Measurement Standards for Base Cabinet Toe Kicks

The optimal dimensions for a base cabinet toe kick.
The optimal dimensions for a base cabinet toe kick. Chris Adams, copyright 2008, Licensed to About.com

What Is a Toe Kick?

At the bottom of every base floor cabinet in your kitchen or bathroom, you will notice a notched profile below the front door of the cabinet.  This notched profile, called the toe kick, is an ergonomic feature that is designed to make it safer and more comfortable to work at the cabinet's countertop. Like many other standard features of home and furniture construction, the toe kick follows a fairly common measurement standard.

These standards are not legal requirements and are not mandated by building code, but builders have established over time that these measurements make for greater comfort and safety, and therefore always follow these measurements unless specifically directed not to. Essentially, the toe kick allows a user to place his toes slightly under the cabinet while working at the countertop. This might seem like a small advantage, but long experience shows that this small amount makes it much easier for a user to stand for long periods without uncomfortable leaning and without struggling to maintain balance. 

 So universal is this standard that factory-made stock cabinets always follow these standard dimensions for a toe kick,  and any experienced carpenter or woodworker who constructs a base cabinet will include the toe kick with the standard dimensions.

Standard Dimensions for Toe Kicks

The optimal depth for a toe kick in 3 inches.

This provides an adequate recess to stand comfortably and maintain balance while working at a counter top. After all, that is the purpose of a toe kick. Almost all factory-made stock cabinets will comply with this depth standard. 

Toe-kick depths greater than 3 inches do not hurt the effectiveness of the toe kick, but depths less than 3 inches should usually be avoided, as they interfere with the ergonomic effectiveness.

 

The optimal height for a toe kick is 3 1/2 inches, and heights up to 4 inches are common. Increasing the height over 3 1/2 inches does not hurt the effectiveness of the toe kick, but it may very slightly reduce the space in your base cabinet. Heights less than 3 1/2 inches can cause some people problems.

Is There Any Reason to Change the Dimensions of Your Toe Kick?

It's quite rare that you would have a reason to vary from these standard dimensions for your base cabinet toe kicks. And it is really only possible if you have custom cabinets built to your specifications, or if you ask a carpenter to alter the installation of factory cabinets. 

The only time you might consider this is if you or a family member has a physical reason for doing so. For example, a very tall person with large feet might find that a larger toe kick is more comfortable. There is less likelihood you would want to reduce the size of the toe kick, although a very short person might consider this as a means of slightly lowering the height of a countertop to make it more comfortable to work.