I have a secret to share with you. My kitchen is always the messiest room in my house. I clean it daily, go through the cupboards once every six months, and keep hardly used small appliances in my basement. I’ve finally decided to renovate and add more space. One thing I keep questioning is whether I should save space with a cooktop island or not.
Cooktops in kitchen islands require a special set of renovation plans, including running electricity or gas lines. For some, it’s a dream come true, while others scoff at the wasted space. Whether it works for you and your renovation plans really depends on what your budget and necessities are.
When deciding what type of island I wanted in my kitchen, I had to think of all the details, which can be forgotten. Ultimately, my decision shouldn’t affect what you choose, but I wanted to explain all the choices that are often overlooked. Also, keep in mind, what may be a pro to one person may be a con to another, so each decision is personal. I get it, Karen, your designer said that gas is the only way to go for cooktops.
We all dream of a large, gorgeous kitchen. My version is airy, light, and clean. I picture white quartz countertops, glass cabinet doors, and a huge island in the center that is clutter-free and seems to make the kitchen feel even bigger. This isn’t the case for most houses. Newer floorplans keep open concept living at the forefront, but older homes are boxed off and rooms were much smaller.
When choosing whether you even want to add an island- not even thinking about the countertop stove- you must first decide if an island would work in your kitchen. Professionals suggest at least three feet of walking room around the island, though four feet would be better. Given the average size of a kitchen island, many designers will say that you shouldn’t consider one if your kitchen is less than 13 feet wide.
Of course, islands are not a one-size-fits-all thing, just as kitchens are all different. When picking out your island, you’ll want to consider the size before you even get to deciding whether a cooktop will fit. The average size of a kitchen island is about 80 x 40 inches. This can drastically change, depending on your needs and the size of the kitchen. Some islands are moveable, so therefore should be smaller (and will not have a built-in cooktop). A permeant small island can be as small as four square feet. Grand kitchens can see 10-foot-long islands. It’s all in the hands of the owner and designer.
Island Cooktop Safety
Safety should be the number one priority in all kitchens. Every kitchen should have smoke detectors, a box of baking soda, and a fire extinguisher on hand. When considering a cooktop in your island, think about what this means for the safety of the kitchen. Later, we’ll discuss exhaust systems, which are often neglected for style or cost. Smoke inhalation is a real safety issue, though.
Another safety issue is grease splattering. If you have children working at the island or guests for a dinner party, you’ll need to keep them in mind when cooking. Sauteing or flambe in front of everyone makes for a fun cooking experience, but they can be in the splash zone. I don’t even want to think about the spots that I find grease splatters in my kitchen after I fry up bacon. You’ll want to guarantee roughly 18 inches of space surrounding the cooktop and any additional bodies around the island.
A commonly overlooked aspect of getting an island (more importantly, a cooktop island) is the purpose for the island. It’s important to know what you want to do with the island so it has designated spaces. You wouldn’t want it to be a catch-all for junk. My family dynamic has me cooking dinner, preparing meals ahead of time, baking lots of Christmas treats, and needing storage.
This means that if I plan to use a cooktop island, I’ll want to decide if I also have a built-in oven. For heavy bakers, like myself, I think a dual oven will be best to keep the cookies going. So, a built-in stove top would work well for me on an island. However, for someone who has a tighter budget and cannot afford to run electricity or gas to the new island, this isn’t a good option.
Other purposes to consider for your island include:
- Homework zone for kids
- Eating area for family and friends
- Sink area
- Prep area
- Wet bar
- Wine Cooler
- Small appliance hub
- Pull-out garbage and recycling drawers
Island Cooktop Cost
A big deciding factor in any home renovation is cost. Kitchens tend to be the most expensive home renovation as well, since everyone wants high-end appliances and finishes. Can you cut corners? Most of the kitchen is a safety hazard, so you won’t want to cut costs when it comes to proper plumbing and electrical. You need to have GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets within six feet of sinks to protect from electrical shorts. This is something that is for the safety of your whole house, and most building permits will not be granted unless this is done.
Adding an island to your kitchen is not a necessity. However, if you want one very badly, then consider the additional costs for its purpose. Running electricity and plumbing to an island that was not previously there can be an added expense, when a butcher block island would be just as good for your needs. Also, permeant islands cost more than those that are one wheels, so is a permeant island essential for your kitchen?
So, you plan to have an island, but you’re unsure whether you want that cooktop still. First, think of what materials you intend to use in your kitchen. Wooden countertops are not the best for a built-in cooktop, so butcher block would be out of the question. Saving money with Formica? Also, not a good choice. Most metal, cement, and stone counters are heat resistant so they work great for built-in stoves. However, think of how you plan to cook. While granite is extremely tolerant to heat and can withstand pans placed directly on it, quartz counters may see scorch marks or discoloration if pans over 300 degrees are placed directly on it. Do you plan to move fast in the kitchen and forego trivets? Seek out the heat tolerant option.
You’ll also want to think about what you want the counters made of in comparison to the rest of the kitchen. Do you want the island to stand out or blend? If you want it to blend, stick with the same materials you’ve used for your cabinets and countertops around the perimeter of the kitchen. Do you want it to be a focal point? Then consider changing up the countertop and island. This may be a perfect way to tie in the use of a different material that is more heat resistant, if you have your heart set on something else around the rest of the kitchen. Many designers also choose alternate colors for the cabinets or countertop to make the island pop.
Many kitchen islands serve the dual purpose of becoming a dining spot as well as a cooking area. If you hold dinner parties, you’ll be happy to have some bar stools set up at the island for guests to sit and watch you prepare your meals. For those with families, having a spot to keep an eye on the kids doing their homework while you get dinner ready is a bonus.
If you’ve decided to add the seating because you have the room and budget, you should still consider a few things. Many people like to have two-tiered islands, where the sitting area is a different height than the cooking area. Many people will suggest having the seating area be a higher bar. It covers the messes of cooking from the other side. However, many people prefer to have a lower seating area that is more compatible to a tabletop. Then again, two-tiered islands are more expensive, so you may be fine with one flat surface.
Once you’ve decided which you’d like, you’ll need to decide what type of seating you’d like.
- 30-inch-high counters (and lower) are best suited for a dining chair
- 36-inch-high counters (standard height) are best suited for small stools
- 42-inch-high counters (and above) are best suited for bar stools.
When planning how many seats to squeeze into this area, remember to not overcrowd those sitting. A good rule of thumb in a two-foot divide between chairs. This should allow for elbow room when eating or working.
Island Cooktop Exhaust
How often do you cook and find that smoke is pooling through the house? Many home designers forget the simplest items, like exhaust fans. They may not be the prettiest hanging down in the middle of your kitchen, but how else are you going to help heat and smoke escape?
Simpler options, that are more appealing to the eyes are exhaust fans in the ceiling. These are nearly invisible unless looking up, and they give the added benefit of keeping moisture down when boiling water. Another option is a downdraft fan behind the stove. Some newer models even have these built in, but they will not work wonders on strong smells and large smoke plumes. If your budget allows for it, consider a high-end exhaust that adds design elements to the room.
Island Cooktop Lighting
I’m putting out a lot of money for my new kitchen, and I want it to look as good as it costs. If I forget to add lighting above the island, the quartz won’t sparkle, and any cooking I do will be a pain. Be sure to plan for your island lighting, especially with a cooktop. If you have an exhaust overhead, does it have a built-in light? Will recessed lighting be best for your room?
A chandelier may be gorgeous, but not practical for using a cooktop in the island. Again, I don’t want to think about the gymnastic capabilities of bacon grease. However, if you have a seating area, maybe a few pendant lights hanging from the ceiling will really accentuate the area. Again, this can be an additional design element, or it can be blended and lost to another décor.
Island Cooktop Type
There are several options for stoves, especially when building an island from scratch. A less expensive option would be to install a standalone stove and oven that you normally find in kitchens. It’s much easier because you can just build the island around the stove and even reuse the stove you have. Plus, when your stove needs replaced, it is much easier than changing a built-in. The problem with this option is the back panel, where the controls are located, sticks up. This can cause quite an ugly, unfinished view from the other side.
The other option is a built-in cooktop. This is more common when people renovate their kitchens because it gives a clean, cohesive look to the entire kitchen. In fact, the seamless lines of a flattop create a modern décor that can really bring your kitchen into renovation heaven. In order to add a stovetop to an island, you’ll need to be sure that gas and/or electric are running to the island. This option is also much more expensive than a standalone stove. There are three primary types of cooktops to consider.
Gas is the oldest version of a stove still in use today. People sit on both sides of this fence. Those who don’t like gas say that the idea of natural gas running to their kitchen. What if there is a leak? Also, open flames tend to scare some more conservative cooks. On the other hand, professional chefs tend to lean toward gas stoves. The higher temperature sears food better, while the flames provide a more controllable unit and even heat across the pan. Gas also tends to be cheaper to run than the electric counterparts.
Electric stoves are common in most households. These are more reliable than gas, because you do not need to worry about the pilot light going out, gas leaks, or gas ventilation. Of course, there are cons to owning an electric stove. Those with coil burners tend to get dirty and rust. The drip pans are in constant need of replacement because of rust. These burners often warp a bit, becoming a tilting hazard. If you choose a glass flattop, these can be more difficult to tell if the burner is still hot, plus you run into the chance of the glass breaking when something is dropped onto it. Electric also requires nearly three times the energy consumption as gas. Finally, if you lose electric in a storm, you also lose usage of your stove.
Induction stoves are the new kid on the block. The beauty of induction stoves is in the method it uses to cook. Rather than a coil heating up, the built-in coil causes electromagnetic reactions with the pan to transfer energy. It sounds complicated, but if you don’t want to repair them, you only need to know that, according to some chefs, it works better than gas. This is because it has even cooking temperatures, and it heats much faster than regular stoves.
Because there is no heat produced by the stove, the stovetop never gets hot, either. Since the top never gets hot, food doesn’t burn onto the surface, allowing for easy cleanup. However, you should keep in mind that induction stoves are the most expensive option right now. You will also need to purchase new pots and pans, as induction stoves will only work with magnetic-based metals, such as stainless steel and cast iron.