Did you know that the second-best kitchen feature in a kitchen renovation or remodel is a kitchen island?
According to a 2016 analysis by Statista, forty percent of American respondents said that a kitchen island was their choice for a new kitchen feature added to their home. As a general rule, knowing the average kitchen island size provides you with a baseline measure to work from as you plan to add this kitchen feature to your own home. Keep in mind the work area, seating space (if desired), feet of clearance, and building codes.
Naturally, a large island is better for larger rooms with extra space. Larger islands are a good idea, too, because they can provide extra storage opportunities under the counter. A common mistake is to assume that smaller spaces or a small kitchen are not enough space to support an island countertop and bar stools. If it were a problem, then we wouldn’t have mobile kitchen island options for smaller kitchen condos and apartments. Great options exist everywhere.
Adequate space for a prep area is a great way to help the family prepare some great meals. Getting the right amount of counter space depends on how much room is available. Your room size, if a small space, or a larger space, determines what the best kitchen island size will be. Having the proper clearance surrounding your kitchen island makes everything more feasible. For example, you even have to consider the countertop edge, ensuring there isn’t too much overhang.
The Average Size of a Kitchen Island
You know that you are only limited to that size when you see the word average. There will be large islands for larger kitchens and smaller ones for small kitchens, and the average size gives you a reference point to work with as you study the possibility of adding one of these units to your home.
The average size of a kitchen island is 40 inches by 80 inches which equals 3 1/2 feet by 6 feet 8 inches. These are bigger islands than most kitchens in apartments.
The average size for smaller kitchens will be 40 by 40 inches or 3 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet.
When you are looking at putting an island into your home, you need to figure out how much space you need in total. Plus, you need to figure out the purpose of the kitchen island.
Having the Right Inches of Clearance
Square feet and the size of the room matter during a kitchen remodel. Choosing a kitchen designer from well-known kitchen companies remains a good option for complex remodels. Even though do-it-yourself (DIY) can save some money, a design expert will make sure that the rest of the kitchen flows, considering the work aisle, the smallest possible distance between functional areas of the kitchen, and so on.
Not only do you need the kitchen island to have enough room for more counter space, but you also need to make sure you have enough room to maneuver around it. Some people say that 30 inches of clearance on all four sides are enough, while others say you need 3 feet of space to make it safe to walk and work around this handy kitchen accessory.
That clearance total includes when you will use the island as a breakfast bar for your busy family. All four sides of the island should be the same distance from other kitchen appliances, counters, doorways, and other pieces of furniture you have in your room.
Owning a house with a larger kitchen makes things easier. And not so easy when you have a small place with a small cooking area unless you go with a small island that fits your kitchen’s dimensions.
How to Choose Your Kitchen Island
It would be best to consider several criteria before making your purchase or building it yourself.
The following criteria should guide you in the right design but also the size of your kitchen island.
Picking the Right Countertop Material
Selecting suitable countertop material is an essential factor as many owners like to use one piece of material to be on top of their kitchen island, no matter what it is.
It is not always practical or inexpensive. Use your kitchen size to determine the size of your island, and then you can pick the material. For some suggestions, check out our article Quartzite Versus Granite Kitchen Countertops: Which is Better?
Ask Key Questions
There are so many designs to choose from, and this cannot be easy to filter down to what you need.
- Do you need or want open shelving on the sides of the island?
- Do you like deep cabinets or if they have much of an overhang?
- What are the number of seats you need or want?
- Will you need extra seating if you have guests over?
The answers to these questions will help you find the best size of island for your kitchen.
How many inches of space does each seated person need to be comfortable?
Will it be for food preparation only, or will you eat at the island as well? These are essential details to consider when planning out your kitchen remodel.
Because if you’re going to get a large kitchen island for cooking, you’ll need to consider a downdraft fan.
A downdraft range hood fan is sleek, takes up very little space, and is easy to clean. Where things get, a little complex and heavy is with installation. You want kitchen design experts to be involved, and if you have an induction cooktop, a downdraft extraction is more expensive than traditional ranges. Earlier, we spoke about the extra space that comes under the kitchen countertop, and with this type of installation, there is less space because of the motor. Lastly, these fans don’t remove all cooking odors as quickly as an overhead fan. Still, both will collect grease, steam, and smoke and help vent outside and carbon monoxide (for gas cooktops).
Will you need additional storage for all your cooking utensils, pots, pans, and other cooking items? A more oversized kitchen island would be more beneficial depending on available space if you need this.
Traffic flow is an important issue when deciding upon the right size for your kitchen island.
Is there a lot of traffic going into and out of your kitchen area? If the former is true, you may want to cut down on the size of the island. If not, you may wish to have it a little larger.
You want to ensure everyone has easy access to your kitchen, the seating area, and the storage space underneath.
What do you want your kitchen island to have? Some people put their pots and pan racks above theirs, while others place extra lighting above their islands. Or you can go with full power and water hook-up, as well as a built-in cutting board or a double tier design. You have a lot of choices when it comes to designing your kitchen island.
What is the Minimum Space between a Kitchen Island and Cabinets
The size of kitchen islands depends mainly on the size of the kitchen.
For clearance, the general rule is a minimum of 30-36 inches between cabinets/appliances and the kitchen island.
One way to avoid this issue is to go with a portable kitchen island, as you can always move it out of the way when it is not needed. The kitchen island width for moveable islands gives enough flexibility to meet most limited kitchen space needs.
This flexibility allows you to work within the layout of your kitchen, and it solves many problems for you, including construction issues.
Is the Height of Your Island the Same as Countertops
They can be. Your island’s standard kitchen counter height is 36 inches, but you may find that a little on the small side when using it for extra eating space. Then you may have to go up to 42 inches which is the standard height for a kitchen bar.
Overall, it would be best to make the kitchen island the right size for your stature. You do not want a tall island when you are only 5 feet tall or less, and there is some wiggle room here.
The good news is that there is no restriction in place that makes you have your kitchen island the same size as your kitchen counters. You can have it smaller or taller; it depends on the island’s purpose.
In other words, there is no standard kitchen island height. You are free to pick the height you want, which works best with your kitchen duties.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should an island be to fit four stools?
The minimum distance for each person sitting at a kitchen bar or island is 24 inches, and that means you would need approx—ninety-six inches of length or an 8-foot island.
That is if it is a linear island. You can have a design where two people sit on one side, and one person sits on two remaining sides, and that would shorten your island down considerably.
As long as you have the minimum size in inches of open space between the island and your cabinets, you should be okay with any design you select. Make sure to measure twice before buying anything to be sure.
How long should a kitchen island be for three stools?
If we use the same standard of measurement given for the 4-person island, you would need your island to reach 72 inches of 6 feet in length, and this may be more of a reasonable size for most kitchens.
Again, you can have your family members sit at different parts of the island, so it does not have to be precisely that length, but if you have the room, it is best to go with a long island. The island can provide a nice boundary between the next room and your kitchen.
When you are going for this size of the kitchen island, you want to make sure you have enough prep space for meals or even cutting ingredients up and mixing them. That means that while you have a 72-inch long island, you should have at least a 2-foot width.
Having enough prep room is essential when making complex meals for your family.
How long should an island be for six stools?
Some experts say you need more room per person than the 24-inch margin we used in the previous sections. Their recommended space per person is between 28 to 30 inches per person.
Those extra 4 to 6 inches do make a difference. For example, for six people eating at the kitchen island, you would need between 168 to 180 inches in length. Those figures work out to be between 14 feet and 15 feet long approx, and not many kitchens are that large.
If you went back to the 24-inch size, you would need roughly 144 inches or 12 feet of length to accommodate everyone. Again, you would need an extra-large house to make that kitchen island fit inside.
Don’t forget to add the overhang to measurements, as you may see an extra 10 to 20 inches added to the final figures.
Is a 10-inch island overhang enough?
Yes, since it is the standard size for almost every kitchen island overhang. It allows the knees to get comfortable and makes sure people are close to the edge when they spill something.
But you are not locked into this depth. The actual minimum overhang size is 8 inches, and anything less and people will be knocking their knees against the side of the island. The maximum depth recommended is 12 inches.
At this depth, or if you decide you need a greater depth, you will need to add legs or a support system to keep the overhang from breaking or tipping the island. There is some good news in all of this.
The thicker your countertop is, the deeper your overhang can be. The rule of thumb is that for every 30 mm or 3 centimeters (2 inches) of thickness, your countertop can overhang an additional 12 inches.
Most people do not need that extra thickness. The thickness of your countertop and its overhang should not exceed the minimum surrounding clearance zone between the other cabinets, appliances, and walls inside the room.
Some Final Words
It will take some planning to the proper island’s size for your kitchen. That planning will also include getting it through your exterior and interior doors without damaging the island or the doorways and walls.
The good part is that you have many designs and accessory options available. You can make that kitchen island a beautiful focal point or have it complement the rest of your kitchen. Now that you know the standard kitchen island dimensions, it is all up to you.
If you are interested, you can research and learn more at the National Kitchen and Bath Association. They also provide more information on kitchen island size guidelines.
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John Thompson, Writer and Commentator, EvolutDesign.com
Soldier, writer, researcher, consultant, and bon vivant, John Thompson is the author of numerous columns, op-eds, reports, briefs, short stories and books as the “Felicity Files” and “Spirit Over Steel: A Chronology of the Second World War” (version III). Often found hunched over his computer, or in his garden, and now often found doing both. His diverse talent has led him to work in industries and projects such as energy, security and home construction and renovation.