7 Tips for an Optimal Work Surface in the Kitchen

The design of a new kitchen can be quite a headache. It should not be forgotten that the appearance is shaped not only by appliances, cabinets, and shelves. The choice of countertops also makes a significant contribution to the style of the kitchen. We provide an overview of what is important in planning, which materials are suitable, and how the workflows can be optimized when cooking.

The work surface in the kitchen is much more than just a plate to work on
The work surface in the kitchen is much more than just a plate to work on.
Photo: Schüller Möbelwerk KG

Tip 1: The Correct Height of the Work Surface in the Kitchen

An ergonomic height of the work surface is crucial to ensure that daily kitchen work does not become a stress test for the back – this is based on the height of the person who mainly works in the kitchen. The height of the bent elbow is taken as a yardstick. A countertop height is considered comfortable if it is about 10 to 15 centimeters from the elbow. You can also tell if the countertop height is too low or too high when you lean forward or raise your arms while preparing, cooking, or washing dishes.

Since each activity in the kitchen presents a different challenge to the body, it is a good idea to plan different working heights depending on the functional area. At the stove, the working height is determined based on the top of the pot. Perhaps the cooking area should be lower than the kitchen countertop for chopping and prepping. Because you reach into the sink while doing dishes, the sink area can be higher, for example, with a countertop sink. Here, the sink bottom indicates the working level.

The main dimensions at a glance:

  • The optimal height for the work surface in the kitchen is 10 to 15 centimeters to the angled arm of the main user.
  • The cooktop can be 10 to 15 centimeters lower than the work surface.
  • The sink can be planned 10 to 15 centimeters higher than the work surface.

Extremely practical, but not entirely inexpensive, are motorized height-adjustable solutions that allow individual areas of the work surface to be brought to the ideal level.

Tip 2: Plan Sufficient Working Space

Wherever you work, you need free space. Whether chopping vegetables, rolling out dough, or preparing food, the work surface should be as large as possible – adapted to the room situation. To optimize workflows in the kitchen, a large part of the work surface is located between the stove and sink so that food can be washed in the sink, processed on the countertop, and placed directly into the pot or pan. The optimal distance is about 80 and 120 centimeters. Between the refrigerator and the hob on the countertop should be a minimum distance of about 50 centimeters.

For comfortable cooking, the distance between the countertop and the elbow should be approximately 10 to 15 centimeters
For comfortable cooking, the distance between the countertop and the elbow should be approximately 10 to 15 centimeters.
Photo: iStock/alvarez

To facilitate the design of the kitchen in general, the standard dimension of 60 centimeters was developed for the depth of appliances and countertops. As a result, the design of the furniture remains flexible and individual elements can always be replaced.

A countertop projection of a few millimeters prevents dripping liquids from soiling the kitchen fronts. A surge rim and a juice channel also provide a remedy against the soiling of the base cabinets. The surge rim refers to the elevation of the front countertop, while the juice channel is recessed just before the front edge of the countertop.

Tip 3: Form Follows Function; This Also Applies to the Work Surface in the Kitchen

The distances between the most important kitchen appliances should not be too long for optimized workflows. The arrangement is based on the zones in which people move during meal preparation: from the refrigerator to the sink and from there to the stove – this gives rise to the so-called magic triangle, which should always be considered when planning the kitchen. In the magic triangle, the stove, sink, and refrigerator are each located in the corners of an imaginary triangle in the floor plan. In contrast, the free work surfaces are located in between. With this planning aid, all the essential stations are perfectly coordinated.

If the refrigerator, sink and stove are placed in a triangle, it is called a magic triangle
If the refrigerator, sink and stove are placed in a triangle, it is called a magic triangle.
Photo: iStock/contrastaddict

Tip 4: The Best Choice of Material for the Work Surface

Hot pots, sharp knives, or staining food – the work surfaces in the kitchen have to withstand a lot. They should be easy to clean and hygienic. But aesthetic requirements should not be neglected either. The decisive factors for the choice of material are usually the personal furnishing style and the kitchen fronts already selected. Stainless steel, granite, quartz, and concrete are considered particularly durable, while wood gives the kitchen naturalness and warmth.

The countertops are offered in different thicknesses. The standard dimension is 40 millimeters, which provides stability, especially for wooden boards. Countertops of weighty materials such as concrete or natural stone are usually offered in thinner thicknesses.

Tip 5: Do Not Neglect the Edge Design

The finishing touches to kitchen countertops are provided by matching edging strips and end trims. Hidden under the edge banding are the raw edges of the countertop, which can swell and become damaged without adequate protection. The sturdy lippings are coated with hot melt adhesive and applied to the edges with a steam iron at low heat to do this. The edges are an important detail for a coherent overall kitchen impression. They can be chosen either in the look of the worktop or as an exciting contrast, for example, in stainless steel or aluminum. Finishing strips provide a seamless finish where the worktop meets the wall.

Tip 6: Sealing the Cut Edges and Joints of Worktops

If the countertop cannot be made in one piece or runs across corners in a U-shape, the split countertops must be carefully joined to prevent moisture from penetrating the material. There are also weak points at cutouts for the hob or sink, which must be well sealed. Complete countertop sealing is done with paint, glue, varnish, and, more rarely, silicone.

Tip 7: Avoid Cluttered Kitchen Countertops

Only place things on the countertop that you use every day and store rarely used kitchen gadgets in cabinets, drawers, or the utility closet; hang utensils on the wall or from the ceiling. On the other hand, toasters, coffee makers, or retro kettles in an attractive design do not have to hide at all and can be real eye-catchers on the countertop.

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