What is a Toe Kick?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A toe kick is a recessed space built into the bottom of a cabinet which sits on the floor.It is designed to allow people to stand close to the cabinet without stubbing their toes against it. Toe kicks are especially common in kitchens, but they are also used with other types of cabinetry which sit flush with the ground.

A toe kick is the recessed space between the floor and a cabinet.
A toe kick is the recessed space between the floor and a cabinet.

Many people utilize the toe kick without being aware of it. When someone steps up to a cabinet, as for example when someone is working at the kitchen counter, the toes slide into the kick. Without this area, people would be forced to stand back somewhat, which would force them into an awkward position at the counter. Being forced into a strange position can strain the neck and back, in addition to making people uncomfortable, and it also throws them off balance.

The depth of the toe kick should be around three inches (almost eight centimeters), and it should roughly three and a half inches (nine centimeters) high. This provides enough space for most feet, in or out of shoes. Making the kick deeper does not accomplish anything, other than creating a crevice which is hard to clean, and if it is much higher, it can start to eat into cabinet space without really providing any additional working room.

Toe kicks are usually covered with strips of wood, metal, or plastic. This prevents dirt and other materials from collecting underneath the cabinet. Sometimes the cover falls off and needs to be replaced, or people want to replace one material with another. Fitting a new toe kick is usually relatively easy. Many hardware stores carry fittings or boards which are the right size, and one just needs to trim the length down to fit in the space.

Many cabinets come with their toe kick covers installed or available to make it easier to fit them into place. However, some people prefer to create custom covers, or to modify the ones supplied. Toe kicks can be used to conceal a vent for a heating and cooling system, for example, in which case it's necessary to cut a hole for the vent into the cover, and to fit the hole with a screen or grate.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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