How I Designed and Built My Bespoke Oak Kitchen From 2nd Hand Sideboards




About: Lateral thinker, Originator of Inclined Bed Therapy (IBT) Originator of Pocket Full Of Acorns Project. Originator of Operation OASIS.

My wife and I decided that our tired standard kitchen needed replacing and realising that standard fitted kitchens are boring, designed to fall apart, become unstable and are subject to soaking up water spills, a rethink was in order.
We liked the idea of free-standing units in solid wood rather than the usual chip-board but a bespoke kitchen was out of our price range.
Even a sink unit in pine to take a Belfast sink was around £1500.
Being a lateral thinker, I quickly realised that suitable solid oak and pine kitchen units were all over the place, except people were calling them sideboards and chests of drawers and sideboard display cabinets etc etc in their adverts :)
So I entered Solid oak sideboard into Ebay and began to look for sizes similar in height to our existing kitchen and located a design that was aesthetically pleasing to both of us and all that was required to change it into a Kitchen Sink Unit was a couple of holes in the top. Well not quite that simple but not too difficult to achieve with a little modification shown in the linked video.

Everyone who has seen our Kitchen has fallen in love with it, so many times we have been asked where we got it from and they can't believe how little we paid for it when we tell them that they are really side boards and not Kitchen Units they are stunned:)

Step 1: Search for Suitable Solid Wood Furniture, Fittings and Timber That Suits Your Design

By Altering your search terms in Ebay, on Classified Adverts such as Gumtree and local newspaper Classifieds you can locate robust well made solid oak furniture at a fraction of the cost of so called Bespoke Taylor made Kitchen Furniture.
My first searches revealed that even a free standing pine sink unit made to fit a Belfast sink would set us back a staggering £1500. A display unit was even more expensive. So even for a small kitchen such as ours, this tyoe of kitchen would be well and truly out of our budget.

So, being a lateral thinker, I soon thought of those bespoke designer kitchen units as sideboards and chests of drawers, and sideboard display cabinet, etc etc and by adding solid oak along with sideboard the prices began to look very attractive indeed. Don't worry if the sideboard you find is too short. The height can be modified by adding wooden legs using gorilla glue and blocks. You can if required add a screw through the base into the block legs.
So the search was on. I looked for matching items that measured up to a standard fitted kitchen's height and width and although could not match it perfectly, they were close, and having them narrower was a bonus in our tight kitchen space. Our choice was solid light oak furniture from a company called Oak Furniture land, and to our delight there were several available for under £200 though dotted around the country. So patience was the order of the day. I began looking for units close to home and found two very close, but missed them both in Ebay Auction through my own fault. More showed up several weeks later but further afield, so again I waited until two appeared in close proximity so as t minimize fuel costs and transport. The display cabinet was in a completely different area but meant that we could visit our family on the way up and the measurements meant it would fit into the back of our Citroen picasso, which was fortunate. I have a large trailer so could have collected the items in that but chose to hire a friends van for the day. In the end I got two sideboards and a dresser for £437.00 and delayed picking them up until all items were purchased. In the meantime, I managed to locate a stainless round sink new for £30 and a new round drainer for £5.00. Stainless Taps from Ebay cost £35 and £25 and space saving sink waste trap cost £5 from Toolstation along with a few more bits of plumbing, extended hoses for dishwasher etc etc.

I also required some oak planks to make a food cupboard to go on the side of the display cabinet and to make a work surface to support the cabinet.. This cost around £75 and required several tongue and grove boards to be glued and clamped together. The glass shelving for the cupboard was salvaged from the old display unit.

Step 2: Rip Out Your Old Kitchen Units and Dispose of Them Responsibly

IMPORTANT: Make all modifications to your new sink unit before ripping out your old one. This is because varnishing and glueing takes time to dry properly and you will need to use your old kitchen during this time.
Once removed, carefully if you intend to sell your old kitchen on, which is possible, having purchased two second hand kitchens previously.
Or if like mine your old kitchen has seen better days, collapse the old units and take them to your local recycle centre and dispose in the timber section, where the old kitchen can be sent off to be burned and converted into energy. This chipboard should not be burned in a log burner as the glue is both toxic and stinks when burned.

Step 3: Make Good Any Walls That Require Replastering and Sort Out the Plumbing If Required

Plastering is a skilled job and unless you are competent in this art, leave it to someone who is. You can easily get in a mess trying to DIY it and having your attempts to plaster removed when set solid will cost you a lot more in the long run.
Plumbing today is relatively simple and compression joints make it easy to run pipework where it is needed. You will need to add flexible pipes for taps and waste to make moving the unit out in the future easy, and these will require isolating valves to be fitted, though you can get hoses with valves already fitted.

Step 4: Moving One of the Sideboards and Display Cabinet Into Kitchen for Storage

Moving the freestanding sideboard, which comes with work surface included :) into the kitchen along with the display unit created working space in our dining area. But also shows how simple it is to put these free standing units in place, no fitting required here and already the picture of how our new kitchen is going to look becomes apparent.

Step 5: Reducing the Width of the Sink Unit

To make best use of our small kitchen space, we decided to move the washing machine into the conservatory and move the slim line dishwasher into the far end of the kitchen. This would give us 3 large shelved cupboards and a cutlery drawer and storage right next to the dishwasher.
Problem was that the Unit was too long. Initially I had intended to insert the dish washer into one of the cupboards, but I liked the idea of the extra cupboard space, and realised that this particular unit had a hidden section on each side. Having removed all of the solid oak trim and legs, which was glued in place with dowels and a plywood back to the unit which was prized off, the bottom of the unit was sawn flush and the oak corner / leg was cut with a fine tooth saw to accommodate the unit door and sanded with coarse and fine sandpaper to smooth appearance and retain style as shown but affording the top to overhang the dish washer.

Gorilla glue was sued to bond the feet with glue blocks added for strength. Exterior wood glue was used to glue the panels back on to the new side and plywood was cut to form the panel inside the oak trim on the side of the unit.

Step 6: Work Surface Kitchen Sink Unit

The original work surface was faux leather glued to hard board on this particular one. This was pealed off and the excess adhesive was removed with rubbing alcohol and a scraper.
The new exterior plywood top was cut to widen the unit to make the unit flush with the dishwasher and to hide all of the plumbing and pipework behind it rather than inside the kitchen unit as was the case with the old kitchen.
The new plywood top, which has a hardwood surface both sides was stained with strong tea, 4-5 coats and left to dry before being sealed with tough polyurethane mat varnish on the under side taking care not to have any varnish on the upper surface. This was allowed to dry for a day.
A triangle shaped piece of pine timber was screwed and glued at the back of the unit to support the overhanging plywood and enable the unit to be pushed flush against the walls.
The plywood was stuck down with clear silicone so that if required it could be pealed off and replaced to change the appearance or to change to stainless steel surfaces later.

Step 7: Cutting the Holes in the Worksurface, Staining and Varnishing.

Decide where your sink can fit, taking care to make sure it does not overlap the sides in the cupboards and has sufficient room to enable fixings to be used underneath to secure sink and drainer. To cut the hole, place the upturned sink and drainer on the work surface and double check that the holes are going to miss the sides. Locate the centre of the drawn circle using a straight edge and pencil from several cross drawn lines and screw a self taper in the centre. Tie some string to a pencil or pen and set it to a little wider than the outside diameter of the bowl, excluding the flange. This measured 15mm less that the flange in my case. Drill a hole close to the new pencil line and cut the circle out with a jig saw, do same for drainer or if preferred mark out for a traditional oblong sink shape with ruler to suit yours.
Try the sink and drainer and if required adjust holes further with jig saw. Sand off loose wood and stain with strong tea as before. Once dry apply several coats of the varnish. Ours took 5 coats, leaving a couple of hours between each coat and then leave to dry for several days. It is a good idea to modify your new unit before removing your old kitchen.

Step 8: Fitting the Sink and Drainer

These are screwed and sealed with silicon or a gasket, depending on which type you purchase. You will need to cut holes in the plywood back of the unit to allow pipework to be connected to your existing plumbing. I used a flexible pipe for the main waste and hoses to couple the dishwasher and drainer to the waste. All of these were on the outside of the unit and the only thing visible was the space saving low profile waste trap When securing the overflow you will need the curved gasket for a round sink and the flat gasket for a square sink.
The drawer in the centre which contained the sink bowl was shaped to miss the drainer so rather than being a false drawer it is used to house low level items and functions normally.

Step 9: Couple Up the New Sink Unit and Test for Leaks

Testing for leaks should be done on a daily basis for a week after the unit has been installed. This is because plumbing fittings have a tendency to leak later rather than sooner and it is easy to over or under tighten the joints.
The new unit being on legs makes it easy to keep clean and look for leaks. This space we also use for storage so nothing is wasted.
As you can see the unit fits nicely allowing the dish washer to be moved in and out with ease. Another tip is to place plywood under the dishwasher / washing machine to make it easier to pull out, especially if you have a carpet or soft vinyl floor.
In contrast, the unit on the opposite side of our kitchen required no work whatsoever and the addition of a glass work surface means we can use the existing sideboard top as a work surface.

Step 10: Solid Oak Worksurface Shelf for Supporeting Display Cabinet

22 mm Solid Oak Floor Boards with tongue and groove slots make excellent wide planks when glued and clamped together. I used normal floorboard clear wood glue to fix together. Once dried these were sanded with a large orbital sander and a wood plane was used to remove the tongue from the front side of the new work surface. It was then cut to fit between the new kitchen units and the rear wall, supported with angled timber as with the work top previously.
Strong fluted galvanised angle brackets were fixed to the wall to take the shelf / work surface, which also rested on the angled timber that was secured to the new kitchen units to afford a flush surface and the display cabinet was supported at both ends and in the middle by the brackets.

Step 11: Making a Solid Oak Food Cupboard to Fill the Space on the Back Wall.

To make the display cabinet more functional and improve it's look, a small food cupboard was made using the same 22mm tongue and grove oak floor boards. The joints were screwed and glued using gorilla glue and the glass shelves from the old unit were salvaged along with the inserts that support the shelves. (The only useful bits from the old kitchen)
Holes were drilled to take the shelf insert brackets and the oak work surface and new cupboard were stained with strong tea and coated with furniture wax several times making sure that both sides were fully coated to prevent timber from warping.;
2 x Stainless Ikea Wine racks purchased again from Ebay secong hand were secured to the wall to make use of the space left on the right hand side.

Step 12: Stand Back and Admire Your Handy-work :)

Hope you have enjoyed this DIY Kitchen Hack and found the tips useful.
Do watch the video instructable because it covers each aspect in more detail.

Do check out my website for information about my research into circulation:

On a Budget Contest

Third Prize in the
On a Budget Contest

Wood Contest

Participated in the
Wood Contest



    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest
    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest

    11 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I have moved 32 times (I HATE moving!), but plan to move one more time, back home to Alaska. Moving has taugt me the value of flexibility. Movable kitchen makes so much sense, especially when needs change with circumstances. A small family often needs less kitchen than a growing family. Thank you for your inspiring Ible

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    32 Times? You have a reason to hate it!


    Thanks I agree, having kitchen units you can move around and add to say a tall chest of solid oak drawers or another display cabinet above a sideboard, the options are endless and as you say you can reduce the kitchen when family moves out to create more space. And let's not forget that simply dragging a unit out makes painting and decorating much easier and Wife likes being able to hoover under the units :)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    And you can make whatever feet you want, as high as you want. It's amazing how many workmen tell me "No you don't want them that high- or It isn't done!"

    1 reply

    Yes, any design you like, there are many oak sideboards on Ebay with potential to be widened or made taller with simple modifications and the quality of these solid oak units is far better than any kitchen units I have seen.

    Thanks, Wife thinks so too :) It is a very simple modification to existing dining room and lounge oak furniture that is set to take off once people begin to realise they are being overcharged for units just because they have a kitchen lable.


    4 years ago

    This was awesome thank you. I had never thought of this idea and am glad to have had my options expanded.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Surprisingly not once you consider that only the sink unit needed modifying, and the shelf / oak unit were easy to make. The Unit on the left and display cabinet went in untouched.