How to Build a Custom Kitchen Island Using RTA Cabinets

Who doesn’t like more counter space? Building a kitchen island using ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets is an inexpensive DIY project to add more counter space to your kitchen.

Next Project
Time

Multiple Days

Complexity

Intermediate

Cost

$501-1000

Introduction

The kitchen island is the central gathering point in any home that has one. It’s where you prep your meals, sweat over homework and blow out birthday candles. Building a kitchen island using ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets is an inexpensive DIY project to add more counter space to your kitchen.

Tools Required

  • 4 ft. level
  • Circular saw
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill driver
  • Quick-Grip clamps
  • straight edge

Materials Required

  • 1-1/4-in finish screws
  • 2x4 blocks
  • 4x8 cover panel material
  • RTA Cabinets
  • Angle brackets

Project step-by-step (9)

Step 1

 Designing and Planning

  • Consider form and function when you design your kitchen island. Having a kitchen sink on the island is handy for prepping food, especially for families who cook together. A cooktop or range in a kitchen island, however, is not recommended due to the possibility of splattering grease on bystanders.
  • Using a free online kitchen planner helps you choose styles and colors of doors, drawers and countertops. The planner gives you a printable itemized list with the costs of all the materials you need.
  • Before you start, check the accessibility of the plumbing and electrical needed for your island. If you're not doing the utility work yourself, get at least two estimates from plumbers and electricians. Check with your city inspector regarding permits needed.

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Step 2

Cabinet Assembly

  • RTA cabinet parts are shipped in a flat box and typically assembled using dowels, glue and screws.
  • Ikea RTA cabinets use dowels, cam locks and nails. Follow the assembly instructions provided by the cabinet manufacturer.
  • For more details on RTA cabinet assembly go to Family Handyman's How to Assemble RTA Cabinets.

Assemble Rta Cabinet

Step 3

Cabinet Placement and Leveling

  • Once you have all your cabinets assembled, place the center cabinet first. (If your first cabinet has a sink, now is the time to drill holes in the bottom of the cabinet for the plumbing and electrical.)
  • Level the cabinet left to right and front to back by turning the adjustable legs. Set and level your next cabinet.
  • Clamp the cabinet to the first one while you connect them using 1-1/4-in. screws.
  • Continue setting, leveling and securing cabinets to each other. Once all the cabinets are connected, check the whole run for level using a four- or six-foot level.

Leveling Cabinets

Step 4

Securing Cabinets to the Floor  

  • Measure the distance between the floor and the bottom of the cabinets and cut 2x4s at that length to create mounting blocks under each cabinet.
  • Secure the blocks to the floor using L brackets and screws.
  • Attach the cabinet to the mounting blocks by driving two-inch screws through the bottom of each cabinet and into the mounting blocks. (See photos.)

Cabinet Block

Step 5

 Wrap the Island

  • To create that custom cabinet look on your kitchen island, cover the two ends and backs of RTA cabinets with overlay panels. These panels match the color and finish of your doors and drawers.
  • Cover panels can be the full height from cabinet top to floor. Or you can stop the panels at the bottom of the cabinet to allow toe-kick space.
  • For a more enclosed look at the overhang of the top, extend the end panels past the back of the island. This will also support the overhanging countertop.

Step 6

Cut the Panels

  • You can purchase pre-made end panels that are countertop depth and attach them to the end of the cabinets.
  • For this project, our end panels are a custom size that extend past the back of the cabinets.
  • Measure the distance from the floor to the top of the cabinet. Cut both end panels to that height and the desired width, using a track saw or table saw.
  • If you’re cutting the end panels from a large 4x8 panel, you may need to apply edge banding to the exposed edges. You have to order the edge banding separately.

Step 7

Attach End Cover Panels

  • Attach the cover panels on each end of the island. Align the front edge of the panel with the front surface of the door and/or drawers. Hold the panel tight to the side of the cabinet with a clamp or two.
  • Secure the panel to the cabinet by driving 1-1/4-in. screws from the inside of each corner of the cabinet into the panel.

Rta End Panel

 

Step 8

 Attach Back Cover Panel

  • If your cabinet island is less than eight feet wide, you can use a one-piece back cover panel.
  • Measure the distance between the two end panels. Add 1/16-in. to the overall length; this ensures a snug fit between the end panels.
  • Cut the panel to height and length using a circular saw or table saw.
  • Hold the panel tight to the back of the cabinets with clamps. Secure the panel to the cabinets by driving 1-1/4-in. screws from the inside of each corner of the cabinet into the panel.

Rta Cover Panel 

Step 9

Two Back Cover Panels

  • If your island is longer than eight feet, you will need to splice two panels together to make one long back panel. The two back panels meet in the middle with a transition board between them.
  • To make your transition board, rip a 7/8-in. piece of panel material the same height as the back panel. Be sure the piece has edge banding along one long edge.
  • To find the overall length of each panel, measure the distance between the two end panels, divide that number in half and subtract 3/8-inch.
  • Cut the back panels to height and length using a circular saw or table saw.
  • Attach the transition board to the end of one of the two back panels using 1-1/4-in. finish screws. Pre-drill the screw holes. (See photo.)
  • Hold the back panel tight to the back of the cabinets and tight to the end panel using clamps. Secure the panel to the cabinets by driving 1-1/4-in. screws from the inside of each corner of the cabinet into the panel. Attach the second panel in the same manner, being sure it’s tight to the transition board and the other end panel.
    • Pro tip: If the second back panel is too tight, instead of cutting it, loosen the screws on the end panel.

Rta Back Panel Splice