How High Should My Countertops Be?

Wilsonart Wednesday

Welcome to Wilsonart Wednesday! We've teamed up with the kitchen experts at Wilsonart to answer our readers' questions about kitchen renovation. We'll be posting the answers on Wilsonart Wednesdays all summer long, so ask your questions here and check back in for the answers!

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Q: What is the ideal kitchen counter height for the average person?

- Niki R.

By industry standards, the standard floor-to-countertop height is 36” (3’-0”). If you are remodeling your kitchen and buying pre-built base cabinets (34 ½” standard), this will be the height they fit into by most manufacturers’ standards. Also, appliances are usually sized for this height (dishwashers, stove/oven combinations, etc.). That being said, the “average” doesn’t work for many people, and there are options around it.

The ergonomic rule-of-thumb is that your elbows should be bent at a 45-degree angle when your hands are resting on the countertop. If you try this and take your own specific measurements you’ll know the optimal counter height for your own size. 

Here are a few options for those of us who fall in the “other” category:
  1. Below-average height – for those who are below the standard height, it is often found that 32” works well for the countertop height.
  2. Above-average height – for those of us who are above standard height, somewhere between 38”-39” is usually more ideal.
  3. Wheelchair height – a standard wheelchair height is 29”, so 2”-5” above that is often ideal (31” – 34”).
  4. Kitchen island height – given the popularity of kitchen islands, this is one place where many people find that two different heights can be incorporated, given a customized option that doesn’t affect the entire kitchen counter surface. Bar stools (if incorporating an eat-in component for the island) would need to fit in underneath the counter, so the accepted height is usually 42” for this countertop space. But if you want an area to roll dough, for example, you may want to lower that 2”-3” from the standard 36” to make it more comfortable, thus opting for several options within this one surface area.
If you aren’t building a kitchen island, customization may be beyond your budget. If so, consider taking a small portion of the countertop for use as a lower surface – consider the width of one or two base cabinets, and have your contractor cut those down (or build them up) within one, specific area, and fitting the countertop to that space. This minimizes the cost of customizing the counter height for the entire kitchen, as well as creating a unique space that can be visually appealing along with serving a specialized function within one area.

Although there are many options, keep in mind how long you plan on being in your home and if resale value is a factor. If you customize too far beyond the standard kitchen dimensions, this could be a defining part of your final planning decisions.

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