Aisle widths, walkways, seating overhangs, work and landing space, an

buehlJanuary 1, 2013

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Aisles widths...are determined by measuring counter edge-to-counter edge, not cabinet-to-cabinet.

    If there are no counters (e.g., a tall pantry cabinet), then measure to/from the cabinet door...usually 1" past the cabinet box.

    For appliances, measure to/from the part that sticks out the furthest (usually the handle...this info is contained in appliance specs).

Counter overhangs...Counters usually have an overhang of 1.5" beyond a cabinet box. So, with standard 24" deep base cabinets, the counter will extend another 1.5" beyond for a total counter depth of 25.5".

This overhang is designed to protect cabinets, doors/drawer fronts, and the inside of drawers/cabinets from spills on the counter. By extending past the cabinet & doors, spills are directed away from the cabinet boxes/doors/drawer fronts/insides. 1" of that 1.5" overhang is to cover the doors & drawer fronts and protects the insides of the drawers & cabinets; the other 1/2" extends past the surfaces of the doors & drawer fronts & protects them from spills. Seating overhang & spacing...

  • Counter-height seating (36" off the floor) - a minimum overhang of 15" of clear knee/leg space (i.e., no obstructions)
  • Bar-height seating (42" off the floor) - a minimum overhang of 12" of clear knee/leg space
  • Table-height seating (30" off the floor) - a minimum overhang of 19" of clear knee/leg space
  • You should have a minimum of 24" of linear space per seat. E.g., a 4' wide island could seat up to 2 people; a 6' wide island could seat up to 3 people, etc.

BTW...if you put decorative doors on the back of island or peninsula cabinets, they will take away approx 1" from the overhang, so add that 1" to the overall depth of the island or peninsula. E.g., if you have an island with seating and all one height at 36":

1.5" counter overhang in front + 24" deep cabinets + 1" decorative end panel or door + 15" seating overhang = 41.5" for the depth of the island....this is a minimum depth. Walkways....In a seating area, 36" of clearance from counter/table edge to wall/obstruction if no traffic passes behind seated diners. 65" of total clearance when this includes a walkway (i.e., traffic). [From the NKBA Kitchen Planning Guidelines With Access Standards] There are three primary work zones...Prep Zone (70% of kitchen work/time), Cooking Zone (10% of kitchen work/time), and Cleanup Zone (20% of kitchen work/time)

Of these, the Prep & Cooking Zones work best when either next to each other or across from each other, but across no more than a 48" aisle.

The Cleanup Zone usually works best if it's separated from the Prep & Cooking Zones. Sometimes that means different parts of the kitchen (usually with a prep sink in the Pep Zone), other times it means the only sink in the kitchen separates them...Prep & Cooking Zones on one side of the sink, Cleanup Zone with DW on the other side of the sink.

[See the FAQ: Kitchen work zones, what are they?) for more information about work zones. Trash & recycle pullout...works best in the Prep Zone, near the Cooking Zone, and, if only one and possible, near the Cleanup Zone. Far more trash & recyclables are generated while prepping and cooking than while cleaning up. So, if you have to choose, put the trash & recycle in the Prep Zone instead of the Cleanup Zone. [That's the biggest mistake I made, I put it in the Cleanup Zone across a 6' aisle from the Prep Zone...it's my biggest regret by far in my kitchen.] Prep sinks...should be no smaller than 12" x 12"...and bigger is better - I recommend no less than 15" in each direction, 18" would be better, IMHO. Anything smaller is not very useful for prepping. Those smaller sinks are often called "bar sinks" b/c they're really only big enough for filling a glass with water or dumping a glass. They're not big enough to clean veggies/fruit or empty a colander. Zone protection...strive to protect the Cooking Zone from traffic - both through-traffic as well as in-kitchen traffic. While cooking, you are dealing with very hot pots/pans/food and you don't want to be tripping over or dodging traffic, open DW doors, etc. This usually means putting the Cooking Zone in the most "secluded" area...but not always, it depends on the workflow in your design. Work/Landing Space...Be sure you have adequate work and landing space near/around appliances and in zones. Sometimes skimping is required when it's a small kitchen.

[The following items are from the NKBA Kitchen Planning Guidelines With Access Standards]

  • Prep Zone...36" continuous countertop at least 16" deep for the preparation center, and be immediately adjacent to a water source.

Cooking Zone...See Cooktop/Range Cleanup Zone...See "Sink (Only or Cleanup Sink)" Sink (Only or Cleanup Sink)...At least 24" of counter frontage to one side of the primary sink, and 18" on the other side (including corner sink applications) with the 24" counter frontage at the same counter height as the sink. The minimum allowable space from corner to the edge of the primary sink is 3". Sink (Prep)...At least 3" of countertop frontage on one side of secondary sinks, and 18" on the other side (including corner sink applications) with the 18" counter frontage at the same counter height as the sink. Refrigerator...At least 15" counter space on the latch side of the refrigerator or on either side of a side-by-side, or at least 15" of landing space no more than 48" across from the refrigerator. If an oven is next to refrigerator, refrigerator should be the one placed next to available countertop. Cooktop/Range...Open-ended kitchen: at least 9" of counter space on one side of the cooking surface and 15" on the other, at the same counter height as the appliance. Enclosed kitchen: at least 3" of clearance at an end wall protected by flame retardant material; 15" on the other side of the appliance, at the same counter height as the appliance. Countertop should extend a minimum of 9" behind the cooking surface, at the same counter height as the appliance, in any instance where there is not an abutting wall/backsplash.

[Notes:
Experiences here have shown some of us this is actually too little for an island or peninsula setup or when the cooktop/range is at the end of a cabinet run. For safety reasons, you need at least 18" on each side and 18" behind if there is no seating behind the cooktop/range, 24" behind if there is seating.

For functionality, at least 24" on each side is better, regardless of location of cooktop/range. This space can be shared with the Prep Zone on one side; if it is, then there should be at least 36" on the side shared with the Prep Zone.

In the case of a range/cooktop next to a door or wall, check your local Codes, they may dictate more space b/w the door or wall and cooktop/range.] Ovens (Wall)...At least 15" of landing space, at least 16" deep, next to or above oven if it opens into a primary traffic pattern. If it does not open into a traffic area, at least 15" x 16" of landing space needed [(i.e., it can be across or next to it)]. MW...At least 15" of landing space, a minimum of 16" deep, above, below, or adjacent to a microwave oven Combined countertop for 2 adjacent locations...For two adjacent work centers, determine the longest of the two required counter lengths and add 12".

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