pantry? A walk-in pantry costs $1,000-$4,500+ to build.

There is a difference between a planned space for a pantry in new building construction and a DIY home remodel. In a new remodel, it will be more cost effective to put it in right away. In a DIY remodel, the homeowner will reclaim space for a walk-in – that space might not be that big of a sacrifice and serve a better function as a pantry.

More pantry questions

What is the difference between a walk-in pantry and a butler’s pantry? A walk-in pantry is for the storage of dry and canned food used in food preparation in the kitchen.

A butler’s pantry is traditionally a small room that supports a formal dining room. The butler’s pantry provides a waiting area for the food to be served (staging) and to set removed dishes in between food courses. A butler’s pantry also provides storage for the fine china, table, and glassware.

What is a walk-in larder? A “larder” is an English term referring to cold storage. It derives its name from “lard” – fat used in cooking that needed to be stored in a cooler room. Modern English homes no longer are built with cold rooms, but the name has remained. The larder today is the equivalent of a pantry in the United States.

I sincerely hope that a walk-in pantry is in your future! – Renée

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