The most important part of a kitchen remodeling project is the preliminary planning of our space and schematic blueprint of the design phase.
Our dream kitchen could be filled with stunning cabinetry and beautiful finishes, but if the scheme of the layout and designated areas do not work well, it cannot be called a successful project. In the kitchen, more than in any other often spacious rooms, a good space plan, and traffic flow are critical factors. All of us has been in the poorly designed kitchen and must have found the place impossible to work efficiently.
I strongly recommend developing a schematic blueprint when working on a project that will include moving walls or creating new walls. Design practices and building regulations could be a real obstacle to creative thinking. We incorrectly perceive those laws as mean and illogical. Not true, though. Most building codes are directed towards safety and once read throughout, seem logical to comprehend. The same rules pertain to kitchen design practices and building regulations. As no room in our house has more potential than the kitchen, abiding laws and codes seems like a perfect solution to undergo our remodeling project.
Practise vs. Law
Kitchen law regulations come from an independent institution, the International Code Council. If you are up to remodeling or building your kitchen from a scratch, you must have a permit, and obey the codes. My post treats best design practices which have been developed by kitchen professionals over the years of experience. These are commonly known rules, widely accepted and followed by most of the world. Very often they are based on law regulations but altered to common sense scheme of work.
The Standard Kitchen Triangle
It is one of the examples of a design layout that provides a sensible plan to an efficient kitchen. Well, it has not been heard that someone lost their building permission for not incorporating the famous triangle, but common sense whispers to implement the classic kitchen triangle.
Kitchen work triangle with silver faucet, sink, stove and range hood, and stainless steel fridge. | Photo by: Johnson Complete, LLC
Open Space Entrance and Door Opening
The open floor plan of the kitchen’s layout has remained fashionable for decades. The chef no longer has to prepare meals behind closed doors. Interior walls came down consciously, transforming a great room, dining room, and kitchen into a spatial area. However, some homeowners do not like the cooking smells wafting in the air; that is the reason they install doors.
Entry points: standard width for door entrance is 34 inches.
Doors: Once installed, they should not block the traffic or cause damage to kitchen appliances. Doors shall adhere to a convenient use for all household. Therefore, conceptualize your appliances and cabinetry with the doors open wide to avoid potential interference in their placement.
The Perfect Kitchen Triangle: Traffic Flow
The theory of kitchen triangle is derived from three points in the room’s workflow. The three critical zones of the kitchen include a sink, refrigerator and the cooking area (cooktop and oven). There ought to be a minimum measurement between those three points to provide efficient work for the cook.
Length between Points: from 13 to 26 feet,
Length of Legs: between 4 and 9 feet for a user-friendly kitchen (ensure standard length measurements so that the triangle looks like an actual triangle)
Obstacles: provide straight distance between three zones, without large appliances obscuring the traffic path. Try to rearrange large items like fridge, freezer or pantry cabinets not to stand in the triangle area.
Tip: smaller size elements, like a kitchen island, is allowed to interfere one leg of a triangle zone, however, no more than 12 inches.
Additional appliances: microwave or any added on work areas could be installed from 4 to 10 feet from one of the points of the triangle.
Do not Block Traffic in Kitchen Aisles
You need to distinguish the difference between work and walk aisles. The first is the area where a home-chef moves around for cooking purposes. The next aisle is the part of the kitchen which family members use for going to another room, like a pass-by route. It has nothing to do with cooking and perceive this walkway aisle as traffic flow zone.
Walk Aisle: from 36 to 46 inches width. Should not impede in any way the kitchen triangle.
Work Aisle: from 42 to 62 inches for a standard kitchen unit. Larger kitchens, with allowance for multiple cooking, can have a minimum width of 48 inches.
Modern kitchen with medium-brown cabinets, glossy red drawers, patterned rug and two ceiling glass lamps. | Photo by: Johnson Complete, LLC
Basic Design Principle: More countertop space
The majority of householders complain about not enough counter surface for meal preparation. “More countertops is better” should be a motto while remodeling our kitchens. We do not need to worry about building regulations as International Code Council very seldom deals with those surfaces. Give some thoughts and pay attention to the principles that I have stated below, not to regret after the remodeling of your kitchen is done.
The length of Countertops: standard minimum is 160 inches or 14 feet for big enough kitchen. A household with L-shaped kitchen layout or just tight on space may not be able to provide even standard 160 inches of length.
The depth of Countertops: there should be at least 26 inches depth measurement from the edge to the wall. If you decide on off-the-shelf counters, all of them are manufactured to this standard specification, so no need to worry on that.
A contemporary kitchen with off-white cabinets, wooden ceiling beems, stainless steel appliances and dining table. | Photo by: Hanley Development
Space Above Countertops: leave approximately a gap between 16 to 26 inches from the counter surface to the bottom side of the cabinets. Most of us love to have a microwave, toaster, bread machine or other electrical appliances within reach. Therefore, space above counters will be filled in no time with state-of-the-art kitchen gadgets.
Hazardous Sharp Edges: Most of the countertop fabricators lean towards rounded or clipped edges over 90-degree angle, sharp edges. The reason for that is not just to prevent hazardous situations or potential bruises but also due to increased risk of cracking of the countertop surface.
Builders do not need to abide any law about the sink placement. Designers also do not impose any rules on how and where to place the sink. Homeowners are allowed to choose a size that would be comfortable for the family members. Sinks come in a variety of sizes, such as single-, double-, or even triple-basin for home-grown cooks. Sink set consists of a drainage slope, placement of holes for fixtures and composition of materials. Here we must obey the manufacturer’s rules on how to install the sink basin, without our initiative.
Sink Placement: install the sink basin alongside the cooking area and the fridge. National Kitchen and Bath Association also advises a possibility to place the sink across the prep meal zone and the refrigerator.
A modern kitchen with white cabinets, black counters, kitchen island, wooden countertop and three bar stools. | Photo by: Soda Pop Design Inc.
Adjacent Sink Counter Spaces: Pay attention to providing enough open space around sink called ‘Landing Area’ for placing washed dishes or food garments. Leave approximately from 26 to 36 inches space of landing area on one side and at least 20 inches on another side.
Meal Prep Counter: The key to a successful sink zone is proving a minimum 38 inches of countertop surface adjacent to the sink basin. Designers worldwide recommend enough meal preparation surface located directly next to the sink for convenient cooking.
Cooktop and Oven Areas
So-called ‘Landing Areas’ pertaining cooktops and ovens require our particular attention. International Council Code authorities invoke to the safety issues concerning electricity, gas, flames, gas and often hazardous fumes.
Cooktop Safe Landing Area: Hot pans and pots need at least 12 inches on one side of the stove and 16 inches on the other end of a safe landing area. It is an absolute bare minimum, as a majority of cooks require greater counter landing zone for placing hot dishes.
Oven Landing Area: Because modern hi-tech kitchen appliances have ovens located under the cooktop as a part of a single unit, safety surface is already counted in cooktop landing area. However, leave approximately 14 inches of adjacent space for comfortable use.
A Range Hood: There is no demand from Building Authorities for a range hood. However, it is advised. If you decide to install a vent hood, purchase one with a minimum of 160 cubic feet per minute draw of noxious fumes. Do not forget to leave at least 26 inches of vertical space between the cooktop and a range hood. It is also advisable not to place wall cabinetry above the stove. If, for some reason, you cannot avoid installing a cabinet there, leave a clearance of a minimum 32 inches between the cooktop and the underside of the enclosure.
Kitchen Dimensions for Eating
A kitchen eating countertop should be at the same height as the main counter surface. We are talking about standard 36 inches from floor to the top coat. To sit and eat in comfort each person needs at least 28 inches width and 19 inches depth. That is a standard measurement, so if you are a size plus person, allow more space for a comfortable sitting.
If you like to browse the Internet while your more beautiful half is preparing the dinner, leave a clearance at least 34 inches deep and 17 inches long for an ‘Office Nook’. When deciding on proper kitchen counter stools, check whether they are the right height- 26 inches. Bear in mind to leave approximately 16 inches of a leg space.
A contemporary kitchen with stainless steel appliances, range
hood, four bar stools and three glass ceiling lamps. | Photo by: Lorin Hill, Architect
International Council Code body will never try to constrict your creativity and design plans on remodeling the kitchen. On the contrary, they provide great help and advice to the DIY designer with law regulations and schemes of the perfect layout of the work zones. On the top of that, with lots of freedom to design the style of your dream kitchen, the codes are to provide health and safety rules, ensuring efficient and convenient for home use environment.
Above all, there are no set rules while you are making adjustments and design decisions that suit best your needs. The Kitchen Work Triangle Theory is a fantastic guide, but not set in stone. You might be facing a single wall kitchen layout, which by no means makes the work triangle impossible to incorporate. Just make sure to measure each space meticulously while setting up your kitchen work zone – a few inches can make a huge difference, especially if you are tight on space.