How Much Does a Kitchen Island Cost to Build?
Short on storage and counter space? A kitchen island can be the solution. Kitchen island cost typically runs between $100 and $10,000, with a national average cost of $4,000.
- The typical cost range to install a kitchen island is between $100 and $10,000. Nationally, homeowners pay an average of $4,000.
- The main factors affecting the total kitchen island cost include the size, material, and style of the island; the amount of style of cabinetry; the countertop material; and the cost of labor.
- The benefits of building a kitchen island include increased counter space, additional storage, extra seating, space definition, versatility, and customization options.
- A handy homeowner may be able to install a kitchen island on their own, but in many cases it’s best to leave this project to an experienced professional who can ensure a proper installation the first time.
Kitchens used to be utilitarian: They needed enough space for cooking and cleanup, and they ideally had a table where a family could sit to eat together. As homes and living styles have changed, the kitchen has shifted into a gathering place with many different functions, and the layouts have adjusted to accommodate. The kitchen island is a multifunctional piece of furniture: it can store appliances and pantry items, serve as an additional (or primary) work space, allow for cooks to prepare dinner while a child does homework and has a snack, or work as a centerpiece of a party with drinks and snacks laid out for guests to gather around. The trick is finding an island that fits the contours of the kitchen layout in a way that will be most useful; kitchens that are small or unusually shaped can be difficult to place a prefabricated island into without impeding traffic flow. In many cases, it’s a better idea to build a kitchen island that perfectly suits the space and the residents’ needs instead of buying one.
So how much does a kitchen island cost? The cost of building a kitchen island can vary widely, but according to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the typical range is between $100 and $10,000, with an average unit costing around $4,000. Why such a large range? First, when a homeowner chooses to go with a custom-built island, it makes sense to build exactly what the homeowner needs—no more, no less. A homeowner who needs something inexpensive but specific to fit a particular spot in a tight kitchen may just need a simple shelf unit with a bit of laminate countertop to tuck into the corner. On the other hand, a homeowner who has a large space in a luxury home may need to add an island with many drawers and doors in fine materials to match the existing cabinetry, then find the perfect piece of natural stone countertop to surface the unit, adding to the material and labor costs.
Factors in Calculating Kitchen Island Cost
Choosing to build a kitchen island comes with the choice of an almost infinite combination of sizes, materials, styles, and features—which also means that there are many decisions to make when choosing a design. Each of these factors will affect the total cost of the project, so to build (and stick to) a reasonably accurate budget, it’s important for homeowners to take these factors into consideration.
In general, the larger the island, the more expensive it will be. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule: Purchasing a prefabricated island that requires significant assembly or onto which the customer can add some customization can save some money over a fully built unit or a fully custom unit. But otherwise, the larger the footprint, the higher the bill.
On average, a prefabricated kitchen island costs between $100 and $2,000 and will require some assembly. A custom-built kitchen island could cost between $3,000 and $10,000.
Kitchen islands have several components. Most have some form of cabinetry and shelving, a countertop, and other storage features. Many have overhang seating areas, and some include appliances, electricity, and plumbing. The quality of the materials selected for each of these components will affect the total cost. For example, choosing midgrade prefabricated cabinets to use as a base for the island will likely cost less than building the cabinetry from scratch, especially if the cabinetmaker uses premium wood stock and finishes. A laminate or butcher-block countertop will cost less than one made of natural stone, and prefinished countertops of any material will cost less than custom-finished materials. Once the basic design of the island has been established, it’s a good plan for homeowners to do some price shopping to choose which materials to prioritize: The countertop is often the most visible part of the island, so it may be worth choosing less expensive cabinetry or an island in a slightly smaller footprint to be able to afford a more luxurious surface. On the other hand, for those who value storage over a fancier work space, custom cabinetry with carefully mapped and planned drawers and cabinets built from attractive and high-quality materials may be the priority.
Like kitchens, islands come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and layouts. Based on the dimensions of the available kitchen space and the customer’s cooking style, these styles will make a difference in the appearance and function of the room. Galley islands are essentially a pair of longer rectangular islands that suit certain kitchens, and their cost will depend on size and complexity. Rolling-cart islands offer convenience and flexibility that built-in kitchen islands do not, and they fall at the lower end of the price range. Stationary rectangular islands are a standard choice that can be customized in a number of ways for just a bit more than a rolling island. L-shaped islands take up more space but can offer more options in terms of seating and storage; however, they add more expense in terms of materials and labor. U-shaped islands are the most costly style, as they’re larger and include more materials, but they also usually include electrical outlets, appliances, and plumbing.
Selecting the style can be a matter of aesthetics, functionality, or economy—or a combination of all three. If there’s a particular style a homeowner has in mind, compromises can often be made in the size and other components to accommodate the expense of the style.
Storage is a key component of any kitchen island. The cost of kitchen cabinets in an island will depend on the amount and style of built-in cabinetry. Simple shelving will be the least costly style of storage, as it’s open and requires less material and less time-consuming fitting. Using prefabricated cabinets and fitting them together in a custom configuration will cost a bit more, but this is ultimately a much more affordable route than truly custom-built cabinets, which are the most expensive options. In addition, the choice of cabinet and drawer hardware can be scaled from economical options to high-end (and expensive) finishes and custom pulls and knobs. Homeowners will want to balance these costs against each other to decide where economies can be made and where it’s worth a splurge.
A kitchen island countertop can be built with any material that is used for kitchen countertops. Wood, laminate, stainless steel, poured concrete, tile, solid surface, and natural stone options offer homeowners an endless array of choices that can truly define the look of the kitchen. Homeowners can choose to match, complement, or contrast with their existing countertops to create a seamless look or to turn the island into a statement centerpiece of the kitchen.
Many homeowners are willing to compromise on other elements of their islands in order to choose a showstopping countertop. The cost of countertops depends on the material the homeowner chooses. Butcher-block countertops start around $1,950, with Corian or solid-surface starting a little higher at $2,450. Wood, ceramic, laminate, and granite start in the $3,300 range, while quartz, soapstone, slate, and concrete start in the $6,000 to $8,000 range with costs stretching much higher. The table below shows the average cost range by type of countertop material, including materials and installation.
|Countertop Material||Average Cost|
|Butcher block||$1,950 to $4,200|
|Ceramic||$3,250 to $5,250|
|Concrete||$8,750 to $10,250|
|Corian or solid surface||$2,450 to $5,250|
|Granite||$3,350 to $4,750|
|Laminate||$3,250 to $4,250|
|Quartz||$6,150 to $14,250|
|Slate||$7,950 to $11,050|
|Soapstone||$7,250 to $12,250|
|Wood||$3,250 to $6,250|
Labor costs will vary based on the market rates in the area where the island is to be built and on the complexity of the island. A simple assembly of a mostly prefabricated island can be estimated based on an hourly rate for a handyman or builder, in some cases can cost as little as $35 per hour. More elaborate and fully custom islands, especially if they’re part of a larger kitchen remodel cost or are kitchen island remodels of a previous kitchen island installation may require the services of a kitchen designer at costs ranging from $85 to $220 per hour. If the designer is hired only to assist in designing the island, the costs may be significantly lower.
Islands that include plumbing and electricity will likely require the services of professionals to wire and plumb the island, and these costs range from $35 to $110 per hour for an electrician or $50 to $180 per hour for a plumber. A professional carpenter can build a custom piece for a homeowner at a rate of $40 to $85 per hour, while a general contractor can remove flooring or shore up joints for $35 to $110 per hour. Labor is not a small component of this project, especially if the island is complex and custom, so homeowners will want to check out and tabulate the estimated labor costs before settling on the design and materials to avoid budget overruns. The following table breaks down the labor costs based on the type of professional.
|Type of Professional||Average Labor Cost per Hour|
|Carpenter||$40 to $85|
|Electrician||$40 to $110|
|General contractor||$35 to $110|
|Handyman or builder||$35|
|Kitchen designer||$85 to $220|
|Plumber||$50 to $180|
Additional Costs and Considerations
Beyond the build of the island itself, there are other costs to keep in mind as homeowners build a budget for their project.
Permits and Fees
Most municipalities require permits for any project that moves or adds electrical access or plumbing, or for those that involve significant demolition or rebuilding. Building a kitchen island probably won’t involve much in the way of demolition unless it’s part of a larger kitchen renovation, in which a contractor has likely already secured a permit. If the island is the extent of the project, permits will likely be necessary if the island is to be powered—for example, if a kitchen island with a sink and a dishwasher is planned or if a range will be installed in the island. Permit and inspection costs can range from about $10 to over $1,700, but it’s worth the cost for homeowners to find out: Building an unpermitted island with electrical and/or plumbing fixtures will be an expensive headache later on if the homeowner decides to sell their home.
Prefabricated vs. Custom Kitchen Island
Using a prefabricated kit to build a kitchen island is an economical option, especially if the homeowner is able to assemble the piece themselves, and it may allow space in the budget for a couple of customizations. Midpriced options include using stock kitchen cabinets to build a semi-custom kitchen island base only and then top it with a prefabricated piece of countertop to create the desired effect. The most costly option is a fully custom-built piece, designed and assembled by a craftsman.
While some people add an island to an existing kitchen, sometimes the island is part of a major kitchen overhaul, in which case a professional kitchen designer can help synthesize the look of the whole space. Kitchen designers cost an average of about $10,000 for most people who engage them, though costs can be much lower if the designer is consulting on only a small part of a project. While designers aren’t necessary for a simple kitchen renovation—many contractors are experienced enough to suggest a strong layout and general design—a designer can help pull together all of the elements of construction, style, and decor. Those who are considering using prefabricated or partially custom kitchen islands may want to consider working with a kitchen designer at a home improvement store; the expertise of these designers is in the cabinetry and fixtures that are available at the home store. In-house designers at home improvement stores are often available at no cost.
Built-In Fixtures and Appliances
If the homeowner’s dream kitchen island includes a sink, dishwasher, microwave, range, or under-cabinet refrigerator, the cost of the appliances and fixtures themselves will be a significant component in the budget—and they may be more significant than expected. The versions of these items that are designed to be installed in a freestanding island are often slightly more compact than a standard appliance, and they may have different ventilation or connection needs. In addition, the budget must include the labor cost of the professionals required to install the water supplies and drains, vent systems, and electrical supply for the appliances. Fitting a kitchen island with a sink will cost around $400, while a dishwasher will run close to $300. Adding an oven can cost between $250 and $15,000, depending on the size, model, and type of fuel.
Plumbing and Electrical
In most cases, it’s best for a homeowner to hire professional electricians and plumbers to handle the installations in a kitchen island. These installations will require permits and inspections, unless the wiring and plumbing already exists exactly where it’s needed, and it’s much simpler to pull and validate an electrical or plumbing permit if a licensed and insured professional does the work. Electricians will charge approximately $40 to $110 per hour to install outlets and switches and run wiring for additional appliances. Electrical outlets installed in an island that has water sources should be GFCI outlets, which cost about $200 each to install. Plumbers will charge between $50 and $180 per hour. Either type of professional may offer a flat fee for the entire project; it’s important that homeowners understand who will be requesting and paying for the permits before they sign a contract.
A freestanding island may be able to rest directly on existing flooring, but a permanent installation may require that the existing flooring be cut away to create a space for the island to be roughed in and then trimmed with molding. If the island is very heavy, it’s also possible that the existing flooring may need to be shored up to safely support the island. The cost of a contractor to remove flooring, strengthen existing joists, or replace flooring will vary based on the scope of the work and the customer’s choice of new flooring.
Types of Kitchen Islands
What kind of island works best in a kitchen? The answer is based on the shape of the kitchen and the purpose of the island. The type of island will make a difference in the cost based on the kitchen island size and the complexity of the build.
|Type of Kitchen Island||Cost Range|
|Galley||$500 to $5,000|
|L-shaped||$1,000 to $7,000|
|Rectangular||$500 to $1,500|
|Rolling cart||$100 to $2,500|
|U-shaped||$2,000 to $9,000|
Galley islands are a particular style of rectangular island, designed in a shape that is long and narrow and ideally for use in a galley kitchen. In a larger open-plan kitchen, a pair of galley islands can be placed side by side to create two long cooking, preparation, and seating areas. The cost ranges between $500 and $5,000, depending on the size and outfitting.
Extremely versatile and spacious, L-shaped islands have a lot of real estate to include built-in appliances, fixtures, and seating, and thus they can make up the primary work space in a larger kitchen. The cost averages between $1,000 and $7,000, though they can run lower if they’re smaller and simpler. A fully featured L-shaped island can easily top out this price range.
Rectangular islands are stationary, so they can include all the bells and whistles the customer can fit. They can be designed to almost any size and can include any combination of kitchen island cabinet and countertop. These work particularly well in open floor plans, because the freedom of movement around the island makes it a centerpiece, and all four sides can be fully employed. Rectangular islands cost between $500 and $1,500.
Rolling carts are often lauded as some of the best cheap kitchen islands, as they are ideal for kitchens where space is at a premium. Rolling-cart islands can be shifted to the side when necessary but moved to the center space when a big cooking project is at hand. They avoid the complications of appliances and power/water supplies because they need to be free to move, and thus cost less than other types of islands. In addition, rolling carts are available in a huge range of sizes, from a minimalist prefabricated cart costing around $100 for a little extra storage and surface to a more elaborate, full-sized cart on large casters that can cost up to $2,500.
Almost always custom-built, U-shaped islands are the most expensive style because the complete profile needs to be carefully fitted into the shape of the kitchen. Typically, U-shaped islands are quite large and include appliances, more than one prep area, and extensive storage and seating. Their cost averages between $2,000 and $9,000, though they can run higher when fitted with high-end appliances and finishes.
Benefits of Building a Kitchen Island
Heavily featured in home magazines and home improvement shows, kitchen islands are often presented as must-have items. But from a practical perspective, why is the demand for kitchen islands so high? Why would a cook want one? There are several reasons homeowners may choose to invest in a kitchen island for their home.
Increased Counter Space
There’s never enough counter space. Even in a kitchen with what seems like miles of countertop, there’s always a dish or a platter or a hot pan that needs to be set down when there’s no clear space to do so. In kitchens that aren’t especially large, this can lead to creative balancing of plates and preparation bowls that can lead to disaster. Kitchen islands—even small ones—can make the difference between frustration and pleasure when preparing a meal.
Kitchen cabinetry can be very deceptive. Smooth expanses of cabinet doors can conceal surprisingly impractical storage space that isn’t wide or deep enough, and the false-front drawers that cover many sinkboards and corner cabinets can make it appear that there’s plenty of drawer storage when there’s not. Kitchens that aren’t recently renovated might not have practical storage for small appliances or pantry supplies. A well-designed kitchen island can alleviate storage crunches or provide dedicated space for items that are difficult to store in an overhead cabinet.
Islands are multitaskers. In a small kitchen, homeowners are often wary of removing the table to create space for additional storage, fearing that the table in the dining room or family room just won’t be practical, and not wanting to give up the seating option in the kitchen. Islands can provide the storage and counter space while including seating that, while slightly taller than table seating, is no less comfortable or convenient.
Definition of Space
Traditional kitchen layouts work around the walls of the kitchen, plastering cabinets and appliances around the perimeter and leaving a wide-open expanse of wasted space in the center. A center island for kitchen storage and work space can define the space, either by placing work and seating space in the center or by providing a dedicated area for certain kitchen functions, such as a small rolling cart that contains a coffee maker and espresso machine, or a baking station corralling all of the supplies into one place.
A central kitchen island can wear many hats. It may be where the family stops in the morning to grab breakfast and quickly prepare lunch. It may be where a child sits doing homework while a parent gets dinner ready. It can be the scene of a large finger-painting project because it’s the only surface in the home large enough to hold the long roll of paper, or it can be where a massive cookie-baking operation takes place. When homeowners are entertaining, it can become a bar or a buffet table. It may quickly become the center of the home.
As the island is versatile and will become an active part of the home, it’s especially exciting that it can be built to be exactly what the homeowner needs it to be. The island can be a beautiful custom centerpiece, designed to specifications with cabinets built to house the appliances that don’t have somewhere else to go (along with all of their accessories). Or, it can be a basic, hardworking part of a kitchen that’s designed for quick and easy cleaning with large cabinets whose purpose changes as needed. It’s an opportunity for homeowners to be creative on a smaller scale-—perhaps they can’t afford a whole custom kitchen, but they can choose a neutral kitchen and spend their budget on a perfectly customized island.
Kitchen Island Installation: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Buying a mostly prefabricated island that needs assembly? It’s perfectly reasonable to DIY this project, especially for a handy person (or persons—it’s probably more than a two-handed job). Someone with good DIY skills can probably also put together a couple of stock kitchen cabinets on a base and add a prefinished piece of countertop. Beyond that, though, it’s best to call in a professional who knows how to build a kitchen island and has the experience to get the job done right. It will cost a little more, but there’s a lot going on in a custom island that can go wrong. If the overhang for seating is too deep or isn’t correctly supported, the whole island can tip, breaking the island, ruining the flooring, and potentially causing injury. If there will be electrical or plumbing installed in the island, then it’s absolutely critical that a homeowner call a professional—otherwise there’s a risk the permits won’t be approved, and the whole island will have to be pulled apart and rebuilt to appropriate specifications. It’s best for homeowners to protect their investment by having the island built by someone with experience.
How to Save Money on Kitchen Island Cost
The cost range for kitchen islands is broad because there are so many different components that can be selected, changed, and customized. The easiest way to save money is to research thoroughly before purchasing and make sure you know exactly what you want the island to do and what your priorities are, then make accommodations where you need to.
- Splurge where it makes sense. Spend your money on the most important component and economize elsewhere with less expensive options.
- Stick with a smaller size. Designed the perfect island but it’s still too expensive? Take the size down one notch.
- Go with quality, not luxury. Choose materials that are quality, but not luxury. Dialing back just a bit across the board can result in a high-quality, high-functioning island that makes life easier.
- Choose semi-custom over fully custom. Ask the builder to use stock cabinets (especially if they can be acquired on sale) to build the base of the island and splurge on the countertop.
- Purchase fewer appliances. Decide which appliances are really necessary on the island, and choose smaller versions or less expensive options.
- Ask for advice. Talk with the kitchen designers at home improvement stores about the stock options or customizable options that are available. The designers are often knowledgeable about their product lines and may be able to guide you to options you didn’t know existed.
Questions to Ask About Kitchen Island Installation
When a homeowner is ready to hire someone to install a kitchen island, it probably means they’ve been planning the project for some time and know exactly how they want it to look. To avoid disappointment, it’s important that they ask a lot of questions and make sure they’re comfortable with the contractor before they hire. The following are some questions homeowners will want to ask and receive satisfactory answers for before the project starts.
- Are you appropriately licensed, insured, and bonded?
- Are you affiliated with any particular cabinetry companies? Are you limited to installing that brand, or can I select whatever product I want?
- When can you start this project? How many projects do you have running at one time?
- Do you have craftsmen who can do custom work on a stock piece?
- Will you hire electricians and plumbers that you work with, or is that my responsibility?
- Who is responsible for acquiring permits?
- Can I see photos of your past work and speak to previous customers?
- What is the time frame for the project?
- Do you provide guarantees for your work?
- What are the payment arrangements?
- What if I’m dissatisfied with the completed job?
- Will you provide a written quote and contract?
Kitchen islands can be built to many specifications. They can add convenience, storage, seating, and necessary work space to a kitchen, in addition to making the space into a family gathering place. As with many other home improvement projects, designing an ideal kitchen island can seem exciting at first, but the choices can quickly become overwhelming. Below are some of the most common questions about kitchen islands and their answers to help homeowners start planning.
Q. Does a kitchen island add value to a house?
If the island is sized correctly, adds visual appeal, and is designed for practicality—adding storage and function—it will make the kitchen more impressive, and impressive kitchens add value to a home. Will it be a dollar-for-dollar added value? It’s hard to say, but if the island adds appeal to the kitchen when the home is on the market and adds convenience and ease to daily life before the home is sold, it’s worthwhile for a homeowner to consider adding one.
Q. What is a good kitchen island size?
The island needs to fit the space in which it will be used, so the first step for the homeowner in determining the best size is to measure the open space in the kitchen. Some experts suggest that to be useful, an island should be at least 2 feet by 4 feet, but that measurement depends on how the island will be used. As a rule, the island should be no larger than 10 percent of the kitchen area. In addition, there should be between 36 and 42 inches of clearance around the island so people can move freely in the kitchen. The best way for a homeowner to see how an island will work in the kitchen is to cut a piece of cardboard to the size they’re considering, put it onto a table or stack of books to the height the island will be, and live with it for a few days to see if it’s a workable size when the kitchen is in use.
Q. Is it cheaper to build a kitchen island or to buy one?
The answer to this depends somewhat on the size. In general, prefabricated islands are less expensive than custom. However, if the customer has particular needs that can’t be met without purchasing a very high-end island, or if there’s an unusually small space that needs to be maximized, building an island to specifications may cost less than hunting down an unusual and unnecessarily expensive unit to purchase.
Q. When should you not have a kitchen island?
If a kitchen is very small—some experts say a kitchen that’s narrower than 13 feet—a kitchen island may make the space feel significantly more cramped, and it may cause the whole kitchen to be less useful. In those cases, a mobile cart or a table may be a more effective way for a homeowner to add storage and additional prep space without adding a complete, full-featured work station. Again, though, when building a kitchen island, the customer can determine the size and choose which functions the island will serve, so it is entirely possible for a homeowner to design a smaller island that is mobile or that only serves the necessary purposes while still having a functional kitchen. Homeowners can peruse small kitchen island ideas to get an idea of what might work in their space.
Q. Is it OK to have a kitchen island without seating?
Of course! The greatest benefit to building a kitchen island is that the homeowner can choose exactly what they want and need. In some kitchens, the whole point of the island is seating, but in others, seating would just add unnecessary bulk and take away precious storage space. If extra seating isn’t the purpose of the island, there’s absolutely no reason a homeowner needs to include it.
Q. Are kitchen islands worth it?
They absolutely can be, depending on how the kitchen is used and how much additional space and convenience the island adds. In situations where the cook is always looking for one more space to rest a tray or a cutting board, or situations where someone is always cooking or prepping with their back to someone else sitting at a table, kitchen islands can radically change the feeling and efficiency of the kitchen. If a homeowner already has all the storage they need, and the flow of the kitchen functions smoothly, an island is probably unnecessary. Otherwise it can be a great investment that makes a key space in the home work better.
Sources: Angi, HomeAdvisor, LawnStarter, Forbes