[Note1: This entry was actually written in March 2013. I changed the posting date to keep my blog entries in chronological order]

[Note2: Some of the tasks below require specialized knowledge and skill in plumbing and electrical installation. If you do not possess this, you should contact a licensed plumber and electrician.]

by George Taniwaki

Our new kitchen has a 54-inch island. It is smaller than the island it replaces. However, it will be more complex because it will include a prep sink (which requires plumbing connections for hot water, cold water, drain, and air admittance valve). It will also include two electrical circuits, a dedicated GFCI line for a garbage disposal and a branch from a separate line for a GFCI outlet. It will also be nicer with full extension drawers to hold pots and pans and cooking utensils. The old island had shelves instead of drawers.

I will build the island by modifying standard IKEA kitchen cabinets and adding a variety of custom wood trim. I could build the carcase from scratch, but really, you can’t beat IKEA kitchen cabinets for price and quality of fit. I will use two cabinets. A 24-inch wide one on the left will be modified to support an undermount sink and a 30-inch wide one on the right will have an electrical outlet mounted on the rear. An exploded view drawing and photograph of the island are shown in Figures 1a and 1b.


Figure 1a. Exploded view of the kitchen island


Figure 1b. Top front view of completed island

Constructing the pedestal

After the rough-in plumbing and electrical are installed and the hardwood floor is laid you are ready to build the pedestal. The pedestal will support the weight of the island and protects the plumbing and electrical connections from damage. It also hides these connections from view.

The first step is to mark the floor in the kitchen where the pedestal for the cabinet will sit. Remember to leave allowance for a toe kick on all four sides. For this island, the pedestal will be 19″x50-5/8″. Cut 2″x4″s to fit and use 3″ deck screws to fasten them into the floor joists. Repeat twice to form a three layer stack staggering the joints (Fig 2). This will be 4.5-inch tall. Just the right height for a toe kick.

Next, open the box for the 24″wide IKEA cabinet and find the bottom panel. Using a pencil, mark the bottom of the panel with the outline of the pedestal. Mark the top of the panel with the locations for the holes for the water, drain, and electrical connections (Fig 3). Using Forstner bits or circle cutting bits, drill holes and test for fit (Fig 4). Set the panel aside. Make the toe kick by ripping 1/4″ plywood into 4.5″ strips, fill with putty, sand, and finish with three coats of gloss enamel latex paint. Glue them onto the pedestal and tack into place with brads (Fig 5).



Figures 2 to 5. Constructing the pedestal for the kitchen island

Making the false legs

There are six legs on the kitchen island. They don’t actually support the weight of the cabinet, they are merely decorative. Notice that there are five different shaped legs (see Fig 1a) though the left and right legs are mirror images.

Begin by forming six pieces of 1.75″x1.75″x48″ S4S stock. Glue up three 1″x5″x8’S4S poplar boards (nominal dimensions, the actual dimensions are 0.75″x4.5″x96″) to form 2.25″x4.5″x96″ stock. Rip this board in half to produce two 2.25″x2.2″x96″ posts. Similarly, glue up three 1″x3″x8’ nominal S4S poplar boards to form a 2.25″x2.5″x96″ post. Cut them in half lengthwise to get six posts 48″ long. Then run the them through a planer until they are 1.75″x1.75″ S4S.

[Note: After building this project I was able to find 1.75″x1.75″x48″ S4S poplar stock at Home Depot. The price is about the same as the wood I purchased, but it obviously saves time to buy stock that is already the correct dimensions.]

Each outside leg wraps around the exterior of the cabinet and stands proud 3/8″. The foot of each leg has a 1-3/4″ square cross-section and is about 4-1/2″ long. When cutting the feet, make them 1/8″ longer than needed and trim them to fit later, to allow for variations in the height of the pedestal.

Using a pencil and square, mark the posts with the necessary cuts to form the legs. The cross-section of each leg is shown in Figure 1. Note the front center leg does not need any cuts.

Remember to always draw an “X” to indicate the scrap (Fig 6 and 7). Stopped cuts in the long direction are made on a table saw with the fence set to make a cut at 1-3/8″ width (adjust for kerf width) and the blade set at 1-3/8″ height. Through cuts for the center rear leg will require two passes. Use masking tape on the saw table and pencil marks on the legs to indicate the limit of the cut so that you don’t saw into the feet (Fig 8 and 9).



Figures 6 to 9. Cutting the false legs on the table saw

Once the long cuts are complete (Fig 10), cut away the scrap in the short direction using an oscillating saw or hand saw and chisel (Fig 11 and 12). Fill, sand, and apply three coats of gloss enamel on all the visible surfaces and the bottoms of the legs (Fig 13).



Figures 10 to 13. Finishing the false legs

Making the panels

There are four panels on the kitchen island. They are made of 3/4″ sande plywood. Even though the panels are filled and painted, the grain will be visible, so layout the panels so that the grain runs vertically. After being cut, the visible side of each panel is filled with putty, sanded, and finished with three coats of gloss enamel.

The left and right panels are 24″x30-3/8″. Unpack the box with the 24″ IKEA cabinet and find the left and right side panels. Create a sandwich by gluing the left exterior panel to a pair of 5/8: shims and then to the left side panel of the IKEA cabinet (for a total thickness of 2-1/8″). Repeat with the right panel (Fig 14). Use a level or straight edge to ensure the  panels are flat and not warped.

Even though the fronts of the cabinet are different widths (24″ and 30″), the two rear panels are both the same width (28″ wide) so that the center rear leg is centered on the island. They will be glued onto the top and bottom of the IKEA cabinet carcase. This will be shown in the next section.


Figure 14. Making the side panels uses 12 clamps

Assembling the island

Unpack the other IKEA cabinet and find the left and right side panels. These panels will need a hole to thread the electrical conduit for the outlet. Drill a 3/4″ hole through these two interior side panels as close to the rear as you can (so that the conduit doesn’t interfere with the drawers) without it getting covered by the filler block to (Fig 15).

Assemble the carcase of the two IKEA cabinets, but do not add the backs yet. Drop the left cabinet over the plumbing connections and fish the electrical connections. Dry fit the front center leg, mark and cut it to length. To fill the gap in the back between the two cabinets, insert a 1.75″ thick filler block. Glue and clamp the two cabinets, front leg and filler block. The front leg is proud of the cabinet by 1-1/8″ while the back filler is flush with the cabinet (Fig 16). Measure the overhang on all four sides to ensure the cabinet is centered over the pedestal. Then check for level, shim if necessary (Fig 17), and screw it down into the pedestal (Fig 18).



Figures 15 to 18 Attaching the carcase to the pedestal

Attach the IKEA cabinet backs and staple them in place. Dry fit the 3/4″ plywood back panels and the center rear leg, then glue and clamp the panels (but not the leg) in place (Fig 19). Make sure the tops of all panels are flush with the IKEA cabinets. Use a hand plane to trim them if necessary (Fig 20).


Figures 19 and 20. Attaching back panels and trimming the tops of all panels

Take the five remaining legs and dry fit them, paring the rabbet if necessary (Fig 21). Mark them for length (Fig 22), cut them to length (Fig 23), and glue and clamp them in place (Fig 24).



Figures 21 to 24 Attaching the legs to the carcase

Wiring the outlets

There are two outlets on separate circuits for the island. Since the wiring is outside the joist space, it needs to run inside metal conduit and terminate in metal outlet boxes. Thread the conduit through the cabinet (Fig 25), attach the box to the conduit, mount the box to the cabinet (Fig 26), and complete the wiring (Fig 27).

One circuit is dedicated for the garbage disposal and is under the left cabinet. Another is a shared circuit for a GFCI outlet flush mounted on the rear of the right cabinet. This outlet is located at the center point between the right rear leg and the center rear leg. Cut a hole through the back of the IKEA cabinet large enough for the outlet box and the mounting flange (Fig 28). Using a drill and scroll saw, cut a hole in the back panel sized to fit the face of the outlet box (Fig 29), and add a face plate (Fig 30).




Figures 25 to 30. Installing the outlets

Installing the sink

The prep sink is a undermount type. The front rim will be supported by the top panel of the IKEA cabinet. Support the back rim by cutting a piece of 1″x3″ poplar to 22.5″ length and pocket screwing it into the side panels of the cabinet. Mark the center point of each support and mark the center point on the front and rear rim of the sink. Drop the sink in, align the marks, and draw an outline of the rim onto the supports. This outline will ensure the sink is in the right position when you draw the template for the countertop.

(Sorry, no pictures of this.)

Installing the countertop

Make a template of the outline of the countertop using 3″ wide strips of thin flexible PVC hot glued together. The countertop should overhang the legs by 1″ giving it a dimension of 28″x61-1/8″. Use more strips to show the location of all holes. Roll up the finished template and ship it to the factory.

The countertop is 3cm thick granite (absolute black anticado from Pental). The slab and opening for the sink are factory cut. The holes for the faucet, soap dispenser, and garbage disposal switch are cut on-site. Once the slab arrives, mark the location for these holes on the slab and use a drill with a diamond hole cutting bit and dust collection attachment to cut the stone. Use black sealant to attach the slab to the cabinet and to seal the sink to the countertop.

(Sorry, no pictures of this either)

Finish electrical and plumbing

Under the left cabinet, solder the hot water and cold water copper lines to shut off valves. Connect the garbage disposal to the sink. Dry fit the disposal outlet, ABS pipe, sanitary tee, and air admittance valve to the drain and then glue them together with ABS cement (Fig 31). Above the left cabinet, connect the faucet, garbage disposal air switch, and soap dispenser (Fig 32). Finally, wire the ceiling mounted pendant lighting (Fig 33).


Figure 31 and 32. Finish electrical and plumbing, crowded complexity below, simple beauty above

Installing the drawers, doors, and hardware

This cabinet uses standard IKEA drawers, doors, and hardware. Install the drawers and the door hinges following the directions. Sand the drawer faces and cabinet doors (Härlig white) so that paint will adhere. Finish them with two coats of gloss enamel. Install the drawer faces and doors using the IKEA hardware. Adjust the drawer faces and doors so they lay flat and are square to the cabinet. Find the horizontal midpoint of each drawer face, mark it with a pencil and  use a template to mark the holes for the drawer pulls. (Don’t do this freehand.) Drill 5mm holes for the drawer pulls and attach them using the bolts included with the drawer pulls.

The finished island is shown in Figure 33 below. The total cost for the project is itemized below. As you can see, the cabinets are only a small portion of the total cost.

Cabinets, including the drawers, doors, and hardware $  400
Lumber and paint $  200
Carpentry, painting, and cabinet installation labor $       0
Plumbing  materials, including sink and faucet $  600
Plumbing labor, rough-in and finish $  500
Electrical materials, including pendant lights $  300
Electrical labor, rough-in and finish $       0*
Countertop materials, slab and fabrication $  650
Countertop labor, templating and installation $  350
TOTAL $3000

*I am my own electrical contractor. If you hire this work out, it would add about $500

I spent about 200 hours designing and building the island, including all the electrical work.


Figure 33. The finished island, view from above, left, front showing ceiling mounted pendant lights

For more ideas on home remodeling projects see the Home Remodeling Guide.

All drawings and photos by George Taniwaki