How to Measure and Draw a Kitchen

Before you can create an accurate kitchen layout you must first measure your existing kitchen, including walls, and the surrounding areas and rooms if you plan to expand into those areas.

You'll need to make a sketch of the room. The easiest way to do that is to use 1/4” graph paper. Each square can represent any length you like. Review our section on scale if you do not know what scale is. Typically, architectural scale is 1/4“ = 1’. (1/4 inch equals 1 foot) Make sure that you label each wall and each corner. Use the labels on each measurement so you will not forget what it relates to.

Measure the following dimensions.

Horizontal Dimensions
  • Each wall from corner to corner.
  • From the nearest corner to the outside edge of each door or window casing.
  • The overall width of each door and window, including the casing.
  • From the nearest corner to the center of each water supply line, drain line and gas feed line.
  • From the nearest corner to the center of each electrical outlet and switch.
Vertical Dimensions
  • From the floor to the ceiling.
  • From the floor to the bottom edge of each window stool (sill) or casing.
  • From the ceiling to the top edge of each door and window casing.
You are now ready to create a basic kitchen layout.
  • First, make a few photo copies of your sketch so you can play with different ideas. You can also make cardboard cutouts of your appliances, sink and basic cabinet sizes (to scale), and move them around on your sketch.
  • Decide on the general location of each of the work centers.
  • Make sure that the layout fits the general guidelines that you figured out at the beginning of this guide and that no structural or other considerations prevent you from building your layout.
  • Determine the rough position of the major appliances (refrigerator, range and oven) and the sink.
  • Double check the Work Triangle to make sure that it is within the established guidelines.
  • Plan a sink base cabinet under the sink then choose the types of cabinets that will go near each appliance. Work from the nearest corner to the sink and each appliance, sizing the cabinets so that the gap at the end is less than 3". There are standard filler strips that match the cabinet finish and fill the gaps.
  • Check each work center to make sure that the cabinets around it satisfy the center's requirements. Conversely, check each cabinet to make sure that it provides ample storage for the work centers around it. (Each cabinet can service more than one work center and each work center can be serviced by more than one cabinet.)
  • Make a list (bill of materials) of all the materials and components you will need to build your conceptionalized kitchen: cabinets, counter tops, appliances, electrical, plumbing, heating, light fixtures, fan, lighting, media (video, computer network, sound), control systems and all the surface materials such as floor covering, wallboard, wallpaper, paint and window treatments.
Making a model of the floor plan
  • Measure your kitchen at floor level and at about 3 feet from the floor - use the smaller measurement for your floor plan just to be safe.
  • Draw a scale plan using 1/4” graphic paper.
  • Mark on the plan the services as they currently exist - hot and cold water, drains, electric points, gas points, any existing penetrations (vents etc.) in the walls.
  • Cut out paper or cardboard scale models of each appliance, work space, sink and furniture piece you want to include. Write a name or other label on each piece.
  • Generally, kitchens have 4 or 5 work areas. Kitchens that have more than one cook may have more. (Mix/prep, cooking, cleanup, storage and serving). Each area should include all the appliances required and a suitable sized work area and cabinet need reference.
  • You now need to think if there is enough work top surface around each work zone. Remember, a lot of the appliances are sized to fit under work surfaces so keep that in mind. Try to avoid having work surfaces less than 3 feet in length.
  • Position the scale models of the appliances in intended position with respect to the existing position of the services. Check to make sure the layout seems logical. Get several opinions on the layout. I you discover additional items or services are needed, add them now. It is better to make changes now than latter when kitchen construction is under way.
  • Make sure that there are ample free areas between the appliances. Use you models to visualize using the kitchen during the different types of activities that will be conducted there. (Cooking, baking, entertaining, ironing, washing clothes etc.)
  • At this point you should have a fairly complete overall idea for the floor plan of your new kitchen.
  • If you cannot fit in all the appliances or base units you have selected or you think the room is already too full, ask yourself if you can relocate any appliance in another location. (Washing machine, trash compactor, kitchen nook etc.)
  • When you are finished with the basic floorplan, think about the wall and ceiling areas. (Don't forget to add lighting to you plan.) Wall units are usually needed in the food preparation area. Try and keep the wall units inline with the base units below them for visual symmetry. You can use tracing paper on top of you floor plan to add multiple layers to you layout. Bind one end so all the layers stay indexed then you can easily flip through the different layers.

Audit your plan

Now take the time to really think through the rearrange you came up with to make sure it is easy and efficient to use and keep clean. Will relocating any of the existing services give you a real advantage? Remember that in addition to the permanent appliances, you need electric outlets for the smaller, moveable appliances that you bring out of storage each time you use them. Check the positions of window and doors. Think about watching your kids, fire and earthquake safety, emergency service or special needs access. If changes need to be made, list them from easiest to hardest, least to most expensive. Optimize your kitchen - this is what professional kitchen designer get paid for. Moving services may require registered professional and moving doors and windows may increase the cost of the project significantly but they may be worth it. There are always compromises to work through on any construction project, no matter how large the budget is.