16 August 2010

Back to basics: how to measure a kitchen

Every once in a while it hits me that I'm straying too far from my niche. I am after all, a kitchen and bath designer. AS much as I enjoy my regular forays far and wide; the name of this blog after all is Kitchen and Residential Design.

I get asked questions constantly about how to start a renovation project. Everybody it seems, has an opinion about what they should look like when they're done, but few people know where to start.

How do you get from something that looks like this,

photo via Luxurbist

to something that looks like this?

photo via Medallion Cabinetry

Well, everything starts with a good set of measurements.

Measuring a kitchen is a bit more complicated that figuring out the square feet of a room or even the length of the walls. Because nearly everything that goes into a kitchen is built in, accurate measurements are vital, and know how to measure things like windows, doorways and plumbing stacks is very important.

While any professional you meet with with measure your room him or herself, there's nothing stopping you from measuring everything now so you can start planning even before you call in pros.

AK Renovations is an Atlanta design and build firm that was started in 1995 by Ed Choflin and Ed's somebody I've come to know through Twitter. Ed and the entire team at AK Renovations are consummate professionals and highly skilled tradespeople. They do great work in Atlanta and they put together a terrific website. It's chock full of great information and advice and about a week ago, they published one of the best How To Measure Your own Kitchen Guides I've ever seen.

You can download AK Renovations' .pdfs here and I encourage you to go to the site for the download if you're going to attempt this on your own. The resolution as .pdfs is far better than the reduced version of them here.

AK Renovations' guide will take you through the whole process is a systematic and painless way. In less than an hour you'll know exactly how big your kitchen is and you'll know exactly where the windows and other obstacles are.

See? Going back to basics isn't so hard. Many, many thanks to the gang at AK Renovations.


  1. So, holding your thumb up and squinting won't cut it? That kinda explains a lot of things in my kitchen :-)

    Rules to measure by:
    - No wall is ever plumb
    - No horizontal surface is ever level

    Measure space for cabinets at the base AND the counter level. Chance are, there will be a difference, especially in older homes.

  2. Oh yeah, I should have added that right angles exist in theory only. and that ceiling heights are best measured from the highest point of the floor to the lowest point of the ceiling.

  3. And don't forget to measure everything again after the kitchen is gutted.

  4. All excellent advice. Because my business is virtual, getting the measurements right is fundamental to success. Plumb and level are critical. Also consider finished materials. If they are going to change, how are floor thicknesses dealt with. Also note changes in finishes that impact a space. For instance, if the kitchen is going into an open space plan that has a transition that defines the space use ...say between wood flooring or carpet and tile. Also note anything on walls such as outlets, light switches and HVAC registers. Note how many floors the structure has and on which one the kitchen resides.

    Just my observations. No such thing as TMI in getting the details right at the get go!

  5. AMY: Terrific point.

    Pam: Oh I'll say. I thought about adding a thing or two about what AFF means when it comes to floors and how to measure a drop ceiling and or a soffit but I thought it best to keep it simple. Besides, we can't give away all of our trade secrets, can we?

  6. That first picture scared the hell out of me. I swear I heard the theme to "Deliverance" playing in the background.

  7. Aha! That was a trick image. That photograph was taken in Luxembourg. Nobody would ever guess that!

  8. Pay close attention to any floor level changes and the potential of several layers of underlayment or floor finishes. I've run into situations when the flooring has run into the toe kick of the base cabinets. Could be a sticky situation when simply wanting to removw and replace a dishwasher, without first addressing the floor. The previous owner was perhaps lazy and layed new flooring over the existing.

    Wall switch locations are also good items to note in your preliminary sketches as well.

  9. Most excellent post! Thanks for sharing your tips! We can all benefit from this wisdom.

  10. Again, another excellent post bookmarked for future reference.

  11. good basics Paul! I agree with above comments on "level" floors and "plumb" walls! Ha! We just floated out an old ceiling because I refused to have wonky crown! People say, hey lady your crown is crooked...no, it is your ceiling! But sometimes best to level it all...if they have the money. Old houses can be the worst but I have seen some new construction that is scary. I love that they mention "inches" because that was a point of contention with my interior designer when I first hired her because they are taught in feet/inches and kit industry uses inches and my one cabinet guy uses cm as more accurate. Good info to keep!

  12. Paul: Great pointers. Thanks.

    Bill: My pleasure!

    Raina: When ever you're ready kitten.

    Cheryl: I will never understand the feet and inches thing. Straight inches is so much easier and more accurate.

  13. we measure and record everything in millimetres ("mm") so there are no factions or decimal points. We must be a bit anal - but thats how all the 'tradies' communicate here.
    Nice post and useful comments.

  14. Where is here Anon? You've piqued my curiosity.

  15. Say, where did you get that picture of my kitchen? I thought I never let anyone back out once they'd gotten in! Darn you, Paul Anater!

  16. Thanks for the article, photos and illustrations. If only I could find a kitchen space with walls that were actually plumb!

  17. As I say all the time, right angles exist in theory only.


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