How to Avoid DIY Kitchen Design Mistakes

This weekend I came across a sale listing for a home that had recently been renovated.  Since I am in the middle of a kitchen remodel myself, I was keenly interested in seeing the kitchen.  My jaw dropped when I saw the pictures, but not in a good way.  While I am a huge DIY advocate, the foremost objective of any home improvement work should be to improve – end up with something better, not worse, than what you started with.

Kitchen Design Guidelines

Does this mean that if you want to DIY your kitchen model, you should pay for a professional kitchen designer? Not necessarily.  If you follow the basic tenets of good kitchen design, you can easily avoid ending up with a Frankenkitchen.

A good source for kitchen design information is the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).  The association publishes a set of guidelines for the following 31 kitchen design components:

  1. Door/Entry
  2. Door Interference
  3. Distance Between Work Centers
  4. Separating Work Centers
  5. Work Triangle Traffic
  6. Work Aisle
  7. Walkway
  8. Traffic Clearance at Seating
  9. Seating Clearance
  10. Cleanup/Prep Sink Placement
  11. Cleanup/Prep Sink Landing Area
  12. Preparation/Work Area
  13. Dishwasher Placement
  14. Waste Receptacles
  15. Auxilliary Sink
  16. Refrigerator Landing Area
  17. Cooking Surface Landing Area
  18. Cooking Surface Clearance
  19. Cooking Surface Ventilation
  20. Cooking Surface Safety
  21. Microwave Oven Placement
  22. Microwave Landing Area
  23. Oven Landing Area
  24. Combining Landing Areas
  25. Countertop Space
  26. Countertop Edges
  27. Storage
  28. Storage at Cleanup/Prep Sink
  29. Corner Cabinet Storage
  30. Electrical Receptacles
  31. Lighting

The NKBA explains these guidelines in their book, NKBA Kitchen and Bathroom Planning Guidelines with Access Standards, which is currently for sale on Amazon for $11.52.

Each guideline is explained clearly in this inexpensive yet invaluable reference publication and also further clarified through excellent illustrations as shown in the following sample provided through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.

Analyzing The Frankenkitchen

The home for sale was listed by an owner-agent.  The real estate agent and her spouse acquired the property and spent almost a year renovating it.  The spouse’s full-time occupation is a professional handyperson/contractor.  One of the reasons I advocate a DIY approach to property management and home improvement is that the work of “professionals” are often far from professional.  This case is a prime example.  Let us take a look at some pics from the MLS listing and see where this professional duo took wrong turns in their kitchen design and how their mistakes could have been easily avoided with a $11 investment in the NKBA Kitchen and Bathroom Planning Guidelines with Access Standards guide.

Missing Refrigerator Landing Area

The kitchen in the sale listing violates multiple of NBKA’s kitchen design guidelines.  Guideline 15 suggests that a certain amount of refrigerator landing area be located in the proximity of the refrigerator.  The renovated kitchen contains no refrigerator landing area on either side nor within 48 inches opposite of the refrigerator.

The future homeowners will realize this blunder the very first time they come home with groceries and have nowhere close to the fridge to lay them down.  Then they will be reminded again the next morning when they bring out the juice jug and have to trek across the kitchen just to have a surface where they can pour into a glass.

Missing Cooking Surfaces

Guideline 17 requires that a minimum of 12 inches of landing area be provided on one side of the cooking surface and a minimum of 15 inches of landing area on the other side.  Again, the renovated kitchen contains no landing area directly next to either side of the cooking surface.

The future homeowner will realize this design failure the first time they cook and have no place to set down their cookwares or utensils.  The countertop that is a small distance away from the left of the stove will be on little consolation to the right-handed majority who may just have to resort to holding their utensils the whole time while they are cooking.

Clashing Work Aisles

Worst of all, due the the location of the cooking surface in relation to the sink, the renovated kitchen, despite its ample size, will not be able to accommodate two cooks since the work areas for the sink and the stove interfere with each other.  Not to mention, the location of the stove also blocks some under-counter cabinet space.

DIY Kitchen Design

Don’t let the mistakes made by this professional duo scare you away from designing your own kitchen.  All it takes in some research, forethought, and adherence to some basic, common sense guidelines for good kitchen design.

While researching kitchen designs for House 1’s kitchen remodeling, I discovered NKBA’s guidelines.  When I read through each guideline and then reflected on the kitchen design issues in each of my properties, the guidelines proved to be extremely well-thought-out and time-tested.  Take advantage of the work that has been already done and leverage these guidelines to DIY the design and creation of a new, functional kitchen that will be a pleasure to use for many years to come.

Mr. DIY Landlord



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