One thing is for sure, my Mom will be pleased with this blog post in which we’ll look a little closer at “Cooking Surface Safety.” If there is one place that I received constant warnings as a kid (yes, even more than school) it was in the kitchen near a hot stove. You have to understand that at my home growing up playing ball in the house was usually ok as long as we did it in the basement. One winter I practiced throwing my Nerf football into the Christmas tree because it was a big target and it never seemed to drop the ball. BB Guns: they tended to be an indoor toy as well, just ask my brother. Clearly we had a lot of fun growing up but if there was room in the house where things got serious it was the kitchen. Now as a parent of 2 children I have grown to appreciate the lessons my mother handed down. A hot stove is indeed a dangerous location and injuries can happen on or around it even when using extreme caution.
If you are planning for a new kitchen some steps can be taken in the design phase to keep your cooking area up to code and conducive to safety. In Guideline #20 you’ll see some illustrations of obvious cook top violations such as planning to have an operating window or anything combustable directly behind your stove or cooktop. These types of scenarios shouldn’t get past the design phase because professionals such an architect, designer, or general contractor will identify these types of compliance issues. An inspector will also have an eye out for such glaring design flaws.
The real safety designs that you’ll appreciate once you’re shake’n bake’n in your new kitchen will be more subtle. For instance the installation of a pot filler faucet located behind your cooktop will prove to be convenient in how it prevents you from lifting heavy pots from the sink to the stove; reducing the risk of burns, spills, and potential strain to your back. Pot fillers also ad a touch of elegance to your backsplash as they are available in various finishes and styles.
Other layout details to consider could be how the stove or cooktop is positioned in relation to your available counter space and the other appliances. Safe design would be to allow for a minimum of 15″ of counter space on at least one side of the stove. Also, your stove shouldn’t reside directly next the refrigerator. Putting these units side-by-side causes the refrigerator to work harder and eliminates a safe landing spot for either appliance. As mentioned in our last post (Kitchen Design Guideline, Illustrated #8) the overhead vent should be installed per the manufacturers specifications as well as your local building code. Avoid locating outlets and switches close to the cooktop as this will help to eliminate the temptation to reach across a hot work space.
If you are in the market for a new stove or cooktop during your renovation you might want to look into a unit that generates heat through induction technology. An induction cooktop is much safer than traditional electrical coil or open flame burners. The surface only generates heat when a pot is placed on top. Induction burners virtually eliminate the risk of burns because the surface returns cool once the pot is lifted off. In the U.S. the leading cause of house fires each year is from stoves left unattended. The induction stovetop also reduces this risk while giving you better control of temperature, an expedited cook time, and lower overall temperatures in the kitchen because the only thing that is heating up during cooking is inside the pot.
If you don’t decide to purchase a new induction cooktop there are still aftermarket cooktop monitors that your general contractor can install to ensure a safer kitchen. Pioneering Tech offers a product called “Safety-T.” This is a cover that can be installed to each burner and will monitor the temperature and automatically shutoff an unattended burner before it reaches dangerously high temperatures, significantly reducing the risk of a fire. A couple of other trusted manufactures are Stove Guard, which offers fire protection products for all styles of stoves and cooktops and Cook Stop which features products that detect motion around the cooktop and automatically shuts the burners off when it determines someone has left the area unattended. These products can be a great compliment to other common safety devises such as a current smoke detector (new batteries need to be installed at least every 6 months) and a properly rated fire extinguisher located in close proximity to the cooktop.
As someone once said “Safety is a cheap and effective insurance policy.” Just as true my Mother’s loose translation of this advise to us kids sounded something like this: “The kitchen is no place to horse around!” Indeed, both statements ring true when it comes to protecting your home and your family. Thanks Mom!
The diagram is courtesy of National Kitchen & Bath Association
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