A common complaint voiced to interior designers about kitchens and bathrooms is lack of counter space. Kitchen counters are 25 ½ inches deep, while bathroom counters tend to be in the range of 19 ½ to 22 ½ inches deep. While it is possible to create deeper counters, first consider reach. A counter placed against a wall that is 36 inches from the floor and 48 inches deep has a vast surface area near the wall that most users will not be able to access easily, essentially transforming it into exposed storage space. Instead, arrange counters with a greater run of open counter space at standard depth.
Kitchen Base Cabinets
Stock cabinetry, which is modular, is offered in 3-inch increments, typically starting at 9 inches and reaching a maximum width of 54 inches. Base cabinets, not including door or drawer fronts, their hardware, or countertops, are 24 inches deep by 34 ½ inches high. Kitchen counters are 25 ½ inches deep. The 1-½ inch difference allows for the counter to extend ½ to ¾ inches beyond the depth of both the cabinet and the closed door or drawer.
Kitchen Islands and Breakfast Bars
Kitchen islands and breakfast bars are manufactured in all shapes and sizes. Standard kitchen base cabinet dimensions apply, but counter depths differ slightly.
Designers face the exposed island backside with a panel to hide cabinet seams for a more finished look. If the island doesn't have a breakfast bar, just base cabinets, the counter is 27 inches deep.
NKBA guidelines for breakfast bar depth vary according to breakfast bar height. Minimum breakfast bar knee depth:
- Standard table height (30 inches high) -- 18 inches.
- Counter height (36 inches high) -- 15 inches.
- Bar Height (42 inches high) -- 12 inches.
Following the overhang allowance rule of 1 ½ inches, a bar height breakfast bar, which would require a back support to connect to the island, is a minimum 13 ½ inches.
Bathroom Base Cabinets
Small bathrooms sometimes require very shallow cabinets with only the sink and surrounding area protruding deeper into the floor space. However, standard base cabinets have a depth between 18 and 21 inches and a pre-countertop height between 29 and 34 ½ inches. Cabinet widths begin at 12 inches and can extend up to 72 inches. Counter depth for standard depth cabinets extends 1 ½ inches beyond the base cabinet’s dimensions, typically to a depth of between 19 ½ to 22 ½ inches.
ADA Compliance and Counter Depth
The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessible Guidelines state that a space at least 30 inches wide should be accessible, meaning that wheelchair users can roll up to the counter to perform tasks. The counter should be between 28 and 34 inches high and accommodate a minimum 27-inch knee clearance below the counter, sink or cabinet space. Anything beyond the first 16 inches of counter depth, from the front edge, is considered dead space for wheelchair users.