Ergonomic design considerations

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Ergonomic design considerations

Postby CLChastain » Tue Dec 29, 2015 4:13 pm

Wasn't sure where to put this post. My dream-build is still many months away, but I'm thinking about it a lot. One thing I plan to do to civilize my trailer design is to include a recessed toe-kick in the kitchen cabinetry. I don't understand how trailer manufacturers have managed to ignore something so important for so many decades, but look at vintage campers on up to the latest models, and very likely there is no toe-kick... Toe-kicks have been a part of kitchen cabinetry for generations, and there's a reason for it --

A toe kick is a recess at the bottom of a base cabinet. It provides a recess for your feet so you can get close to the counter top without losing your balance.

If you do not think it is that important try standing with your toes against a wall.

Even if you do not typically put your feet into the toe kicks recess you still need it. After a couple of times bumping into the cabinet without a toe kick you will start standing farther back. That means leaning over more and therefore straining your back, shoulders and arms and generally making things uncomfortable for yourself. http://ergonomics.about.com/od/kitchen/f/toe_kick.htm


I don't recall ever seeing a toe-kick in a travel trailer or motorhome. The drop floors of some tiny trailers like Serro Scottys provide the effect of a toe-kick, but it appears to be inadvertent, not a purposeful design element.

Obviously, this is not an issue with rear-galley teardrops, but in standys with interior galleys, it would be. Has anyone else ever thought about this conspicuous oversight in the recreational vehicle manufacturing industry? Have you added, or thought about adding, a toe-kick to your galley design?
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby lrrowe » Tue Dec 29, 2015 4:27 pm

I thought about it and decided to go the simple route and not build one. And for the most part, I will not be standing in front of them much as most, if not all, of the cooking and other food prep will be done outside the trailer.
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby GuitarPhotog » Tue Dec 29, 2015 6:10 pm

Funny, I was just thinking about that, and counter height this morning. I noticed that my '71 Aristocrat Lo-Liner has no toe kick space. Since I want to raise the counter a couple of inches to help my aching back, I will add it at the bottom and recess it to make a toe kick space.

I have seen toe kick used in large motor homes with mostly full sized kitchens but no where else in a trailer.

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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby halfdome, Danny » Tue Dec 29, 2015 6:11 pm

Being a Cabinetmaker I couldn't agree with you more, but a quick image search I found plenty of older trailers with toe boards.
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Just build a teardrop trailer and you won't need a toe board. ;)
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby CLChastain » Thu Dec 31, 2015 7:06 am

Nice finds, Danny. Perhaps those were mobile home type trailers ... and those that are made today have toe-kicks. They appear to use pre-built cabinets such as would be installed in a regular house. But travel trailers and motor homes not made as permanent residences still lack toe kicks, mostly ... even some of the fancier big boys. At least, that's what I saw in a quick Google image search.... I did see one small Shasta-type trailer with the kitchen along the streetside wall that had a toe kick, but it may have been a remodeling addition, as everything was painted white, and little travel trailers weren't originally painted inside.

In any case, toekicks in recreational vehicles do appear to be scarce as hens' teeth....
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby S. Heisley » Thu Dec 31, 2015 1:23 pm

I debated over toe-kicks and decided that I didn't need them. I have not been sorry. I do just fine without them; but then, I have women's size 9 feet (men's size 8). If you have men's size 11 or 12, you might need a toe-kick, I don't know.... I find that, even in the house, the toe-kick just makes it harder to clean and it seems to become a harbor for crumbs, dog hair, etc. When we are preparing food or washing dishes, we tend to bend slightly, bringing our head, shoulders, and arms farther forward than our feet. The toe-kick may simply be an outdated idea that society has kept.

If you can, set up a set of upside down boxes/tubs on the floor to the height of cabinets. Pretend you are cooking/washing dishes and see if your feet and mock cabinets get in the way of each other. I'll be interested in reading what you find and decide.
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby halfdome, Danny » Thu Dec 31, 2015 1:52 pm

When we are preparing food or washing dishes, we tend to bend slightly, bringing our head, shoulders, and arms farther forward than our feet. The toe-kick may simply be an outdated idea that society has kept.

Outdated my foot. :lol:
My Chiropractor would have issues with the poor posture you speak of.
We use our toe kicks all the time as we can stand with correct posture and not aggravate the lower back.
Building a set of cabinets without toes, the doors would scrape the floor and there would be no place to shim for level.
I've even made sink cabinets where the doors are inset 2 or 3" so you don't bang the knees on the doors while at the sink, and they still had a toe board.
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby KCStudly » Tue Feb 23, 2016 1:31 pm

I have just as much back trouble due to the std counter height (36 inch) being just a little lower than would be ideal for me. If I ever remodel my home kitchen there will be a dedicated work station and vegetable sink set at 37 or 38 inches.
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby GuitarPhotog » Tue Feb 23, 2016 1:57 pm

KCStudly wrote:I have just as much back trouble due to the std counter height (36 inch) being just a little lower than would be ideal for me. If I ever remodel my home kitchen their will be a dedicated work station and vegetable sink set at 37 or 38 inches.


When I remodeled my kitchen last fall, I raised all the cabinets and the stove by 2-1/2" by putting them on platforms and increasing the toe kick space to 7"

When I built the miter saw bench, work bench, and router table in my shop this fall, I made the tops all 38" above the floor.

Much better for my back.

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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby Vedette » Fri Feb 26, 2016 12:22 pm

Me too Charlie
All of my work benches are 38".
My son Levi has his at 42" for good posture, as he is 6' 4".
How is your project coming anyway? we need to trade pictures via e-mail.
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Re: Ergonomic design considerations

Postby mezmo » Fri Feb 26, 2016 6:15 pm

The best thing about building it yourself is that you can customize it to your needs.

I think the main reason for lack of the toe-kick is mainly for space using/saving considerations.
Inches and fraction of inches matter a lot in the small confines of a TT. Also, generally speaking,
most TT/RV counters are not as deep as the nominal standard of 24 inches that most regular house base cabinets use. Also, you can stand sideways often in a small TT/RV and reach the back of the counter easily, so a toe-kick is not really needed. I'd think that height would be a more important consideration in using the counter top.

Even saying that, I think toe kicks are a good idea, and no doubt they are often deleted as they
would be one more feature to spend time and $ on when manufacturing. I think all that can
be dealt with, as well as providing more available cubic space by, instead of making a toe-kick on a
base cabinet, to instead build a lower drawer - height of your choice - and set that back the 2-4inches that is usually used for the toe-kick. Then, bring out the rest of the base cabinet face to the usual depth. This also does assume you will use drawers for the base cabinet storage, as they are hands down the most accessible way to utilize lower storage space. This method could still be used to provide a utility run, [The cavity made by using a toe-kick is sometimes used as a utility run for wiring or water lines or small heating ducts.] by just making the base drawer not as deep
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