Dimensions of a 2-tiered island?

strayerdarbSeptember 9, 2013

Hello, I might do a 2-tiered island instead of a flat one. If I do, what should the width of the top part be (where the bar stools would go). And what should the width of the prep area be? No appliances or sink in island.

Also, how many inches should there be for clearance behind the bar stools as this is a walking path to family room. Right now it is designed as 45 inches. Is that enough with the stools being there?

Right now it looks like my total island countertop area will be about 8' long by about 4' wide with the 45" clearance behind the stools.

If you have a picture of yours can you post it please?


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You will need some way of supporting that raised section, which means at least 5" for a pony wall if you don't want additional cabinetry under it. Then, add 13" to the width of the pony wall, meaning that your raised bar needs to be 18" deep to both cover the pony wall, account for the overhang on the cabinet side, and give you enough overhang for comfortable seating.

You need a minimum of 60" behind a counter for traffic to pass through without squishing sideways. 72" is better if you've got two seating areas back to back and traffic flow between them. Since you only have 93" to work with, even at the minimum suggested clearance, that would only give you a 15" cabinet against that pony wall on the kitchen side if you wanted bar height seating. Even with counter height seating and no pony wall needed for support, you don't have enough room for a 48" island and the needed clearance for walking behind. You could do an 18" deep cabinet, then an 15" overhang and then the minimum 60" clearance behind the seats, but if this is a traffic zone, you will be knocking into people.

Truly, you don't have room enough for seating at all. And the island needs to shrink even without trying for seating. Even if you did a 36" wide island, you don't have the suggested minimum behind it between it and the adjacent table seating.

Something needs to give here. You're going to have to give up island seating, or make the breakfast area much larger.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 1:15PM
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I don't know what your kitchen looks like, but a flat island is easier. A tiered island would be my choice, if you had a cooktop...but since you don't, then is it to hide clutter? Do you want people on taller stools? Both of those are good reasons, but will they justify the added expense?

If you don't have room for an island, would a peninsula work? Those can be one or two tiered, as well :)

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 1:39PM
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You need a minimum of 60" behind a counter for traffic to pass through without squishing sideways.

60" or more would be ideal, but we didn't have that much and still had a couple of stools at our island and it worked fine. We took out the two tiers we had originally though (I'm not a fan).

You can't really see it, but from the corner of the column next to the stools, to the wall behind (and that was a walkway from the front hall to the family room), was about 40". It worked fine, although we used the stools only for casual sitting and conversation, not for meals.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 2:39PM
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A flat island is much more useful than one with a raised bar. More workspace that isn't broken up! With a 48" island though, you don't have room for any seating. If you drop back to a 24" island with 12" of overhang (BELOW the minimum) you will have enough room for people to scoot by. But, it too won't meet minimums. You just have to decide if it's worth it to you to be crowded and "friendly". If it's the only way you bring groceries in from the garage, then reconsider the seating at all.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Last I looked NKBA guidelines list 39" to edge past a seated diner and 44" to walk past as minimums.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 4:39PM
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Edit: because jeez that picture posted huge. Had to decrease the size a bit.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://starcraftcustombuilders.com/kitchen.design.rules.htm

This post was edited by angela12345 on Mon, Sep 9, 13 at 20:10

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 6:48PM
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Angela12345's pic...Note there is a wall behind the island, not cabinets/counter/appliances/another table. If you have counters, etc. behind the seating, you need more space - closer to 60" as is mentioned above.

Also, note the pic shows dead-end seating, not a major thoroughfare through the room. When an aisle is a major thoroughfare, you need more than the minimum recommended width.

Note: NKBA guidelines are minimums, not "average" or "maximum".

I don't know the details of your plan, but if don't have anything on the wall behind the island, you might be able to use a 42" deep island with 51" behind the island for traffic.

1.5" counter overhang + 24" deep cabinets + 1" decorative door or finished panel + 15" overhang = 41.5"

That's still a nice chunk of work space - especially if it's all one level. You have to be careful with a bi-level island. With two levels (raised seating), it means you need to be able to reach the entire depth and the raised wall from the front of the island b/c you won't be able to reach over from the raised side for wiping down the counter.

Keep in mind, that raised seating is not very comfortable for an extended length of time without a boot rail or stools that comfortably allow someone to rest their feet on. It's also more difficult for the very young and older folks to climb into and out of the taller stools. My mother and in-laws won't even sit at my counter-height peninsula b/c they don't find it comfortable or easy to get into/out of the stools or sit at it for any length of time - they head straight for the table in our DR (it's open to the kitchen and our only table space).

Lastly, with a raised counter, you can only access the workspace from three sides - the raised bar blocks access from the back of the island. So, you can't have people gathered around helping with things like decorating cookies, etc. I love that we can all sit around our peninsula coloring eggs, decorating cookies, etc.! (Only one short side is inaccessible - both long sides are accessible.)

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:05PM
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I don't know the details of your plan, but if don't have anything on the wall behind the island, you might be able to use a 42" deep island with 51" behind the island for traffic.

They're neither minimums nor maximums they're suggestions. I repeat that I had a wall behind my island, and 40" from the island to the wall, which was the walkway from the front hall to the family room, and it worked fine. Nobody ever had to "slide past" someone sitting on a counter stool at the island.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:14PM
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NKBA's diagram-not a dead end. Yes just suggested.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:52PM
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What Buehl said + noting that a lot of municipalities have building codes that incorporate the nkba standards.

The taller the stools, the deeper they then tend to be and the more the legs stick out beyond the diner. This isn't included in the chart. Neither is any allowance for people who don't sit with their chest right up against the counter.

I'd also like to point out that what is "acceptable" to one family often doesn't work for another. People are different. How much clearance will make people feel comfortable is somewhat cultural, but also people who are tall/short/skinny/plumb or those will physical challenges will all need different clearances.

Because of my personal background, I think about people who use canes and who become physically disabled through illness and have always tried to have living spaces that accommodate all shapes and sizes of people.

I am aware that for my internal sense of happiness, I just can't have narrow aisles or use less than the minimum clearances. It's just the way I'm made - being able to move freely, even when others are in the kitchen is more important to me that another 6" of storage.

I have no doubt that others are just fine using aisles that are narrower. Before deciding, you should try to figure out what makes you comfortable.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 10:11PM
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