De-Mystifying the Triangle: What is the “work triangle”?

If you’ve remodeled your kitchen before or know someone who has, you’ve probably heard of the “work triangle”. Unless you’re in the industry of kitchen design you probably scratched your head and thought, “huh?”. That’s okay, that’s why designers spend years in design school to do the thinking for you when it comes to this mighty important triangle and many other aspects of design and flow to a room.

So, what is the work triangle? Well, it is simply a work efficiency concept to determine how well a kitchen is laid out, or should be laid out. The most used spaces in a kitchen are the sink, cooking range, and refrigerator. These are the areas that work best when configured in an imaginary triangle like shape for the most efficient kitchen. And this ladies and gentlemen is what the National Kitchen and Bath Association has deemed the “work triangle”.

real kitchen work triangle

Are there specific rules to the perfect work flow? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because the National Kitchen and Bath Association has provided a small set of guidelines to achieve a well-designed kitchen:

  • The sum of the work triangle’s three sides should not exceed 26 feet
  • The work triangle should not cut through an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches
  • If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator
  • No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle

But it too has flaws, the concept assumes there are only three major work spaces and one cook in the kitchen. The kitchen design industry is no longer as simple as three work areas, some kitchen designs are so elaborate with multiple work stations and sinks. Anyone who has installed sinks in workstations knows that things can easily go wrong, so it would be a smart idea to have emergency plumbing and air conditioning services on hand in case something was to go wrong. More state of the art kitchens will include larger ranges, wall ovens, full-size refrigerators and freezers, and so much more that it would be almost impossible to achieve the perfect work triangle. Remember that the ideal work flow to your kitchen is your lifestyle and what you need out of your kitchen.

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