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Prep sink or no prep sink

Lori C
January 9, 2019

We are finalizing our floor plans, and I'm torn on adding a prep sink in our island. I lean towards yes, to improve my work triangle, but the added expense is my concern, plus giving up prep space in the island. Thoughts?

Comments (56)

  • PRO

    I've never had nor felt the need for a prep sink. But then I'm not a vegetarian and am not spending oodles of time prepping veggies. Nor is someone else cleaning up the kitchen while I'm cooking.

  • ljptwt7
    As someone who has wished for 2 sinks many, many times, I say put a prep sink somewhere if at all possible. Where?? I leave to a good designer.
  • vinmarks

    I say yes for prep sink. Put it down near the refrigerator but move it over to leave a landing space. I have a similar set up with sink on one wall, range on one wall and fridge on one wall. I use the area next to prep sink for a landing spot all the time when taking things out of the fridge.

  • dan1888

    Your overall layout can be improved, imo. Main sink to the left of the current range location and a single. Range to the right of the sink spaced down the run. Delete the current sink run and move the door over to that area where the window is. A glass panel door will add light.. No need for anything on the island. To make the 'new' sink/range run more functional make it 30" deep. Space the island back 4" for aisle clearance with the deeper counter.

  • Mrs Pete

    As the house is presented now, yes, you need a prep sink.

    However, you have a better choice: you can rework this layout and pretty significantly improve it ... the current layout, with four separate cabinet runs and three doors, is choppy and could be more functional ... and, as a part of that improvement, you can remove the need for a prep sink. It'd be a win-win.

  • doc5md

    Prep sink for sure

  • lisapoi

    I second Fori’s suggestion to put it in the counter to the left of the stove. We have ours there ( it’s a very small prep sink, it’s in a 12” cabinet just inches from the stove, and I store my cookie sheets and cutting boards below), and the entire counter length is only 30” long in total (The 12” cabinet and an 18” set of drawers). But it works beautifully and we’ve often said how it is one of the best things we did in our new kitchen.

    Its so convenient for filling and draining pots...and really controls the traffic flow in our smallish kitchen, keeping the cook free to access a water source or sink without bumping into anyone.

  • robin0919

    What in the world is a prep sick for????? IMO.....it makes no sense since you are going to wash anyway!!!!! What is it for???? Can you explain?

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor

    Yes and would consider pushing the island towards the great room a few inches. I prefer more than 42" between range and island.

    I like the sinks separated far enough so that users cannot stab each other while they "negotiate" kitchen recipes.

  • Caroline Hamilton

    When we remodeled 4 years ago I did not put one in and I have no regrets. It's rare to have two people cooking in my kitchen at the same time. I would much rather have the uninterrupted large island that I have. At our beach house we have a prep sink in a huge island and it is rarely used and one more thing to clean.

  • PRO

    Without a water source on the island, it is a blockade between often traveled path between the refrigerator and sink. It hinders the work flow, not helps it. Either put the prep sink in, or resork it for a better layout. I'd rework it with a Kitchen Designer and not a cabinet seller.

  • Lori C
    Thank you everyone for your input. I think a prep sink will work best for us, and I think I'll like having the smaller work triangle separate from our cleanup area. I appreciate the suggestions of reworking the area, but we've lived in several homes and while it may not be perfect, I think this layout is as close to perfect for us as we will get without giving up some of our non negotables. I may bump the space between the stove area and island out a few inches tho, especially to accommodate for using a prep sink while someone else is cooking.
  • damiarain

    Bumping the island away from the cooktop also means it’s a bit closer for when you need to take things out of the wall oven.

    Speaking of that side - double check the actual depth measurements of your fridge (including handles) - currently it looks drawn as an integrated fridge, but if you don’t go integrated it’ll stick out more into that aisle, causing a pinch point

  • wilson853

    I have a similar set up between my refrigerator and prep sink but left 36" on the refrigerator side of the prep sink as it is used for landing and for sandwich making. I like my prep sink directly across from my range top. It is the best thing that I did in my kitchen. My aisle is 42" but I find it to be perfect - a single pivot and I am at the cooking surface. There are often multiple workers in my kitchen and the aisle size has not been an issue.

  • vinmarks

    From my island countertop to the most protruding point on my range is 43 1/2 inches(47 1/2 to counter) and I wish I had a little bit more room. Most of the time it's not a problem until someone needs to get something out of the oven while someone is working at the island. It can get a little squishy. You have wall ovens so I think 42 inches may be ok. I have 22 inches of countertop from the edge of the counter to the prep sink and it works well for us. It provides a decent size landing spot for things coming out of the fridge while still leaving a nice expanse of clear counter on the rest of island.

  • Blythe K

    Yes. Mine is near the cooktop and I use it whenever prepping. It's so convenient and also has a disposal.

  • shead

    What if you put the prep sink to the left of the cooktop and not in the island? I had one in a similar setup and was glad to not have it cutting into my island space.

  • Heather N

    You should definitely put in a prep sink!! That’s a long distance to be carrying hot pots of boiling water to your main sink when draining pasta and whatnot.

    We have two sinks in our kitchen and I love having them both. I can drain beans and pasta in the smaller prep sink and then have dirty dishes and stuff in the larger sink.

    Are you set on a double-bowl sink for your main sink? Definitely recommend a single bowl! You can buy inserts to make it a double sink when needed, but then you also have room for large pots and pans when you remove the insert.

  • Heather N

    Also - I would put the prep sink on the side closest to the stove, not on the side closest to the fridge. Our old house had the prep sink on the short side of the island, and I always thought it looked a little awkward. Plus, you might not want to have a toekick on the short sides of the island, and it would be annoying to not have a toekick by the sink.

  • mama goose_gw zn6OH

    I agree that you need a prep sink, and specifically agree with Heather N.

    Since this is a new build (I assume that since you cross-posted in BAH), you might consider moving the back door to the right, which would divert through traffic away from your work aisle. Then if you put the clean-up sink on the back wall, you could have a longer island with more prep space. The secondary prep space between the clean-up sink and cooktop is more convenient.

    (I first had a window over the clean-up sink, but then realized that the wall behind the kitchen is not an exterior wall.)

  • wilson853

    I like mamagoose's idea of moving the terrace door. It makes more sense to have it open against a wall rather than your cabinets.

    Some other possibilities:

    Wrap the corner with the countertop and move the DW to the right of the cleanup sink so it isn't a barrier between the cooktop and sink. If you are not planning to have seating at the island, you could have drawers for dishes on the short side of the island for easy DW unloading. Create a cooking zone and move the ovens to the left of the cooktop so you have landing space next to the ovens. Eliminate bookcase and create a beverage/breakfast zone next to the refrigerator for toaster, coffee, bread drawer, MW drawer etc.

  • rwiegand

    I don't get the whole "prep sink" thing-- essentially everything I want to do in a sink while cooking from washing veggies to pouring off pots of boiling liquid benefits greatly from having a great big sink. Most every "prep sink" I've seen isn't big enough to fit a collander, isn't big enough to pour off a big pot without having to raise it so high as to create a scalding hazard from splashing hot water, and just seems generally useless. Two full size sinks I could fully understand, but how does one actually use those tiny sinks in kitchens?

  • mama goose_gw zn6OH

    Most plans show a tiny prep sink, but someone usually points out that a prep sink should be at least 18" wide. Prep sinks are more about location than size, anyway.

    Wilson, excellent idea to move the ovens to the back wall, and have a snack center beside the fridge. Landing space for both = win/win.

  • Lori C
    Really thankful for everyone's comments! I am adding a prep sink, and making the space between the island and cooktop a full 4 ft. I'm also going to move the terrace door to the right corner. We had debated the door location and chose the original for symmetry and because I haven't been a fan of many corner cabinets, but I think a good design will overcome that obstacle and give us a better flow in the space. I do appreciate the suggestions of fully moving the clean up sink, but we've had windows over our last two sinks and I love that feature. We've got young kids and while I know they won't be little forever I want to be able to see them in the backyard while I clean up. Again, I'm so thankful you all took the time to give such great suggestions!!!
  • shead

    I don’t blame you for wanting a window in front of your sink. One thing I’d caution about is having the fridge and ovens beside each other (I had that in my last house) is that you have to be careful with your fridge doors opening up and bumping the handle of the oven. I ended up with a small dent in my new fridge because of that :(

  • Heather N

    rweigand my prep sink is actually a 26” sink and my main sink is 44”...so I agree, it is better to have a bigger sink if you can! But my old house had a small prep sink and it was good for setting things down that needed to drain (pasta, beans) without having to put them in the same sink as my dirty dishes. My current prep sink is pretty close to my cooktop, so is nice for filling up pots and draining pots without carrying a hot pot of water around the kitchen. I also rest my spoon on the edge of the sink with the dirty end dripping into the sink - keeps my counters clean and more sanitary when dealing with raw meat.

  • vinmarks

    We love to prep at our island. We have an open floor plan so when we prep at the island we look out to our dining area and great room. We can see mountain views through our sliding glass doors. I would not want my back to that.

    My prep sink is plenty big for a colander.

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Design Company

    Dear Lori,

    The island prep sink in this layout more than cuts your work triangle in half. However if you’re concerned about performance, your prep sink should be at least 15” wide I.D. to get value for the money you’re investing. There should be counter on both sides of your sink so you can use it for more than just a water source or a drain. Chances are that’s where you’ll be doing your prep in this layout.

    I know you didn’t ask but I have a few observations about your current kitchen layout.

    If you are going to finalize your home plans you should get your final appliance list and finalize your new kitchen layout before you do that.

    Or it will cost you a lot later either by settling for a kitchen you don’t like, for as long as you live in this home. Or by paying more to have your construction documents changed after they have been completed.

    Without your island prep sink your work triangle is a large as you can get it. You’ll have to cross the room 14’ to get from your ref/f to your main sink. So you’ll waste a lot of time traveling back and forth across this kitchen.


    There is only a 12” wide counter by your oven or your ref/f. So neither of these appliances functional requirements are being met. Functional performance is very inefficient. Loading in and out of the ref the ovens is going to have to happen from the island or the counter to the left of your cook top. More time wasted.

    If you have island seating and if you add the prep sink where you’ve drawn it will make the island even more incontinent to use.

    Estitically if you do have island seating your island should be 39” to 42” wide by 84” long. An island 4’ x 7’ starts to appear boxy and not a pleasing rectangular shape.

    Your ref and ovens are in gathering space. When you entertain family and guests will be standing in front of them making it difficult to get in and out of them, especially with hot oven items coming from the ovens.

    Esthetically there is a lot of mass next to a 12” base cabinet and I don’t see a wall cabinet but if you put one there is would look out of place.

    Cook top

    Your cook top has plenty of counter to the left and right for staging items and prep while cooking. You have room for base cabinetry under and adjacent to your cook top to store all of your items you’ll need and use there. Active pantry storage in your wall cabinetry adjacent to your cook top as well.

    Esthetically your cook top is not centered on that run of cabinetry which will look odd if left as drawn.

    Main sink

    Your main sink appliance requirements are not being met. You should have at least 30” of counter to the right and left of your main sink (more is better). So you have enough counter to stage what you’ll be clearing from your island and dining table. There is not enough counter there and this will make the task of clean up much harder and more time consuming.

    You have enough room for your dishwasher and trash pull out bins, but your wall cabinets are much too small to store much in glassware. Dishes will have to be stored in cabinetry to the right of your cook top. More traveling and more time wasted.

    Esthetically the wall cabinets are not the same width and will look odd. Also being plastered against the wall this clean up areas will feel even tighter than it looks.


    Without cabinetry shown below your island top I can’t tell what’s going on there.

    You have a very large pantry which is great for storage.

    You can tell everything about your new kitchen’s performance, esthetically and functionally, just by analyzing its layout.

    Before you approve your new kitchen layout, you should be clear about how you want and expect to be living your new life in that new kitchen after you get it, day to day and when you’re entertaining.

    Hope this has been helpful.

    Joe Brandao

    Kitchen Design Company

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    Here's my two cents:

    Its not suppose to help, just give you more to think about.

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor

    Ding ding ding… We have a winner!

    Mark shows the clarity of the professional architect.

    This is how I would build it for myself or if selling as a spec.

  • Heather N

    Mark and Jeffrey - this is exactly the layout of my kitchen, except I have a second sink between the fridge and the cooktop. Glad to know that the professional architect and professional contractor like this layout!!! :)

  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    Sorry, but I disagree about the cleanup sink in the island. If at all possible, keep both the Cleanup Zone and the Cooking Zone off an island or peninsula.

    When the Cleanup Zone is in an island or peninsula, it puts your dirty dishes front and center and on display for everyone to see!

    Add seating, and the people sitting at the island have dirty dishes in their faces -- not a pleasant thing when visiting, doing homework, or eating.

    Don't think a raised counter helps -- anyone over 42" can see the dirty dishes just fine!

    Besides -- prepping is by far the longest task performed in the Kitchen and I would want it in the most pleasant place to work.

    • 70% or more of your work and time is spent preparing a meal
    • 10% is spent cooking (adding ingredients, stirring, watching food cook)
    • 20% or less is spent cleaning up -- and that includes chores not at the sink like clearing the table and counters, wiping down the table and counters, sweeping, unloading the DW, etc. So, far less than 20% of your time is spent actually standing at the sink while cleaning up.


    Edited to add:

    In the past -- pre automatic DWs -- far more time was spent cleaning up because all dishes were done by hand. Today, the majority of dishes are washed in the DW and, with today's DWs & DW detergents, dishes don't even need to be rinsed! So, the amount of time spent in this zone is far less today! BTW, this is where the paradigm of "the sink must be in front of a window" came from – back when so much time was spent hand washing & drying dishes). Today, it makes more sense to have the Prep Zone in front of window or in the most preferred view/location.

  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    From the Kitchens Forum's "New to Kitchens? Read Me First!" thread:

    FAQ: Kitchen Work Zones, What Are They?

    FAQ: Aisle Widths, Walkways, Seating Overhangs, Work/Landing Space etc

    FAQ: How Do I Plan For Storage?

    Humorous discussion of workflow and other layout topics:

    Looking for layout help? Memorize this first.

  • mama goose_gw zn6OH

    Another variation, with the clean-up sink under the window, and a prep sink on the island, for separate clean-up, prep, and cooking zones:

  • vinmarks

    I agree. No to the cleanup sink in the island.

  • shead

    I think cleanup sinks in island should only be done when absolutely necessary and in your case, it’s not because you have space in the perimeter for it. I wouldn’t even want a prep sink in island but sometimes they are necessary. Mama goose’s layout is the best of those I’ve seen but I’d add another 6” between the range and island. I’d get claustrophobic with only 42” but that’s just me :-)

  • shead

    Also, though, that layout assumes a counter depth fridge. If you are planning on a full size fridge, you may want to separate the ovens from the fridge, recess the fridge into the pantry, or at least flip their location.

  • Lori C

    This is where we've landed. I appreciate the comments about not having counter space next to our fridge and ovens, but I dealt with going from island to ovens in a previous home and never had any issues, and I think this accomplishes our main goals well. The pantry is a hidden pantry, so it will look like a continuation of cabinets, making the cooktop centered. It's also centered with a fireplace opposite in the family room. Again, I really appreciate everyone's feedback and I definitely thought through each suggestion, while still keeping in mind the goals we have for the space.

  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    Key components of a functional Prep Zone:

    • Water source in the Prep Zone (not across an aisle)
    • Sufficient counter/work space right next to the water source: 36" is the minimum recommended by the NKBA; however, at least 42" and, preferably, more is much more functional. This space should be uninterrupted by the Cleanup Zone (i.e., dirty dishes should not be sharing the prep workspace.)
    • If you have only one sink, then the Prep Zone should be on one side of the sink with the Trash Pullout; the Cleanup Zone should be on the other side of the sink with the DW and dish storage (plates, glasses, bowls, etc.). The Prep Zone should be on the side closest to the range/cooktop and should have the most counterspace.
    • Trash & recycle bins should also be in the Prep Zone. More trash and recyclables are generated during prepping and cooking and for much longer work time than cleaning up, so place the trash/recycling in the Prep Zone and near the Cooking Zone.
    • Near the Cooking Zone, preferably without crossing through the Cleanup Zone, especially an open DW door
    • Near the refrigerator, again, preferably without crossing through the Cleanup Zone, especially an open DW door.
    • Note: If you have to choose b/w accessing the Cooking Zone and refrigerator by crossing through the Cleanup Zone, choose the refrigerator. With the Cooking Zone, you have the potential of dealing with hot food and any obstacle (like an open DW door) can become a safety hazard.
  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    Wear comfortable shoes.

  • PRO

    Have a 50K+ to +++ cabinet budget. Those "hidden" pantries tend to break in a few years too.

  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    I agree that Mama Goose's latest layout is the best proposed so far.

    • The Prep & Cooking Zones are located so they're close to each other and you can easily move b/w zones as you work.
    • You actually have two prep zones for more than one person prepping at the same time -- one in the island and one b/w the range and cleanup sink.
    • The pantry door is much closer to the Kitchen and easily accessed from both the Prep & Cooking Zones
    • The refrigerator is on the periphery of the kitchen so it's easily accessed by people working in the kitchen as well as "outsiders" looking for a snack without the "outsiders" getting underfoot of those working in the kitchen. It's also near the primary Prep Zone and the Cooking Zone.

  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    Lori, in your latest, I have two suggestions:


    Refrigerator & Ovens Locations...

    • Move the "Books?" item to the other end and move the refrigerator and ovens closer to the main work area so the island is less of a barrier island (it's a barrier b/w the refrigerator and all the primary work zones right now.)
    • Then, make the "Books?" item into a tall pullout Utility cabinet for broom, dustpan, mop, Swifter, etc. Put an electrical outlet inside in case you have an electric broom or vacuum now or in the future.



    • Move the prep sink in at least 12" (18" would be better) to provide a bit of counter space on end of the island to:
      -- Provide more/better located landing space for the refrigerator
      -- Minimize knocking things off and onto the floor
      -- Provide "splash space" to minimize splashing water on the floor while working at the prep sink
    • The prep sink should be at least 15" interior width (18" sink base), with 18" to 21" interior width even better

    Regarding counter/landing space next to the refrigerator or ovens...if you have counter/landing space across no more than a 48" aisle, then you're fine. In fact, if you have a french door refrigerator, landing space in front of it (across the aisle) is much more useful than next to it -- speaking from experience.

  • live_wire_oak

    Why aren't you working with a good Kitchen Designer? Or a good architect? There is room for so much improvement. There is a lot of expensive wasted space, and poor traffic patterns. The savings from fixing that alone would pay for the professional that you need.

  • nidnay

    What exactly are you going to use the prep sink for? Size really does matter with a prep sink depending on its function, and knowing how you’ll use it will help determine how big it should be. I have a prep sink fairly close to my range (so the range and prep sink are on the same counter run) because that is the way I work in the kitchen. In between the range and the prep sink is my main prep area....that is where all the work happens. I am so happy to have the sink there, but it is way too small. It’s a 16” sink, but those dimensions are NOT interior dimensions. The inside actually measures only 13”....so ridiculously small. So make sure you get a sink with INTERIOR dimensions that make sense for how you will use it. I would much prefer a prep sink with an interior measurement of 21” or so.....would be much more practical and useful. Also, I am always putting goopy utensils and small dirty measuring cups etc. in that sink. I do not want to hand wash those items, so what happens to all the dirty gloppy things in the prep sink that need to be put in the dishwasher? Unfortunately unless you have a dishwater very close to your prep sink, you are carrying those dishes/utensils across your floor and counters (dribbling all along the way) in order to put them into the dishwasher that is way over by your cleanup sink.

    So, my two VERY big regrets in my kitchen design that I am now living with every day is that my prep sink is WAY too small (wish I had gone bigger) and I truly wish I had put a dishwasher (even just a small 18” one or a single dishwasher drawer) next to my prep sink. This is something that bugs me every single day.

  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    Another suggestion to use some of the excess counterspace to the left of the cooktop:

    Create a Snack/Tea/Coffee Center:

    • Put in a MW drawer in the base cabinet next to the pantry wall/door
    • If you're a tea or coffee drinker, put an electric tea kettle or coffeemaker in that area.
    • Store mugs, some drinking glasses, and snack stuff (e.g., MW popcorn popper) in the upper and base cabinets in the area
    • This location is close to the pantry and refrigerator
    • It's close to a water source for the tea kettle or coffeemaker
    • It's out of the Prep and Cooking Zones albeit not far
    • It's on the perimeter
  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    One more thing, I recommend 48" aisles b/w the perimeter counter edges and the island counter edges. Since you have children, definitely plan for multiple people in the Kitchen! (I'm bringing it up just to ensure you are measuring aisles to/from the items that stick out the farthest -- appliance handles, counter edges, etc.)

    Between the refrigerator handle and island's counter edge, 45" to 48". If it's a major walkway to or through the Kitchen, then 48", at least.

  • Buehl - We Want SW Back Unconditionally

    Another! Is your refrigerator going to be a fully integrated/built-in refrigerator? Or, will it be counter-depth?

    If counter-depth, then the doors must stick out past all surrounding items -- counter edges, tall cabinets, walls, etc.

  • shead

    @GreenDesigns, I had a hidden pantry in my last house and was with the kitchen 5 years. We had no issues, NONE, with our hidden pantry. Two friends also have them and they've had NO issues whatsoever. Good hinges are the key, though.

  • kim k
    I like your most recent layout. I’d move the prep sink down to the other end of the island (that’s how my current layout is now) though for a few reasons. First it will provide more counter space where the items you take out of the fridge can land. Second, to Nidnay’s point it is nice to be near your clean up sink when you are done with the items used for prep. No dribbling across the kitchen.

    I also think the prep sink size is personal preference and how you prep. My sink is 15” square (13” interior). It’s fine for me because i rinse food in it then use it basically to dispose of the peels and cuttings from prep. I dump pasta water in it and use the faucet to fill my tea pot and pasta pots. I cannot understand how a larger prep sink would help me based on my style of cooking. I do not leave food in my sink ever - maybe that’s why? I also wasn’t willing to give up any more island or cabinet space for a second sink.

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