Kitchen window starting at counter height? Crazy?

MousunAugust 14, 2013

I've been told that's crazy three times now by different window installers. Basically I want the sill to be at the same height as the counter behind the sink, and the window would be wider than the sink.

Is this really a bad idea? Is it harder to do and therefore no one wants to? Will it cause horrible water damage? Will the actual counter height never line up right?

Right now, I'm planning deep-ish counters (probably 28") and a single lever faucet, if that matters. We haven't picked our window yet.

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Fori is not pleased

It's sort of a popular thing for gardenweb-inspired kitchens. Not at all un-doable!

I did it with a preexisting window but it wasn't a standard height counter so I made the counter to fit the window. Takes more planning and careful planning to do it all from scratch with a new window (and end up with a normal height counter) but it'll come out better.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 1:32PM
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Mine is all the way down. We ran the granite right on back to the window (no wooden sill). I wish it were even deeper, but my GC talked me out of it.
I love it! My mother has the same arrangement and hates it because of all the water droplets that hit the window. We even have the same faucet and I don't have a problem.....the difference is that my window faces North and the sun never hits it while hers faces West and the splatters shine like diamonds every afternoon. Mine gets just as spotty but you don't notice it.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:26PM
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WHY would a window sill be so highly functional that it was done everywhere for centuries, but a window sill that was counter depth deep be dysfunctional, or "crazy?"

A lot of contractors and craftsmen just don't want to do things different from usual. They'd have to think about it a bit, just like in the long-ago bad days before they'd learned to put in 4" sills with their eyes closed.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:44PM
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Many architects plan there own homes precisely that way. (New construction). Usually within 6" thick exterior walls.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 5:03PM
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Thanks, I thought I'd seen plenty of pictures depicting sills and counters on the same level.

Any advice, then, on how to make it clear -- to anyone we work with -- what it is I'm after? Specifics such as rough opening needs to start X inches from 36" above floor level?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 5:53PM
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Start the r.o. @ 34" above the fin floor and OVERSIZE the r.o. height by 1". Then you can manipulate the window in the hole to the exact height using thick shims...You might want that flexibility later....knowwhatimean??
Oops. Your exterior siding may want a vote on that flexibility issue though also.

This post was edited by Kpro123 on Wed, Aug 14, 13 at 20:11

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 8:07PM
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We did this with a bump out and love the result. My GC had no issue with how to do it. I'm sure you've done a google search to find old threads on this topic. This one may be useful, especially buehl's response.

Here is a link that might be useful: buehl's explanation of counter height windows

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 9:13PM
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We did this in our kitchen. In our case, we started with a bay window that was only 22" above the floor. We raised it so we could put our counter into the bay and up to the sill as well. The two side windows open, the middle window does not. It is difficult and you may or may not get it exact...err on the side of slightly higher than lower, though, b/c you can have a very short sill (~1/4" or so) and still have the same look.

A couple of tips:

  • For windows that open, get casement windows (crank open rather than lift up to open) b/c trying to open a window when leaning over a counter can be a "stretch" :-)

Be sure you have enough room b/w the counter and the crank so you can turn the crank w/o running into the counter

Usually, the window should be 36" off the finished floor. The height of the window itself is up to you want it almost to the ceiling or a different height? In our case, we were constrained by the fact that our bay was an actual bump-out of the house so we were limited to the height of the bump-out...14" lower than our 8' ceilings.

OK...this is what you have to do...

  1. First, are you replacing your current floor? If so, will it be before or after you put in the window?
  1. If before, you need to know the thickness of the floor and the materials used to put in the floor.

    E.g., our tile floor went in after our window. So, we had to know how thick the tile was (3/8") + thickness of thinset + subfloor (if new subfloor will be put down).

    Then, we had to subtract the thickness of the vinyl that was still in place but was going to be taken out later (1/4")

If the window will be going in after the new floor is installed or you are not replacing the floor, you can skip this step. Next, find out the height of your cabinets themselves. Most are 34-1/2" high. But, if you have raised or lowered your counters you will have a different height. Now, determine the thickness of your countertop material.

  1. If granite, is it 2cm or 3cm? Generally (in USA), the west coast has 2cm and the rest of the country has 3cm. (2.54 cm = 1 in)
  2. If 2cm, you will need to know the thickness of your plywood subtop as well.

Add these numbers together and that's how high off the floor you will need to place your window. And, like I said before, it's better to err on the side of too high than too low.

Here's an older picture of our window (b/f we did any real decorating).


    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 11:53PM
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    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 12:16AM
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I could NOT get DH on board with the counter height window. He envisioned creeping black mold and disastrous hurricanes and our arms and legs falling off if the window was at counter height. (He gets a little dramatic sometimes) The most I could get out of him was 2" above and I have a sneaking feeling that it's framed in for 3" above, too.

although Cindaintx gives me pause with the west facing window situation and water droplets.... maybe that is a factor in considering?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 1:59AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

We bumped our counter out into the window and it works just fine. It does a great job of increasing the view and adding more light to the sink.

He may be thinking that the wood of the sill is flush with the counter and it isn' is raised slightly so the counter has something to die into and the joint can be sealed. So it's close to flush, but not exactly.

I definitely would not want a perfectly flush sill either as it will have a gap as wood and your counter top expand and react to moisture differently.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 8:40AM
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I wish I had gone with the counter height window but did ours before our remodel, so stuck with what I have.
I think it opens up the kitchen so nicely - and makes you feel less claustrophobic...
It also gives more room for faucet options..
Someday...(OK 20 years from now)

Bottom line - stick to your guns if you want this option.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 9:30AM
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Thanks for the super helpful responses. Off to read all the links...

I don't truly mind if we end up with windows that are even just close to the counters. The window starts 14 inches above the counter right now, and it limits the light and view.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 10:56AM
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I mentioned this to my GC and he said, "No problem." But he admitted like Buehl that it's a bit tricky. Essentially it takes knowing the exactly flooring you will be using (for depth), the exact counter and edging and all of the specifics to get the right height off the finished floor and planning VERY CAREFULLY.

The reason that many don't want to do this is because the margin for error is higher than if they just planned for it to be 4" from the counter height. I will have no trim on my windows so that makes it tough too. Be insistent--they can do this! So many beautiful kitchens have this and yours can too.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 5:36PM
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Interesting thread.
Every house in my neighborhood has the window on the countertop. Except one neighbor who had it raised so the behind the sink area was equal to the back spash basically.

Anyway, I saw it and wanted to do that. After reading this thread, I'm not going to........:) Thanks

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 7:03PM
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I started down this path and my contractor was okay with it and then the electrician showed up. Where do the outlets go if your windows is wide? Ours will be 7 ft which means I will have 7 ft where I can't have a wall outlet. Turns out that is just too much length without an outlet. I think I will find out how low can the backsplash be and still have an outlet - is 3 inches enough space/height for an outlet (turned on its side) and then for window sill to start on top of that? Are there outlets that are "modern" and take up less space maybe?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 7:16PM
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elphaba -- There are other ways to get an outlet in that long stretch of counter under the windows. I have a pop-up outlet in my counter under the counter height window. This works really well for me (crock pot is bubbling away plugged in there, even as I type). This is what it looks like:

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 7:34PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

There are pop up outlets that go in the counter...

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 7:40PM
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In essence, no one can tell you this because all windows have slightly different dimensions. There are parts of the window unit lower than what is visible as the sill and those have different dimensions for different window types and for different makes. The framing for the window needs to take those dimensions into account. What buehl said and different countertops materials have different thicknesses and if you live in an older home, a level window may not be the same height from the flooring on both sides.

There should be a dimensioned drawing available from the manufacturer showing where the an actual sill would intersect the window unit. Leaving a larger rough opening is an ok idea.

Next time, try phrasing this as "I want to use the counter as the window sill." Show one of the pictures where this was done to use as an example. The way you're phrasing it (sill at the same level as the counter) doesn't make sense - bet those installers are thinking you want a wood sill butted up to the counter.

You can use sliding windows or awning windows if they're sited at the bottom.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 8:02PM
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My dream counters will be soapstone. I've started paying Granite Grannies for them already. Might take a couple of years.

My kitchen window was put in originally so the top was door height. I couldn't see out of it.
I had it lowered. Oh, my! A whole back field out there!

When I go to put my countertops in, I'm going to change the window out entirely to accommodate soapstone all the way to the window.

Anything is possible. If you don't mind saving and paying for it. Even changing your mind.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 1:18PM
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