Anatomy of a Kitchen Countertop
What Makes The Kitchen Countertop Important?
The kitchen, being the centerpiece of every contemporary home, requires a countertop that (1.) meets the functional needs of daily cooking preparations and (2.) complements the beauty of the entire area.
Whether you are building a new house or doing a major kitchen renovation, it is essential to know the basic information that will help you decide on your countertop’s final look.
Furthermore, should you decide to have your local supplier install it for you, they will most likely ask some of the details which we will discuss in this article. Therefore, it is best to have a list of some of your ideas beforehand. Keep in mind that your countertop installer will charge you accordingly based on the specifications of your project.
The Work Triangle
The “Work Triangle” connects the three fundamental workstations of the kitchen—the sink, the range, and the fridge.
To ensure maximum efficiency, the distance between each area should not be less than 1.20 meters but not more than 2.70 meters. Furthermore, the sum of all three sides of the triangle should be between 4.00 meters and 7.90 meters.
If the work triangle perimeter is too small, it can make the kitchen feel cramped. On the other hand, if it’s too large, it can cause movements a hassle.
The Work Triangle is a simple idea that saves time and energy. By keeping a certain amount of space between the main working areas, it makes daily kitchen preparations easier and keeps workspace traffic to a minimum.
Between an Island and a Peninsula
If you are in the middle of remodeling your old kitchen space, we’re pretty much sure you’ve already imagined how everything would look like—from floor to wall—once your project is completed.
Walking towards the kitchen, you see the space bare and empty. You figure out the color scheme, the layout, and the design of the area. Overwhelmed by every little detail you want inside the four corners of your kitchen, the excitement builds up. You create a mental picture of a perfect Sunday morning, where everyone in the family is busy preparing breakfast right in this room.
And then it hits you. An island. You’ve always wanted one inside your kitchen ever since.
But a question pops into your head,
Hence, you go back to square one—or triangle, rather. The “Work Triangle,” to be exact. From here you’ll know whether an island or a peninsula fits in your kitchen.
Should You Have an Island in Your Kitchen?
Islands are great, but only if you have enough space. Before thinking of having one in your kitchen, ask yourself first these three questions:
If you think your kitchen has limited space, there are a lot of options to make an island work. Reduce its depth, customize its height, and tailor the cabinets based on the needed functionality. Also, you can even add wheels underneath to achieve mobility.
The possibilities are limitless. Your island can also double as a multipurpose workstation. Just add some bar stools. Include an induction cooktop. Or throw in a wine cooler, perhaps? With the right design, shape, and size, your kitchen island can be incredibly useful and versatile.
Should You Have a Peninsula in Your Kitchen Instead?
For smaller kitchen areas, having a peninsula is a better choice.
With one end fixed to a wall, a peninsula allows movement on its three sides without requiring as much space as an island. It is a practical option for a narrow kitchen that needs the same functionality.
Also, it can define the kitchen as a separate space from the adjoining room. It creates a border between the working area and the living space. It gives the cook a much-needed room while keeping everyone else out of the way.
Nine out of ten would prefer an island in their kitchen. But the question is,
If you are pretty much confident with a resounding “yes,” go ahead. Get yourself an island. But when in doubt, don’t!
Often, some homeowners put up an island for the sake of having one right smack in the middle of their kitchen. Eventually, a few find themselves regretting the idea after finding out that the island itself becomes merely an obstacle.
Comparing Islands and Peninsulas
Ultimately, both the island and peninsula share the same function:
Before making a final decision, understand the potentials and the limitations of your kitchen space. Know how you would want your kitchen connected with the rest of the house. From there, decide on which of the two layouts works better—in both form and function.
The Frontage, the central part of the countertop, is the working area of the kitchen. It is here where we perform mostly the various kitchen tasks, such as chopping and slicing. Moreover, it is the surface that absorbs the constant use and abuse of daily meal preparations.
During layout and design, it is important to note that a depth of at least 0.60 meter is required for the countertop’s frontage to function efficiently. This figure ensures, too, that there is a sufficient area to work on while allowing enough space to accommodate the sink, the stovetop, and some other small kitchen accessories.
A countertop can either be a continuous space or a connection of two or more granite, marble, or engineered quartz slabs joined at angled corners. Often, kitchens with an “L-shaped” or a “U-shaped” layout require seams to accommodate the size of the countertop. Alternatively, you may also consider using gangsaw slabs (slabs which have a depth of more than a meter) to minimize the number of seams.
A Backsplash is a vertical panel installed above the frontage of a countertop. It has three essential functions.
First, it serves to protect the wall from splatters and blocks spills and drips from seeping behind the cabinet. It helps keep both surfaces clean and dry, which, in turn, prevents mold from growing inside your kitchen.
Second, it hides the gap between the rear end of the countertop and the wall behind it. Considering that most walls, almost always, are not straight, the void becomes inevitable. The backsplash, therefore, covers this particular problem fittingly.
Lastly, it provides a stunning visual treat to anyone in the kitchen. It adds depth, color, and texture in the room. Whether you prefer a 0.10 meter high or a full-height backsplash, it surely is worth pairing with your countertop.
Planning the location of the sink, the stovetop, and, even the wall outlets is a must, as well. Employ the concept of the Work Triangle to ensure you can move freely between each workstation of the kitchen. Once finalized, the installer identifies the position of the cutouts based on your decision.
He or she may recommend adjusting these locations sometimes, as cutouts make the stone very fragile. There should be at least 50 mm clearance between the nearest edge of the slab and the lip of the cutout. In some cases, the installer may even require to place it with seams.
Hence, it is highly necessary for wooden cabinets and frame bases to have a substrate that supports the stone slab underneath. The underlay prevents cracks and fissures from occurring, especially around the cutouts.
Finding the Right Sink Style
Finding the right sink for your kitchen and bathroom can be a bit overwhelming. With the vast selection available in the market today, it is quite confusing, and sometimes frustrating, to decide which product would suit perfectly inside your home.
You may already have set yourself into buying a similar sink you’ve seen at a friend’s house, but a visit to the local home improvement store will surely make you consider other options. Walking between the extensive collection of products on display, you become more and more undecided. You spend hours choosing:
- which material should it be made up of;
- which style would complement your interior; and
- which added functionality should you consider necessary.
To help you choose from the standard styles you’ll find on the market today, here is a list that will guide you in your planning and purchase:
a. Drop-in Sink
Placed fittingly inside a hole cut out of the countertop, the Drop-in Sink is a traditional style of the fixture long since. Also known as a “Top-mount Sink,” it hangs on the countertop, with its rim or lip resting on the perimeter of the cutout.
Advantages of Drop-in Sinks
- A Drop-in sink is easy and inexpensive to install.
- An overlapping rim protects the edges of the countertop’s cut out from chipping.
- Also, it is widely available at most home improvement stores.
- Lastly, should there be a need for a replacement, it can be quickly done without damaging the countertop.
Disadvantages of Drop-in Sinks
- Dirt and gunk can build up between the sink’s rim and the countertop.
- Also, the rim covers a small part of the countertop, which many find unsightly.
b. Undermount Sink
The Undermount Sink provides a sleek and uninterrupted look for your kitchen’s surface. It attaches below the countertop, which hides the rim from plain sight.
Advantages of Undermount Sinks
- You can conveniently wipe spills or crumbs straight into the basin.
- It provides more countertop space compared to all the other types.
- Moreover, an Undermount Sink imparts a higher resale value for your home.
Disadvantages of Undermount Sinks
- Not only is it much more expensive to buy, but the installation also costs higher than all other sink types.
- Gunk can build up on the underside where the sink attaches to the countertop.
- Replacing it requires having the right set of tools or the need for professional help.
- Lastly, it only works with solid countertop materials, like granite, marble, quartz, nano crystallized glass, etc.. It can not be combined with laminate or tile countertops, as they may not be able to support the weight of the water which the sink will bear on daily use.
c. Farmhouse Sink
The Farmhouse, or Apron Sink, is a popular pick for rustic or vintage-style kitchens. Its prominent feature is a large forward-facing section (apron) which replaces a part of the lower cabinet and countertop.
Advantages of Farmhouse Sinks
- Compared to other sinks, it has a deeper basin that can accommodate big baking pans and large casseroles.
- Additionally, it eliminates the need to bend over when doing the dishes as it sticks out slightly from the supporting cabinetry.
Disadvantages of Farmhouse Sinks
- A Farmhouse Sink requires a custom-made cabinet, which can be a bit costly.
- Scratches may occur on the front face of the sink (e.g., a user may unintentionally scrape the apron with the metal button of his or her jeans when dishwashing).
- Also, water tends to drip down the apron and onto the floor or cabinet doors.
Often an overlooked feature, the Edge Profile is a subtle detail that makes a huge statement. It is a design element that affects the appearance and functionality of the countertop, as well as the whole kitchen itself.
Standard designs range from Eased, Bullnose, Chamfered, etc., but the spectrum of choices are limitless. You can even create one for your kitchen. It is an excellent way of personalizing your kitchen with nothing more than an edging detail.
Every countertop, regardless of its material, must not only appeal in form but must also achieve its function. Thus, every little detail requires careful planning before making a final decision on the design. Finding the right countertop for your home may look easy at first, but it becomes increasingly overwhelming once you consider all the details.
Nevertheless, it is worth every effort. The countertop, after all, is both the workhorse and the focal point of your kitchen.
Laminate and Skirting
The countertop’s base is another critical factor to consider during the design process. A countertop placed over a wooden cabinet typically requires a Laminated edge profile to hide the substrate supporting the slab.
On the other hand, when installed on top of a concrete base or a metal or a stainless steel frame, a Skirting is recommended to conceal the structure underneath.