Inches Count When Remodeling Your Kitchen

Every inch counts during a kitchen remodel

Inches Count When Remodeling Your Kitchen

Whether you are remodeling an existing kitchen or renovating the one you have, knowing a few of the key measurement guidelines developed by kitchen design professionals can help you get a sense of how your kitchen should be laid out.  

One of the most difficult parts of designing kitchen layouts is the logistics. Where does everything go? To make your new remodeled kitchen as functional as it can be, every inch counts. Numbers are so important in a kitchen design. 

Of course you will work with a professional kitchen designer to lay out your new kitchen. But you may find it helpful to know the essential measurements in advance to give you some basic knowledge of what makes a kitchen well organized and easy to live in.  

The recommended measurements and dimensions for effective kitchen design—the ones we used for this article–have been developed by the experts at the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). (NKBA is a nonprofit trade association for the kitchen and bath industry.)

These kitchen design guidelines help designers create the kitchens where cooks can work efficiently without having to worry about whether doors can open fully without banging into something else or whether two people can pass by each other between the island and the appliances. 

Everyone has personal preferences for what works best, so consider this a guide and not a rulebook.

The Work Triangle

Let’s get started with the most basic kitchen layout concept – the work triangle.

The work triangle determines workflow in the kitchen. The idea is that the cook should be able to move easily and without obstacles between three points – (1) sink, (2) stove/oven, and (3) fridge – and the distances between those points should not be far.

The “work triangle” is defined by the National Kitchen and Bath Association 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 back to the sink.

Sink: The primary sink is typically located on the perimeter of the kitchen. (Sometimes it may be located on a kitchen island.) Additional prep sinks are not included in the triangle.

Stove/Oven: The work triangle assumes that this is a combined stove/oven – a range — or if they are separate, the two are located within 2 to 3 feet of each other. 

Refrigerator: The fridge is the least important point of the triangle; if one point can be a little bit farther away, it will be the fridge. Be sure that the door of the fridge opens into the triangle.

The NKBA suggests these guidelines for work triangles:

When you add up the three legs of the triangle, for comfort and safety, they should not total more than 26 feet, with no one leg more than 9 feet and no leg less than 4 feet long.

The triangle keeps the three major work stations close for the cook. The recommended distances ensure the kitchen doesn’t feel cramped and that the cook has room to work efficiently.

No traffic should cross through the basic work triangle.

Landing Areas

The term “landing areas” refers to the countertop space in the places you need it most. Without landing areas, you won’t have a place to put down a hot dish from the oven or a designated area for stacking dirty dishes by the sink.

Refrigerator Landing Area: Include at least 15” of landing area on the handle side of the refrigerator.

Cooking Surface Landing Area: Include a minimum of 12” of landing area on one side of a cooking surface and 15” on the other side. 

Sink Landing Area: Include at least a 24” wide landing area on one side of the sink and at least an 18” wide landing area on the other side. 

Microwave Landing Area: Include at least a 15” landing area above, below, or next to the handle side of a microwave oven.

Oven Landing Area: Include at least a 15” landing area next to or above the oven.

Width of Aisles Between Cabinets

Kitchen work aisles — where you stand while you’re chopping and/or mixing –should be 42” wide for one cook. If you want more room, or if there are two cooks in your family, work aisles should be 48” wide.

This width allows space for cabinets to be opened and for the cook or person cleaning up to move around easily or open a drawer and stand behind it or stoop down to the base cabinets. 

Walkways through the kitchen should be at least 36” wide, or even wider if you’re building an open floor plan kitchen. 

Kitchen Island Used as Work Space

The standard height for a kitchen island used for chopping and mixing and other food prep is 36”. 

However, a kitchen island should be 38” high for people who are 5’5” or above.  Research has shown that this height is the one most comfortable for taller people to prep foods. 

The width depends on how much space is available for the aisles (see above), but it should not be less than 30” wide if you don’t want to feel cramped. 

Kitchen Island Used for Seating

When the kitchen island is used as a seating area, it’s the same height as the prep countertop (36” high). 

Allow 28” to 30” wide space per diner to avoid knocking elbows.

Allow 15” deep knee space for 36” high counters (minimum)

Kitchen counter stools should be 24” high. 

Kitchen Seating Requirements

Where no traffic passes behind a seated person, allow 32” of clearance from the counter or table edge to the wall behind the seating area.

If traffic does pass behind the seated diner, allow at least 44” for people to walk past. 

Microwave Height

When installing a microwave above a wall oven, you need to think about how high you will have to reach to take hot foods out of the microwave. Between 48” to 54” from the floor to the bottom of the microwave is appropriate for both convenience and safety.

This measurement is dependent on the height of the user. The ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is 3” below the user’s shoulder, but no more than 54” above the floor.

Some kitchen layouts plan for the microwave to be installed in the island. If it’s placed below the countertop, the bottom of the oven should be at least 15” off the floor.

Pot Filler Height

Pot filler height is determined by several factors: the height of tallest pot you want to go under it, the drop of the spout and the height of the burner grates.  There will usually be several variables since every job is different. 

The height usually falls between 54” and 57” off the floor, but this depends on how the pot filler is designed.

Doorway Clearance Requirements

Any doorway into the kitchen should be 34” wide. The swing of the doors shouldn’t interfere with appliances, cabinets, other doors or work areas. In a small kitchen, doors should swing out, rather than in, to avoid clearance problems. 

If the door swing is taking up too much space, consider a pocket door or sliding barn-style doors instead, or remove the door altogether.

Cooktop / Range Clearance Requirements

These standard kitchen layout rules for appliances were created to make sure your cooking space is functional and safe.

Allow 24” of clearance between the cooking surface and a noncombustible surface above it.

Sink & Dishwasher Clearance Requirements

Allow at least 24” on one side and at least 18” on the other side of your sink. If your kitchen will have a secondary prep sink, it should have at least 3” of countertop on one side and 18” on the other side. 

The dishwasher should be installed within 36” of the primary sink.

There should be at least 21” between the dishwasher and any adjacent appliances and cabinets.

Kitchen Countertop Recommendations

Having a kitchen island in your new kitchen makes it possible to prepare any meal. A good kitchen design layout has enough countertop space to handle prep work, small appliances and a bowl of fruit or a houseplant. These guidelines for kitchen countertops will guarantee an efficient layout.

A total of 158” of countertop, 24” deep, is needed, including landing areas, preparation/work areas and storage. 


Kitchens give you room for prep and cleanup, a place to cook and bake, provide storage for your food and cookware, and where you’ll enjoy eating and interacting with your friends and family.

When it’s thoughtfully arranged, everything operates logically and efficiently, making working in your newly remodeled kitchen everything you wanted it to be when you started designing. And more.

Sources Used in this Article and For Further Reading

KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.