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Kitchen countertops are typically 24" deep and in order to provide a good work area, should not be less than 16" deep. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have countertops under 16" deep, you just can't count on them as work areas for food prep and baking.
Appliance Garages - These are sectioned off areas of the countertop that house blenders, food processors, etc. so that they are hidden yet available for use. I have mixed feelings about appliance garages; while they do keep the counter clean and uncluttered, they tend to remove valuable counter space. If you have limited counterspace in your Kitchen, I would not install an appliance garage.
Countertop Corners - Try to eliminate any sharp corners on outside countertop edges. Sharp edges can be brutal on the hips and on small children's heads. It is best to have a smooth curved edge on an outside counter rather than a sharp point.
Shiny Surfaces - A countertop that has a high shine can create a glare from light sources (whether electrical or natural from windows) which are tiring to the eyes. Another factor to keep in mind, a shiny surface will show scratch marks much easier than a matte surface will.
Work Areas Below Upper Cabinets - There should be at least 15" from the countertop to the bottom of the wall cabinets in order to be able to use the counter as work space. To make food preparation and baking easier, think about installing undercabinet lighting to illuminate the countertop.
Trash Receptacle - If you have a large family with a lot of trash, think about doing what some commercial kitchens do - have a hole made in your countertop with the trash receptacle below, so that trash can be dropped into the trash through the hole.
Countertop Heights- In the past, all Kitchens had the same counterweight, however people are now adjusting their countertop heights to fit their own needs. It is recommended by the NKBA (www.nkba.org) that you try to incorporate at least two different heights of counters in the kitchen - one between 28" - 36" and another between 36" - 45". The best heights for your kitchen will depend on the heights of the people who will be cooking and working in the kitchen and the tasks that they will be doing.
Not only is it important to have plenty of countertops in your Kitchen, you need to have them located in appropriate areas. The National Kitchen & Bath Association has guidelines that are excellent to follow, below are some basic rules to follow when planning the location of your countertops.
Sink - Counter surfaces near the sink are very important since a great deal of food prep and work occurs in this area of the kitchen. There should be a minimum of 24" to at least one side of the sink. However, in order for a countertop near the sink to be used as an ideal food prep area, there should be a minimum of 3' of clear working space.
Microwave - There should be plenty of counter space near a microwave oven in order to place items before placing them in the oven or after removing. The counter space should be at least as wide as the microwave. There are several styles of microwaves available from small countertop models to models that can be installed over cooking surfaces with exhaust fans underneath.
Stove - The stove should have ample surfaces, ideally to
each side of the cooktop. If the stove is near a wall on one side,
you need to make sure that the finish on the wall is nonflammable.
Different Countertop Options
How do you decide on the perfect countertop for your kitchen? Listed below are some of the more popular surfaces, along with pro's and con's, to help you find the correct countertop for your needs.
Price is definitely one of the biggest selling points for laminate countertops, but, laminate is also very easy to maintain and keep clean, even in the busiest of kitchens. Color isn't a problem either, there are literally hundreds of solid colors available, along with a large variety of patterns. So, what are the drawbacks to a laminate countertop? Laminate will burn if a hot pan is placed on it and it is prone to scratching and chipping. Never install a glossy or shiny laminate countertop - the scratches will be very noticeable! Once laminate is damaged, there is nothing that can be done to fix it, short of replacing it. However, laminate will continue to be a popular countertop because its many benefits (no maintenance required except for daily cleaning) tend to outweigh its drawbacks.
Solid surfaces are extremely popular, durable and can be repaired if damaged (huge plus). You also have the option of an integral sink in the same material to create a seamless transition with the countertop. Another plus is the multiple edge profiles that are available. Although there are not as many color options in solid surface as there are in laminates, the colors available are beautiful and often replicate colors and textures found in nature. Solid surface countertops are virtually maintenance free, but cost several times more than laminate.
The ever popular ceramic tile will resist heat and can last many years. Tiles are available in countless colors and finishes, however, always select a glazed tile for countertops. Art tiles, which are perfect for backsplashes, can be incorporated into the design of the kitchen adding personality and color. The cost of tiles can vary quite a bit, from the affordable mass produced tile to exquisite handmade ones. Ceramic tile is simple to clean and maintain, however the grout between the tiles can stain even if you use the new latex grouts. Although a heavy object may cause a tile to break, the broken tile can be easily replaced with a new one.
To many homeowners, stone is the ultimate countertop, and it is also one of the most expensive. There are a large variety of stones to choose from, and price and maintenance will vary with each. Most stones are ideal in the kitchen because they are resistant to water and heat damage. Keep in mind that all stones are naturally porous, so when selecting a stone for your countertop, be sure to select one that is less porous, such as granite. Marble is not typically a good selection for a kitchen countertop because it is very porous and can stain easily. Keep in mind that a glossy granite countertop may create glare from lighting. Aside from the price, the main drawback to a stone countertop is the maintenance required. Most require a good waxing and polishing every few months.
A concrete countertop is ideal for a contemporary home and is now available in dozens of colors. Concrete is resistant to heat and scratches, however it is very heavy (check your foundation!), requires a sealant and is susceptible to staining. Like stone, the concrete will need to have simple maintenance every few months.
Stainless steel is an ideal countertop because it will not stain, is easy to clean and is resistant to heat. However, it is fairly expensive, may appear cold and can scratch and dent. If you're concerned about bacteria in the kitchen though, a stainless steel countertop will not harbor any germs if cleaned daily.
A wood countertop, particularly maple, is not only
beautiful, but an ideal cutting surface. But, if you are considering
wood for your kitchen countertop, keep in mind that it will require
quite a bit of cleaning, maintenance and sealer to assure that it
is bacteria free.
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