How to Build a Kitchen Island & L-Shaped Bar

Written by john fechik
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How to Build a Kitchen Island & L-Shaped Bar
An L-shaped kitchen island provides more work and storage space. (kitchen image by yong hong from

Although there are many ways to build a kitchen island by starting from scratch, the easiest way is to secure two or three lower cabinets together. The ready-made base cabinets will have finished wood ends or those that look like wood to save you the steps of adding these for appearance sake. Making an L-shape island only requires angling some of the cabinets. You also can add a snack bar yourself or with professional help. Building an L-shape island from a few base cabinets is a project most average people can accomplish.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Paper
  • Chalk line or pencil
  • Cabinets or base material of choice
  • 2-by-4-by-8-inch wood blocks
  • Construction adhesive
  • Small finish nails
  • Small hammer
  • Nails or screws
  • Shims
  • Level
  • Clamps
  • Drill
  • 1/8-inch and 7/32-inch drill bits
  • 2 ½-inch screws
  • Saw

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  1. 1

    Sketch out your island ideas on paper to analyse your needs for your island. Align the proposed cabinet arrangement on the floor and use a chalk line or pencil to trace around cabinet placement. Determine spacing and angles to decide if the L-shape is going to fit and decide which way it will face. Two or three base cabinets secured together to create an L-shape are ideal, but other options are available. Give at least 3 feet of clearance near surrounding walls, appliances and cabinets.

  2. 2

    Turn the cabinets upside down and measure the inside perimeter for placement of wood blocks, also known as cleats, using a measuring tape. Estimate the thickness of your toekick. Transfer the measurements of the inside cabinet perimeter and toekick thickness by marking on the floor inside your chalk lines. You should now have your outside perimeter of cabinets marked on the floor and your inside perimeter (with toekick thickness) of cabinets marked on floor.

  3. 3

    Cut 2-by-4-inch wood blocks with a saw, making them 8 to 12 inches long. Place blocks on the floor on the inside cabinet perimeter measurements, placing one block at both ends of the L of the island, and one or more at the front and back for support. Screw or nail the wood blocks to the floor (check with the floor manufacturer for recommended attachment for your floor type), using a drill or hammer. Place a thin strip of construction adhesive on the outside edge of each block.

  4. 4

    Set the cabinets over the secured wood blocks. Squeeze them tightly together and shim (placing small, thin scraps of wood) as needed, from underneath the cabinets to make them level. Look for levelness from all sides, front to back and side to side. The front of the adjacent cabinets should be even with each other, other than with your cabinets that come together to make the L shape.

  5. 5

    Clamp the cabinets together, placing clamps above the drawer slide and above the bottom hinge. Recheck levelness on the front of cabinets with the level, then tighten the clamps.

  6. 6

    Pre-drill a pilot hole (without a screw) with a 1/8-inch drill bit, set at 2½ inches deep, making the hole from the side of the cabinet where the top hinge plate sets on the inside of the cabinet frame. Hold the drill against the top of the cabinet opening for drill steadiness and drill 2½ inches into the cabinet and slightly into the adjacent cabinet. Drill with a 7/32-inch bit to make the hole a little bigger to give a tighter connection and prevent wood from splitting.

  7. 7

    Pre-drill another hole from the bottom of cabinet opening above the hinge plate area. Check levelness and reset, if necessary, and drill appropriate screws into the holes tightly. For the cabinets that come together to make the L shape, drill holes directly into the front of the adjacent cabinet.

  8. 8

    Hammer small finish nails at the base of each cabinet every few inches through the cabinets into the wood block. Nail the toekick at the cabinet base with small finish nails. Screw the cabinet doors and drawers in place, adjusting as needed to level.

  9. 9

    Build up the snack bar area, if using different heights, providing adequate support for the area.

Tips and warnings

  • Additional wood end panels are available from cabinet companies to cover gaps, seams or unfinished sides of cabinets. Alternatively, thin wood panels in custom sizes are available from woodworking stores in various wood grains or unfinished to stain in a colour that closely matches the rest of your kitchen.
  • Securing island cabinets together and to the floor may be fairly easy for the average person, but fabricating and installing your own countertop can be tricky. A ready-made post-form laminate countertop is a good choice if you do not have the skill or tools to do your own countertop, but they may be difficult to find in an L-shape. Varying levels of snack bars may also be challenging for the average person. Consider building an island and bar on one level or hiring a professional if in doubt.

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