How to build a kitchen island from stock cabinets

Updated April 17, 2017

Kitchen Islands are the most versatile addition to any kitchen. They add counter space, centralise cooking areas, add seating and eating areas and appeal to a kitchen layout. The hardest part about making a kitchen island is deciding what to make it with. Some use base cabinets, and others use wall cabinets. The easiest cabinets to use are stock base cabinets because they are going to be the same size as the rest of the base cabinets. Once this decision is made, you can assemble the island.

Determine the amenities that will be in the island. For example, sink, cook top, or full range. This will help to determine the cabinets needed for the island. For this example, the island will not include anything, just additional counter space.

Determine where the island should go. The easiest way to decide this location is to stand at the sink, and take one normal step out into the middle of the room. Where the foot lands, the island should be between 6 and 12 inches beyond that point. Measure this distance from the existing base cabinets, and write it down. Additionally, make sure that all oven doors will open when the island is installed.

Determine the types and locations of cabinets to include drawers, speciality cabinets or just door cabinets. Install drawer cabinets in easily accessible areas.

Order the cabinets from the supplier. Order end cover material for the island. All cabinet manufacturers make panels that can be cut to cover the end of an island.

Measure out, in 2 places from the existing base cabinets, the measurement determined in Section 1 step 2. This will be your layout line for the island. Snap a chalk line along these marks.

Layout the cabinets for this side, and mark the corners on the floor with a pencil. Remove cabinets and install two 2x4 blocks on each corner marked in the shape of an L. Bed each 2x4 with clear silicone caulk, and screw to the floor with 2.5-inch drywall screws.

Install cabinets, starting at the corner. Screw the corner cabinets to the blocks at the bottom. Remember to clamp the face frames together, and screw together with trim screws to ensure the faces look seamless. It may be necessary to shim the cabinets to make tops even.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other side. Shim the gap between the backs of the cabinets at the top. Drill through the backs and shims at the top and through bolt the two sides of the island together, twice per cabinet.

Mark and cut the end cap material. Install the end cap material with adhesive. Caulk the cabinets at the floor line the entire way around. This will prevent spills from getting under the cabinets.


Set the floor blocks back from the line the thickness of the cabinet material at the bottom. Remember to make sure the cabinets are level and straight along the faces. Remove all doors and drawers to make them lighter and easier to handle. You can add additional blocks on the floor at each cabinet joint, but you will have to remove material from cabinets to make blocks fit. Order and install new kick plate pieces to cover the screw holes at the floor level.


Remember to pre-drill for the screws to connect the faces; the wood will split if not pre-drilled. When screwing faces together, make sure screws do not interfere with hinges or drawers. Trim screws should be 1/2 inch shorter than the width of the cabinet faces when next to each other.

Things You'll Need

  • Base cabinets
  • 2x4 blocks 6 inches long--2 per corner and 1 per cabinet joint
  • Clear silicone caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill
  • 2-inch trim screws
  • 2.5-inch drywall screws
  • Drill bit for 2-inch trim screws
  • Counter sink bit
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • String Line
  • Wood Shims
  • 1/2 inch by 2 inch Bolts with nuts
  • 2 Squeeze clamps
  • 4 foot level
  • Chalk Line
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About the Author

Michael Rippetoe has been writing for 15 years, and has recently decided to make it his career. He has been a journeyman carpenter, ASE Master Mechanic, certified irrigation professional and currently writes for this site, designs websites, and does professional photography. Rippetoe's articles appear on eHow, Garden Guides, AnswerBag and others.