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Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Posted by animacafe (My Page) on
Sun, May 26, 13 at 1:36

I am 6'1 and DH is 6'3''. Our house is a split entry - so it will never boast universal access. Can I get away with raising counter heights in my new kitchen? What do I need to consider in making that decision? When I have mentioned it to KD and cabinet maker they discouraged it for resale reasons. Is it really a no-no? I think it would make my back and shoulders so much happier! I had given it up as an idea but just noticed 39'' counters in another kitchen design here.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

There may be other solutions if you're concerned about resale. Though not sure how costly.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Having some of the counters higher is suggested in NKBA guides but rarely done.
I did one job where the counters were all raised 2.5". We built a platform to raise the range which was the biggest headache. The wall cabinet clearance by the cooking surface has to meet code.
I am not a realtor so can't give more than a dumb opinion on resale. My take is you have cut down the available buyers, OTOH you have made it more attractive to couples like yourself. Note many couples have one tall and one short. Still you only need one buyer.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Having some of the counters higher is suggested in NKBA guides but rarely done.
I did one job where the counters were all raised 2.5". We built a platform to raise the range which was the biggest headache. The wall cabinet clearance by the cooking surface has to meet code.
I am not a realtor so can't give more than a dumb opinion on resale. My take is you have cut down the available buyers, OTOH you have made it more attractive to couples like yourself. Note many couples have one tall and one short. Still you only need one buyer.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

How long will you live in the house? My mother is a talented cook and entertainer, and 5'1" (well, now at 89 she's 4'11") and 45 years ago she designed her kitchen with LOWER heights. I'm 5'4" and find it very comfortable to work in, except for washing dishes in the sink. Oh, that's another thing: the dishwasher had to be sunk into the floor to fit under the counter. Fortunately, the KitchenAid has held up well for 45 years.

If anyone were to buy her house now, they would probably want to rip out the kitchen anyway; the décor screams 1971.

So, if you plan to stay there a long (long) time, build what YOU want. Be comfortable in your own home.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

We are doing 37.5 inch counters along the sink and range and then will have an entire run along a window wall at 34.5 inches. My window height along the back wall was too low to have standard height counters, so I made that into a baking station. I am only 5'6, but DH is 6'2, so he appreciates the extra height. We are also using 6 cm counters, so that had to be taken into account. I did not want to lose any storage space in my drawers, nor significantly lower my toe kicks, so we went for the higher than average height. I mocked it up to see if prep would bother me at that height, and it didn't seem to. If it really bothers me, I will wear my clogs!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

The kitchen here was my mother's big renovation in 1963. She and my father were six feet tall, and the cabinetry was built in place, so the counter is 39". It's perfectly comfortable for me, even though I'm four inches shorter.

My mother cooked constantly, and would have been needlessly uncomfortable for the next thirty years with standard-height counters.

But they were clearly not going to be moving again or selling the house, so it was an easier decision.

At least for the main prep and washing-up area, build it for your own comfort and ease of working. Think of it as health insurance...


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

We raised our countertops from 36" to 38" and wow is it nice! It's really not noticeable - no visitor has ever commented on it, but the day it was installed, the builder, electrician, DH and I all agreed it just felt natural at that height. We also got a shallow sink which makes the working height while doing dishes very comfortable.

But there are things to keep in mind because appliances and base cabinets are all geared for 36". So you need some custom carpentry to make it all work out. You also will want to raise your upper cabinets a corresponding amount (or more) to keep a nice amount of breathing room between uppers and lowers. An additional advantage to being tall is that you can put the uppers nice and high and still be able to reach them.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

I didn't do this because of cost -- in my semi-custom redo it would have been $$$ -- but my sister did this in her totally custom kitchen and WOW. I love it. So much easier on the back, especially at the sink. I'm just 5'4" and I find it much more comfortable to work in. I think you really have to be looking to notice it. The cabinet maker had to build a platform for her DW and I guess her range though I've never noticed it.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Do want you want. I doubt many people will even notice. Don't remodel for some imaginary buyer.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Wow - thank you! I brought it up several times with KDs and GCs while shopping and got shot-down each time so I deferred to their experienced opinions. Wish I had been more persistent! I am supposed to make my final cabinet decisions this weekend so he can start building them a week from Monday.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

I have read that sinks at 39 inches, prep counters at 36 inches and even baking counters/cooktops can be a bit lower than 36 inches. DW of course are great if they are raised. This is done often done in Europe for ergonomic reasons. However, I have no expertise and am going on what I have read a few places. I may be the one you saw who posted that the counters would be 39 inches. However, for my layout it is only the sink/DW run that includes the wall ovens that is 39 inches. All of my prep area on the island and peninsula will be 36 inches. The biggest issue with my decision to raise the clean-up/oven run is the dish storage cupboards will be harder to reach than standard -- which I am still working out (I may lower the distance between counters and uppers to split the difference). I am only 5' 8" so not nearly as tall as you.

I agree do what is comfortable for you, unless you are planning to sell soon. Also, I can't think that 39 inch high counters in one part of the kitchen would hurt resale, so you could do one raised area of counter.

Carol


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

We did 37" with a 2" counter top (2cm stone with miter edge). We also have counter height windows and a slide in full Wolf range. We love it. Just be sure EVERYONE knows what the height is - especially the appliance installers to they can guide you as to what will and won't work.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Go for it. If you're concerned about resale, have normal cabinets and a nice thick counter that can be replaced. (It doesn't have to look thick--you can dress up a plywood underlayment with cabinet trim on the sides or something.)


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

For determining the height of work surfaces, we don't care as much about the height of the user as we do about the distance of his or her elbows from the floor. The elbow is the critical hinge of all lower arm movement" and it's mostly lower arm movement that does the work in a kitchen.

If your elbow is too high above the work surface, you tend to lean forward to put your elbows back in an optimal relation to the countertop. If your elbow is too close to the work surface you tend to either step or lean back to being the elbows back into the correct position. In either case, the back suffers. If after preparing Thanksgiving dinner your lower back is killing you, your countertops are too low. If the pain is in your upper back and shoulders, they are too high. For most people, the standard countertop height of 36" is too low. It was set in the 1930s when people were on average shorter than they are today -- and it was probably too low even then.

For most cooks the optimum height is between 37 and 39 inches, and we have made countertops as high as 40 inches.

Your base counter height is found when, with palms on the counter-top, your arms rest at a 45 degree angle to the countertop. For chopping, slicing and most food assembly, this is the optimum height. But different work surface heights better fit other kitchen tasks.

* Hand mixing, for example, should be at a lower level for better leverage and proper ergonomic alignment.

* For washing dishes, the working surface is not the countertop, but the bottom of the sink. So, sink depth is the issue. For a tall person the best depth might be 10 inches, but a short person needs a shallower sink to be comfortable, as little as 5" in some cases.

* Baking also requires a lower working surface. When rolling out dough, you want to lean forward a little to put your back into the process so your arms and shoulders do not have to do all the work.

Cooking surfaces are usually set at countertop height. But, many ergonomists believe they should be set lower to make it easier to peer down into pots and pans. How this is done with standard ranges we don't know, since they are always set at about 36" to match the factory standard countertop. With a cooktop, set into the countertop, it's fairly easy to lower the cooking surface by lowering the countertop.

For more information on ergonomic kitchen design and countertop height, see the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mise-en-Place: What We Can Learn About Kitchen Design from Commercial Kitchens


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

I would have done this if I had taller ceilings but wanted to have the taller cabinets.
We are going to have taller counters in our master bath when I get around to renovating my baths.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

That is a great article oldtimecarpenter. Johnny Grey also writes in his kitchen design books about proper counter heights. I measured my elbow distance to the floor and found 39 inches to be what was recommended. However, I will only have one section of counter top set at 39 inches as I feel nervous to deviate too much form the 36 inch norm. At a high end kitchen appliance store near us, they had a cooktop set a few inches lower than 36 inches, but I was not sure that was comfortable. However at the same store they had a sink at 39 inches and that did feel more comfortable than a sink set into 36 inches (not that I did any dishes at the store mind you). So, you really need to try different counter heights and measure to give you the best idea of what is best for you and other cooks in your kitchen.

Carol


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Thank you oldtimecarpenter. I just measured my elbows from the floor at 45 inches! No wonder I dislike working at the counter too long and despise doing dishes at the sink.

I read somewhere that you can help compensate by stacking cutting boards when you are chopping - but a 9'' high stack wouldn't be very stable. I think I'm going to broach the subject again with the cabinetmaker.

Thanks everyone for taking time to respond!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

OldCarpenter - I think you are a smart carpenter. I am an avid cross country skier and we use the elbow trick to figure out pole length for classic skiing.
Thanks for your support!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

OldCarpenter - I think you are a smart carpenter. I am an avid cross country skier and we use the elbow trick to figure out pole length for classic skiing.
Thanks for your support!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

My counters are all 39" high (kitchen and bathrooms.) I'm 5'11" and I'm the shortest in the house. It is so much more comfortable for me to work in the kitchen now - and the bathrooms are much better for all of us. (My old master bath counter was ridiculous - 33" or something - like washing my face down by my knees.)

Our cabinets are custom built to be taller, not just taller toe kicks, so we have more cabinet space. I'm not that worried about resale because I hope to be here a long time, and by then new buyers a) might want to renovate anyway or b) be taller than me (my grandma was 4'11" so who knows how tall the next gen might be?!)

My mom and aunts are petite (5'3" or so) and they like the counters too, although my mom doesn't like to wash dishes in the deep sink at the high counter. That's OK - I don't expect her to!

FWIW -- I used to get back aches sometimes after working a long time at my old standard counters. Never happens now that my counters are taller. Also I got a drawer MW - it's nice to be able to open the drawer and load it from above - no bending and it doesn't take up counter space.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

@chicagoans - how do the 39" counters work around your Range? Is it on a raised platform of some kind? Thanks fo r sharing your experience!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

@chicagoans - how do the 39" counters work around your Range? Is it on a raised platform of some kind? Thanks fo r sharing your experience!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

About the range.

Yes, it has to be raised, or you buy one of those Euro ranges with adjustable heights.

The platform we usually build contains a shallow tray drawer very useful for storing cookie sheets, etc.But, it can be built without a drawer.

One customer decided to face the front of the platform with the same tile she selected for her backsplash -- looks great.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

xxxxOldTime, I just have to take this opportunity to thank you once again for the incredible service of your many helpful articles over at starcraftcustombuilders.

Even reading kitchen publications as voraciously as most of us on this forum do, I have yet to find a resource on kitchen design advice that is as comprehensive, helpful, and just plain true as your set of articles is.

Hats off to you. (My mom's from Nebraska - go Huskers!)


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

*removed duplicate - stupid 1996 forum software*

This post was edited by circuspeanut on Tue, May 28, 13 at 13:50


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

For our kitchen, we did the standard 36" height on the perimeter, where all the appliances are located. Our 4.5' x 8' island is 39" high. I am 5'10" and DH is 6', and we both love working at the island, whether doing food prep, folding laundry, wrapping gifts, etc.

The master bath we gutted had 31" high counters, and we were miserable using those low sinks. I plan to make them at least 36" high this time. I am tempted to go to 37" or 38" for comfort and extra storage, but the cabinet maker tells me it would be a mistake to go so much higher than what is typical for a bath.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

animacafe: I actually have a separate cooktop with a wall oven below it. I liked the look of a cooktop (and the ease of cleaning the counter around it, rather than using a range.)

I don't have a great picture of it, but you can see that there's a bit of filler above and below the oven. There is filler under the DW too (not in this picture) to raise it up, but other than those two spots the cabinets themselves (mostly drawers) are taller.

Oh, and that's Hendrix the Labradoodle standing guard. :)


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Chicagoan - you have a beautiful kitchen! Even Hendrix is tall! I will be using a custom cabinetmaker so I think I have the flexibility to request taller cabinets. Do you happen to know if the extra three inches made the cabinets considerably more expensive? Or just marginally? I am planning to buy a new 36" Wolf Range for our kitchen - but could be persuaded to go with cooktop / oven combo if there is no way to raise the range safely.

Thanks for your photo!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Thank you for the nice compliment animacafe! I found GW after our reno, so I sometimes wonder 'what if'...

Anyway, our kitchen redo was part of a large effort (1100ish sq ft addition, gutted and redid kitchen and 4 bathrooms) and the cabinet price was part of that and I don't remember the breakout. I do remember that pricing for cabinets for the kitchen (inc. a small butler pantry), mudroom, and 4 bathrooms came in less than I had expected. It seemed very reasonable, especially when compared to the prices I was quoted at Expo (the now-defunct higher end version of Home Depot.)

I didn't ask for a comparison of costs for standard height cabinets, since I knew I didn't want them (anywhere!) It would make sense if they were a bit more expensive since there is more wood used, but the labor should be about the same. Sorry I can't help more, but I do know that I was very pleasantly surprised at the cost of custom cabs.

And FWIW, my parents recently moved into a retirement condo. They got to have the kitchen and 2 bathrooms redone, and my dad had the counters raised in his bathroom after seeing how mine turned out. He loves it. (Mom kept hers standard height.)


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

We have friends who did this and I feel like Alice in Wonderland in their kitchen. (I'm 5'3) I really don't feel comfortable at all - not just that I can't reach things in the cabinets but the island feels too high when I sit at it and the whole thing just feels off to me. If you are planning to stay in your house long term or forever then why not? But if not, maybe do some mixed height counters - some taller, some regular height. Just a thought...


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Lafacia, thank you so much for your input! It is really helpful to hear how it may affect others when they visit.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

I agree with Karen MT, MizLizzie and DebraK--I really don't think most people would notice it.

Chicagoans--Hendrix is awesome!! We have a black standard poodle and have considered a labradoodle as the next member of the family.

The longest of my 3 countertop runs is 37" high.

I now vaguely remembered the contractor saying that section would be a higher b/c of the thicker marble being placed on existing, already high lowers, but I actually didn't even realize it was higher than the rest of the kitchen until I just measured this minute, and I'm TKO!

I think 37-39" would absolutely not be noticeable to anyone except you and DH, and that's who counts :)

On resale, you may wish to share the info with a petite buyer, who may not notice it upon seeing, but who may feel it (ergonomically) when they start to use the kitchen.

Good luck!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

We raised our perimeter counters to a goal of 38" but they came in at about 37.5. Guess I could rip out the marble and try again with a thicker slab, but I think they will do. ;-)

I hated working at the cooktop prior to the reno and that was a major reason for raising them. DH is shorter than I am, but both sons are taller, so we also had to compromise. We kept the island at 36" so DH had a lower workspace for prep. I also use the island to knead and roll dough there. No one has had a problem with our counters, but I think taller could start to present issues -- possibly even for me with adding ingredients to my mixer workbowl and working dough there. The comfort is working everyday is wonderful.

Even if you fear resale in the not to distant future, I would look at a way to plan ahead for it. Instead of raising the cabinets from the bottom as I did, perhaps you could lift the counters with a space that might hold cutting boards and such between the cabinet box and the counter. Install your backsplash behind that space and install the counter in front of it instead of the other way around. If you could find the hardware, you could install the counters and standard height but have a lift -- like a mixer or appliance lift but with less height.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Chiming in late here. My new kitchen has 36.75" countertops, not the plan, mix up between the contractors and the cabinet makers but it's okay. I'm 5' 7" so height wise it's fine, but it seemed odd to me at first. Perhaps because my 100 year old kitchen had 35" countertops. It's growing on me now and so far, no neck pain:)

One thing i would be careful about if you do go for higher than average counter tops is your stove style. The grates on my gas range mean the height of the range is close to 39" which gets a bit tricky when using a big pot. If you bake alot, it's really important to have one area with a lower height, really hard to roll out dough or mix at 37+ inches.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Although I'm almost 5'5", the taller countertop height would be difficult for me due to some chronic back/neck issues. In fact, we recently looked at a house for sale that had 40" tall countertops and I posted here looking for solutions to reducing the height. However, if you are not planning on resale, then I would certainly encourage you to do what works best for you and your family.

Speaking of family, that brings up the issue of children working in the kitchen. Although younger children would already be using a stool, the effect of increased counter height for middle school-ish ages would be a question you might want to consider, as well.

Best wishes for a happy kitchen :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: My post from yesterday re: decreasing 40


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

We did the opposite. Our main prep/ cook counter run is just 34in but the clean up sink/ DW run is 36.5in. We are vertically challenged and this works better for us. As a "shortie", it is nice to be able to see into a pot without standing on tippy-toes.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

We did the opposite. Our main prep/ cook counter run is just 34in but the clean up sink/ DW run is 36.5in. We are vertically challenged and this works better for us. As a "shortie", it is nice to be able to see into a pot without standing on tippy-toes.


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

Thanks everyone! I wound up 'knuckling under' to convention. :) Sticking with standard counter height.

@jbrig - good point about children, however my 11yo DS is already 5'4" so I figure it would only be a problem for a matter of months given the way he is growing!

Started packing up the kitchen this weekend. Hoping work will begin by the end of the week!


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RE: Raised counter heights for tall cooks?

I'm 6'3", wife is 5'3". We did standard height on the wall cabs. But, the 6'x10' island with prep sink and sitting area is 39". It feels tons better to me, the cook. The cleanup area is standard height for her comfort. We love it so far.


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