Walking aisles widths beside counter seating overhangs?

scrappy25September 19, 2012

I had thought that 44" was the recommended NKBA distance alongside a countertop overhang to allow walking behind a seated person.

from http://starcraftcustombuilders.com/kitchen.design.rules.htm

Rule 8

However some of the people I most respect on this forum are recommending 60", and I am sure that is the best. I am curious, however, as to how wide your walking aisle is alongside your counter overhang, how heavily trafficked it is, and how comfortable you find it (especially if it is less than 60 inches). Please list what is on the other side of the aisle (wall, cabinets/counter, kitchen table with chairs, family room couch, etc) . If you have a picture to post si I can see what it looks like, that would be great!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

60" is what you need if you are ever going to have your arms full of stuff, like a full coffee pot, pitcher of orange juice, or a tray of sandwiches. Your arms do not hang down straight at your side in those situations. That will extend the space that the person will need to occupy. If you only have 48", you'll end up brushing the person, or the person will end up brushing you, and that can end up in a big accident if you're carrying something dangerous or fragile.

I personally really do not care for how your plan with the breakfast room works with the kitchen. You might as well eat in the dining room as add another room where you have to walk so far with your cereal bowl to get to it. You'll end up eating at the peninsula, and that will have wasted your construction budget.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 9:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You have a special case. If you look at the diagrams, all of those measurements are to a flat wall. The drawings don't show real furniture or stools which pretty much always stick out beyond the person. They also don't show the effects of people who are unable to neatly push their stool back (like dh whose chair is ALWAYS left pushed back). And no one is ever carrying a book bag or a bunch of grocery bags or a laundry basket or a school project or a tray.

Special cases include any time there is a working counter, a table and chairs, the back of a sofa or its actually a hallway or passageway to another room. You have two out of the three (working counter and the only passageway to the breakfast room) in the latest design.

I'm guilty of retelling the standards, but sometimes, there are standards and then there are the OTHER standards. I'll deal with the sofa first.

With 44", you can walk by a sofa carefully. When its a wall, if you "bounce" off it - no problem. It's tough to bounce off somebody's head. If you're not careful when walking next to a sofa, you can bean somebody when you're carrying something. Think of a sofa where the breakfast counter is plus a kid with their book bag.

When there are tables and chairs behind a counter with stools, a slightly different set of dynamics happens. A seated body takes up about 2 feet beyond the edge of a table or counter. When you leave 48" for an aisle, the walkway between the two pretty much disappears. There's no way to phrase this that is politically correct, but if you guys are generally slight, you might be able to squish through - but even then, there is a forest of stool and chair legs to negotiate. People take the most space becoming seated or getting out of their chair - that takes 32". So getting out of a chair becomes a co-operative operation.

There is a real difference between encountering this spacing every once in a while at a restaurant (which is the source of the spacing charts) and having it happen every day - multiple times a day. There are differences in how people react to close spacing and tight tolerances and in use patterns. Some people never use both at the same time. Some people find that the stools aren't used a lot. How your family feels about it plus what you want to achieve are factors in whether any given family chooses to go ahead and do 48" or 54" instead of 60".

My personal rule is to try not to set up a situation where I'd be reminding people every day not to do stuff with the caveat that nobody should get hit in the head.

With a working counter, you need to be able to use what's there - even when people are seated. Again, people pretty much take up two feet. The really truly minimum aisle is about 3 feet when there isn't stuff on both sides of the aisle. This lets you open up all appliances but the largest refrigerators and open up all the drawers, etc. It allows you to walk through carrying stuff without too much concern about accidentally sweeping stuff off the top of the counter.

At 60" to a seating counter, if a person leans over, their butt might hit the back of the stools temporarily, but it would be unlikely that something like a grocery bag on its way to the breakfast bar would rip open from the back of a stool or that someone would trip carrying a 12 pack of cans. Somebody can get out of their seat with only a vanishing small potential of hitting an open appliance, door, or drawer or the user of those. So not a lot of "get out of my way" stuff.

When the breakfast counter is not in use, most people can pass by the seated people easily to continue on to the breakfast room. If the breakfast counter stuff is being used and someone one wants to go by, they should be able to slide through but might have to wait occasionally on someone to make their final juice selection.

You can absolutely try this at home. Way 1:

Put some chairs up against a wall so the front of the chair faces the wall. Put your sofa 44" from the wall. Send your kids through the gap carrying assorted things. Watch how often they "go over" the edge of the sofa back. The more they get used to it, the more they will act in the same manner that they will treat the actual space.

Way 2:

Use some obstacles - like tables or cardboard boxes or saw horses and neckdown the entrance to your current kitchen from the family room so its only 48" wide and about 6 feet long. Put reversed chairs in the aisle so the back sticks into the aisle at least 18" but two feet is better. Use a little blue tape so you can tell the original positions of your setup at a glance. I'd sit some other boxes in the chairs and on top of the "counter" on the other side.

Leave it there for a week. Score a point for every muttered curse or when stuff gets knocked out of position. Yes, the kids will think you're nuts but what else is new? All kids think that anyway.

hth. And remember, no kitchen perfectly implements all the rules - You pick out the best design you can manage that meets most of your goals and the space you have.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 9:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

thank you!

LWO, I am thinking about your suggestions and also considering reducing or eliminating the peninsula seating.

bmorepanic, I had to read your wisdom through about three times. It is so comprehensive. While I was at work today passing through 3', 4', and 5' hallways (we have 6" floor tiles so it was easy to figure out the width of the hallways), I was envisioning what you suggested and can really start to see that 48" is not wide enough for my situation. I will try the mockup so show my husband as well.

Seems like NKBA needs to add to their guidelines!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 8:32PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
New to Kitchens? Read Me First!
Welcome! If you are new to the Kitchens Forum, you...
Why is a backsplash so hard to choose?
Got the counters in place today...love my Taj Mahal...
WAC vs. Seagull vs. Kichler or what else - "best" LED UCL
can someone please help/advise i feel like a fish out...
what metal finish with a Chambers stove?
I'm planning a kitchen remodel. I already have my white...
Gap between backsplash and over-the-range microwave?
Hi, all. Does anyone have an over-the-range microwave...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™