Kitchen Space Distance Recommendations

Beautiful updated kitchen.

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When designing your kitchen remodel, it might be tempting to be totally free about spacing and placement. Yet limits do apply. Limits stem less from mandatory building code than from voluntary space design recommendations, many derived from the National Kitchen & Bath Association's (NKBA) Kitchen Planning Guidelines.

These limits and spatial recommendations apply to key areas such as the distance between work areas; aisle distance between work areas; walkway aisles; seating clearances; dishwasher spacing and placement; and kitchen countertop landing areas.

 Space  Distance (Inches)
 Distance between island and counter  Minimum 42 inches usually or 48 inches for kitchens with +1 cooks
 Walkway space  Minimum 42 inches near a work area or 36 inches elsewhere
 Dishwasher to sink  36 inches maximum
 Kitchen bar seating  32 to 44 inches, depending on exactly location and amount of expected foot traffic nearby

Triangle Distance Between Kitchen Work Areas

The kitchen work triangle is a design concept that recommends that you place your three most important work areas—sink, refrigerator, and stove—in a triangular fashion. While the kitchen triangle concept has been around for many years, it works well and you can always rely on it if you are ever stymied about the direction of your kitchen design.

The kitchen triangle can have many variations, as long as:

  • The three legs of the triangle total 26 feet or less;
  • No leg is longer than 9 feet; and
  • No leg is shorter than 4 feet.

None of these are hard-and-fast measurements since code does not apply. The idea is to generally keep distances within these limits. If you should vary by a few feet in any direction, your kitchen design should still function well.

Kitchen Work Area Triangle

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Distance Between Island and Counter

Recommended distance between kitchen work areas, which can include both perimeter countertops and kitchen islands:

  • 42 inches minimum in a single-cook kitchen
  • 48 inches minimum in a kitchen where more than one cook may be working.

Because kitchens can get crowded with both cooks and passersby, it is important to abide by these space recommendations.

Note that these recommendations make a distinction between work aisles—which take you from one work area to another—and walkways—which move traffic through the kitchen. No maximum distance recommendations apply.

Recommended Distance Between Kitchen Work Areas

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Kitchen Walkway Aisle Spacing

Walkways carry traffic through a kitchen. Walkways do not service kitchen work areas, as would work aisles.

The recommended minimum width for walkways is 36 inches. Walkways can be as wide as you wish.

Recommended Width for Kitchen Walkways

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Kitchen Seating Clearance Recommendations

Kitchen seating clearance is flexible and can be adapted to your needs. Expected seating is at a location such as a breakfast bar or an in-kitchen eating table; it does not apply to dedicated dining rooms.

  • 44 inches minimum for traffic to move freely forward behind the seating area.
  • 36 inches minimum for traffic to edge by sideways behind the seating area.
  • 32 inches minimum for no expected traffic.
Kitchen Seating Clearance Recommendations

The Spruce / Caitlin Rogers

Dishwasher Spacing and Placement Recommendations

​Dishwashers and sinks can easily get crowded since they need to be close in proximity to take advantage of their shared drainage and water supply.

  • From the dishwasher to the sink should be 36 inches maximum. The intent is two-fold: first, to make sure that the cook can easily move dishes from the sink to the dishwasher; secondly, to ease under-counter hookups between sink and dishwasher.
  • From the dishwasher to the nearest base cabinets or other obstructions should be 21 inches minimum. The intent is to give the dishwasher door plenty of room to open.
Dishwasher Spacing and Placement Recommendations

The Spruce / Caitlin Rogers

Kitchen Countertop Landing Area Recommendations

A kitchen landing area is a countertop space that allows you to place, or land, items from the sink, refrigerator, cooking surface, and oven service areas. The countertop is adjacent to these areas. For example, if a stove has no nearby landing area, the cook may be tempted to place a hot pan that she has just removed in a close but unsafe spot, perhaps on top of the fridge or on the floor.

A landing area is simply a way of describing the absolute minimum amount of countertop needed adjacent to one of these areas.

  • Sink landing area: 24 inches on one side and 18 inches on the other side, minimum.
  • Refrigerator landing area: 15 inches on the handle side of the fridge.
  • Cooking surface landing area: 12 inches on one side and 15 inches on the other side, minimum. If you have a counter with tiers of different heights, you still must provide these minimums on the same level as the cooking surface.
  • Oven landing area: 15 inches adjacent to or above the oven. If the oven door opens onto a work aisle, not a traffic walkway, you are allowed to provide a landing area across from the oven (i.e., a kitchen island) no more than 48 inches away.
Kitchen Countertop Landing Area Minimum Recommendations

The Spruce / Caitlin Rogers