My DIY Kitchen Remodeling Project – Part 1

Builder grade kitchen, before starting my DIY kitchen remodeling project

Very builder grade kitchen

Having already completed a few projects in the garage, backyard, bathrooms and laundry room, I felt so empowered by the results and what I had been able to learn and accomplish that I decided to embark on the most ambitious of all my projects, to date, a DIY kitchen remodeling project.

This was basically a multi-project in which not only I was able to use pretty much everything I had learned so far with the other projects, but also learned about how to do many other things I had not done before.

Builder grade kitchen, starting to work on it

Builder grade kitchen, starting to work on it

As seen on the pictures (apologies for the mess), this was a very builder grade looking kitchen. As far as I could tell, the only upgrade it had – done by one of the previous owners I assume – was some improperly installed laminate flooring, it had to go, so the first step on my project was getting rid of it.

It didn’t take long and all pieces came out in one piece, I ended up listing it on craigslist and about thirty minutes later someone stopped by to get it, it was that fast!


As it happens almost every time you are working on a project, things you were not expecting come up. In this case, as soon as I started removing the laminate flooring, I realized there was some vinyl flooring under it! I was not very excited about it, because as you have learned from my Vinyl Flooring Replacement post, I hate vinyl flooring AND especially, removing it!

To make it worse, at that point, I had not discovered the electric floor stripper yet, it wasn’t until after I had spent hours and hours removing vinyl flooring using a combination of a hand scraper, heat gun and an oscillating tool that I discovered such a wonderful tool existed.


After spending hours and hours removing, cleaning up the mess and glue from the vinyl flooring, it was time to start laying new porcelain tile, the same one used in the bathrooms and laundry room, except this one is 18” x 18” instead of 12” x 12”, this size may no longer be available though.

New porcelain tile flooring, a good alternative for any DIY kitchen remodeling project

New (porcelain tile) flooring, a must for any kitchen remodeling project

Since the kitchen is a bigger and more open area, it made sense to use the bigger tile, less work, perhaps fewer cuts, and in my opinion, it also looks way nicer than the smaller ones.

For this installation, I followed the basic tiling steps I’ve mentioned before:

  • Measure and mark the center of the room, use a chalk line if possible.
  • Lay the tile from the center mark to the walls, using tile spacers, to make sure you have tiles about the same size on both sides of the room. However, don’t forget that sometimes, due to the position of doors, cabinets, et cetera, it may be easier to have slightly smaller tiles on one side than the other than having to make difficult cuts. I would say that as long as you don’t have a complete tile on one side and a 1 to 2 inches one on the other you should be OK.
  • Once you are happy with the positioning of the tile, you can go ahead and start setting them in mortar.

You may be thinking, affordable kitchen remodeling project? Laying porcelain tile? As I’ve explained before, once you factor everything, tile is not an expensive option.


When I started thinking about this kitchen remodeling project, one of the things I thought about was adding a kitchen island. This was so that I could get rid of the dining table, create some extra storage and in my opinion, give the kitchen a more modern look.

With the new flooring in place, it was time to think about the island. I started by completing some research about the different options available, the results were frustrating.

I could not find any islands that matched, or at least, were similar to the existing cabinets. I understand some people use different cabinet combinations, however, I do not consider myself a very good decorator, so I didn’t want to risk installing an island that would not look good and that I would later regret buying.

All of the options were very small. This kitchen had an open area of about 144” x 120” (12’ x 10’ or so), so I estimated the proper size of the island to be about 56” x 38” (4.7’ x 3.2’ or so, which I later found out was still too small and had to order a new piece of countertop) considering that I wanted to use it as a dining table with at least 4 chairs.

All of the options were very expensive. I don’t remember the exact prices, but I remember thinking that they were not worth the cost.

What was the solution then? Build my own island! That’s right, I built my own.

I stopped by Lowes and bought two base cabinets, a 36-inch and an 18-inch one, a sheet of ¾ inch plywood to cover the sides and the back of the cabinets, some trim for the corners and to cover one plywood seam on the back, as well as a couple of wood brackets from home depot.

To build the island, I put the two cabinets next to each other, then drilled pilot holes on the frame where they touched each other. Lastly, I used some long screws to screw them together. I did the same thing closer to the back of the cabinets, this time using a piece of plywood in the middle as there was a gap between the two cabinets (the cabinet frame is wider than the cabinet body).

To hold the island in place, I drilled a few holes on the porcelain tile. These were very difficult to drill even with a diamond drill bit. Then I used those holes to anchor two by fours to the floor using concrete anchors. Once the two by fours were in place, I put the cabinets in place and screwed them to the two by fours.


With the two cabinets screwed together as one piece, in place and secured to the floor, it was time to put the island together.

The first step was covering the sides and the back of the island using the sheet of plywood. These cabinets are made of particle board, just the front frame and the doors are made of wood, so I used the plywood sheet to make them look like they were all wood.

With the plywood sheet in place, I used some trim to cover corner gaps and other seams, using glue, screws, and nails as required to hold them in place. Then, I let the glue dry for a few hours while holding everything in place using straps.

New center island built and in place, back view

New center island built and in place, back view


New center island built and in place, front view

New kitchen island built and in place, front view


New center island built and in place

The new kitchen center island built and in place

As you can see on the pictures, at some point during the remodel, I also replaced the fluorescent light fixture with a few recessed lights.

On the next post, My DIY Kitchen Remodeling Project – Part 2, I show you the rest of the work I completed and the final product.

Readers, have you ever embarked on a similar kitchen remodel project? What do you think of the island? Was it a good idea?

Working on a similar, DIY kitchen remodeling project? This is what you need:

*This post contains affiliate links