Kitchen Islands: How Much Knee Space Do You Need For Adults?

Knowing how much knee space you need for a kitchen island is an important part of the design process.

If you are planning to renovate your kitchen, it is important to know the space requirements for your appliances and fixtures.

If you want to tuck stools under your island, you will want to make sure that there’s enough room for people to feel comfortable sitting there.

In this article, you will learn the following:

1. What is a Kitchen Island

2. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Having a Kitchen Island

3. The Ideal Kitchen Size for a Kitchen Island

4. The Ideal Kitchen Island Size

5. The Ideal Overhang of a Kitchen Island

6. Other Space Requirements of a Kitchen to Accommodate a Kitchen Island.

After reading this, you can expect to be knowledgeable and equipped to start tackling your DIY kitchen renovation or construction.

Quick Preview: How much space is adequate knee space for a kitchen island?

The typical overhang needed for enough knee room  according to the NKBA guidelines (National Kitchen and Bath Association) are the following:

  1. For 30-inch-high islands – 18 inches of knee depth space
  2. For 36-inch-high islands – 15 inches of knee depth space
  3. For 42-inch-high islands – 12 inches of knee depth space

What is a Kitchen Island?

A kitchen island is an additional fixture in the kitchen that preferably matches your kitchen.

Most kitchen islands have barstools around or on one side of it.  Also, it includes extra cabinets and drawers for storage.  

It is a perfect place to have informal and intimate gatherings and entertainment.

Kitchen Island: Advantages and Disadvantages


A kitchen island can be advantageous for you and your family due to the following reasons:

  1. It can maximize the available space since it provides easy access from all sides. It can also have greater usability and functionality as opposed to traditional countertops.
  2. It can be a conversation piece for your home if designed ingeniously and properly. It can enhance and compliment your kitchen design.
  3. It adds storage space for your appliances and kitchen wares.
  4. Extra countertop space to be used for food preparations and as a breakfast bar.
  5. Provides extra seating space.
  6. Can be installed with extra amenities like sinks, ovens, and base cabinets.


If not designed properly, kitchen islands can:

  1. Disrupt workflow in the kitchen.
  2. May take up space and cramp up your kitchen.

What is the Ideal Kitchen Size to Install a Kitchen Island?

Since a kitchen island will eat up enough space that could cramp up a small kitchen, it is recommended to install a kitchen island only if your kitchen is more than 12 to 13 feet wide.

This is not considering the other items that you might already have in your kitchen.

If you have a lot of appliances and fixtures in your kitchen, you have to read on and see the space requirement of a kitchen island to know if your kitchen can still accommodate it.

Your kitchen must also be at least a standard depth of 8 feet to accommodate the bar height requirement of island counters.

What is the Ideal Size of a Kitchen Island?

Considering the available space in your kitchen, a 4-foot island with a 2-foot counter height is enough for most kitchens.

  • It is workable to have 40 inches by 40 inches kitchen island if you have a square space. Though you can go as short as 24 inches for small kitchens.
  • The preferred height would be 30 inches from the floor to accommodate seating.  
  • To have a comfortable seating area, you must allocate 24 to 30 inches per person.
  • The recommended width of a kitchen island is 42-inch countertops, though a minimum of 24 inches is also good enough to have adequate space for the countertop.

If you have a larger kitchen, it is ideal to have two islands rather than making one big island.

How Much Overhang is Needed for A Kitchen Island?

Countertop overhangs are needed to sit comfortably on a kitchen island and you can have as much overhang as 18 inches for your counters.

This allows you to sit comfortably without pulling the stool away from the countertop edge.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, each seating must have a 24 inches space allocation.

The standard overhang of an island countertop varies with the height of an island.

  • For a 30-inch lower counter, an 18-inch overhang for the knee room is recommended.
  • 15 inches of the overhang is recommended for an island with a 36-inch raised counter height, and 12 inches for a 42-inch bar height.

Though these are the recommended overhang, you must also consider the materials and the amount of countertop that you are using.

According to Atlantic Shopping, an overhang of 12 inches for heavier countertops requires additional support to make it sturdy.

Recommended Distances from Kitchen Island

As a general rule, you need at least 42 to 48 inches of width as a working space around your kitchen island.

This distance is enough open space to work around the island without disrupting the workflow.

If you have refrigerators and ovens, you must allocate 15 inches of landing space from the side of the island and from the said appliances so as not to hamper the opening and closing of their doors.

If you plan to have fixtures above your island, make sure to allocate at least 18 inches of overhead space.

NKBA also recommends a 32-in space from the edge of the countertop to any wall, counters, or obstruction.


How long should my island be for four people to sit comfortably?

As a good rule of thumb, it is best to allocate 24 inches per person. To comfortably seat 4 people, the length of your island must be at least 8-10 feet.

How much counter overhang can a quartz countertop handle without additional support like plywood decking?

Quartz is an example of what is called Solid Surface Countertops.

For 3-cm quartz, it can overhang without additional support up to 14 inches while 3-cm granite overhangs up to 10 inches.

How much is the average cost of installing an island counter?

The average cost runs from 3000 to 5000 USD. Expensive and custom-built counters can cost north of $10,000.00.

Should I put my kitchen island in the middle of the kitchen?

Home experts do not always recommend and are suitable putting your kitchen island in the center of your kitchen.

The location should depend largely on the activities of your kitchen and which space you use more and put the island in proximity to that space.


Dealing with renovations and construction without ample knowledge of what you need could result in headaches and further expensive repairs.

You can use the information presented here as a starting point to dig deeper and learn more. Now build your dream kitchen island!

D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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