The Right Height for Your Counters — And 5 Other Key Kitchen Measurements

updated Sep 9, 2020
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If you are gut renovating a kitchen or building one from scratch, you are one lucky duck. You are also in the position to be a bit of a Goldilocks. You don’t want a counter that’s too high or too low. Why not size everything so that it’s just right — for you and the people in your home? It’s best to start from some standard measurements, and tweak them to suit you. Here are some guidelines to get you started.

1. Proper Kitchen Counter Height

The standard is 34 to 36 inches tall. But this can vary even more based on your size and preferences. The best way to determine comfortable work surface heights? Stand up straight and bend your arms (like you’re chopping onions on a cutting board) and measure. Ideally, your prep surfaces will be three to four inches below your bent elbow.

2. Proper Counter Depth

The standard is 24 inches. But again, this can vary based on your size, appliance depths, and details of the backsplash and cabinetry.

3. Proper Upper Cabinet/Shelving Clearance

The distance from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets or shelves should be 15 to 20 inches. Any lower and you’ll impede on work space. (And you’ll struggle to be able to find space for, say, a coffee maker or a blender.) Any higher and it’s going to be tough to reach uppermost shelves.

4. Proper Kitchen Triangle Sizing

Remember the kitchen work triangle? For maximum efficiency, the sum of its three sides should not exceed about 276 inches.

5. Proper Circulation Space

Have a galley layout, an island, or a U-shaped kitchen? The circulation space between countertops should be at least 48 inches. This leaves room for you to open up oven, refrigerator, or cabinet doors. Don’t make the space between counters more than 64 inches, however, or it will simply be too big and you’ll lose a lot of efficiency during meal prep.

Credit: Ana Kamin

6. Proper Stoveside Counter Space

Try for at least 12 inches of counter space on at least one side of your stovetop. Same goes for the refrigerator, preferably on the open side of the door. This gives you room to put ingredients and tools while you work.

Note: In the name of small and cool, let’s talk real numbers for small kitchens. Our smallest apartment kitchen had more like 30 inches between counters, 4 inches of counter space next to the stovetop, and no counter space adjacent to the fridge. Somehow, though, you make it work and even come to love working in such close quarters.

Tell us about your current kitchen measurements in the comments below!