The Inside Outside Guys: Planning a kitchen

Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein, Special to The Detroit News
Published 5:54 p.m. ET Nov. 26, 2020

One of the best values in updating an older home is a kitchen remodel. People walking in to a home for the first time automatically gravitate to the kitchen. It is the area of highest “fit and finish” in the home, and it is the most expensive room in the house per square foot. Whether you plan to stay in the home or your desire is to sell, there are a few things to keep in mind during the planning phase.

Kitchens are as much a gathering place as they are a work space. Consider ways to “expand” the space either literally making it larger or through the use of more windows. Is there a way to include a small sitting area adjacent to the new space?

Kitchens are also a storage space for food stuffs, and appliances. Consider a walk in pantry with a custom cabinet door front to maximize space efficiency, ease of access, and create a spot for that waste and recycling.

Remember, deep shelves “hide” spices and canned goods. Utilize shelf inserts that allow quick visual and physical access to everything in a cabinet.

The “Work Triangle” includes the total distance between the three points created by the stove, main sink and refrigerator. This distance should be around 20 lineal feet maximum.

Designate a “Food Prep” space in the work triangle. It may be the front portion of an island. Consider a separate vegetable sink with gooseneck touch-free faucet in this space as well as an electrical receptacle for small appliances on a 20 Amp circuit.

Design enough storage (remember that pantry) to allow you to keep counter tops clear for food prep.

Place the microwave at a height convenient to most users. Older users may have difficulty accessing the typical “over the stove” location.

Mix your counter tops. While hard surface stone may work well for most areas, butcher block is an excellent food prep surface whether cutting, slicing, dicing or even setting down a hot sauce pan.

Lighting should be considered from three perspectives; safety, ambiance, and tasks. Install task lighting so the working surface will not be shadowed by the cook’s movements. Safety lighting should highlight counter edges and corners. Update electrical wiring to provide ample power and receptacles.

Flooring should be “maintenance-free” and able to take abuse. The vinyl plank styles offer a lot of color and texture choices and are easy on the cooks legs and feet.

Cabinet door swings should be considered as to ease of access and possible conflict with other doors and drawers.

Avoid using trendy color where it will be hard or expensive to update. Design your accents with easily modified paint, backsplashes, wall hangings and wall decoration.

Counter top height should accommodate the user rather than be a “one-size-fits-all”. Consider incorporating Universal Design strategies to make the space user friendly for people of various abilities.

Install active ventilation to the outside along with a “make-up” air system to replace the exhaust air. If an exhaust system is placed on an outside wall, it may be a very cold spot through the winter months.

If space allows, define a desk/reference space for laptop, cookbooks, television, etc.

Safety equipment considerations include smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors as well as placement for burn ointments, fire extinguishers and bandages.

In the words of Bob McComb of McComb Construction, “a new kitchen should provide value and fun for decades.” Plan it well.

For more Home Improvement advice listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon  or contact us at with your questions.

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