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The right kitchen island can provide extra storage and more counter space for both meal prep and dining. Making your own kitchen island is not as difficult as it seems. All you need is the right lumber, a few tools and enough time. Use this guide for step-by-step directions on how to build a kitchen island.
Make a Plan
Does the style of your kitchen require you to invest in a hardwood like oak, or can you use a budget-friendly option like pine? Think about size. Determine the space you have for an island. The right size island shouldn’t compromise your mobility or ability to fully open and close appliances.
Measure & Cut Lumber
Here’s a list of the materials you will need:
- Two 2- x 4-inch x 8-foot whitewood boards
- Two 2- x 4-inch x 10-foot pieces of lumber
- Two 4- x 4-inch x 8 foot untreated fir posts
- Two 2- x 4-foot edged, glued panels or butcher block panels (These should be between 3/4-inch and 1-1/2-inch thick. Choose the thickness that best suits your needs.)
Use a circular saw and a table saw to cut the lumber pieces into the sizes and parts listed. Label each piece for easier assembly later. Here are the pieces you'll measure and cut:
2- x 4-inch x 8-foot whitewood:
- One 33-inch cross leg brace
- Two 23 1/4-inch top sides
Using a table saw, cut approximately 1/4-inch off one edge of each 23-1/4-inch top side pieces and 38-inch top edge pieces. These cuts will get rid with the rounded edges and create a flat surface for attaching the pieces to the center of the top.
Two 2- x 4-inch x 10-foot pieces of lumber:
- Two 29-inch aprons
- Two 20-inch side aprons
- Two 27-inch leg braces
- Two 38-inch top edges
Two 4- x 4-inch x 8-foot fir posts:
- Four 35-inch legs
One 2- x 4-foot edged, glued panels or butcher block panels:
- One 32- x 23 1/4-inch top
- One 36- x 23 x 1/4-inch shelf
Tip: Remember to always measure twice and cut once.
Make Pocket Holes
Pocket holes are drilled at an angle to hide the screws that connect the lumber pieces together. Use a pocket hole jig to create the pocket holes in the cut lumber pieces. The depth of your pocket holes will be determined by the thickness of your cut lumber pieces in Step 2.
Drill two pocket holes on both ends and also at the following measurements:
- Side aprons: 6 inches and 14 inches
- Aprons: 3, 8 1/2, 14 1/2, 20 1/2 and 26 inches
- Cross leg brace: 3, 10, 16 1/2, 23 and 30 inches
- Top side edges: 3, 11 5/8 and 21 1/4 inches
- Top edges: 5, 11, 17, 21, 27 and 33 inches
Make Dado Joints
A dado joint consists of a cross-grain, three-sided channel and is strong so your DIY kitchen island can stand up to everyday wear and tear. Here’s how to create a dado joint:
- Line up the legs flat and set your marking points, one at 6 inches and another at 9 1/2 inches.
- Clamp the legs together.
- With your carpenter’s square, draw a line across all four, at the marks. This will be the location of the dado for the leg brace.
- With the circular saw, cut at both lines, 1 1/2 inches deep, and then make multiple cuts in between your marking point.
- Remove the sliced lumber with a chisel and hammer.
- Smooth out the opening.
- Test the fit with the leg brace until it fits snug and is even with the leg.
Build Leg Assembly
- Lay two of the legs flat with the dado facing up.
- Apply glue to the dado and leg brace and connect them together.
- Secure with 2 1/2-inch screws.
- Repeat this step on the other leg brace.
- Place the side aprons flat and even with the top end of the leg. Confirm that it fits.
Tip: Use a carpenter's square throughout this step to make sure everything is even and square.
- Rotate the leg assembly.
- Measure and mark the center of the leg brace at 9 1/4 inches using the carpenter’s square.
- This is where you’ll attach the cross-leg brace.
- Clamp the cross-leg brace to keep it stable. Drill in 2 1/2-inch screws.
- Align one of the apron pieces with the top and outer edge of the leg.
- Glue and screw into place, making sure that the screw holes are facing in.
- Repeat for the other apron piece.
- Flip the project over so that the cross braces are horizontal.
- Align the other leg assembly on top of the apron and cross the leg brace.
- Glue and screw into place.
- Measure in between the legs. The sides should be 20 inches and the front and back should be 29 inches.
- Cut a 3 5/8- x 1 3/4-inch notch out of each corner of the shelf.
- Set the shelf in the center of the frame assembly with a 1/8-inch gap all the way around the legs.
- Align the top edges and top side edges with the center top, with the pocket holes facing upward.
- Apply glue clamp and screw into place.
- Flip over and sand, then wipe clean.
- Repeat on the leg assembly.
- With the top face down, flip over the leg assembly and attach it to the top.
- Check that one inch extends around the base of the leg assembly.
- Screw the leg assembly and top together.
- Flip over the leg assembly so the island sits upright.
- Seal the wood with conditioner to protect its appearance, the wood itself and reduce wear and tear.
- Apply a stain to enhance the grain.
- A coat of polyurethane can add shine and make your island easier to keep clean.
- Cover each hole with a pocket hole plug.
- Consider topping the island with tile, natural stone or laminate.
- For a less rustic look, paint the wood a color that complements or matches the style of your kitchen.
Knowing how to build a DIY kitchen island is simple. Make a plan. Look at a variety of kitchen island ideas. Decide what size, style and function you want for your island. Split the project into manageable pieces. Cut and label all the pieces one day and assemble them another. Seal the wood to protect it from wear and tear. Consider countertop options such as tile, laminates or marble. Ready to build your DIY kitchen island? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.