Kitchen Makeover Reveal | Main Floor Renovation | House by the Bay Design

How to Build a DIY Kitchen Island

How we created our DIY Kitchen Island with prefab cabinets, a little trim, and unfinished butcher block countertops for an upscale custom look.

Love this island? Check out the full open concept kitchen renovation

Kitchen Renovation Makeover Reveal | Spring 2018 One Room Challenge | House by the Bay Design

Chris and I recently renovated our main floor to remove a load bearing wall and create an open concept kitchen/dining area. This was a huge undertaking and one that we had planned for over a year. Since we finished, there are two things people comment on the most when they see our new space – how much bigger the space looks now (the photos really don’t do it justice) and our massive island. 

Yes, it’s massive. At 92” x 47” it’s bigger than any store bought island we could find.

That’s actually a big part of why this was a DIY project. We really wanted a big island and the biggest ones we found were both a) smaller than we wanted and b) WAAAAY outside the budget. 

But to DIY the whole thing, cabinets included? Nope, not worth it. While I don’t mind building cabinets (like the storage unit in our bedroom) IKEA cabinets are affordable and so very convenient. 

So, we created our DIY kitchen island with some IKEA base cabinets, a small DIY bookcase, some MDF panels and two unfinished butcher block countertops laminated together. Interested to make one yourself? Here’s how we did it!

p.s. I apologize for all the late night photos and cat food cameos, we did most of our renovation work at night!

DIY Kitchen Island Materials

  • Three IKEA kitchen base cabinets
    • 1 – 30″ wide cabinet
    • 2 –  24″ wide cabinets
  • 2x4s for island base & support wall
  • L-Brackets
  • 1/4” & 5/8” MDF
  • Decorative flat trim
  • Baseboard
  • Small DIY Bookcase
  • Butcher block countertop (tutorial)

Build an island base from 2x4s

DIY Island Base from 2x4s

To make sure our island is not going to move around, it requires a base to secure it to the floor. IKEA does sell these, but we decided to build our own using 2x4s. Essentially, the base is a wood frame, attached to the floor using L brackets, that the cabinets sit on top of. The size of the base is determined by how big the island is going to be and how much overhang there should be at the base of the cabinets. So, math. You need to do math.

We wanted our cabinets to have a 2.5” overhang at the front and one side to match the existing base cabinets, but the back and other side could be flush with the base because they would be hidden. Here’s a diagram that shows the bottom view of the island with our measurements which will hopefully explain this a little better:

For our island we used this formula: 

For our island, which has a combined cabinet size of 78” x 24.5″, we used this formula to figure out both the length and width of the base:

Cabinets – ((Overhang + kick plate thickness)* sides with overhang)

Length: 78 – ((2.5 + 0.25)*1) = 75.25”

Width: 24.5 – ((2.5 + 0.25)*1) = 21.75”

Once assembled, we attached the base to our hardwood floors using L brackets. We added support pieces to the inside to make sure each cabinet would be fully supported.

Create Countertop Support with a Mini Stud Wall

Because we hacked our countertop by connecting two pieces together we needed to make sure the counter would have a lot of support – partly because of the sheer size of the island but also because we didn’t want the seam in the counter to split in the future. To support the weight and help balance the butcher block pieces, Chris built a small stud wall and attached it to the floor and the 2×4 base.

Assemble and Install Cabinets

We found the IKEA cabinets pretty easy to install (although we are IKEA pros). We followed the instructions, but skipped a few of the fiddly bits on the back that would interfere with the stud wall. If you’re going to use drawers in your cabinets like we did, I highly recommend installing the slides in the cabinets before you attach them to the base – learn from my mistakes. 

Once assembled, we attached the cabinets to the base by screwing through the bottom and into the 2×4. At this point we also attached the MDF bookcase I built to the side of one base cabinet and into the stud wall. 

You’ll notice in that photo that we have an electrical wire coming up through the floor. Because of the size of our island it needs to have an outlet to meet the building code standards in our area. We ran the wiring through the stud wall and into a space build into the top of the bookcase. The outlet was installed before the top of the bookcase was covered up by the countertop.

Install Countertop

To top off our island we used butcher block with a 17.5X” overhang – a very comfortable amount of legroom when sitting in a barstool. To install the butcher block we screwed through the top of the cabinets (and the top of the stud wall ) into the bottom of the counter. Our countertop itself is actually a whole other DIY – that tutorial can be found here!

Add Cover Panels Decorative Trim

Once all the structural buts of the island were done, it was time to finish everything for a custom look. I used three panels of 1/4” MDF to cover the support wall and then hid the seams using some flat trim. We then added some of our baseboard material along the bottom. 

Add Island Legs to Support Overhang (if using)

There’s a couple of ways you could add legs to support the countertop overhang, you could DIY them like we did, or you could purchase premade legs. You might not even need to add legs, depending on how much overhang you have and the weight over your countertop. 

We decided we wanted 4”x4” legs and Chris got about making them out of 5/8” MDF. For each leg he attached small squares of wood to the underside of the cabinet and directly below to the floor. The legs were then built around the squares and nailed into place, like this:

Under the edge of the countertop (between the legs) we added 2.5” strips of 5/8” MDF that helps the legs look connected to the rest of the island.

Prime, Paint & Install Doors/Drawers

The last step is to prime and paint everything. Because we used a lot of MDF in this project, and I find that MDF really soaks up paint, I decided to use a PVA primer first. It’s the same primer I use on new drywall and it really seemed to help. For the cabinet drawer fronts, I used Bullseye 1-2-3 which is my favourite cabinet & furniture primer. Once primed, everything was painted with Benjamin Moore Advance paint in Days’ End to match the rest of the lower kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Island Drawer Organizers | Kitchen Makeover Reveal | House by the Bay Design

Because the Advance paint needs a long time to cure (30 days) if you have to paint the drawer fronts as well, I would recommend painting them before you build the your island so that they’re ready to install right away. 

So there you have it, how we built our massive DIY kitchen island! I know this was a REALLY long post, but If I’ve missed anything or if you have any questions just ask in the comments! AND if you decided to tackle an island like this one I’d love to see your photos so make sure to tag me!

Kitchen Island Bookcase | Kitchen Makeover Reveal | House by the Bay Design
DIY Kitchen island before & after

16 thoughts on “How to Build a DIY Kitchen Island”

  1. Having now seen it in per person, I’m even more impressed! The butcher block top is so warm and rich looking! And the cupboards are fabulous: deep and delicious with tons of room for pots and pans, dishes, casseroles and baking pans, cutlery and more. They tone in beautifully with the original cupboards.

  2. This is an excellent tutorial, Casey. Thanks so much for taking the time to pull it all together in an easier to understand format.
    Can you add the backstory on this:”If you’re going to use drawers in your cabinets like we did, I highly recommend installing the slides in the cabinets before you attach them to the base – learn from my mistakes. ” Last year I added an Ikea base cabinet with drawers (now I want to rip out all my lowers and convert to drawers!), and I’m having a hard time remembering why installing the slides before securing the box might be an issue..
    Again, many thanks!

    1. Thanks Mercedes – I’m glad you liked it! Installing the slides after the boxes are installed is not really a problem, it’s just a bit awkward (at least in my kitchen) because of the small space between the island and the oven/other cabinets and because you have to get into the cabinet (almost) to get the screws in at the back 🙂 I totally recommend doing it though! We’ve found the drawers to be way more functional!

  3. What product and color did you use on your Butcher Block to get such an amazing color? Is the Butcher Block wood Acacia, Maple, Walnut?

  4. Looks amazing!! I am curious on the DIY bookcase as I am looking to add one to the island we just made. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated and welcomed.

  5. Did you make the butcher block or purchase it somewhere? Where was it purchased if so for so cheap.? It’s beautiful.

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