A kitchen pass through is an opening in the wall between the kitchen and either a dining room or living room. It's essentially a big window opening where the base of the pass through is often a counter set at "bar height" (about 42 inches). On the kitchen side, there's often a counter at a lower height, where food can be put down before being passed through.
The width of the pass through is usually determined by the layout of the cabinets, counters and appliances in the kitchen, as well as the furniture in the dining room. A pass through can be as small as 16 inches wide (literally fit in between wall studs), all the way up to 6 feet or even more. The top is usually about 12 to 15 inches from the ceiling, but there are no hard and fast rules.
Installing a kitchen pass through is relatively straightforward, but it can get pretty messy, since you do have to cut and remove some drywall. The process gets more complicated if there are any existing counters or cabinets in place. Since the pass through needs to be accessible from both sides, any existing cabinetry will likely need to be rearranged.
Utilities and Structure
You'll also need to consider how you plan to deal with any plumbing pipes or electrical wires running in the wall. Every situation is unique, but often these don't turn out to be a major problem since the pass through opening is well above the floor, and wires and pipes are usually lower down in the walls. However, if you know there are wires or pipes, you will need to be extra careful when it comes time to open the wall and install the pass through. Also, if you think the wall might be a bearing wall, temporarily brace the ceiling joists before you remove any existing studs.
Actually installing the pass through involves removing the existing drywall, cutting out existing studs, and installing a new framed box you create to surround the hole. The box actually consists of "jack studs" at the ends/sides of the opening - a jack stud is a second stud attached to an existing stud - plus a new header on the top, and a base/sill plate on the bottom of the opening. In addition to providing framework for the pass through, the jack studs will also provide support for the header.
Make sure the opening you create is large enough that you have room to install the jack studs at each end of the opening, and that they are tall enough that the header can rest directly on top of them. The header itself should be made up of a piece of 1/2-inch plywood sandwiched between two 2x6's to provide structural strength, since it is now supporting the weight of the ceiling.
Use a reciprocating saw to cut the existing drywall and to remove the middle sections of the existing wall studs in the opening. Install and attach the jack studs, rest the header on the jack studs, and attach it to the remaining top studs. Lay in the bottom plate and attach it to the jack studs at the ends and to the remaining bottom parts of the wall studs.
Once you have the framing in place, install and finish new drywall on the walls and around the pass through opening. You can choose to put a casing around the opening or simply paint it to match the walls - the choice is yours.
Once the pass through is in place, you have lots of options. Depending on your lifestyle, the pass through can be used as a bar, a snack bar or simply a window to the kitchen. Types of countertops, wall colors and finishes are totally up to your own imagination.
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