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Island strength (1 deep cabinet or 2 less deep ones back to back?)

February 16, 2019


I am planning to redo my kitchen and have gotten several quotes, but contradictory advice; I have gotten quotes from cabinet makers and from people who own a showroom and order from a company.

  • Kitchen is 177" x 113" (so, about 15' x 9.5').
  • It only has two walls, so the cabinets will be an L. The refrigerator is on the shorter wall. The sink is in the corner of the L. There's a window between the sink and the refrigerator.
  • There will be an island. It will be 102" long. I would like to do a half waterfall; the end without the quartz on it will face the refrigerator, with shelves for recipe books. There will be seating on the side that faces the dining room. The waterfall side will face the living room.
  • The ceilings are 10' high. The house is not HUGE, but it's not tiny, either. I will have 36" wall cabinets.

Here's what I have been told about the island:

  • The cabinets for the island should be 30" deep. Any space behind the drawers would therefore be lost. In this configuration, the back of it (which would face the dining room) would be paneling, so the island will look like a piece of furniture. So, after adding a 12" overhang, I end up with 42" countertop. Final dimensions: 102" x 42".
  • The "standard" is to do 24" cabinets on the front of it and 12" cabinets on the back of it. That means I have doors facing the people sitting on the bar stools. Those doors could be without handles and have the "open when you push the door" type feature. With this configuration, 24 + 12 = 36". Adding the 12" overhang leads to a 48" countertop. Final dimensions: 102" x 48".
  • One guy said that one 30" cabinet is weaker than doing two cabinets back to back. That if I ever needed to stand on the countertop, it would not do well. And yes, I could see myself wanting to stand on it to change a lightbulb. This reasoning sounded logical to me. You have an extra "wall" between the front and back cabinets.
  • Another guy said that the 30" cabinet is actually STRONGER.
  • Putting doors on the same side where people are sitting means people are kicking doors, and it is noisy... because doors will move.
  • A 48" wide countertop would be too big for the kitchen. He said it would look bad.
  • Could they both be right about the strength, depending on how cabinets happen to be built?
  • More importantly, what do you recommend?

My first concern is STRENGTH. I do want the most solid piece of furniture. My second concern is SIZE.

I would really appreciate your feedback. For completeness, I modified a diagram (which I'm not sure is to scale) and included it below. The yellow spot shows where the wires are sticking out of the floor, so that MUST be part of the island. The dining room is south of the island. The living room is west of the island.


Comments (12)

  • mindshift

    Your plan, which appears to show a 48" deep island, does not appear too large. As drawn it does not encroach on the room it faces, but even the 30" deep cabinet with 12" of overhang for the seating area is only 6" less wide. As I am over 65 I would put drawers in the island and have them open to the pantry/stove side. The side with the chairs would end up storing junk you never use because it is more difficult to access.

    Countertop strength can be increased by using thicker plywood beneath the top surface material. It is NEVER safe to stand on a counter top unless that counter is fastened to a wall or the floor. I can't speak to how the cabinet people construct their products, but a counter that is not fastened down is more likely to tip over than to crush from your weight.

  • PRO

    Several questions:

    What is the cabinetry style and finish?. A waterfall top appears forced unless this is a sleek kitchen, (not traditional,) and cookbooks at one end, waterfall other end, seems rather a mismatch, despite shelves facing a fridge. I doubt there is a recipe on earth that can not be found online with an i pad.

    Second issue, storage beneath a top is generally a wasted expense in cabinetry, hard to access for all but the very infrequent uses.

    A 24 inch deep cabinet, and a 36 x 6 x whatever "wall" built and trimmed behind that , yes even with a gap in spacing behind the 24 inch is plenty sturdy. Islands of this size are built every single day across the USA, virtually none with 30 inch depth cabinetry... Where is your KD? Where is the actual cabinet/appliance plan? I'd say get one, a real KD, and not a cabinet seller to replace the varied "guys" . Right away.

  • Pam A

    I think you are smart to plan that the side with chairs will be less accessible, but there are many things that you might want to store there anyways. Like ... some of the rarely used serving pieces for holidays and big get-togethers. Or extra stuff from a Costco run (3 of the 4 boxes of Ziplocs).

    I think the 24+12 island would be stronger than a single 30" deep base cabinet. BTW - I am also a fan of cookbooks, between family recipes on paper and handwritten notes in the margins (use #70 scoop for 36 cookies). I can totally understand wanting space for some.

  • nhbaskets

    I have drawers on the work side backed with 12" cabinets with doors on the seating side. Have never had an issue with doors being kicked or noisy. I use these cabinets for storing less used serving pieces, extra dishes, chargers, cake stand, etc. While it can be awkward to get things, it's more convenient than going down to the basement.

    I would never stand on my island. DH is able to reach to change bulbs in our pendants with no problem.

    ETA: Overhang on long edge is 15", with a 12" overhang on short edge. 15" is definitely more comfortable.

  • vinmarks

    12 inch overhang for seating is not enough. Minimum overhang for counter height seating is 15 inches in order for it to be comfortable.

  • kazmom

    I am not sure if you are concerned about the strength of the counter on top of the cabinets or the overhang. Many people only do one row of standard 24” cabinets for their island and are fine. We have one row of 24” cabinets and then a 16” overhang supported by something like the below invisible brackets. The island is secured to the floor (as it should be). I like the look of the double cabinets but didn’t have clearance for that. If I had clearance and had to make the choice you are outlining I would go with 24” drawers facing the kitchen and 12” cabinets facing the overhang, because I don’t think you can ever have too much storage, even for things not used often. I am not an expert but would be sirprised if that isn’t adequate for strength as it is done all the time.

    If you do do the double cabinets you may not be able to use something like the below, not sure, but there are other options for invisible support that can be built in so they wouldn’t effect your doors opening in the cabinets in the back. There are lots of threads on Houzz about countertop supports, you might search and read some.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    IMO 12” overhang is just fine there are great steel supports so no need for ugly corbels and there are 1000s of kitchen s with 24” deep cabinets with a 6” wall and a 12 “ overhang with a stone top with no problems The island pictured above is not a good example . I do agree drawers are better as lower storage. I would not do the waterfall and book storage on the same island they do not work together style wise.I do not see the problem with making the island wider but I would make sure those walkways are all at lest 48” and please avoid that corner sink at all costs You have a perfect place for the sink under the window. As for standing on the counter get LED light fixtures you might not have th change the bulbs for years.

  • PRO

    Patricia and I are saying the same things. You seem to have incongruous elements. One? A microwave oven over a range, ( is this the case ? ) is not a look deserving of a waterfall counter top in any scenario. The corner sink ? Not a good idea. Perhaps none of this is firm.........but post the cabinet/appliance plan. The island is secondary at this point.

  • kazmom

    Patricia Coldwell - why do you need a 6” wall after the cabinets? Why is the steel support not sufficient to support the overhang? We have no wall behind our cabinets and I have only really noticed people doing that with bar height overhangs (Which I get). Is it insurance in case your cabinets are not strong enough to support the steel supports?? My GC didnt seem to feel we needed an extra wall behind our cabinets and we have the steel supports with a 16” overhang.

  • Brenda Waggoner
    Are you used to a corner sink? If not, you won’t like it. The corner is hard to clean and wasted space. Have you thought of putting the microwave somewhere else other than over the range? I find it hazardous to get something out of the microwave over my stove.
  • felizlady
    Put the sink under the window with the dishwasher to the right between the sink and the refrigerator. With that plan, the DW door can be open while you rinse dishes and easily put them into the dishwasher.
    Putting a sink in the corner will put your face right in front of the upper cabinets, plus you will not be able to load the DW in one smooth motion because it will be almost behind you.
    Before you “plan” any further, you need a diagram which clearly shows the placement of each lower cabinet.
  • djtedford
    I agree with the comments - waterfall edge on both sides of the island or none, sink centered under the window and not in the corner if at all possible. I also strongly agree that a microwave over the range is not a good option - poor ventilation, poor use of microwave, etc. Overall the kitchen design looks nice, but with these tweaks it will look and function better for you.

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