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The Kitchen Work Triangle

March 31 2010

What is the “work triangle” and why is it the most important space-planning tool in your kitchen? In a word – steps.  The number of steps you take to complete a task in your kitchen means the difference between efficiency and wasted energy and effort.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the main “work triangle” is  drawn from the refrigerator to the main food preparation area to the main sink. Connect the three and it should form a triangle (unless you have a ‘one-wall’ kitchen). At all the triangle’s points are where the kitchen’s key activities – preparation, cooking and clean up.

If you are designing a new kitchen or updating an older kitchen, keep the following guidelines in mind so that you can maximize efficiency while making your kitchen more attractive and practical.

NKBA guidelines for designing your kitchen with access standards include: 

• At least one work triangle is in place.
• Total distance between points does not exceed 26′.
• Traffic patterns do not interfere with triangle.
• Island/peninsula counters do not interfere with triangle.

Counter Space Requirements 

• At least 36″ in the mix/prep center.
• At least 18″ on one side and 24″ on the other side of the sink.
• At least 9″ on one side and 15″ on the other side of the cooktop.
• At least 15″ on one side of a built-in oven or 15″ of space on an island counter that is no more than 48″ from the front of the oven.
• At least 15″ on the opening side of the refrigerator or 15″ of space on an island counter that is no more than 48″ from the front of the refrigerator.

Appliance Space and Planning Requirements 

• Dishwasher within 36″ of sink.
• Sufficient space between dishwasher and adjacent counters, other appliances and cabinets to allow for loading and unloading (21″ standing space recommended).
• Bottom of microwave placed between counter and eye-level (approx. 24″ to 48″ off floor) with adjacent counter top work area.
• Adequate ventilation available.

Other Space and Planning Requirements 

• At least 12″ – 19″ of leg room beneath eating areas in counters, peninsulas, islands and bars.
• Sufficient, accessible storage available.
• Aisles wide enough for two people to pass ¬ at least 48″ in food prep areas ¬ at least 36″ between facing cabinets.
• Good overall lighting and task lighting at sink, range and work areas.

The NKBA is a wonderful source for ideas for your kitchen, ideas which have been time-tested with innovative improvements awarded by the trade organization.