KITCHEN DESIGN PRINCIPLES - CONTENTS: Kitchen Design & Layout Guidelines: best practices. List of types of work centers in kitchens. Space and clearance requirements for kitchen work centers & activities: dishwasher, sink, food prep, recycling, cooktop, oven landing area, microwave, refrigerator work areas. Clearances for kitchen walkways, work aisles. Kitchen cabinet frontage recommendations. Layout of the kitchen work triangle, two-cook kitchen layout. Kitchen counter size, layout specifications. Kitchen lighting, natural
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Kitchen layout & design principles:
This article explains the basic principles of kitchen layout and design, including the layout and clearances for different types of kitchen activities or work centers, and kitchen layouts for one and two-cook kitchens.
This article series discusses current best design practices for kitchens and bathrooms, including layout, clearances, work space, and accessible kitchen and bathroom layout, clearances, turning space, grab bars, controls, etc. We include advice on choosing and installing kitchen countertops, cabinets, and kitchen or bathroom flooring, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures and fixture controls such as faucets. A list of kitchen and bath product manufactures and sources is included.
Whether designing a small galley kitchen or an expansive
space for multiple cooks and entertaining, the same rules
apply regarding clearances and relationships between key
work centers so that work in the kitchen flows smoothly
While the traditional American kitchen
developed around three main appliances—the sink, range,
and refrigerator—today’s kitchen may have many more
centers of activity, including the following list adapted
from the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA):
Primary clean-up center: Includes the main sink,
dishwasher, recycling center, and waste disposer.
Secondary sink center: May also serve cleanup functions.
Often associated with the food preparation center.
Food preparation center: A clear space at least
16x36 inches typically located between the sink and
cooktop or sink and refrigerator. A two-cook kitchen
requires two such spaces.
Cooking center: Revolves around the cooktop and
may also include a separate built-in oven or
Microwave center: Because of its frequent use, this
should be near the main activity areas.
Pantry center: Tall storage cabinets work well to store
food and cooking supplies near the preparation area.
Tall cabinets may also store dishes in the serving or
Serving center: This area stores dishes and other
serving items and may be in the kitchen or closer
to the dining area.
Dining center: Many kitchens include either an eating
counter or a separate dining area.
Socializing center: A casual seating area adjacent to
the kitchen work space allows other family members
or friends to visit and socialize with the cook.
In 1992, the National Kitchen and Bath Association
(NKBA) introduced new design guidelines based on research
conducted at the University of Minnesota. These
have been expanded and revised over time to reflect the
continuing evolution of kitchen design and usage.
kitchen design rules are shown below. Accessibility recommendations
are listed separately here, but they are now incorporated
into all NKBA guidelines.
Kitchen Walkways and Kitchen Work Aisles
Kitchen work aisles with counters
or appliances on both sides should be at least 42 inches
wide for a one-cook kitchen and 48 inches wide for a two-cook
Walkways in kitchens, which may have a work counter on
one side, should be at least 36 inches wide and should not
cross the work triangle (see Figure 6-1).
[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]
Kitchen Work Triangle Specifications
The shortest walking distance between
the refrigerator, primary sink, and primary cooktop should
be 26 feet or less, as shown in Figure 6-1 above. Each leg of the
triangle should range from 4 to 9 feet long. No major walkway
should pass though the triangle, and no corner of an
island or peninsula should intersect the triangle by more
than 12 inches.
Two-Cook Kitchen Work Triangles
In a two-cook kitchen,
each person should have his or her own work triangle of
less than 26 feet.
The two kitchen work triangles may share a leg, but
they should not cross one another (Figure 6-2).
All entry doors, appliance doors,
and cabinet doors should swing freely without interfering
with another door.
Kitchen Cabinet Frontage Recommendations
Provide the minimum cabinet
frontage shown in Table 6-1 at left.
Do not count difficult-to-reach
wall cabinets over hoods or refrigerators unless special
access is provided.
A pie-cut lazy Susan base counts
as 30 inches.
Tall cabinets 72 inches or higher can count
as either base or wall cabinets as follows: for 12-inch-deep
cabinets, multiply frontage by one to count as base cabinets
and by 2 to count as wall cabinets.
amounts for 21- to 24-inch-deep tall cabinets.
Kitchen Counter Heights and Edge Specifications
Provide at least two
counter heights in the kitchen with one 28 to 36 inches
high and the other 36 to 45 inches high. Varied heights
create work spaces for various tasks and for cooks of different
heights, including seated cooks. Also, clip or round
over countertop corners and edges to eliminate sharp edges.
Dishwasher Work Center Location
Locate the dishwasher
within 36 inches of the sink and allow at least 21 inches of
clearance between the dishwasher and any counters, cabinets,
or appliances placed at a right angle to the dishwasher.
If possible, allow 30 inches of clear floor space on
each side of the dishwasher so two people can work at the
same time (Figure 6-3).
Kitchen Sink Work Center Location
Locate the primary sink between or
across from the cooking surface, food preparation area, or
refrigerator (Figure 6-4).
Counter space: Allow 24 inches on one side of the
sink and 18 inches on the other.
If the sink is within 3
to 18 inches of a corner, provide at least 21 inches of
additional space on the return counter.
Cabinet space: Provide at least 60 inches of wall
cabinet frontage within 72 inches of the primary sink
Alternate: Use one tall cabinet within
72 inches of the sink.
Floor space: A 30x48–inch floor space centered in
front of the sink will make it wheelchair accessible.
Provide a minimum of 3 inches of
countertop frontage on one side of a secondary sink and at
least 18 inches on the other side.
Food Preparation Area Specifications
Provide 36 inches of continuous
countertop, at least 16 inches deep, immediately adjacent
to a sink.
For a two-cook kitchen, provide either two
separate 36-inch spaces or one 72-inch space adjacent to a
sink (see Figure 6-5).
Recycling Center Area Specifications for Kitchens
Unless provided elsewhere in the
plan, provide at least two waste receptacles in the kitchen,
one for garbage and one for recyclables.
Cooktop Work Center Design Specifications
Counter space: Provide 15 inches on one side of the
cooktop and 9 inches on the other. Or if placed against
an end wall, leave at least 3 inches of clearance to the
wall and cover it with a flame-retardant material.
Where there is no backsplash, as in an island or peninsula,
provide a minimum of 9 inches behind the
cooktop for safety reasons (Figure 6-6).
Clearances: Allow at least 24 inches of clearance
between a cooking surface and a protected surface
above, such as a range hood, or 30 inches to an
Ventilation: Ventilate all major appliance cooking
surfaces with a minimum 150 cfm exhaust fan. Gas
appliances must vent to the exterior.
Oven Landing Space Needed in Kitchens
Provide at least 15 inches of
landing space, a minimum of 16 inches deep, next to or
above the oven.
If the oven does not open into a traffic
area, the landing space can be directly across from the
oven by no more than 48 inches.
Microwave Work Center Measurements
Locate stand-alone microwave
ovens so that the bottom of the appliance is 24 to
48 inches above the floor.
Provide at least 15 inches of
landing space, a minimum of 16 inches deep above, below,
or to the side of the microwave oven.
Refrigerator Work Center Specifications
Provide at least 15 inches
of counter space as a “landing area” adjacent to the
handle side of the refrigerator or on both sides of a sideby-
Alternately, provide 15 inches of
countertop directly across from the refrigerator and no
more than 48 inches away.
With a side-by-side unit, provide
easy access to a counter from the fresh food side
Overlapping Work Centers
Where countertop areas
of two work centers (e.g., sink, refrigerator, food preparation)
overlap, the minimum counter frontage between the
centers should equal the longest of the required two
lengths plus 12 inches.
Tall Cabinets Between Work Centers
Do not separate
two primary work centers (primary sink, refrigerator,
preparation area, or cooking center) by a full-height, fulldepth
tower such as an oven cabinet, pantry cabinet, or
refrigerator. One exception is a corner-recessed tall tower
if knee space is planned to one side.
Kitchen Eating Area Design Specifications
Eating counter heights. Heights and capacities for
tables, eating counters, and bars are shown in
Seating widths have been increased to
30 inches in the 30-inch-high seating area to accommodate
Clearances to walls. Allow a minimum clearance of
36 inches from the edge of a counter or table to a wall
or obstruction. Increase this to 65 inches if the space
also serves as a walkway (Figure 6-9).
Table sizes. Many kitchens feature small or full-size
dining tables (Table 6-1).
When selecting a table, pay
close attention to whether leg placement will interfere
with the number of chairs planned.
Kitchen Wiring for Use of Electrical Devices
Install ground-fault circuit interrupters
(GFCIs) on all receptacles within the kitchen.
Locate wall-mounted room controls, including electrical
receptacles, switches, thermostats, telephones, and intercoms,
between 15 to 48 inches above the finished floor.
Home Kitchen Fire Protection Advice
A fire extinguisher should be visibly
located in the kitchen away from cooking equipment and
15 to 48 inches above the floor. Smoke alarms should be
installed near the kitchen.
Natural Lighting for Kitchens
The combined area of windows
and skylights should equal at least 10% of the square
footage of the kitchen. Also, every work surface should be
well illuminated by appropriate task or general lighting. (see Kitchen Lighting Requirements).
Kitchen and Bath Product Manufacturers, Sources, Associations
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers(AHAM)
National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)
Ceramic Tile Institute of America
Home Ventilation Institute (HVI)
Marble Institute of America
Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI)
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"The Elimination of Unsafe Guardrails, a Progress Report," Elliott O. Stephenson, Building Standards, March-April 1993
"Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards, January-February 1991
Access Ramp building codes:
Access Ramp Standards:
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
American Plywood Association, APA, "Portland Manufacturing Company, No. 1, a series of monographs on the history of plywood manufacturing",Plywood Pioneers Association, 31 March, 1967, www.apawood.org
ASHRAE resource on dew point and wall condensation - see the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, available in many libraries. The following three ASHRAE Handbooks are also available at the InspectAPedia bookstore in the third page of our Insulate-Ventilate section:
2005 ASHRAE Handbook : Fundamentals: Inch-Pound Edition (2005 ASHRAE HANDBOOK : Fundamentals : I-P Edition) (Hardcover), Thomas H. Kuehn (Contributor), R. J. Couvillion (Contributor), John W. Coleman (Contributor), Narasipur Suryanarayana (Contributor), Zahid Ayub (Contributor), Robert Parsons (Author), ISBN-10: 1931862702 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862707
2004 ASHRAE Handbook : Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning: Systems and Equipment : Inch-Pound Edition (2004 ASHRAE Handbook : HVAC Systems and Equipment : I-P Edition) (Hardcover)
by American Society of Heating, ISBN-10: 1931862478 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862479
"2004 ASHRAE Handbook - HVAC Systems and Equipment The 2004 ASHRAE HandbookHVAC Systems and Equipment discusses various common systems and the equipment (components or assemblies) that comprise them, and describes features and differences. This information helps system designers and operators in selecting and using equipment. Major sections include Air-Conditioning and Heating Systems (chapters on system analysis and selection, air distribution, in-room terminal systems, centralized and decentralized systems, heat pumps, panel heating and cooling, cogeneration and engine-driven systems, heat recovery, steam and hydronic systems, district systems, small forced-air systems, infrared radiant heating, and water heating); Air-Handling Equipment (chapters on duct construction, air distribution, fans, coils, evaporative air-coolers, humidifiers, mechanical and desiccant dehumidification, air cleaners, industrial gas cleaning and air pollution control); Heating Equipment (chapters on automatic fuel-burning equipment, boilers, furnaces, in-space heaters, chimneys and flue vent systems, unit heaters, makeup air units, radiators, and solar equipment); General Components (chapters on compressors, condensers, cooling towers, liquid coolers, liquid-chilling systems, centrifugal pumps, motors and drives, pipes and fittings, valves, heat exchangers, and energy recovery equipment); and Unitary Equipment (chapters on air conditioners and heat pumps, room air conditioners and packaged terminal equipment, and a new chapter on mechanical dehumidifiers and heat pipes)."
1996 Ashrae Handbook Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Systems and Equipment: Inch-Pound Edition (Hardcover), ISBN-10: 1883413346 or ISBN-13: 978-1883413347 ,
"The 1996 HVAC Systems and Equipment Handbook is the result of ASHRAE's continuing effort to update, expand and reorganize the Handbook Series. Over a third of the book has been revised and augmented with new chapters on hydronic heating and cooling systems design; fans; unit ventilator; unit heaters; and makeup air units. Extensive changes have been added to chapters on panel heating and cooling; cogeneration systems and engine and turbine drives; applied heat pump and heat recovery systems; humidifiers; desiccant dehumidification and pressure drying equipment, air-heating coils; chimney, gas vent, fireplace systems; cooling towers; centrifugal pumps; and air-to-air energy recovery. Separate I-P and SI editions."
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked
Energy Savers: Whole House Systems Approach to Energy Efficient Home Design [copy on file as /interiors/Whole_House_Energy_Efficiency_DOE.pdf ] - U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Supply Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Supply_Vent.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11880?print
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Exhaust Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Exhaust.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11870
"Energy Savers: Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Natural Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Natural_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Energy_Recovery_Venting.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11900
"Energy Savers: Detecting Air Leaks [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Detect_Air_Leaks.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Air Sealing [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Air_Sealing_1.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
Gypsum Construction Guide, National Gypsum Corporation
Construction Handbook [purchase at Amazon.com] H17, Technical
Folder SA920 and PM2, PM3 and PM4, United States Gypsum Company, 125 South Franklin ST., PO Box 806278, Chicago, IL 60680-4124,
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Ice Dam Leaks in building attics and roof cavities, how to inspect for evidence of leaks, identify causes, and
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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