Introduction: Custom Kitchen Island

About: I've come to make stuff and chew bubble gum...and I'm all out of bubble-oh wait. I found another piece.

I will be the first to admit that I've built some pretty questionable pieces of furniture in my time.  Right now there is a "desk" in my home office that is little more then a stained piece of wood screwed to the wall.  It bows with the slightest pressure and is just plain awful.  I once told my wife I would build us a custom entertainment center.  What she got was an obomination of wood, glue, nails, and sadness.  So when we were considering getting an island put in our kitchen my wife was not enthusiastic about me building it.  To be honest I was willing to go with one of those rolling ones even though it wouldn't match the rest of our kitchen.  After shopping around a bit we found that any premade island of the quality we would accept was going to cost in the hundreds of dollars.  I decided to MAN UP, so after weeks of begging and groveling and flowers I convinced my wife to give me another try at building something useful.  

I knew that this was going to be a piece of furniture that we would have to look at and use everyday, so it would have to be professional looking.  Second, it needed to match the rest of our kitchen.

If you decide to give this a try, let me tell you, it is alot easier then you would think.  The right tools, and a little planning go a long way.

Step 1: Materials

Unfinished cabinets
Particle board
2 x 4's (this took 8, depends on size)
1/2" drywall (2 sheets)
Drywall patch compund
Quarter round
Wood stain
Liquid nails
Decorative metal shelf brackets
Custom counter top

Step 2: Purpose, Design, Location

First came the design and measurements. 

This island is solely for extra cabinet space and extra counter space.  It will not have a sink or any outlets as my house is build on a post-tension concrete slab foundation and cutting into that for new plumbing and electrical is a big no-no.  My wife and I decided how much cabinet space we wanted and that we wanted a little overhang for a breakfast bar type space. 

The big home improvement stores sell kits with wood veneer that matches prefab, finished cabinets.  You place the cabinets and slap the matching veneer on the back and sides then put the counter top on.  This is not one of those instructables.  Neither of us wanted to be able to see the cabinets from our living room.  My wife and I decided how much cabinet space we wanted and that we wanted a little overhang for a breakfast bar type space.  We settled on two 15" wide cabinets on each side and a 30" wide center cabinet.  Put them all side by side and we had 60" of cabinet length.  We went with unfinished cabinets because it would have been too expensive to order the same cabinets that were built into our house, and I could match the finish on my own.

It was important to buy the cabinets ahead of time to help visualize what the spacing would look like in the kitchen when it was finished.  I needed to make sure someone could stand in between the island and the appliances and still use them.

Step 3: Framing

Once all the planning was done it was time to get building.  I won't get to far into the specific dimensions of my build because it was custom sized for my kitchen and my taste.  Just be aware of all the dimensions of the materials you are using when cutting your lengths.  I began by building the half wall that would surround the cabinets.  I did so using standard framing 2 x 4's and framing screws.  The studs are spaced so that I could use them as a backing for the breakfast bar support.  This spacing is not necessarily to code, so if you are going to make an island that has electrical outlets in it and thus requires a building inspection, you may want to stick to code requirements for your jurisdiction.  I added some temporary braces to the top and bottom of the framing to keep everything square while I positioned it and secured it.

Depending on your type of flooring, securing the frame will differ.  My flooring is super crappy linoleum that came with the house.  It is glued directly to the slab and won't move.  I placed the frame where it was going to go when finished and traced a line around it onto the floor.  I then rolled the frame onto its back.  Using liquid nails I filled in the footprint of the frame on the floor with a zig zag pattern...and little smiley faces.  Then I rolled the frame back upright onto its footprint and the liquid nails.  I then double checked that everything was aligned and square.  Once the liquid nails cures, its not going anywhere so make sure you're happy with the placement.

After the liquid nails is completely cured, which took over night, I removed the temporary braces.

Step 4: Drywall

I didn't use any fancy kind of drywall.  Just plain old 1/2" drywall.  This took about 1 and 1/4 sheets of dry wall.  For those of you who have never drywalled anything, it is really easy to cut.  You just score one of the sides along your cut line and snap it over a solid straight edge.  For 1/2" board you should really use two people.  When you start getting longer thinner pieces it can break really easy without support.  For the corners I chose to go with rounded edges because thats how the walls in the rest of the house look.  This required that I cut the drywall about 3/4" short on each side to account for the curved peice.  You can buy metal or plastic preformed rounded edges that screw right onto the drywall.  Cut you drywall to the correct length and secure it with appropriate length drywall screws.  I wanted my cabinets to be recessed a little so I drywalled about 8" of the inside of the wall so that I would get a nice finished surface all the way up to the front of the cabinets without having to unnecessarily drywall the entire inside of the wall.  You won't ever see the inside of the wall because the cabinets have their own backing.

I didn't have any drywall sheets that butted up together so I didn't need to tape it.  I just used draywall patch compound that comes in a premixed pint bucket to cover the screw holes and smooth out the corners.  This kind has the handy feature of going on pink and drying white so you know when its ready to sand.  Once the patch compund is dry, sand it down so you don't have any lumpy spots over the screws or corners.

After the drywall is sanded I went ahead and textured it.  Since this is a pretty small wall I just used texture in a spray can.  It took about 3 cans to get the depth to match the rest of my house.  Its a good idea to lightly sand the texture after it's dry to make sure you don't have any sharp points.

I took this opprotunity to paint the wall before I put the cabinets in, or the baseboards on so that I wouldn't have to mask any thing off.

Step 5: Cabinets

The unfinished cabinets now needed to be stained to match my exisiting kitchen cabinets.  I would recommend trying to stain the inside of the cabinet doors first to get the color right.  I have a set of unfinished cabinets hanging in my garage so I used the doors from those to get the stain color right.  I got pretty close.

I had never installed floor cabinets before so I took a second to look how my existing cabinets were attached to the floor, wall, and counter top.  My kitchen cabinets are not physically attached to the floor.  After the cabinets were stained I slid them in place.  I purposely made the wall 1/2" taller then the cabinets to allow for a 1/2" piece of particle board to go on top of the cabinets below the counter top.  I did this to give the counter top more support.  Most premade cabinets come with some sort of metal or plastic brackets at the corners to screw the cabinets to the counter top from below.

Step 6: Counter Top

Up until the last second my wife was undecided as to whether or not she wanted a butcher block top so I hadn't ordered one yet.  Ultimately we decided to go with a laminate top to match our existing ones.  I took a picture of my counter top with my phone and went to the hardware store.  Home Depot had thousands of those little tag sized swatches for matching counter tops.  I took a bunch home that kinda looked like the picture on my phone and laid them out on my counter top.  The one swatch that got lost on my counter was the exact match.  I went back to the hardware store with the correct swatch and ordered my counter top.  The sales person did a good job of explaining that I needed to make sure I ordered a top that was at least 3 inches larger in each dimension than my island to allow for the lip of the counter top.  I ordered a top that was 8" deeper than my island to make the breakfast bar overhang.  They also explained to me that counter tops come in stock depths, usually around 18" and 24" and any other size was custom.  Since my counter top would be for and island it is about 36" deep.  This cost a little more but was still pretty cheap.

The counter top took about 2 weeks to arrive.  I would recommend ordering your counter top in advance so as to avoid this delay, but be absolutely sure you know what the final dimensions of your cabinets will be.

Even though the counter top was quite large it was pretty light.  I put some liquid nails on the particle board and layed the counter top in place.  Then from underneath I screwed through the particle board into the bottom of the counter top.  Be absolutely sure that you do not get screws that are too long or they will punch through your counter top.

Step 7: Braces and Finishes

Because I knew my kids would be leaning on the breakfast bar part I needed to brace it.  Before I put the counter top on I marked the wall where the studs were located.  After i put the counter top on I screwed these decorative angles in place.

Finally I added the white base board and the wood quarter round to the front bottom of the cabinets.  Then I caulked all along the bottom so that when I mopped water wouldn't get underneather the island.

I consider this my first truly successful home improvement because it actually looks like it was built with the house.