How to Build a Kitchen Island

Create a portable kitchen island to increase counter space and convenience in your kitchen

2-4 hours

A kitchen island can add value and character to your home. This guide will teach you how to build your own portable DIY kitchen island to increase counter space and improve convenience in your kitchen.

Tip: Before you begin this project, decide on a size for your kitchen island. Make sure the size doesn’t compromise your mobility or ability to fully open and close appliances. For this guide, we built a kitchen island with a width of 38 inches and a height of 35 inches.

What You Need

Cut the lumber
Cut the lumber

To get started, pre-cut the lumber pieces to size based on the measurements below, or the measurements you’ve chosen to fit in your kitchen.

You’ll also need to cut approximately ¼-inch off the top edge of piece and the top side edge lumber pieces to shape them into a square. This will create a smooth surface to attach them to the center of the top.

2- x 4-inch x 8-foot whitewood

• One cross leg brace – 33 inches
• Two top sides – 23 ¼-inch

Two 2- x 4-inch x 10-foot lumber

• Two aprons – 29 inches
• Two side aprons – 20 inches
• Two leg braces – 27 inches
• Two top edges – 38 inches

One 4- x 4-inch x 12-foot lumber

• Four legs – 35 inches

One 1 1/8- x 23 ¼-inch x 4-foot edge-glue board

• One top – 32- x 23 ¼ inches
• One shelf – 36- x 23 x ¼ inches

Create pocket holes
Create pocket holes

Use a pocket hole jig to create the pocket holes in the cut lumber pieces. The holes are drilled at an angle to hide the screws that connect the lumber pieces together. The depth of your pocket holes are determined by the thickness of your cut lumber pieces.

Drill two pocket holes on both ends, as well as on the following measurements:

• Side aprons: 6 inches & 14 inches
• Aprons: 3, 8 ½, 14 ½, 20 ½ and 26 inches
• Cross leg brace: 3, 10, 16 ½, 23 and 30 inches
• Top side edges: 3, 11 5/8 and 21 ¼ inches
• Top edges: 5, 11, 17, 21, 27 and 33 inches

Create dadoes
Create dadoes

• Line up the legs flat and set your marking points, one at 6 inches and another at 9 ½ 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 ½” 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.

Create leg assembly
Create 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 ½-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
• Glue and screw into place on both sides.

Tip: Use a carpenter’s square throughout this step to make sure everything is even and square.

Attach leg braces
Attach leg braces

• Rotate the leg assembly.
• Measure and mark the center of the leg brace at 9 ¼ 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, then secure with 2 ½-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 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.

design the shelf
Design the shelf

• Cut a 3 5/8- x 1 ¾-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.
• Screw into place with 1 ½-inch screws.

Tip: You may have to prop up the frame assembly so that you can get to the pocket holes.

assemble the top
Assemble the top

• 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.

add finishing touches
Add finishing touches

• Apply wood finish or conditioner to protect the appearance of the wood and reduce wear and tear.
• Cover each hole with a pocket hole plug.