Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

Adding a Kitchen Island to Improve Efficiency and Storage

By: Danny Lipford

Kitchen with new island and solid walnut countertop.

Watch this video to see how we built a kitchen island by joining together three stock cabinets with a solid walnut countertop.

Projects Include:

  • Build Island: Constructing a 2’x6’ island from stock cabinets and running wiring through the floor.
  • Walnut Countertop: Installing a solid walnut countertop with tung oil finish on the island.
  • Install Range Hood: Replacing an over the stove microwave with a stainless steel range hood from NuTone.
  • Built-in Microwave: Modifying a kitchen island cabinet to accommodate a microwave oven.
  • Additional Storage: Adding dual pullout trash cans and roll out wire basket organizers.

Read episode article to find out more.

Further Information

Print   Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: An attractive kitchen is nice, but an efficient kitchen is a must. So this week, Today’s Homeowner is adding some function to a young family’s kitchen.

Emily Boutwell: Oh, it’s beautiful.

Danny Lipford: Derick and Emily Boutwell bought this 60-year-old home a little over a year ago.

Emily Boutwell: We really liked the house because of the space, and it being on a cul-de-sac. And it’s an older home and it has a lot of room with a lot of closets.

Derick Boutwell: Honestly, when we found the house, and it had everything that we wanted. And it was on a cul-de-sac, it just made the decision that much easier. We’ve got three kids and it’s nice to be able to put them in the front yard and not worry about, you know, cars traveling up and down the road, you know, speeding.

Emily Boutwell: We do a lot of projects—painting. We just recently painted a bedroom and the hallway, and we’ve been painting at night.

Derick Boutwell: Yeah, it’s easier to paint when the kids are down.

Danny Lipford: The problem they’re facing now is the kitchen. With the exception of some missing hardware, it looks pretty good and it’s spacious, it’s just not very efficient.

Emily Boutwell: The main issue is this house only had one really eating area. And with young children, we really needed to have an eat-in kitchen. And we thought about putting a large table in there with some chairs. And we decided that really wouldn’t be best long-term, we really needed a kitchen island.

Danny Lipford: So we’re here to see what’s feasible.

Well, you got a lot of space here. I mean…

Emily Boutwell: We do.

Danny Lipford: …to make it more efficient, I could see where a lot of it’s going to have to do with just kind of lining up these points a little bit, because everything’s so spread out in here.

Emily Boutwell: It is. We entertain a lot. We have a lot of family and friends over. And as a mom, that I stay home with the kids all day long, I do lunch, breakfast, dinner, and multiple snacks.

Danny Lipford: All right.

Emily Boutwell: So it’d be nice to have an island. But we’re not sure about the doorways, if we have enough traffic flow.

Danny Lipford: What are some of the other things that you’ve found since you’ve been here, and obviously used it a lot, that just aggravates you a little bit?

Emily Boutwell: Definitely the trash can.

Derick Boutwell: The trash can.

Emily Boutwell: I cannot stand the trash can, because if I’m cooking over here on the stove or doing prep work on the sink, this is a long way to walk, all the way over here. I really would like to do something else with the trash can.

Danny Lipford: Do you have any pull-outs or anything in there anywhere?

Emily Boutwell: No.

Derick Boutwell: We have a lot of storage, it’s just not used very well. We have a lot of things stacked on top of each other and hard to get to, things like that, so it makes it a little more difficult.

Danny Lipford: Well, I noticed when we walked in you have stainless steel dishwasher, stainless steel refrigerator, and this. Thinking about changing that out, maybe?

Emily Boutwell: Yes. That’s always been on the list.

Derick Boutwell: Yeah, it was here when we moved in. We were never really thrilled about having the microwave directly over the stove. And also, it just kind of recirculates the heat from when we’re cooking into the kitchen.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah. You need this vented to the outside. You know, if we’re able to work the island in, it’s a good way to actually put the microwave down at countertop height.

Emily Boutwell: Oh, that’d be nice.

Danny Lipford: When the kids get a little older, it’s easier to work with. And again, as you said, you don’t want them getting up over a hot stove, you know, to get to the popcorn. So…

Emily Boutwell: That’d be great.

Danny Lipford: Well, that’s a number of things we can do. I’ll tell you what. Let’s get some measurements.

Derick Boutwell: OK.

Danny Lipford: And we’ll see what we can do as far as sizing that. And then over the next week or so, we can put something together.

Emily Boutwell: Sounds good.

Danny Lipford: With a few quick measurements, it’s obvious that an island will fit here, So the first step is selecting materials.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: So it’ll be hard to match the granite.

Emily Boutwell: Yeah.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Plus, it’s kind of cool to have the contrast. Emily: it is.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: So you guys were kind of thinking like a wood?

Emily Boutwell: Yeah. We’d like to do a little different this time.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: What do you think about this one?

Emily Boutwell: Oh, I love that one. I think that would look really good against the wall color. I love the wide plank in the dark wood. I think that would look great.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: That would look really good.

Danny Lipford: Within a few weeks everything arrives, and we’re ready to go to work. We’re using three sizes of stock cabinets from the home center to form the body of the island.

So you got a pretty good idea on how you’re going to put this all together?

Allen Lyle: I’ve got a good idea. I want to get their opinion on where they’d like the microwave.

Danny Lipford: So you’re able to match the doors. That’s pretty cool. Oh, and that’s the top.

Allen Lyle: That’s the top, yeah, got that black walnut top.

Danny Lipford: Uh-oh. This looks heavy.

Allen Lyle: This is very heavy. We need to be very careful.

Danny Lipford: Oh, I hurt my back. Can you get it?

Allen Lyle: Convenient how that back is. I mean it’s—maybe we want to leave this till we’re ready to install.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, until Derick gets here.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: In the meantime we need to get started on these cabinets.

OK, we have another one. I just built this in my cabinet shop.

Allen Lyle: Yeah. It’s amazing how he just built that.

Danny Lipford: OK, this is going to make your kitchen seem a little smaller.

Emily Boutwell: That’s OK. These look great. Oh, wow, perfect.

Danny Lipford: There we go.

Emily Boutwell: Oh, nice.

Danny Lipford: Instant island.

Emily Boutwell: Yay!

Joe Truini: I’m getting ready to tile the backsplash in this kitchen, but I thought I’d dress up the design by inserting little diamond accents cut from glass tile.

Now, you might be wondering, where can you buy tiles with the corner clipped off or little squares like this. Well, you can’t buy them, but you can make them yourself easily enough, starting with a sheet of mosaic tiles like this.

What you do is take a utility knife and turn the sheet over and cut through the nylon webbing to create nine squares—that’s three by three. Then, go to the wet saw and clip off the corner of four tiles.

Then when you put them together—you lay it out, make sure you have your grout joints in there. What you create is a diamond-shaped hole perfect for the glass tile.

Now, we’re going to set this on the wall. And you only need this accent piece maybe every two or three feet, but it really dresses up the wall and makes it something special.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re improving the efficiency of Derick and Emily’s kitchen. And the first step is adding an island to better utilize the acres of open floor space they have in this room.

Emily, when I was out here a couple weeks ago, we talked about how this just isn’t working very well with no vent. And, also, it’s just kind of an obsolete kind of thing.

So we were able to arrange to get you a new microwave. And instead of sitting it on the countertop, we thought we could build it in the new island. Allen, what do you think?

Allen Lyle: Well, with your approval…

Emily Boutwell: OK.

Allen Lyle: What I’d like to do is modify this cabinet, and put it actually this way to really create that ease of use rather than have to come back around here to use it on this side.

Emily Boutwell: That looks great, but what about power?

Allen Lyle: Good question. Danny and I actually have peeked downstairs. Your garage, which is open, has open joists.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, thank goodness there’s no ceiling in there.

Allen Lyle: We even saw a junction box right there. So we’re actually going to bring power up underneath, so you’ll have power here. And to make it even more convenient for you, I’m going to add an extra plug for you. Not only for the microwave, but one on the outside.

Emily Boutwell: That’d be great for any appliances.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, because that’s really good—put any appliances up there and that type of thing. Now, the key thing anytime you have an island that people are concerned with is how far that you need to space it away. Now, the guidelines say at least 36 inches, and we have that easily.

Allen Lyle: Yeah, it’s close. Actually a little further than that right now, and I’m judging off of this, since this is sticking out more. You’re actually close to 37 and a half right now. So we can come in if we need to.

Danny Lipford: OK. But how are you going to get rid of that garbage can?

Allen Lyle: Well, had another idea for that, too.

Danny Lipford: So the microwave cabinet heads outside to be modified while I get Chelsea and Emily started with priming the other two cabinets.

Allen Lyle: All right, so, on the cabinet. What I’ve done, I’ve taken the drawer out, the drawer guides, the doors. Basically, I’m deconstructing the cabinet.

The next thing I’m going to do is take this wood piece out so I can lower it to the position we need to fit that new microwave in. So, I’ll remove this shelf that they have in here and this cabinet will be ready for the girls to paint.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: So did you guys pick out the paint colors for the cabinets, or was that already here?

Emily Boutwell: It was already here. So right now, we’re just going to live with them, you know. I would like to down the road maybe paint them. Maybe like a dark gray.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, yeah, that would be cool.

Emily Boutwell: The dark gray I feel like would hide a little bit more of the dirt and the grime with the kids.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Yeah. Three kids, that’s a lot of dirt and grime.

Danny Lipford: Once the primer is dry, we can move the cabinets into position and clamp them together.

Thumb’s in there.

Allen Lyle: Your thumb’s in it?

Danny Lipford: So we can mark the footprint on the floor with tape. Now, this is important because we’re attaching wooden cleats to the floor under the cabinets so we can secure them. We also need to drill access holes in the cabinets and the floor to run the wiring for the island.

Ow, my leg. That would’ve been embarrassing.

Allen Lyle: That would’ve been.

Danny Lipford: If I’d have hit my leg, I would’ve gotten in my truck and went straight home. Hey, here’s some help we need right here. Hey, Derick, how you doing?

Derick Boutwell: Man, this thing looks nice.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, well, it’s the three different sections, like we talked about. It’s not together yet, but right now, you could help us a lot. You know, we’re bringing a piece of Romex wire up through the garage to provide the power for this.

I’ve got the hole finally through this ceramic or porcelain or whatever it is. So if you could go downstairs, make sure I’m not hitting any plumbing or electrical lines or anything along those lines.

Derick Boutwell: OK.

Allen Lyle: And what I’ll do, Derek, is I’ll call you, if you’ve got your cell phone handy?

Derick Boutwell: I do.

Allen Lyle: I’ll call. That way, we can just communicate back and forth.

Danny Lipford: Perfect.

Derick Boutwell: OK.

Allen Lyle: That work for you?

Danny Lipford: The lack of insulation between these floor joists isn’t a good thing for Derick and Emily’s utility bills, but it does make this job a little easier, as long as we don’t hit one of these joists.

Derick Boutwell: Yeah, you’re clear. You’re good.

Danny Lipford: All right.

Derick Boutwell: Yeah, you missed it by about three inches.

Allen Lyle: Wow, nice. How close are we to that junction box?

Derick Boutwell: Oh, probably four feet.

Allen Lyle: Perfect.

Danny Lipford: Once that’s done, we can route the wire down into the garage, where Derick runs it over to the junction box, while we route the other end up into the island cabinets.

Finally we’re ready to permanently attach the cabinets to each other. This process secures the face frames of the cabinets, keeping them flush and flat.

Now, once all the cabinets are connected, leveled, and secured to the cleats on the floor, Derick and I can turn our attention to that recirculating microwave.

I’ll tell you what—I got two screws.

Derick Boutwell: OK.

Danny Lipford: If you can get in here close enough and put your hand right under this thing. It won’t fall out but it’ll start—it might—yeah. So, it’s starting to release.

This thing should tilt down. OK. Now, pull it out toward—yeah, yeah. You got it?

There is a vent there.

Derick Boutwell: Huh, I guess they just didn’t take the plate out.

Danny Lipford: They didn’t take the little baffles out of here, but we got that brand-new one from Broan for you.

Derick Boutwell: OK.

Danny Lipford: Before we call it a day, we’re covering the back side of the cabinets with a single piece of birch plywood, so the island appears to be a single unit. Then we add some outside corner molding so this thing is ready for Derick and Emily to start getting paint on it tonight.

Jodi Marks: You know, here’s a good, little tip for you. You can give your kitchen a facelift in no time just by changing out the sink. It’s a very easy process, and if you’re looking to do that, look no further than right here.

This is a stainless steel Elkay sink. Of course, it’s got the dual bowls. But if you’re going to get stainless steel, you need to check out the gauge, because that’s really important. This right here is a 20-gauge stainless steel sink.

What does that mean? It means it’s more durable, because that’s the number one complaint with stainless steel sinks is that they’re not durable.

Another complaint for a sink is that with the stainless steel down in the bottom, it can kind of sound hollow, if you will. So, what the company has done is they’ve coated this so that it dampens the sound. It also insulates it so the hot water stays hotter longer, and it reduces condensation underneath.

But I think the best feature of all are the little accessories that come with it. These are little magnetic holders, so, you can put your soap or your scrub pad right there. Or you can hang whatever you want right in there, and it eliminates all the clutter up on the countertop.

Danny Lipford: Derick and Emily’s 60- year-old kitchen had lots of space, but most of it wasn’t usable for their family. So we’re adding an island to increase storage and make this an eat-in kitchen.

At the end of day one, the island was ready for Derick and Emily to apply the first coat of finish paint on the night shift. Now it’s time to see how they did.

All right, Emily, you ready for another fun day here?

Emily Boutwell: I am. Good morning.

Danny Lipford: Good, good. OK, well, how did the painting go last night? Did you have plenty of help?

Emily Boutwell: Oh, lots of help. It was definitely entertaining. The kids were weaving in and out of it like a jungle gym, and they loved helping me paint this front side.

Danny Lipford: Perfect. Did they get any paint all over them?

Emily Boutwell: Of course.

Danny Lipford: Of course.

Emily Boutwell: That’s part of the fun, though.

Danny Lipford: Well, at least it’s latex paint. That helps.

Emily Boutwell: That’s right.

Danny Lipford: OK, so today here’s what we want to do. We’re going to have another fun day

Emily Boutwell: OK.

Danny Lipford: And what we’ll do, Allen’s going to be tweaking the island a little bit here, doing a little bit of electrical work and so forth. But you and Chelsea need to go shopping.

Emily Boutwell: Oh, I think I can handle that.

Danny Lipford: So Chelsea and Emily take some measurements inside the cabinets before they head off to the Home Depot.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: This would fit.

Danny Lipford: Meanwhile, Allen is adding the electrical boxes to the island, and I’m getting ready to install that new range hood.

You know, this was really puzzling about the venting that we have here. Because when Derick and I removed the microwave, we realized they had it set up to recirculate back into the room. Not a good way to try to ventilate a kitchen area.

And, they had this that they could’ve used. Even had an old vent up on the roof that they could’ve provided duct work down. But for some reason, it was not set up to vent to the outside.

For us, and one of the absolute best ways that you can vent a range hood, is right through the wall. This is perfect.

Especially when it’s a high- efficiency unit, like this one from NuTone.

All right, let’s see if we can real carefully…

Derick Boutwell: I can already tell it looks better than that microwave.

Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah, at least it matches all the other appliances.

This model can be vented from the top or the back. So all we have to do is remove the back baffle and replace it with the appropriate transition piece, which includes a louver to prevent any backdraft. Then we connect the wiring inside the unit before we lift it into position.

Yep, that clipped it right in.

Then it’s simply a matter of driving a few screws into the cabinet above and putting everything back together.

Meanwhile, Allen has finished wiring the island and added some wood corbels that’ll support the brand-new wood top.

OK, I know what you’re up to. You are waiting to get this wood top on. You’ve been anxious about this.

Allen Lyle: It’s going to make the entire kitchen.

Danny Lipford: Well, I’ll tell you what, I put a top on like this a few years ago, and I remember one thing about it. Heavy.

Allen Lyle: Heavy.

Danny Lipford: That’s because this top is a one and three-quarter-inch-thick slab of solid black walnut. Hard, dense, and heavy.

Once we get it into position and fine-tune the location, Allen secures it to the island with long wood screws and we’re ready to show it off.

Oh, there they are. How was the shopping trip?

Emily Boutwell: It went well. We had a good time. I think we found everything we needed.

Danny Lipford: Good, good. So you got a lot of the organizational things we talked about.

Emily Boutwell: Yes. We found the garbage can pull-out and the pull-out for underneath the sink. So it’s going to help me out a lot with all the cleaning supplies.

Danny Lipford: OK, well, we were not just sitting around while you guys were out gallivanting around. Your new range hood is in place.

Emily Boutwell: Wow, that looks amazing.

Danny Lipford: Plenty of great lights. I’ll show you all about how to use it. And, you got a brand-new island.

Allen Lyle: Are you ready for this? Look at this.

Emily Boutwell: Oh, my gosh. Yes. Oh, it’s beautiful.

Allen Lyle: This is black walnut. You can see it picks out the color both in the countertop, the floor, and the fan. I will tell you this, it takes a little maintenance.

This is not polyurethane. This is tung oil on here. It’s a satin finish tung oil. You’re going to want to apply some to this.

Really depends on how often you use this. What I suggest most of the time is at least once a year, maybe once every two years. But I’m going to leave you some of the finish here. This is going to be enough to last you for 10 years right there.

Danny Lipford: And the kids are getting older, so, you don’t have to worry about it. They can do all of the maintenance.

Emily Boutwell: That’s right. We’re all about putting in the work around here.

Danny Lipford: So early the next morning, we’re ready for all of the finishing touches. The new microwave goes into the spot created just for it, while a wicker basket is the perfect fit for the space left beneath it.

The new hardware Emily bought goes onto the cabinets, and the roll-out she chose for the garbage cans is installed inside.

They even picked up a roll-out to organize the cleaning supplies under the sink and a set of stools that should be perfect for the kids.

Danny Lipford: People often ask, “Can I paint my laminate countertops?”

Laminate countertops can be painted, but they require some specific preparation and specific paint.

Several manufacturers make these coatings, and one of the most popular is a kit that allows you to create a faux finish that looks just like granite. The first step is a thorough cleaning with a scouring pad so that the paint will adhere properly.

For faux granite painting kits, the primer is usually black, and the best application tools are a simple foam brush and a narrow foam roller. When the primer is dry, you can begin applying the various colors with a natural sponge that will create the illusion of granite.

You apply them in a specific order to achieve a specific look, but the pattern of application is very random. You can aid this by occasionally rotating the sponge as you apply the paint.

You may also want to add diagonal lines of the darker color to create the illusion of veins that are in natural granite. Then you soften the hard lines with a sponge before leaving it to dry.

Finally, you apply several coats of clear sealer to protect the finish and to add a little gloss.

Derick and Emily Boutwell love their 60-year-old home. They bought it for the neighborhood, and because it had lots of space. But the space in the kitchen wasn’t helping them much, because they couldn’t use it effectively.

So we have your garbage cans tucked under here. Got rid of the garbage can that you hated so much.

Emily Boutwell: Yes.

Danny Lipford: Microwave here tucked away. And this looks, I think, a lot better. It’s going to be a lot more effective in getting rid of all that moisture inside the kitchen. What do you think?

Emily Boutwell: love it. Absolutely love it. It was a large kitchen and it needed a large island, and I can see us using it for multiple reasons throughout the day.

Even last night, we were right here. All around the island enjoying it with close family and friends last night. I was baking. The kids were over here eating ice cream. You know, we’re using it a lot.

Danny Lipford: Well, you can see the kids will be sitting there, maybe doing the homework, and then snacking and eating the meals while you’re doing some of your baking that you love to do.

Emily Boutwell: Definitely. And I can see at Christmastime, right here with the sugar cookies.

Danny Lipford: It sounds like this kitchen is a success. Not only does it look good, it’s an efficient kitchen, and it was a pretty simple project as well.

The cabinets came off the shelf at a local home center. And though we ordered our countertop online, you can also find local suppliers with a variety of these materials.

To improve the use of the cabinets, we also found the hardware and roll-out kits at the home center. Moving the microwave to a more accessible height made it a lot safer and a lot easier to use.

And customizing the cabinet meant we could accommodate almost any model out there. Plus, it allowed us to add an efficient, fully-vented range hood which will make the kitchen healthier and more comfortable for years to come.

Boy, what a fun project. You know, it’s great when you’re able to make such a difference in a kitchen, in the look of it as well as the efficiency of it, by using regular stock cabinets and readily-accessible materials.

Hope we’ve been able to share with you a few tips you can use at your house, and of course, we got a lot more information for you at our website at TodaysHomeowner.com.

Hey, thanks so much for being with us. I’ll see you next week right here on Today’s Homeowner.

Emily Boutwell: Yeah, this is not going to work.



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