Close your eyes and think about how much time you spend in the kitchen. Now, keep them closed and imagine how much of that time is spent hovering, bending and torquing over the sink. Despite being accustomed to discomfort in the kitchen, it is important (and sometimes unfathomable) to remember that working over a sink should be physically painless and efficient. Rather than straining your back and arms to contort into creative shapes, a sink should meet your body where it naturally rests, so, when specifying sinks, always match the tool to the user and, whenever possible, their individual needs.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that “Ergonomics — fitting a job to a person — helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs.” And while OSHA focuses on workplace ergonomics, our discussion extends those same principles to residential product ergonomics and their associated usability and design. Today, many designers and manufacturers are cognizant of creating improved products that are leveraged for comfort, fit and productivity. As a result, there are simple design choices that architects can make, which will alleviate stressors on the client’s body during everyday usage.
Basin depth and drain location are just two of many design choices that are important to consider when selecting a kitchen sink that will result in the least amount of ergonomic stressors.
Left: Franke’s Peak line features large modern sink basins with a 9.5-inch depth; right: diagram of optimal countertop design in relation to one’s height, image via Katherine Salant.
When it comes to overworking your back, shoulders and arms, the depth of your sink is everything. It is important to assume that you will be working at the bottom of your sink, not just using it as a plunging carrier for waste or dish pile-up. Therefore, a basin should never be so deep that the user must bend over to access something at the bottom. As you may have already suspected, this will be based on the needs and physicality of every individual client.
While there is no perfect formula for identifying an ideal sink depth, sinks are typically mounted 36 inches from the floor and can span anywhere from 6 to 12 inches in depth, with the majority of modern sinks hovering between 8 to 10 inches. More specific calculations may be made in correlation to one’s height. A shallow 6- to 8-inch bowl will be most comfortable for those who are either fairly short (5 foot 4 or shorter) or very tall (6 feet or taller). This will allow both types of figures to work at the bottom of the sink without having to crouch or hunch over. Individuals between the 5-foot-4 to 6-foot range will find most comfort in the 8- to 10-inch-deep basins.
Achieving the perfect depth will derive from the basin itself as well as the method of installation. With under-mounted sinks, the countertop will typically add 1 to 2 inches to the ultimate depth of your sink. Therefore, before specifying your sink, it is essential to consider how you plan to integrate it into your design and what other materials you will use to complement its installation.
Reduce Water Splash
The key in reducing water splash is to get a sink that is big enough to fit your big pots and woks directly in the sink, so any splashing will only splash in the sink. Measure your biggest pot at home, an average wok is 42cm in diameter. Then measure the inner bowl of the sink to make sure it is able to fit your biggest pot or wok.
HCE Chef Series Stainless Steel Undermount Sink