How to Build a Custom Kitchen Island
DIY kitchen remodeling expert Paul Ryan builds an affordable kitchen island by using stock cabinets, beadboard, a stainless-steel countertop and glazes.
The room needs to be measured to locate the island in the best spot and to place the base cabinets. The cabinets in this project are pre-ordered stock cabinets. Remove all tables and chairs from the kitchen and measure to find the center of the room. Mark that spot on the floor. The island can be centered on this point but make sure to adjust for your specific space.
When measuring for a center island in a kitchen, be sure to leave enough room on all sides to open all appliance and cabinet doors. An ideal space on all sides of a kitchen island is 48” to 54”, but it should never be less than 36”.
Bring in the first cabinet and mark the center of that cabinet, then match that mark with the one on the floor (Image 1).
Set the remaining cabinets in place, checking the measurements as you go.
Cut some 2” x 4” blocks of wood to fit under the cabinets as anchor blocks. Move the cabinets aside and screw the blocks to the floor (Image 2). These blocks will keep the cabinets where you want them.
Set the cabinets back in place over the blocks.
The cabinets are in the right place, but they are just loose cabinets until you tie them all together, making them into a single unit that will hold weight. Make sure they are level.
Remove the drawers to access the face frames. Before clamping the frames together, make sure all exterior surfaces are flush. So-called quick clamps (Image 1) are great because they require only one hand to tighten them while the other hand is free to adjust the cabinets.
Once the frames are clamped together pre-drill the inside of the frame with a countersink bit. Then use some wood screws and a cordless drill to screw the frames together. Work from the top of the frame to the bottom.
Move to the next cabinet and repeat the process. Continue until all the face frames are tied together.
Next the cabinets have to be attached at the back. Insert scrap pieces of wood as spacers (Image 2) between the cabinets. Make sure the spacers are flush to the top and back of the cabinets, then screw them together. You may want to use a clamp here just to hold the spacers in place while you use the screw gun.
To level the island unit, utilizing shims where needed. When cabinets are in place level and plumb, score the shims with a utility knife and snap them off flush with the exterior edge of the cabinet surface (Image 3).
Anchor the bottom of the cabinets with wood screws to the 2” x 4” blocks installed earlier.
Measure the back of the cabinets for the beadboard panels. Using a circular saw cut the beadboard panels with the backside up so the finished side doesn’t chip.
Apply a strong bond construction adhesive to the back of the cabinets and push the beadboard into place, making sure it gets good contact over the entire surface. If necessary secure the beadboard with short brads or small finish nails, making sure they don’t puncture through to the cabinet interiors.
Determine the size of the laminate countertop by measuring the length and width of the cabinets. Include a 1 1/4" overhang on one end of the countertop. Determine the length of the curving overhang at the other end.
Mark and snap a chalk line on the particleboard.
Clamp a straightedge to the particleboard to make sure the cut is straight, then, with a circular saw, cut the length of the particleboard along the straightedge (Image 1).
Cut leftover piece of particleboard the same width as the countertop and as long as the overhang at one end of the countertop. Apply wood glue to one side of this newly cut piece, and with the trim nailer, attach it to one end of the particleboard, doubling its thickness. This doubled end will later be rounded off by jigsaw and eventually serves as the overhang.
Cut 3" wide strips (Image 2) to be glued and nailed into place on the same side of the particleboard as the overhang piece. Place these strips flush to the edge of the particleboard, all the way around the perimeter. A laminate strip will be attached to this now-double edge, making the countertop appear 1½” thick.
Mark a half circle on the double end (the overhang end) of the particleboard. Use a jigsaw to cut the round end off (Image 3).
With the particleboard ready to receive the laminate, it's time to cut the laminate. Be sure to cut the main piece of laminate slightly larger than the particleboard so you can route all the edges to be flush to the edge strip.
Clamp the laminate to the 2” x 4”s to hold it steady while you cut the strips that will be the edge pieces. The top gets cut the same way. (It’s good to have someone help hold the laminate when it’s being cut).
When finished cutting, use a disposable paint brush and apply contact adhesive to the edges of the particleboard and to the back of the laminate strips.
Once the contact adhesive is dry to the touch begin applying the laminate to the edges of the particleboard (Image 4). Let it overlap on the top and bottom and carefully work your way around the edge.
When the entire edge is attached roll the edges with a laminate roller to make sure there’s good and consistent contact between the laminate and the particleboard.
Using a trim router and a flush-cut bit, route the top of the laminate flush with the surface of the particleboard (Image 5).
Flip the board over and repeat the same process on the back moving carefully down the edge until both sides are routed flush.
Once the sides are complete, apply the contact cement to the back of the top piece. Set the top piece aside to dry while you apply contact adhesive to the surface of the particleboard.
While the adhesive is drying, place wood dowels 4” apart on the surface of the particleboard (Image 6).
Place the laminate on top of the dowels, and, starting at one end, carefully applying the laminate to the particleboard, removing one dowel at a time as you go.
Continue to check the overlap on both sides as you move down the laminate until you can remove the last dowel, and the final edge of laminate is applied. Use a roller to make sure the surfaces are making good solid contact with each other.
Route the sides with a flush-cut bit, carefully working your way around.
Finish the routing with a small round-over bit (Image 7), which smoothes the sharp edges. You can also use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the edges if you don't have a round-over bit.
Pre-drill the interior corner braces of the cabinets; the countertop will be attached using these holes. Set the countertop in place and check the reveal on all sides (Image 1).
Since the cabinets already have been levelled and shimmed you know the counter should be nice and level. Attach the countertop with 1-1/2" screws. Using these shorter screws will keep from screwing through the particleboard and into the laminate.
Put the screws through the corner braces where you pre-drilled. Put a screw in each corner brace and screw only far enough to snug the counter to the base (Image 2).
Once you figure out how tall the columns need to be (depending on your ceiling height), transfer that measurement to the 1” x 6”s that will be used for the columns. (For this project the column length is 58-1/2".)
Cut the 1” x 6”s board to length.
Mark a line 6-1/2" from the end of the board for the center flute, and then 7 1/2" for the two outside flutes. The center flutes for this project are 49 3/4" and the two outside flutes are 48-3/4". Set up a routing jig so you can be sure all the flutes are identical.
For a routing fence, screw a 2” x 4” to the work base (Image 1), insert a spacer and clamp a 1” x 6” board in place. Route the center flute.
Continue routing until all the center flutes are complete, and then change the spacers, and begin routing the two outside flutes.
Once you complete one side, flip the board around and route the other side, making sure to evenly match the routes.
Repeat the process until all the flutes are completed.
Use a table saw to cut the long edges of all fluted boards at 45-degree angles (Image 2) so the columns will have a seamless appearance once they're assembled.
To assemble the columns, apply a bead of wood glue to both mitered edges, and — using a nailer
You'll need a helping hand to install the columns and the beams.
To center the columns over the base cabinets, first take some measurements. Find the center of the countertop and make a mark. Then measure from the edge to determine how far the column should be from the end of the countertop and make a mark.
Install an anchor block on both ends of the countertop (Image 1) so you can tie the base of the columns to the surface.
Set the columns into place over the blocks, and measure between the two columns at the base so you can transfer this measurement later.
Plumb the columns side to side and mark the ceiling so the tops of the columns can be centered on the countertop.
Begin building the beams that connect the columns by cutting a 1” x 6” for the top piece. Again, cut the ends of these beam boards at 45-degree angles. Tack the 1” x 6” to the ceiling with a nail gun to hold it in place, and then secure it with screws.
Measure the outside distance between the two columns to get the length of the two outside pieces. These pieces are cut on the miter saw; cut the ends at 45-degree angles (Image 2).
Use another mitered piece of 1” x 6” to make sure the sides are positioned where they need to be. Then, using a trim nailer, put a couple of nails in each board and attach the pieces to the columns.
Cut the two pieces for the two ends and install those with the nail gun.
Before you can go any further, you'll need to plumb the two columns Now that they're connected, it should be easy.
Use a level and check the first column. If it's plumb, go ahead and nail the beam (Image 3) to the first piece that was attached to the ceiling. This will tie the entire assembly to the ceiling piece.
Once the structure is secured to the ceiling you can cut the bottom panel of the beams. Tap it into place and then nail it from the sides (Image 4). Screw the base of the columns to the anchor blocks that were installed earlier.
Cut some base molding (with 45 degree cuts) for the bottom of the columns and install it with the trim nailer.
Using the same measurements, cut some cove molding for the top of the columns and nail into place (Image 1).
Measure the entire length of the beam for the crown molding and cut with a miter saw. Get some assistance to hold the molding while you nail it in place.
Install the end pieces by using a brad nailer to keep them from kicking out while being nailed.
Once the crown molding is up use some spackle to fill the nail holes and some all-purpose caulk for any visible seams.
After the caulk and spackle dry, lightly sand all surfaces with a fine-grit sandpaper.
Finally, give everything a coat of primer paint, and a final coat of semi-gloss paint.
As a finishing touch you can install a pot rack on the beam by installing some large lag hooks and suspending it under the beam (Image 2).
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