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Large grey kitchen island with breakfast bar in traditional trim and two tone different color from the cabinets.
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How To Build a Kitchen Island

Some basic woodworking skills are required, but this easy-to-follow DIY Kitchen Island tutorial will teach you how to build a kitchen island to be proud of!
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 hours
Total Time 11 hours
Servings 1 Island
Author Rachel
Cost $250-1000

Equipment

Ingredients

  • Interior framing boards at least 2×4 size
  • 4 L Brackets If you have an extended breakfast bar
  • Wood Shims
  • Trim Boards ¼ or ½ inch thick depending on your overhang
  • Baseboard Trim
  • Sandpaper 120 and 220 grit
  • Paintable Caulk
  • Paint of choice

Instructions

  • Create measurements for your island. Use painter’s tape on the floor while you are still deciding on the design. It’s easy to see if you can walk around easily as well as additional problems like door clearance.
    Concrete moisture test demonstration with plastic wrap and painter's tape on the floor.
  • Purchase base cabinets. If you have no existing island, the easiest way to get an island with drawers and cabinets is to buy stock ones at your local hardware store. You can mix and match stock cabinets and it is relatively inexpensive.
    Kitchen base cabinets with countertops removed.
  • Install Base Cabinets. Attach cabinets to each other so the fronts line up. Cabinets must be shimmed to level for a proper countertop installation before attaching to the floor. To keep the island from moving, 2x4s are screwed to the floor and the cabinets are attached to them.
    Kitchen base cabinets with countertops removed.
  • Add framing boards around base cabinets. The frame can extend both on the sides or the back if you wish. It is important that the framing be at least every 18-24 inches vertically and cross braced. Cut the 2×4 boards to length and insure that all framing is level and plump (perfectly vertical). One bad measurement can cause headaches with the countertop installation or the wrapping.
    Framing to build a kitchen island including new outlets.
  • Wrap the framing to create a smooth, continuous surface. Depending on your design, you can wrap the island with drywall, ¼-1/2 inch thick plywood without knots, beadboard, or other veneer. Apply a bead of wood glue to the outer edges of the 2×4 framing. Lay the plywood in place and secure it using 1-inch wood screws under future trim pieces or finishing nails where exposed. Use a nail setter to sink the nails just enough so they don't stick out.
    Kitchen island wrapped with plywood and corner posts.
  • Add trim and decorative elements as desired.
    Kitchen Island with Trim on it but not painted.
  • Add baseboards. Make sure to miter the corners of baseboards (cut at a 45 degree angle). This gives a much more professional look.
    A kitchen island in the middle of building it.
  • Fill gaps and nail holes. Paintable Caulk is used to cover joints that need flexibility or when two different materials meet. Fill all nail holes with wood filler. Sand all the parts, especially where two boards butt against each other. The smoother the joints feels, the better your finished product will look.
    Closeup of kitchen bar showing where to caulk or wood fill.
  • Add countertop. I do not recommend ordering a countertop until after the island is built because variations in cabinet sizing and lumber can cause minor changes in the overall dimensions.
    Gray kitchen island with two toned cabinets in brown cherry.
  • Paint. For this high-traffic bar, I used a primer, two coats of a highly durable enamel paint and a protective topcoat, all with a sprayer.
    Large grey kitchen island with breakfast bar in traditional trim and two tone different color from the cabinets.