Food Central


Is your kitchen a little short on work and storage space? Silly question.

Are you ready to clean out the savings account and begin remodeling your kitchen, top to bottom? Another silly question.

Then how about a solution that isn't silly and doesn't necessarily cost a fortune? Add a work island to your kitchen.

We'll show you how to build one with stock cabinets--in less than two days. If you're not ready for this type of project, hire a finish carpenter and turn him loose with these plans.

The island is assembled from six American Woodmark oak cabinets; the style shown here is Savannah Natural. There's one 12-inches-wide-by-24-inches-deep peninsula cabinet ($243) at each end of the island.

Between are two 12-inch-deep-by-30-inch-wide wall cabinets ($177 each) that are placed back-to-back and topped with a pair of 6-inch-tall-by-30-inch-wide spice drawers ($244 each).

There are five drawers in each compact spice-drawer unit, which are ideal for storing such items as small jars, napkins, silverware and utensils.

To give the island a more finished appearance, we fastened a decorative raised-bevel panel ($74) to each end. The panels are optional and could be eliminated if you want to keep costs down.

You can save an additional $300 or so by choosing cabinets fitted with flat door panels instead of the raised-bevel ones we used.

We hired a counter fabricator to make the 27-by-58-inch solid-surface veneer counter top ($650). The same-size top in plastic laminate would cost significantly less--at least half that amount.

Island Considerations

A center island serves as an extra work station and focal point for the kitchen. In a large kitchen, especially one with a U-shaped layout, an island can be a real time- and step-saver. It also keeps two cooks from bumping into one another when working together.

Keep in mind, however, that not every kitchen can accommodate an island. Squeezing one into a tight space will interrupt the flow of traffic and create an annoying obstacle. According to the National Kitchen & Bath Assn., you need at least 42 inches between the island and the nearest counter top; expand that to 48 inches for a two-cook kitchen.

The suggested walkway width between an island and wall is 36 inches. (For more design ideas, see "Island Living," on Today's Homeowner Web site, kitchen/19981105_feature.html.)

One more important point: The National Electrical Code requires that a kitchen island be equipped with at least one electrical outlet. This enables you to safely use an appliance on the island without running the power cord across the room to a wall outlet. The outlet needs to have ground-fault protection.

Assembly Guidelines

The first step is to build a 4-inch-tall base for the cabinets. That's necessary so that the island top will be 36 inches above the floor, same as the existing kitchen counter top.

Temporarily assemble the six cabinets; remove the doors and drawers and clamp the cabinets together. Measure the footprint of the island at the base. Make the rectangular frame by ripping down a straight 2-by-6 to 4 inches wide, assembling the base and covering it on the outside with oak.

Lay the base in position and toe-screw it to the kitchen floor from the inside of the frame with 3-inch screws. If you have a ceramic-tile floor, bore screw holes for 2-by-2 cleats straight down through the tile with a masonry bit. Then slip the base over the cleats and drive screws through the cleats and into the 2-by base frame. Check with a tape measure to make sure the base is parallel with the existing kitchen cabinets.

Next, install the two end peninsula cabinets. Bore two screw-shank clearance holes in the bottom rail of the face frame of each cabinet and attach the cabinets to the base with 3-inch flathead screws. Cut two 4-by-17-inch support pieces out of 3 3/4-inch plywood and nail them to the sides of the peninsula cabinets; they will support the two middle wall cabinets.

Slide the wall cabinets between the two peninsula cabinets and clamp them in place. Join the cabinets together with 2 1/2-inch-long screws driven through the vertical stiles of the face frames. Bore clearance holes to avoid splitting the hard red oak.

Set the two spice-drawer units between the peninsula cabinets and on top of the middle wall cabinets. Secure each unit by screwing down into the face frame of the cabinet below.

With all six cabinets fastened together, cover the end of each peninsula cabinet with a prefinished plywood skin. The skins aren't absolutely necessary, but they make the sides of the cabinets flush with the edges of the face frames and lend a more finished look to the island.

Next, clamp the raised-bevel end panels to the peninsula cabinets and attach them with 1 1/4-inch screws. Conceal the top of the base with cove molding. Miter the corner joints and attach the decorative molding with 1 1/4-inch (3d) finishing nails.

Run a bead of clear silicone adhesive along the top edges of the cabinets, then clamp the island top in place. Secure it with screws driven up through the corner braces inside the cabinets.

Vacuum out the cabinet interiors, then reinstall the doors and drawers. The only thing left to do now is to figure out what to do with all your extra storage and work space.

Reprinted from the pages of Today's Homeowner magazine. To receive more expert advice on improving your home, call (800) 456-6369 or visit the Web site at


American Woodmark, 3102 Shawnee Drive, Department TH499, Winchester, VA 22601. (800) 292-2935;

National Kitchen & Bath Assn., 687 Willow Grove St., Department TH499, Hackettstown, NJ 07840. (800) 367-6522; http://www

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