Kitchen Planning Guidelines
Space Planning Guidelines
Get into the nitty-gritty of kitchen planning by reviewing the 40 guidelines drawn up by the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Designers typically view the guidelines as a starting point rather than as hard-and-fast rules. Some may apply to your kitchen, while others may seem irrelevant. Don’t get hung up on a guideline if you think there’s a better way to address your needs. And expect tradeoffs—more cabinet storage for less window space, for example.
Be forewarned that the guidelines may go into too much detail for you, depending on how involved you want to be in the actual measuring and space planning of your kitchen.
- The contested work triangle. Designers all seem to have different opinions on the importance of the so-called work triangle. The NKBA defines the work triangle as an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator, and finally back to the sink. The triangle formed by these imaginary lines should total 26 feet or less, with no single leg of the triangle shorter than 4 feet or longer than 9 feet. The work triangle should also not intersect an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches. If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator.
Such exacting standards are meant to ensure that the cook won’t be too cramped, have to waste steps, or be interrupted by other traffic through the kitchen. But the work triangle has been criticized for being too restraining for kitchens where another arrangement may be more appropriate, particularly in kitchens where more than one cook will be working.
- At least two work-counter heights should be offered in the kitchen, with one 28 inches to 36 inches above the finished floor and the other 36 inches to 45 inches above the finished floor. The different countertops make the kitchen more convenient for cooks of different heights, for seated cooks, and for bakers who can more comfortably roll dough at the lower height.
- Watch that no entry, appliance, or cabinet doors block each other when open. In a kitchen with an island, an appliance or cabinet door on the island shouldn’t hit an appliance or cabinet door across from it.
- To improve the function and accessibility of the kitchen, include at least five storage or organizing items, such as rollout shelves, lowered wall cabinets, raised base cabinets, tall cabinets, appliance garages, storage bins, cutlery dividers, swingout pantries.
- Microwave ovens should be placed so that the bottom of the appliance is 24 inches to 48 inches above the floor. But the final placement should be based on the cook’s physical abilities. If a seated cook or a child will use the microwave, for example, it may need to be lower.
- Windows and skylights should equal at least 10 percent of the total square footage of the separate kitchen or of the full living space that includes the kitchen.
Below you’ll find all 40 of the NKBA’s guidelines.
National Kitchen & Bath Association 40 Planning Guidelines
Traffic and Workflow
- 1a. Doorways at least 32” wide and not more than 24” deep in direction of travel
- 1b. Walkways at least 36” wide
- 1c. Work aisles at least 42” wide for one cook; at least 48” wide in multicook kitchens
- 2. Work triangle 26’ or less, with no single leg shorter than 4’ nor longer than 9’
- 3. No major traffic patterns crossing through work triangle
- 4. No entry, appliance, or cabinet doors interfering with one another
- 5. In seating area, 36” of clearance from counter/table edge to wall/obstruction if no traffic passes behind seated diners; 65” of clearance for walkway behind seated diners
Cabinets and Storage
- 6. Kitchens under 150 sq. ft.: 144” of wall cabinet frontage, with cabinets at least 12” deep and 30” high with adjustable shelving Kitchens over 150 sq. ft.: 186” of wall cabinet frontage, with cabinets at least 12” deep and 30” high with adjustable shelving
- 7. At least 60” of wall cabinet frontage within 72” of primary sink’s centerline
- 8. Kitchens under 150 sq. ft.: 156” of base cabinet frontage with cabinets at least 21” deep Kitchens over 150 sq. ft.: 192” of base cabinet frontage with cabinets at least 21” deep
- 9. Kitchens under 150 sq. ft.: at least 120” of drawer or rollout shelf frontage Kitchens over 150 sq. ft.: at least 165” of drawer or rollout shelf frontage
- 10. At least five storage/organizing items 15” to 48” above finished floor
- 11. At least one corner storage unit
- 12. At least two waste receptacles: one for garbage and one for recyclables
Appliance Placement and Use
- 13. Knee space below or adjacent to sinks, cooktops, ranges, and ovens at a minimum of 27” high by 30” wide by 19” deep
- 14. Clear floor space of 30” x 48” at sink, dishwasher, cooktop, oven, and refrigerator
- 15. Minimum of 21” clear floor space between edge of dishwasher and any object placed at right angle to dishwasher
- 16. Edge of primary dishwasher within 36” of one sink edge
- 17. Primary sink between or across from cooking surface preparation area or refrigerator
- 18. At least 24” of clearance between cooking surface and protected surface above or 30” of clearance between cooking surface and unprotected surface above
- 19. Ventilation system with a fan rated at a minimum of 150 CFM for major surface cooking appliances
- 20. No cooking surface below operable window unless window 3” or more behind appliance and more than 24” above it
- 21. Bottom of microwave ovens 24” to 48” above floor
Counter Surface and Landing Space
- 22. At least two work counter heights: one at 28” to 36” above finished floor and one at 36” to 45” above finished floor
- 23. Kitchens under 150 sq. ft.: at least 132” of usable counter frontage Kitchens over 150 sq. ft.: at least 198” of usable counter frontage
- 24. At least 24” of counter frontage to one side of primary sink and 18” on other with 24” space at same height as sink
- 25. At least 3” of counter frontage on one side of secondary sink and 18” on other with 18” space at same height as sink
- 26. At least 15” of landing space (minimum 16” deep) above, below, or adjacent to microwave oven
- 27. Open-ended kitchen: at least 9” counter space on one side of cooking surface and 15” on other, at same height as appliance
Enclosed kitchen: at least 3” of clearance space at an end wall protected by flame retardant material and 15” on other side at same counter height as appliance
- 28. At least 15” of counter space on latch side of refrigerator or on either side of a side-by-side or at least 15” of counter space no more than 48” across from refrigerator
- 29. At least 15” of landing space (minimum 16” deep) next to or above oven if it opens into primary traffic pattern; if it does not open into traffic, 15” x 16” landing space needed
- 30. Continuous countertop 36” long and at least 16” deep for preparation center; prep center located by water source
- 31. For two adjacent work centers, a minimum counter frontage equal to the longest of the two required counter lengths plus 12”
- 32. No two primary work centers separated by full-height, full-depth tall tower unit (i.e. pantry or refrigerator)
- 33. Minimum clearances for seating areas:
- 30” high table/counter: 30” wide x 19” deep table/counter for each seated diner with 19” clear knee space
- 36” high counter: 24” wide x 15” deep counter space for each seated diner with 15” clear knee space
- 42” high counter: 24” wide x 12” deep counter space for each seated diner with 12” of clear knee space
- 34. No sharp counter edges
Room, Appliance, and Equipment Controls
- 35. Controls, handles, and door and drawer pulls operational with one hand
- 36. Wall-mounted room controls 15” to 48” above finished floor
- 37. Ground fault circuit interrupters specified on all outlets
- 38. Fire extinguisher visibly located in kitchen away from cooking gear and 15” to 48” above floor
- 39. Window/skylight area covering at least 10 percent of total square footage of kitchen or total living space that includes kitchen
- 40. Every work surface well-illuminated by appropriate task and/or general lighting
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