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A Matter of Ergonomics
Ergonomics is the study of human efficiency and comfort in a working or living environment. Ergonomics is of great concern in the workplace, but it is also an issue in residential construction, where dozens of different design standards are aimed at making the rooms of a home more comfortable and safer for family members.
Home ergonomics is of particular concern in the kitchen, since this is a primary workplace and a space where people spend a great deal of time. Apart from the kitchen work triangle, the toe kick space beneath base cabinets may be one of the most important ergonomic elements in your kitchen design. The importance of the toe kick space in base cabinets holds for cabinets in other locations, as well--such as bathrooms, laundries and home offices.
What is a Toe Kick?
A toe kick is a notch-shaped recess at the bottom front of a base cabinet. It provides a recess for your feet so you can get slightly closes to the countertop. This improves your balance,and also reduces the fatigue that would result if you were forced to reach across a countertop to work. Without a toe kick, users typically find themselves standing well back from a base cabinet in order to avoid stubbing the toes, a posture that leads to leaning over and putting considerable strain on the back, shoulders and arms. Working in this way is quite uncomfortable and can lead to chronic pain and posture issues.
The answer is a very simple design alteration - a small notch at the bottom of the cabinet that allows you to move slightly closer to the countertop. The toe kick is typically only 3 inches deep and about 3 1/2 inches high, yet it makes a huge difference in the comfort of using your countertop.
Although toe kicks are not required by building codes, they are a traditional design standard followed by manufacturers and tradesmen. As a result, you will find toe kicks on virtually every factory-manufactured cabinet sold, and woodworkers or carpenters building custom cabinetry will always follow typical design standards for the shape and size of toe kicks in base cabinets.