How to Build A Kitchen Island (+ 20 Design Ideas You Can Steal)

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If there are two things that make a kitchen look elegant and stylish, they’re the kitchen island and countertop.

They bring a fresh and modern vibe to the home. And aside from aiding in the culinary duties, they also serve as spots for socializing. And because of their strategic positions in kitchens, these adorable pieces of furniture have become the heart and focal point of kitchens; serving a variety of functions.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to build a modern DIY kitchen island and also get some inspiration from other DIY kitchen islands.

Before that, we have talked about how to remove kitchen island?

But first, what’s the cost of building a modern and highly functional kitchen island?


How Much Does it Cost to Build A Kitchen Island?

The cost of building a kitchen island largely depends on the size, its functionality, and the materials used in building it.

So when you’re building a custom-made island and you plan on fitting a sink, hob, seating areas, exclusive countertops, and extractors, etc., you’ll definitely need a robust budget.

That said, if your kitchen already has a sink and a cooktop but you want the kitchen island to serve as a storage space, mini bar, or breakfast spot, you can still build an inexpensive island.

So if you’re working with a small budget, installing a modern but small kitchen's island (from IKEA) without plumbing and electrical fittings can cost around $500 to build and install.

However, the median price for installing a kitchen island hovers around $3,500.

But if you’ve got a big kitchen and you’re going for a bigger and exquisite kitchen island with high-end materials, you can expect to spend up to the tune of $20,000. And you could even cough up more than that depending on your custom design and functionality.

Factors to Consider when Building A Kitchen Island

1. Placement and size of the kitchen island

When thinking of a creative design for your DIY kitchen island, you should first decide the size and shape you want the island to be and if you want to store your best wine fridge underneath (for those of us who love vino!). As well as the area it will occupy.

That said, an island’s dimension is not dependent on the island itself. It depends on the area surrounding it. Ideally, you should create an access room of 900mm to 1300mm (approximately 1 meter) around the island.

If you build it too close to the other kitchen cabinets, your cooking area will feel cramped. And if it’s too high, you and the other inhabitants of your home might have difficulty reaching for objects on the other end. This might be around the same time you start considering the best refrigerator that will perhaps accompany your island project. 

Investing in such a project is expected to enhance the appeal and function of your nook, not the other way around.

Also, consider the kind of base cabinets that’ll suit your storage requirements before carrying out your DIY kitchen island plans: for standard stock cabinets, a depth of 600mm will suffice (for small, new kitchen island designs, though). While for back-to-back base cabinetry, 1200mm will be appropriate.

Plus allow around 250-400mm of overhang space for legs if you want your counter to also serve as a breakfast bar.

2. Shape of the Island

After determining the size and positioning of your island, the next is to decide the function and frame of your kitchen island.

The shape of your island is determined firstly by the size, shape, and layout of the room. Then factors like the routes around the room and traffic to and from the doorways.

Also, will the island have a hob or will the counter top only be a point for dining and/or socializing?

When you’ve worked out the plan, you can then decide if you want your kitchen island to be L-shaped, T-shaped, or rectangular. Generally, rectangular islands are the popular go-to options — especially if you're planning to add an under counter refrigerator. The under counter fridge will blend into the shape of the island. 

3. Function of your DIY Islands

This will determine if you’ll have a hob placed within the island or it will serve as a breakfast bar or maybe you just need one to improve your home décor.

So if you’re going to fit a hob in your kitchen island, you’ll probably need a countertop clearance of 350-400mm around it. 

Seating at the island and eating on its counter top is common among homeowners and renters. And if you’re going to be doing this, you can consider making yours a raised coffee table, breakfast bar, or a regular table-high surface.

Make room for an overhang so stools for kitchen island can slide underneath and legs can fit right in.

4. Storage spaces for your kitchen island

Another big reason people build kitchen islands is to function as a secondary storage space to the kitchen cabinets.

However, the kind of base cabinets that will fit into your kitchen island depends on the purpose of the island, itself. So if your island will have a hob, the drawers can be crafted to hold spices, cooking utensils and cooking hardware like the best nonstick pans you own.

And if it’ll house the washing-up sink, it’ll be wise to have the dishwasher and waste bins in the kitchen island. Spaces for storing detergents and dishcloths can also be designed on the island.

Embarking on Your DIY Kitchen Island Project

Since we’re going to build a DIY kitchen island, it might be safe to say we’re working on a shoestring budget for our little home and kitchen renovation project.

So in this article, we’re going to build a modern but inexpensive DIY kitchen island. But first, we need to know what tools to work with on this project.

Materials and Tools for DIY Project

  • Stock cabinet
  • Wood screws
  • Nail gun
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • Power drill
  • L-shaped brackets
  • Industrial adhesive
  • Countertop
  • Measuring tape
  • 2×4 wood blocks
  • Pencil
  • Spirit level
  • Plinth

Steps to Building our DIY Kitchen Island

1. Mark the area for the installation of the DIY kitchen

First, we’ll tape the position where our DIY island will sit and take measurements of its dimension. 

2. Assemble your kitchen cabinets

You can either construct a kitchen cabinet, reface your old kitchen cabinets or decide to buy a stock cabinet from Home Depot (depending on the amount of storage you want and the sizes that’ll fit your kitchen needs). It’s cheap to get new ones.

Then mount them on the spot you marked out for your kitchen island. And use a spirit level to ensure the cabinets are level.

If they’re not level, you can adjust their height by twisting their feet.

3. Screw the two kitchen cabinets together

Before you do that, clamp both cabinets with a G clamp or any makeshift clamp you have.

Then attach the cabinets together by screwing through to the part where both sides of the cabinets meet using pre-drilled holes.

4. Construct the outer walls of your island

We’ll construct our side panels by cutting our plywood to fit the length and width of both sides. And repeat the process for the front panel.  Make sure you're leaving enough room for your best under counter wine cooler.

5. Attach your side and back panels to the floor and cabinets

First, lay the three panels next to the cabinets. Then screw two L-shaped brackets each to their feet (the spot the sidewalls will meet the floor). This way, the end panels (side walls) will have the best support.

Afterward, clamp the side panels to the cabinets and position the back panel between them. You can hold the three panels together to the cabinets with duct tape.

To make your island look neat, the brackets should be placed within the space that will be enclosed by the island, not behind or outside the island.

Use a tape measure and spirit level to ensure they’re plumb and they sit level. That is, they’re all equal heights, and that the width of the back panel doesn’t go beyond the positions of the side panels. If they aren’t level, make minor adjustments with shims.

6. Screw the panels to the floor

After holding the parts in place with duct tape, it’s time to assemble the sides and center walls (back panel).

Slide the kitchen cabinets out from the panels (leaving only the outer walls in place).

Then screw the L-shaped brackets at their feet. From what we’ve described so far, you should have at least 6 L-shaped brackets – two (2) each for the three panels.

7. Install the new kitchen cabinet

Slide the cabinets back into the open space between the sides and back panels. And use more L-shaped brackets to screw the cabinet to the back panel with your nail gun.

8. Attach the side panels to the base cabinets

To do this, use the pre-marked nail holes to drill through the stock cabinets from the inside.

You can drill to a depth of 20 – 25mm since the thickness of both the sides and cabinet combined will be 30 mm.

A very important thing to pay attention to: make sure you use a drill diameter that’s not as wide as the screws. This is so the screws will be tightly fixed to the holes.

Now, it’s time to screw through to the end panels. And you can also attach your cupboard doors if they've got any.

And when you’re done, we’ll begin fitting the plinth to the bottom of your kitchen peninsula.

9. Fit the plinth to the bottom of the cabinet

You’ll have to place the plinth at the front of the feet of the cabinet (the part where you’ll fit it). Then mark the center points of the feet on the board. That is, you’ll have four (4) brackets fitted to the board. Two at both ends and two at the middle.

Afterward, screw the brackets halfway up the ends of the plinth (above the marks). And slide in the clips and clip the plinth onto the legs.

You can use a baseboard made of 2×4 wood blocks if you don’t want to use a plinth. But mitering the baseboard will be quite difficult.

10. Fit the countertop

Get your wooden worktop, place it on the cabinet, and position it how you’ll like it to sit.

You can decide to leave extra room for a breakfast bar overhang and sitting; say around 200mm.

Your tape measure will help you with this. Then drill holes at the edges of the countertop close to the points where it meets the cabinet (this should be done underneath the wooden worktop).

Use more support L-shaped brackets to attach the worktop to the cabinets.

Now there you’ve just created a beautiful piece of art. You can stand back and admire your precious handwork.

20 Cool DIY Kitchen Island Ideas

You don’t need to spend a fortune to modernize your kitchen with an island. As simple as upgrading your island with a distinct paint color can work magic in your home reno.

Here are some budget-friendly DIY kitchen projects you can replicate to give your nook a rebirth.

1. DIY kitchen island with trash can

a. With only waste bin

With less than $200, you can build your kitchen island and have the storage space fitted with a foldout trash can.

Credits: Remodeling Costs

This is one of the most popular purposes DIY kitchen islands serve. And instead of installing a trash can, a small compost bin will suffice. This is a very sanitary option.

This way, you won’t need to move scraps or waste across your kitchen. Simply pull out the cabinet and off the dirt goes!

But this isn’t a great option for every home as you’ll always need to empty the trash regularly, else there will be a build-up of bad odors.

Another thing is that it’s a superb choice, and if your island is tall, the waste bin can serve as your primary (and only) trash can.

b. With trash can and storage space

But having only trash cans is not the only trend for your kitchen islands.

Another great idea is using one cabinet as a room for storage and tucking a pull-out bin in the other. There’s hardly any better method to maximize your cooking area especially if you’ve got a small kitchen.

Source: The Spruce

2. Painted DIY Kitchen Island

Instead of scrapping that old island that you no longer fancy, why don’t you upcycle it with new paint color and give it a facelift?

Source: Pluck Kitchens

This is an inexpensive trend of getting a ‘new’ island as you’ll be making use of preexisting materials. The only thing you’ll splash the cash on is the color paint for the walls and cabinets of the DIY work.

Plus it is super easy and time-friendly to carry out designs like this since there’s hardly any construction needed. Projects can like this can cost less than $100.

Aside from painting the whole of the island, there are other ways you can upcycle your kitchen island;

You could color paint the body of your DIY creation with an accent that complements your kitchen. And then use epoxy to finish the countertop. You could also decide to completely use another countertop material to give the kitchen a more modern look and feel.

Source: HGTV

The common downside to this plan is that your old cabinet might not have enough storage: that’s if extra storage is your primary aim of undertaking this home renovation.

Nonetheless, you can install a set of new cabinets and even tag a couple of other hardware and accessories to create room for other kitchen wares. These improvements should still cost less than making a new one from the scratch.

3. DIY Kitchen Island with New Countertops

Speaking of changing your countertop, here’s an upgraded piece with a marble countertop.

You could use quartz, granite, or other materials you can afford. Just knowing that using materials like these is pure luxury. And there’s hardly a better way of making a statement than upgrading your countertops.

Source: Remodeling Costs

Plus luxurious worktops come with lots of advantages like being stain resistant, heat resistant, being easy to clean and maintain, and lots more. Add a touchless kitchen faucet to make it even better!

And the beauty, status, and ambiance they confer to your home can’t be overemphasized. However, countertops like these don’t come without digging deep into your reno budget. And you may need to reseal marble and granite countertops once a year, and they’re also porous natural stones.

Source: Classy Clutter

Upgrading to a marble countertop can set you back around $400 if it’s a small island. But if yours is a big one, expect to shell out around $5,000.

4. DIY Butcher Block or Used Wood

There are a lot of interesting features about reclaimed wood, but one striking feature is the visible stories that can be observed due to the defects it has endured over time.

Secondly, it’s environmentally friendly since you’re recycling old wood and no new trees are being felled.

Credits: Sopurce: Cherished Bliss

And if you don’t have used wood from old doors or walls, you can get a butcher block. Butcher block is pretty solid and can withstand a lot of pressure.

However, such kitchen islands don’t come without a few disadvantages. They can be quite pricey especially since you might not be able to gather enough wood for the project. Here are some designs for your DIY kitchen islands.

This designer used butcher’s block as its worktop.

Credits: Remodeling Costs

This next one is an industrial-style reclaimed wood.

Credits: House By The Bay Design

5. DIY Brick Kitchen Islands

Used wood and scrap metal are not the only household materials serving alternate functions in the home.

Building materials like brick are now being used to decorate homes; giving your interior decor a chic and vintage look and feel.

Credits: Remodeling Costs

In designing brick islands, you don’t give up your storage space for the exquisite bricks. Instead, you’ll have your cabinets protected by a wall of rustic brick exterior.

The advantages of having these brick-styled islands in your cooking nook are that they’re eye-catching. They elevate the decoration of your kitchen and the bricks can last a lifetime.

Another interesting feature of this kitchen fixture is that its color and design camouflages dirt: so they don’t get dirty easily.

On the flip side, the brick wall could pose a safety hazard if you’ve got kids in the house. And because of their nature, they’re difficult to replace or remove. So they tend to be used as permanent fixtures.

6. DIY Rolling Kitchen Island

If you’ve got a small space serving as your kitchen, building a small rolling island will be a great idea to economize space. And it’s also inexpensive to install.

There are a couple of ways to construct such islands.

You can repurpose old materials like an old desk. This inspiration from Old Country House applied a fresh coat of accent blue paint on an old school desk. The countertop is made with faux marble while the wheels are caster wheels.

Credits: My Old Country House

There’s nothing not to love about this vintage (now modern and chic) rolling creation.

This other rustic island from Shanty 2 Chic is super easy to make and doesn’t take much time. It also features an open shelf and caster wheels to help wheel the structure around.

Credits: Shanty 2 Chic

And to make the beaut a bit more functional, hooks and hangers have been added to carry towels.

7. Kitchen Island with Hidden Racks

Sometimes, leaving spice containers, fruits, and vegetables exposed on your counter top and open storage spaces can make the kitchen look cramped and untidy.

You can have a ‘secret’ rack or drawer constructed at the sides to keep spices within reach but of sight. Having a spice rack is not only a cool way of transforming your home, it also helps declutter the little space you’ve got.

Credits: Remodeling Costs

In addition, an island spice rack can help you organize the room by stashing jars and other stuff that can make the place look a bit messy. And since it can cost around $130 to fit one to your cupboards, it’s totally worth having one.

Remodeling Costs

But even though some of your spices and veggies will be within reach, you might have to bend down to reach the lowest rack. And secondly, not all islands have provisions for attaching such ‘secret’ racks.

8. Small Kitchen’s DIY Kitchen Island

Who says having a small space is a yardstick for not having a glamorous kitchen island grace your space?

There are so many designs and practical solutions to give your kitchen an island that’ll be functional and also elevate the ambiance of the nook.

This small island has got two cabinets and two extra spaces for storing other little cookware. This style makes your kitchen neat, uncluttered, and a bit spacious.

Credits: Instructables

This second small island is narrower with an acceptable height. Plus it’s got two shelves to store wine and whatnot.

Credits: Instructables

This next one uses reclaimed wood and features hardware for towels plus some spaces for pots, pans, and plates.

Credits: Our Vintage Home Love

And this next idea from Mama Sarahs costs less than $50 and is basically a little table with an open shelf.

You can also upcycle an old piece of furniture like this reused desk.

Credits: Remodeling Costs

9. DIY Kitchen Island with Repurposed Bookshelf

If you’re a real foodie who likes trying out new delicacies and spices, why not bring all your cookbooks (and favorite books) to the kitchen?

That old bookcase of yours can be transformed to be the center of attention in your kitchen.

And since the bookshelf holds lots of spaces, it can be used to supplement the other storage spaces you’ve got in your nook.

Take a cue from Kreating Homes.

Credits: Kreating Homes

…And another idea from Little Glass Jar.

Credits: Little Glass Jar

Now you’ve learned how to build a kitchen island, do show us your wonderful creation when you’re done.

And if you don’t have the skill or time to build one, feel free to buy one that suits your home and personality.

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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