A well-appointed kitchen can greatly enhance a home’s value. If you are considering refreshing or remodeling your kitchen with new countertops or replacing old kitchen appliances this article may be of interest to you, especially if you have an old stove that you are thinking of upgrading.
Should a stove be higher than the countertop? Virtually all stove manufacturers advise that the cooktop should be even, or flush, with the countertop surface. It is also acceptable for the cooktop to be slightly higher (half to one inch) than the countertop but in no case should it be lower because of potential heat damage to the countertop material and reduced cooking efficiency.
Most modern kitchen appliances are designed to simply slide into position, and this certainly applies to stoves. They are relatively straight forward to hook up, whether they are electric or gas. However, it can be a bit of a challenge leveling the stove properly while also aligning it with your countertop, especially if the stove is being installed in between two countertops (one on each side of the stove).
How High Should a Stove Be?
Fortunately, there is substantial standardization in stove heights and countertop heights that make any necessary adjustments minor (less than an inch). By default, the overwhelming majority of stoves measure from 35 to 36 inches in height from the floor to the cooktop surface. By adjusting the leveling feet, most stoves’ heights can be increased by roughly an inch or so.
Countertops are slabs of stone or composite material that sit on top of base cabinets, which usually measure 34 to 34 ½ inches in height. With countertops typically measuring 1 to 1 ½ inches in thickness, together the base cabinet and countertop will combine for a height of close to 36 inches, which is widely accepted as a standard countertop height that affords the broadest range of ergonomic comfort.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that stock base cabinets with countertops average three feet in height (with the exception of custom pieces) as do stoves. Regardless of which is accommodating the other, this fortuitous happenstance greatly simplifies the task of achieving evenness between the two.
How to Adjust the Height of a Stove
All stoves have some means of adjusting their height to make them higher or lower, and also their pitch to make them level. Leveling a stove will enable the appliance to perform its job the way it is intended; otherwise, if the cooktop is uneven food will tend to roll in the pan or lean in the pot toward the direction of the stove’s lowest point. Uneven cooking and possible damage to cookware will result.
Most models will have four adjustable feet, one in each corner of the base. The prevalent foot style is a threaded rod attached to a rubber foot for stability. Near or on the bottom of each foot will be a hex nut that enables loosening or tightening with a wrench. There may be an additional hex nut where the rod meets the stove base to lock the foot in place preventing further unwanted adjustment.
Leveling the Stove
Each threaded foot screws into the base and turning the hex nut clockwise will raise that corner of the stove and lower it when you turn the nut counterclockwise. Many stoves have a storage or auxiliary drawer at the bottom of the unit that must be removed in order to fully access the four feet. Your goal should be making the cooktop surface (not the burner grates) even or flush with the countertop(s).
To properly adjust your stove you will need a spirit (bubble) level, preferably one that is around 24-inches as that will ensure accurate readings. You will also need an adjustable wrench to adjust the feet and a tape measure.
Verify that you have sufficient space in the intended location to accommodate the stove. Measure the space from side to side and compare to the same dimension on your stove, bearing in mind that you will likely need approximately one-quarter inch on each side to maneuver the appliance into place.
Using your spirit level, verify that your kitchen floor is level. Many homeowners are surprised to learn that their kitchen floor may not be perfectly level or even. It is important to know ahead of time whether you will be contending with an un-level surface when attempting to level your stove. Fortunately, the adjustable feet will enable you to compensate to some degree for a floor that is uneven.
Measure the pre-adjustment height of your stove and take similar measurements of your countertop height. If the heights are the same then the only adjustment(s) you will need to make to the stove feet are those that may be necessary to prevent any slight wobbling of the unit. The same is true if the stove is slightly higher than the countertop.
If the stove is lower than the countertop and the differential is around an inch or less then adjust the feet to raise the stove by the amount needed. If the gap in height is significant (e.g. more than an inch and a half) it may be necessary to consult the stove’s manufacturer for safe options to raise the stove at or above countertop level. (Certain manufacturers may have accessories to remedy this problem.)
Once the proper stove height has been achieved, the next step is leveling it from side to side and front to back to ensure that it will operate properly.
Facing the stove, adjust the feet to achieve a level reading from side to side. These adjustments should be minor unless your kitchen floor is uneven. You also need to place the spirit level oriented from front to back and adjust the feet as needed (having two spirit levels oriented perpendicular to each other would be ideal).
Some manufacturers even recommend placing the spirit level diagonally (e.g., front left burner to rear right burner and vice-versa) for true readings.
Having a Stove Lower than the Countertop Can be Dangerous
When a stove is significantly lower (an inch or more) than adjoining countertops, there are several things to keep in mind. Some are safety concerns while others pertain more to maintaining cleanliness.
A countertop that sits higher than a stove will form a short wall to the side of the cooktop. When cooking on high heat with a large pot or similar vessel, a certain amount of heat will radiate laterally to the side. Depending on the countertop material, prolonged exposure to such heat may damage the portion of the countertop that abuts the stove.
Certain countertops made from composite or laminate materials have a low tolerance or resistance to heat. Some manufacturers discourage exposing these surfaces to temperatures exceeding 160° F. This low threshold would include radiant heat from electric coils or gas burners, hot cooking vessels, or even splatter from cooking oil during frying.
In the case of gas burners, the countertop edge that sits above the cooktop surface, as insignificant as it may seem, can actually obstruct airflow and prevent the flames from burning as hot as they should.
From a cleaning standpoint, the joint where the rising edge of the countertop meets the stove can become a collection area for food particles, oil, and grease that would be exceedingly difficult to clean effectively. Bacteria can thrive under such conditions as well.
These reasons alone are compelling enough to thoroughly explore all available options to ensure that a stove is at least flush with a countertop, if not slightly higher.
Properly installed appliances and well-coordinated countertops can greatly enhance the look and feel of a kitchen while promoting cleanliness and allowing the appliance to function the way it should. With a little bit of know-how and some elbow grease, you can create clean sightlines and improved functionality that will contribute to the overall appeal of your thoughtfully appointed kitchen.