Canadian Contractor

Getting the height right: 10 things to measure

It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to kitchens, baths and workspaces

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October 3, 2016 by John Bleasby

Clients come in all shapes, sizes and, most importantly, different heights. If one spouse or partner is significantly taller than the other, take that into consideration when planning the kitchen, bathrooms and office work-spaces. Going with what’s ‘standard’ when doing a ‘custom’ renovation or new-build means missing an opportunity to make things truly ‘made-to-measure’.

Earlier installments in our 3-part ‘10 Things’ series
10 things before the studs go up
10 things before the drywall goes up

  1. Who does the cooking? If the person who does most of the cooking is 5’ 4”, lowering countertop heights by an inch or two from the standard 36” keeps everything within easy reach. If they’re 6” 2”, raising counters an inch or two will reduce back strain.
  1. Mounting the base cabinets 6" out from the wall means your client can enjoy 30" wide counters. That and a trim dormer at the end means the ugly side panel of the new refrigerator won't be exposed

    Mounting the base cabinets 6″ out from the wall means your client can enjoy 30″ wide counters. That and a trim panel at the end means the ugly side panel of the new refrigerator won’t be exposed

    Too far to reach? Some kitchen experts are calling for upper cabinets to be mounted 21” above the counters, rather than the previous standard of 18”. However, high cabinets might force shorter clients to use a kitchen step-stool, which is guaranteed to be in the way almost all the time. And resist the temptation to put any dinnerware and mixing bowls in upper cabinets. Use the lower cabinets for plates instead; they’re easier much for all members of the family to access. (Also see #5, below)

  1. Can you see the food cooking? Mounting the wall oven and the microwave is something that must be well measured and tested. Can the cook see the roast and popcorn? This will likely require a special meeting and the ability to mount the units themselves on shims so the clients can judge for themselves.
  1. Counter space is prime real estate. Consider lower cabinet storage for those handy little appliances to keep workspaces stay uncluttered. (Also see #5, below) Need music? Look for a radio/CD/mpg player that mounts under the upper cabinets, not on the countertop.
  1. Pull out, don’t reach back. Consider large drawers for lower cabinet storage instead of standard shelves. It makes everything accessible and eliminates searching the dark depths of a base cabinet for that elusive 6” saucepan that slipped to the rear. Use these drawers for dinnerware, large mixing bowls, pots and pans, and even small appliances.
  1. Go deep! Very important! If your client has the space, mount the standard 24” lower cabinets 6” out from the wall so they can have 30” deep counter tops. The difference is awesome!
  1. Avoid the side view! Have you and your client figured out how that fancy 30” deep fridge will be installed without jutting out from the counter tops by a mile and exposing the unit’s ugly side panel? Remember #5! That solves the problem!
  1. Two workplace users with different heights? Two heights for the worktop.

    Two workplace users with different heights? Two heights for the worktop.

    Split level workspaces. Planning a built-in workspace in an office for your clients? If the users are two different heights, or if one prefers to stand rather than sit, consider a split level work top. Standard height is 30” but you can go higher or lower based on your clients’’ work habits and heights.

  1. Bathroom vanities kid-sized? Why not? If there’s a bathroom dedicated for younger family members, consider lowering the counter by an inch or two, or maybe installing a split level vanity.
  1. Getting the throne right! Toilet bowl heights vary, from the low ones grandma and grandpa had, to what today is called ‘chair height’. But even chair height bowls vary; check the measurements from each manufacture. Here’s a tip; 17” or even 17 ½” rules! You’ll never regret it! Go test-driving toilets at your favourite big box store and watch eyes turn your way!

Give your tape measure a workout to make sure everything is the right height for your clients’ lifestyle.

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2 Comments » for Getting the height right: 10 things to measure
  1. Frase McConney says:

    Try getting some under counter appliances ie. beverage coolers, dishwashers,trash compactors. Under a 34″ high counter.


    • Thanks for the comment, Frase. However, my Bosch dishwasher fits just fine under my 34″ counters. And remember, if one is installing lower-than-average counters for a shorter client, not all counters have to be low….just the food preparation areas.