Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
The kitchen is one of the rooms in your home that you work the most in. Good homemade food is best prepared in a functional and comfortable kitchen.
Some kitchen islands have toe kicks to prevent unnecessary strain on your back, neck, and shoulders. Toe kicks give you room for your toes, so you can move closer to your kitchen counter and not have to lean too far forward when you work.
This article defines just what a toe kick is and its function in kitchen islands. You’ll get some details about toe kicks to help you decide if it’s the most fitting addition to your kitchen.
What Is a Toe Kick, and What’s Its Function?
A toe kick is a term used to refer to the small space at the base of your kitchen island or kitchen cabinets. This recess gives you room for your toes so you can put your feet closer to your workspace.
The toe kick’s design is based on kitchen ergonomics – the science of standards in design made to make spaces comfortable and safe to live and work. Having a toe kick helps prevent you from leaning forward too far when working on your counter or kitchen island.
This way, you prevent stubbing your toes on the bottom of your cabinets and other kitchen fixtures. You also avoid unnecessary fatigue on your back, shoulders, neck, arms, and an awkward angle, leading to fatigue. These can also further cause chronic pain and posture issues later on.
With your feet more firmly planted closer to your workspace, you also have better balance while you work.
Pros and Cons of Kitchen Island Toe Kicks
You may be thinking of installing a toe kick in your kitchen. Here are some pros and cons listed to help you decide:
- Toe kicks help with good posture and prevent unnecessary strain on the back when working.
- It gives extra room for your toes and helps prevent toe stubbing.
- Suitable for kitchens with a more modern design. Toe kicks give your cabinets and kitchen island a “floating” look.
- The space under your cabinets or at the base of your kitchen island can be used for extra storage.
- Not suitable for other traditional kitchen designs.
- The small space can accumulate dust and other dirt and be a hassle to clean.
Ideas for Your Kitchen Island Toe Kick
If you want to take advantage of that toe kick space, not just as wiggle room for your toes, here are some ideas you can use:
- Use the space for a drawer for junk, flatware, pans, cleaning supplies, pet bowls, etc.
- Install a pull-out step stool or make enough space for a step stool to fit in.
- Install some accent lighting.
- Instead of a traditional box-shaped toe kick, you can go for an arch shape or curve. These are a unique and decorative option for those who want a different look for their toe kicks.
What Is the Standard Measurement of a Toe Kick?
The standard measurement of a toe kick is 3 ½ – 4 inches (9-10 cm) in height and 3 inches (7.5 cm) deep. Although, you can increase a toe kick height to be as tall as 9 inches (23 cm) if the cabinet has moveable legs or you plan to use the space to place storage drawers.
Avoid making your toe kick too high, however, as this can take up unnecessary space. Ultimately, the height and depth of your toe kick depend on what you need it for. If it’s just for kitchen ergonomics, the standard 4″ x 3″ (10cm x 7.5cm) is enough.
How To Install a Toe Kick
Before installing a toe kick for your kitchen island, here are some tools that you’ll need:
- Hand saw
- Circular saw
- Nail Gun/ Nail Machine
- Choose your toe kick material. The most common material choices for toe kicks are laminated wood or painted ½ -¾ inch (1.27-1.9 cm) plywood.
- Cut the longest piece of your toe kick. Measure the length of your kitchen island or cabinet base where you will install your toe kick. Double-check your measurements before making any cuts to avoid wasting any material.
- Test fit your toe kick.Try fitting the piece you cut underneath the base of your kitchen island or cabinet. If it doesn’t fit, carefully trim off a little more of the wood or use a sander to trim the edges carefully. You can also use the sander to spruce up and smoothen the edges of your toe kick.
- Install your toe kicks to the base of your kitchen island. Use a nail machine to nail your toe kicks in place. So the nails are concealed and hidden from sight, put them through the base of the toe kick and at the very top.
If the plywood for your toe kick is unpainted, apply a coat of paint or two first. This way, you avoid getting unwanted paint stains on your floor or the base of your cabinet or kitchen island.
Alternatives to Kitchen Island Toe Kicks
Some people may think toe kicks as outdated or prefer a different design for their kitchen island bases. The common alternative to a toe kick is plinth skirting or flush toe.
You can choose to use plinth skirting instead of toe kicks for your kitchen island if you prefer not to have that space underneath your cabinets. Plinth skirting is a trim or decorative base molding that goes around the base of your cabinets or counters, creating a more solid look.
Plinth skirting is suited to more traditional-styled and English-styled kitchens and can make your kitchen island look more like a piece of furniture.
Toe kicks are the recessed space under kitchen cabinets and islands used for kitchen ergonomics. It gives room for your toes so you can stand closer to your workspace.
Not all kitchen islands require toe kicks, but they help posture and prevent unnecessary strain on your back. If a toe kick isn’t for you, you can use plinth skirting as an alternative.
- Your Nifty Home: Does a Kitchen Island Need a Toe Kick? (Explained)
- Thought Co.: What is the purpose of a cabinet toe kick?
- Best Home Fixer: Do Kitchen Islands have Toe Kicks?
- Cabinet Joint: Toe Kick Options
- Designing Idea: Kitchen Cabinet Toe Kick (Materials & Design Options)
- Homes and Gardens: Toe Kicks Versus Plinths – why your choice can make or break a kitchen
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