Making a Kitchen Safer
The kitchen is the busiest room in the home, as well as one of the most frequently remodeled spaces. Unfortunately, the kitchen also can be the most dangerous room in the house, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association.
However, the association has developed a few simple guidelines to keep kitchens safe. Following these rules will help keep your clients and their families safe for years to come:
1. Provide proper lighting. Good general lighting, supplemented with proper task lighting that is clearly focused on work surfaces, will greatly decrease the chance of injury while preparing a meal. The lighting should be glare-free and even, without producing any shadows on the work surface.
2. Install slip-resistant flooring. Recommend a slip-resistant material for the floor. Some good choices are matte-finished wood or laminate, textured vinyl or a soft-glazed ceramic tile. If the client chooses tile, suggest that a throw rug with a nonskid backing is a good idea, especially around areas that get wet.
3. Provide safe storage for a fire extinguisher. A fire extinguisher should be visibly located near a room exit, away from cooking equipment. Never locate an extinguisher near or under a cooktop or range, the most likely sources of a fire. An extinguisher stored in that area would be unreachable if a fire occurs in those areas.
4. Keep electrical switches, plugs and lighting fixtures away from water sources and wet hands. Building codes require that every electrical receptacle be grounded and protected with ground-fault circuit interrupters. In addition, all wall-mounted room controls should be 15 inches to 48 inches above the finished floor.
5. Install water-temperature regulators. Faucets with anti-scald devices prevent water temperature from rising to dangerous levels; pressure-balanced valves equalize hot and cold water. Faucets also can be preprogrammed to the client's desired temperature setting. (These faucets are good in bathrooms, too.)
6. Recommend a safe cooktop. Point out to your client that cooktops with burners in a staggered layout or one straight row can help prevent scalds from reaching over boiling pots. For the same reason, cooktop controls should be along the side or in the front.
7. Design a safe floorplan. Think about how traffic will flow through the kitchen, and design the floorplan to keep that traffic out of the cooking area. For example, avoid putting a range near an entrance or exit.
8. Put the microwave at a convenient height. Locate microwaves at heights that don't require reaching to retrieve food.
9. Offer your client the option of slide-out trays and bins. Such features in base cabinets make their contents more accessible, and they minimize reaching and twisting to pull out the right item.
10. Eliminate sharp corners on countertops. Use a rounded edge on the corners of countertops, especially islands and peninsulas, to avoid injury to children.
For more information on kitchen and bath design or to get or NKBA’s full list of kitchen and bathroom guidelines, visit www.nkba.org.