Prep sink to stove distance -- 18 inches enough?

northcarolinaOctober 26, 2011

I am (I think) finally figuring out a layout that will work with our budget and my tolerance for upheaval; it will keep most of our cabinets and appliances in their current locations. However: I am thinking of adding a prep sink near the range since I currently have to hike across the kitchen with water (about 6.5 feet with a traffic path in between). I can tweak the proposed arrangement a little, but the easiest thing to do would be to keep the existing 18" cabinet next to the range and put a prep sink on the other side of that (replacing an 18" utility cabinet). There is another 18" cab on the opposite side of the range.

Do you all think 18" between prep sink and range is enough space to be useful? (I am cooking for a family of 4 most nights.) I thought it was, but then when I was making ratatouille last night it occurred to me that my piles of veggies plus the cutting board were taking up more than 18". (They were also all the way across the room from the range and I was working around the used dishes, the microwave, coffee pot, and various other things -- so one might say that even 18" clear prep near the range would be an improvement.) I would still have my prep area next to the main sink too, so the 18" wouldn't be all that was available.

Thanks for opinions --

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If you plan for that to be your main prep space, then you want at least 36"-48" between your sink and stove. That space also has to act as emergency landing zone for hot pots, but thankfully, not as a cleanup area! What's on the other side of the 18" utility cabinet? It's a good thing that modern cabinets are modular! It makes it easier to reconfigure things.

The sink should be able to fit your largest stockpot into it as a guideline, and mine wouldn't fit in a 14" sink. I couldn't imagine washing veggies in a 14" sink either.I wouldn't want to go smaller than an 18" sink for a well used prep area, but what size are you planning?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 11:07AM
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Well -- to be honest I don't think it could be the main prep area at that size, but I was hoping it might help when I want to drain pasta and also serve as a handwashing sink (if nobody is cooking at the time) and maybe also be a nice place to chop veggies that are going straight into a pan and... well, I guess I want to know if it's even worth the trouble to put a sink over there. I won't know exactly how many inches are available until the current floor comes up -- there is HW at the other end of the room but it doesn't extend into the kitchen, and there will be a slight flooring elevation change (as there is now, but we could let the new floor cover a bit of the old HW in order to not have the elevation change happen in the middle of a cabinet). Did that make any sense at all? Anyway, I could make the prep sink cabinet 24", I think. On the other side of the tall utility cabinet is a big bookcase, which can shift a few inches down the wall (how many inches depends on whether we want to relocate an electrical outlet... can't go more than about a foot without running into a floor a/c register, which trust me we do not want to mess with).

You are not going to have any idea what I am talking about without pictures. Here you go. By the way, these are frameless Euro cabs that are about 20-25 yrs old, and the KD's at local stores (all selling cabinets of course) think I am crazy and should just buy a whole new set. If you agree, now would be a very good time to tell me...

We don't want to make any structural changes (lots of reasons). What I would like to know is 1) whether the prep sink is a good idea, and now that we are talking about it, 2) whether this layout makes any sense. It seemed like a relatively painless way to increase the efficiency of the space (short of a complete redo) when I thought of it.

Here is the current layout. There is and will always be a dish drainer to the left of the sink, so all that counter acreage to the left is not really available for prep. Peninsula is a big fat clutter magnet. Note that neither window looks outdoors anymore; the sink wall is an exterior wall but there have been additions on the other side of it. DR is through the doorway to the left of the range.

Proposed new layout, main change being the shift of the main sink out from under the window. This is a not-to-scale rough draft I did for myself to see if the cabinet arrangement would work for our stuff; I've added some labels so it will make a little more sense to other people.

This is what it looks like now.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 12:16PM
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Are you moving plumbing? It looks like your sink is in a different spot in your propsed layout than it is in your existing layout. If so, I would strongly consider moving the cleanup sink where you have the range, then put the range and prep sink where you currently show the main sink. Why? Because I would not want a tiny 18" prep space between range and prep sink. Way too small. I agree with GD about at least 36". And because if you plan to do your main prepping by the cleanup sink, you're still trekking food across a great expanse to the range.

My old corridor galley kitchen had an aisle almost as big as yours with sink and range where yours are now. The layout completely ticked me off. The aisle is too large for that kind of set up.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 12:42PM
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Breezy -- yes, that is one of the configurations I had thought of. I mapped it out and it would take an entire cabinet redo to make it work (we would only be able to use a couple of the existing ones), and we'd either have to fill in a window or move the fridge or both (obviously just moving the fridge would be be less trouble), and we'd have to relocate the vent hood. But I do have it on paper as a possibility in case a spare $20K or so falls out of the sky. :)

We are going to have some fixed costs even if we don't change the layout at all: countertop/sink/faucet (all worn out), flooring (well, that's really only necessary if we get rid of the peninsula), electrical update, wall repair because the existing backsplash is 3/4" thick laminate glued to plaster, and plumbing. Our plumber is not fond of our antique iron pipes, but he is too polite to tell me that they really need changing out (though that is what he would do if we move the sink or add a second). So I am trying to see if I can make a more functional kitchen without adding too much to the fixed costs, and bonus points if it's mostly stuff I can do myself.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 1:45PM
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I'm all for reusing your cabinets while you spend the bulk of your money on reworking your layout. Getting the bones right is important. If you use an inexpensive counter like a laminate or Ikea butcherblock, you can always replace the cabinets and counters later if you get the infrastructure done now.

Are you eliminating the wall where the desk is? Because I can see keeping most of your layout as is, but putting the fridge there, with a base MW cabinet. The tall pantry cabinet could move to where the fridge was, Or replace it with a purchased repurposed armoire in the fridge location, and that would give you room for a prep sink on your range run without it being crowded.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 2:10PM
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You might try exchanging the ref and the range. Pick the all drawer cabinet next to the corner cabinet off and move that to the door side of the range.

This would give you a good, well lit prep area between the sink and range. I would rework the former range wall to be a tall wall with a lot of storage by building a large storage closet next to the ref.

If you have a little more funding, look into making both sides deeper by building out the closet to nearly the depth of the refrigerator and padding out behind the sink wall. This should reduce the agro of the center aisle by a foot in total - adding about 6 inches to both sides.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 3:22PM
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GD - thanks, the desk needs to stay where it is (that area is also a long way from the DR, for fridge placement) but I just double-checked the measurement. We could shift the bookcase down 18 inches before it hits the a/c vent (would have to move an electrical outlet though). That means that a prep sink could go into the cabinet marked Q in the layout plan above (36" between sink and stove), then a 15" or 18" pantry storage cabinet, then the bookcase (which is 48" wide, and we need every inch of that plus some for books).

bmorepanic - I had that in an early draft but I can't remember why I nixed it... oh wait, I think it was before I thought of shifting the sink down the run. A friend with the same house plan has that layout and it is really tight between her sink and stove, when the sink is in the original location under the window. It would be OK with the sink moved down. I'd still have to relocate the vent and reconfigure the cabinetry more than with the other plan (plus get the new cabs for the fridge wall), so it might cost more depending on whether I still wanted to add a 2nd sink by the fridge for lunches/second cook/etc. I'd have to do a little cost/benefit figuring on that. But it would seem sensible, if you have to have a walk path through the middle of your work triangle, to have the fridge be the thing on the far side.

So that is two possibilities: this one (adv: simpler to implement because most cabs stay where they are, don't have to move hood; possible drawback: too much distance betw fridge and prep sink? but you can't have everything):

Or this (adv: seems a sensible arrangement; drawbacks: additional cabinetry costs, have to relocate more electrical etc, have to move hood). I would also have to figure whether I had room to store all the dishware/utensils plus all the cooking equipment on the same wall.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 4:41PM
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I hope Erikanh doesn't mind me reposting her much beloved kitchen with small sink by the stove, which she has shown us so often.

Northcarolina, I do think your small sink is too far from the fridge to be properly labelled a "prep" sink in the simpler to implement plan (it doesn't matter where exactly in the run it is for that--it's the distance of the whole prep area). If you call it a "secondary sink" instead the problem goes away! I would most likely prep by the nice window at E and D, which is easy reach to sink and fridge, and not too bad a distance to the stove. The secondary sink is great, then, for draining pots, adding a bit of water, and for cleaning and chopping up another pepper or onion while stirring. That gives you three nice zones for working in, one on either side of the big sink, and one between the small sink and stove. Because of the width of the kitchen and the multiple doorways, I think the secondary sink really does improve the function, and makes for better workflow.

I don't think the rearranged version gives you the benefit that it initially seems to. It puts the prep area by the fridge too far from the stove, which puts prep back at the bigger sink, but in this case, abandons that whole part of the kitchen, below the fridge, functionally making it smaller. This is a good plan if there will always be someone doing secondary prep (dessert, for instance, or baking), while someone else is prepping at the other sink, and tending the stove. It would also work well if you want a dedicated coffee/snack area that's out of the traffic pattern for the main flow of the kitchen.

I prefer "simpler to implement" for its better workflow, and obvious savings.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 5:10PM
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Plllog - just saying - it is intended that prep be between the sink and range - directly in front of the window.

For the original poster, why do you need a second sink to make lunch? Not critical of it, just don't understand.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Thanks for the encouragement, plllog! Simpler and less expensive is of course the attractive option, but I wouldn't want to do something that won't end up working out well. That is a beautiful kitchen photo!

bmorepanic -- oops -- haha, yes, I need to explain. I don't mean MY lunch, I mean making the kids' lunches in the a.m. while someone else is trying to get breakfast together. Right now every single thing that happens with food (other than actually standing at the stove to cook) happens in that little corner between the sink and fridge. It was fine when DH was single (he designed the current layout) but it is not working as well for a family. It is also very difficult to have the children help me prep because of that tight corner. On thinking about it more, I am not sure I'd ever do much major prepping over by the stove in my "simpler" layout if I had a sink there -- I'd have to have double sets of prep utensils for one thing, because it is so convenient to prep between the fridge and big sink for everything that's not going on the stovetop. But it would be nice to have a sink there to fill and empty pots and wash out the cast iron and that sort of thing, as plllog said.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 7:55PM
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Y'know...I think you could encourage use of the secondary sink in the simpler plan by making the fridge open toward the dining room. I can't remember if you were getting a new fridge and I'm too tired to look. I grew up in a kitchen like that, also done to make traffic flow manageable, where you have to bring the prep items around the fridge door. It seems counter-intuitive to do it, but unless you have a breakfast center with its own fridge, there's a lot of inning and outing of the fridge that's not really related to kitchen work. I did my new kitchen this way too--the main fridge opens toward the eating areas, and makes carrying pickles, olives, condiments, the salads that have been chilling, the water/milk/juice, the sandwich fixings, etc., etc., so much easier. The difference, however, is that I have an island for a landing area. It looks like you just have room for a folding tea cart, which would be a help for getting out giant turkeys, though just a basket would be sufficient for getting out an armload of vegetables.

Anyway, the premise is, not only does that make the fridge more accessible to eaters without them intruding into your corner prep area, it also sort of directs them to the secondary prep area by the stove for sandwich making, and things like that. You could further encourage that by stocking some spreaders, a sandwich/bread knife, and even some cups, by the stove. There should be room in the corners around your pans, even.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 9:08PM
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I wouldn't have thought about having the door swing the "wrong" way! Our current fridge is a side-by-side, and it is no longer young but should be fine for a while longer -- that'll give us time to contemplate what we need in a new one, after we do whatever we are going do with the layout. Of course sticking with side-by-side or a French door would let us avoid the issue entirely. :)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 11:56PM
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What if you used plan B with the range where the fridge was, and put the fridge where cabinet H is. You could then pull the cabinets off of the wall and create an island with a prep sink close to the range that would narrow down that big walkway to a more manageable distance. You could have 36" on one side of the island and 42" on the traffic side. If you widened the door to the dining room, you might steal room for seating on the long side of the island.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 12:08AM
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I know - but try to keep remembering that you're moving the sink. The space in front of either window opening will be really pleasant (light and views) and the other side will be a blank wall. Not that you can't decorate it, but its not as appealing.

If it were me, I would not be really happy losing the pantry space to gain a second sink.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:27AM
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GD -- I had thought of that too, but the room is a little too narrow (10'8") to have an island more than about 24" wide. I even mocked it up with large boxes set 36" from the sink cabinet, and it just felt a little too crowded (maybe because I am used to having the whole room open behind me). The kitchen was of course not originally designed as a galley -- the half that is now den/office was once a bedroom but that wall came down many years ago.

bmore -- I know. There are going to be tradeoffs no matter what I do; I finally decided that there is no perfect layout for this kitchen but there are a number of "good enough" ones, so it's a matter of choosing which of the "good enoughs" will suit us best. What is next on my list (I have been putting it off) is to clear everything out of the cabinets for cleaning, edit and prune the accumulated stuff, and figure out exactly how much storage I really do need. Then I can make a better judgment on whether I can give up the storage space.

Thank you all for the input! I really appreciate the time everyone has taken to help me work through this.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 2:18PM
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Warning (on the lighthearted side): When you have a new, convenient kitchen, and new storage space, one of those corollaries to Murphy's Law goes into effect. It says the amount of stuff you have will just exceed the amount of space you have in which to put it away. That is, when you have a lovely new kitchen, don't be surprised if some lovely new kitchen things (pots, utensils, or what have you), enter the room and demand to be stored.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 4:33PM
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Ha! That's the fun part: having an excuse to replace some of the worn-out stuff with shiny new (more functional, of course) stuff.

I have heard that your possessions always exceed your storage space by at least one drawer-full. I ran across the same concept in a Tolstoy story not long ago, so it isn't just us. :)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 5:42PM
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I like the fridge and prep sink on the inside wall...maybe put the microwave there, too? It makes a great snack/lunch area for the kids and keeps them out of your main prep area.

Why are you losing the little peninsula? That looks like a cute little spot for the kids to sit and eat the snacks :)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 5:58PM
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Why are you losing the little peninsula? That looks like a cute little spot for the kids to sit and eat the snacks

It does, doesn't it? And one would think that it would be. Somehow it has never worked out that way. lol. The peninsula is the main dumping ground of the house, and DH and I both hate the clutter so much that my reaction is to just get rid of it entirely and force a change of habit. (I'll have to figure out a new drop zone as part of the planning.) The kids are too little to be able to sit comfortably at a counter, and DH and I never sat there before kids either -- maybe because it is kind of short, maybe because the overhang is kind of shallow, maybe because the DR is more convenient to the fridge, who knows -- so it won't be something we'll miss. (I hope.)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:25PM
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You know, this is the perfect time to make changes...and the peninsula is in a good location. Maybe make it a more comfortable size, put in better stools and keep it? Just because the kids are too young now...believe me, they'll grow up fast. It could be a great baking area, when the kids want to help make cookies, too.

If the only problem is that it catches clutter, I'd find a new place for the clutter. Are you keeping the desk, file and bookcases? I would try to incorporate more storage here, maybe a mail/organization center, with bulletin board, trash/recycling, bill organizer, etc.

Also, if you're walking all the way to the peninsula to dump stuff, maybe change out the bookshelves to more storage. You'll need space for the kids' backpacks, coats, boots, etc. when they start to school. If you have another place to store those types of things, then maybe move the clutter area to that location.

Remember, this is your chance to organize your entire space. Not only the kitchen work area but to give you better storage for all of your and in the future :)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 11:33PM
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It's interesting, isn't it, how different people see things differently? I thought the little peninsula was a traffic barrier and thought the flow worked so much better with it gone! I wouldn't want any kind of peninsula there, though, perhaps, a folding cafe table or something like that might be nice. A place to have a cuppa and read a recipe or to sit and shuck peas. :) Lots of people, especially the very young and very old, are uncomfortable on counter stools, too.

This is definitely a topic upon which you should consult your own druthers, though I agree heartily on the multi-pronged effort at organization. The only way to really tame dumped stuff, however, is to put it away daily.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 11:42PM
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First off, back to the original question because I think you only got one answer on that. We have 2 feet between the range and our prep sink. An extra half foot to foot would be nice, but that is what we had available with a big prep sink, ~20" by 20".

For over 20 years before we redid our kitchen, our prep sink was 10" by 10" - the same size as the sink in our wet bar but with a disposal. Yes, that is small but because it was in a convenient location for it, we did almost all our fruit and vegetable prep there. A prep sink doesn't have to be huge to be useful. Bigger than that would be good, but it doesn't have to be 18" or more wide. A 13" by 18" can be a very nice size - big enough to have a bowl or colander holding veg you are rinsing or soaking but still leave some clear space. Green Designs suggested that it should fit your biggest stock pot, but I don't feel that is necessary. I don't ever recall putting my stock pot in mine. I fill it on the counter or sometimes on the burner using the pull out faucet. (It just reaches because the sink is 2 feet from the range top.)

Looking at your kitchen, I think the most convenient layout would moving the clean up sink to where the range is and putting the range on the wall between the windows - where your plans show the cleanup sink moving. You don't need to get rid of any of the windows if you do that and since it is an external wall, moving the vent there should be easy. A prep sink could go in the cabinet you show a D. That makes for a very good flow for preparation - produce from the fridge or the counter to the prep sink, then prepped between the sink and the range in front of the window.

Plenty of storage for pots, pans and prep tools around the range and prep sink.

The sink, DW and dish storage cabinets on the wall by the dining room are convenient for setting the table and after meal clean up. It can also be used as a secondary prep area such as you wanted for making lunches while someone else prepares breakfast.

You said that moving the range to that wall would require more new cabinets, but I don't see why. Existing cabinets could be detached and moved so it shouldn't take any more new ones than what your are contemplating already.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 4:41PM
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lavendar and plllog -- I completely agree about incorporating new storage and organization into the planning. Sitting down and doing it is the hard part. :)

cloud_swift -- thank you for telling me your experiences with your prep sink near the range, that's very helpful! I agree with you also about your proposed arrangement having a good flow. One of the KD's I talked to thought the idea of having the cleanup sink on the opposite side of the room was weird, so I'm happy to know I am not crazy to have considered it. It would not be so simple to rearrange the cabinets that way (and you could not know this without seeing the kitchen in person). The existing cabinets wouldn't easily slot into other locations in some cases because of measurements. For example, the space between the two "windows" (they are no longer exterior) is 47". (Longwinded explanation of the windows and why I want to keep them could go here, but I will spare you.) The range is 30", with a 30" cabinet above. I decided at some point that it would look silly to have that 30" upper floating between the windows all by itself or flanked by two narrow cabinets, so what I'd really need would be a standalone hood (sleek and cool-looking, naturally), which in turn would look silly over my white freestanding coil-top, so then I'd need either a 36" slide-in range or an induction cooktop or... [grin] Scope creep. Of course there would be a way to make it work without buying a new range; I am being facetious. I do appreciate the ideas and I will sit down with my drawings and measurements and see what could go where. I am not forgetting that the cost of new cab boxes is not that high compared to the cost of new doors all round plus new interior fittings for the lowers.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 10:18PM
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A) I'm a function over form person - I'd choose to put things where they work best and then work on how to make it look good.
B) Appliances may come and go, layout is usually going to outlast them. Therefore go for the layout that works and make your existing appliances work within it. We kept our existing white fridge when we remodeled, but made the refrigerator space larger than it needed so that we could replace it with one that was taller and 36" wide when it died. We were very happy that we did that 3 years later when we replaced it.

I don't think the existing range will look silly under a stand alone hood, but there are several ways to handle it:

- use the existing vent cabinet above the range centered between the "windows" and flank it with ~8" open shelves so it visually fills the space more. Two narrow 8" cabinets would cost too much and not be very useful, but some small shelves could be made up pretty inexpensively; or

- go ahead and put in a new vent hood with the existing range below it, think of it as homey rather than silly; if you think you will want to replace it with a 36" someday, consider putting 3" filler on either side of the range so that you have a 36" spot available without changing the cabinets; or

- reject the tyranny of symmetry and embrace asymmetry - put the range toward one side of the between window space so that you can have a 15" upper cabinet next to the 30" vent hood cabinet.

Of course, that still means moving the venting, but no worse than moving the range to where the fridge is.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 2:55PM
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