Why are Kitchens On the Ground Floor? (Explained)

When you walk into homes with multiple levels, there is a common theme among the kitchen areas. The kitchens always seem to be on the home’s ground floor and are rarely on the second floor. This floor plan has always been a part of the traditional home layout, with the kitchen leading to the living room. 

While it is a standard design practice, you may be wondering if there is a specific reason for it. Do building codes require it? Are there benefits to a kitchen on the ground floor? In this article, we will investigate why kitchens are on the ground floor of most homes. You will also learn if you can install a kitchen above the ground floor and the requirements involved in this project.

Do Kitchen’s Have To Be on The Ground Floor? 

Home floor plan

In most cases, you will find kitchens on the first floor of every living space that you enter. While it may seem like having a kitchen on the first floor is a requirement, there are no building codes preventing kitchens from being above the ground floor. All you need to do is meet the building code requirements for all kitchens. 

Some homeowners have implemented what is known as an “upside-down” style floor plan with a second-floor kitchen for their home. However, this is easier said than done—as there is a lot that goes into ensuring your kitchen meets building code requirements. If you aren’t familiar with the requirements, here are just a few you will need to keep in mind: 

  • Space Requirements: A kitchen needs to meet the minimum square footage requirement of 70 sqft as a habitable space. The kitchen also needs enough height to fit countertops, exhaust hoods, and other kitchen appliances. There must also be 30″ of clearance above all stoves with combustible materials above them. 
  • Plumbing Requirements: Having proper plumbing systems is a must when you have a kitchen area. You need to have a sink installed with properly-sized drain pipes to meet the building standards. If you want a dishwasher, this will also require additional plumbing pipes. 
  • Electrical Requirements: Kitchen appliances like ovens or stoves use lots of power, requiring outlets with higher voltage. Due to the potential of water exposure, there will also need to be GFCI outlets installed in the kitchen area. In total, you need at least seven circuits for a residential space. 

As you can see, a lot goes into ensuring your kitchen is up to code. Additionally, adding difficulty to the already challenging kitchen building process is not something many building contractors feel the need to do. Kitchens do not need to be on the ground floor by code, but it makes the most sense.

However, if you want to remodel your home and build a kitchen area on another floor, you are within your rights to do it. Speak with your local building and zoning department about applying for a permit for the remodel. The kitchen area will need to pass an inspection that will ensure it is safe. 

The Ground Floor is More Accessible

One of the main reasons that architects keep kitchens on the ground floor is their accessibility and convenience. When you come home from the grocery store, you likely don’t want to carry the bags up flights of stairs. You also probably don’t want to lift a refrigerator to the second floor of your home. 

Kitchens on the ground floor can be accessed as soon as your walk through the door. A kitchen on the second floor would require more trips up and down the stairs for any gathering you have at home. Accessibility in your home makes for a more comfortable living space and less difficulty in daily life. 

The comfort also translates into the noise that is produced from the kitchen area. If the bedrooms of your home are downstairs, you will likely have trouble sleeping if someone is cooking above you. Footsteps, noisy cooking supplies, and dropping items can all be heard from above. 

Should a Kitchen and Living Room Be On the Same Floor?

In most homes, your kitchen will lead out into the living room area where you can relax after a nice meal. The natural floor plan that links the kitchen and living room together has stayed popular for a good reason. You have the convenience of doing all of your daily activities on the ground floor, leaving the upstairs level for the bedrooms. 

When you have guests over, cooking downstairs and bringing the meal upstairs would be a hassle. A home should be functional, making your life as easy as possible through its design and features. You can attend to dinner and have a comfortable living room for guests to relax in while dinner is being cooked. 

Added Costs of an Upstairs Kitchen

kitchen renovation

The price of having an upstairs kitchen will also be more than having a kitchen on the ground floor. The utilities of the home will need to be extended through the walls and reach the upstairs area. When traditional kitchens are being built, the utilities are more cost-effective coming straight from underground. 

The costs of the additional utilities will show in the price of the home and it can be an extensive project if you want to remodel your home. If you aren’t familiar with the amount per square foot for added utilities, here is a helpful table: 

Electrical Wiring $1.56 to $3.75 Per Square Foot 
Plumbing$4.50 Per Square Foot
Natural Gas Line$12 to $25 Per Square Foot

These costs needed to bring the kitchen to the second floor can be steep if you are on a budget for a home. Most homes with a kitchen on another floor are luxury properties. Building contractors want to keep the costs of building a home affordable for homeowners. Having a kitchen on the second floor or higher would be an unnecessary added expense. 

Conclusion 

Kitchens will be on the ground floor of most living spaces, unless you are living in a apartment complex. The convenience, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility are all great reasons to keep kitchens on the ground floor. However, if you decide a kitchen on another floor is best for your circumstances, the building codes will allow it.  

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