How to Upgrade a Builder Grade Kitchen Island


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November 19, 2019
Zoe Hunt

Add Geometric Trim for an Easy DIY Kitchen Island Update

kitchen island update in just a few hours before and after

The builder-grade island. You can’t complain because you are lucky enough to have an island, but overall the design is pretty blah. On top of that, the flat paint finish on the island is a magnet for jean stains and scuffs, so it never really looks clean.

You don’t want to change the structural elements of the island, but you’re looking for something more practical (and pretty).

Phew, you’re in the right place! Today we’re going to talk through the steps of how we transformed our builder-grade kitchen island into a design focal point of our island–all for less than $50!

Want to DIY buy don\'t know where to start? Click here to grab your free guide!

Let’s start DIYing!

update your kitchen island for less than $50

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)!


What You’ll Need

How to Upgrade a Builder Grade Kitchen Island Using Trim

New to DIY? Download our free 5 Steps to Getting Start with DIY guide!

Step 1: sketch out your design

Sketch out your design using chalk. Once you get the design where you want, go over it with painters tape. 

dalmatian standing in front of kitchen island with blue tape

Step 2: sand

Sand all of your boards using 120 grit sandpaper or higher.

STEP 3: cut your corner moulding

Cut your pine corner moulding to to the appropriate size (the distance between your lower moulding and your upper moulding) using your miter saw with a fine tooth saw blade.

Step 4: attach corner moulding

Attach your corner mouldings using liquid nails. While the glue is drying, you can use painters tape to reinforce them to the wall rather than holding them yourself.

tape securing corner molding to kitchen island

step 5: cut your boards

If you have a spare board, use your miter saw to cut it at a 45-degree angle. Then clamp the board you are wanting to cut to this angled board. This will give you a guide for your hacksaw. You could also use a miter box.

Cut any pieces that span fully from bottom trim to top trim. Cut the first piece approximately 2-3″ longer than it will need to be. Once you cut it, bring it to your island and use a pencil to mark the exact size the board needs to be. Use this measurement for all of your boards than span fully from bottom trim to top trim so that they will all be parallel (even if they weren’t fully parallel in your sketch).

Step 6: attach your boards

Remove the tape and attach your full-length boards to your island using nails. We used 3 nails in each of our 38″ boards.

nailing trim boards to builder-grade kitchen island

Next, let’s move on to the perpendicular boards. You can use a pencil to “cut” your tape to the exact length that you need your boards to be. Use your hacksaw to cut your boards. Attach your boards using nails.

cutting tape using a pencil

Continue cutting your tape, cutting your boards, and attaching them until your design is complete.

step 7: prep and paint

Once all of your boards are secure, fill all of the nail holes and seams between boards with wood putty. Be sure to overfill all of the holes because the wood putty will shrink when it dries. Once the wood putty is dry, sand off the excess using 120 grit sandpaper.

Caulk every place that the boards meet the wall.

close-up of trim boards with caulk and wood filler

Once the caulk dries, it’s time to paint! We used our paint sprayer, but you can paint with a brush and/or roller. We recommend getting a semi-gloss or glossy paint to reduce the number of stains and scuffs. If any dirt does get on the island, a semi-gloss paint will be much easier to clean than a flatter finish. For more painting tips, you can check out our post about everything you need to know about paints and stains. 

There you have it! A simple kitchen island update that will take you less than a day to complete! The hardest part might be deciding on the best color? Or maybe the pattern? 

DIY island makeover | white kitchen with leather barstools
close-up on kitchen island pattern
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  1. Ella says:

    Thanks for sharing, I really love how this project turned out! I’m getting my kitchen redone by a cabinet painter in a few weeks & I’m planning on having them update my kitchen island too. Your photos have been super helpful in trying to help me decide what color and style I want!

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