How to Build a 2-Tier Kitchen Island

Michael Straessle

Adding a second tier to a kitchen island cabinet transforms it into a gathering place for friends to enjoy a light snack or drinks. It also will provide extra storage and counter space.

Build the Box

  1. Place the two 23 x 35 1/4-inch pieces of plywood (end panels) on a worktable. Measure in from one edge near the corner and make a mark at 4 inches. Repeat this for the other edge in the same corner.

  2. Place the framing square on the marks and draw lines to create a 4-inch square in the corner of the plywood. Cut this out with the jigsaw.

  3. Apply glue to the 19-inch side of the plywood. Place the 4 x 19-inch plywood on the glue and secure it with 2d box nails. These are the cleats.

  4. Stand the end panels up so that the notched areas face up. Place the 23 x 34 1/2-inch piece of plywood on top of the cleats and secure it through the end panels with 4d finish nails.

  5. Secure the 36-x-4-inch piece of plywood on the notches on the front of the end panels with the 4d finish nails. This is the toe board of the cabinet.

  6. Stand the cabinet right-side-up and place the 34 1/2 x 4-inch piece of plywood at the back top of the end panel. Secure it with 4d finish nails.

  7. Apply glue to the 3/4-inch edges of the back of the end panels and the bottom shelf. Secure the 36 x 40-inch piece of plywood to this area with 4d finish nails. This is the back of the island cabinet and doubles as the support for the second tier.

Face and Tops

  1. Place the 2 x 32-inch pieces of plywood on the worktable. Put them together to form a frame that is 36-by-32 inches tall. Secure the four pieces with the corrugated fasteners. This is the face frame.

  2. Apply glue to the front 3/4-inch edge of the cabinet and secure the face frame with 4d finish nails. Apply glue to three sides of the 2 x 34 1/2-inch plywood and secure it between the end panels and against the backside of the face frame with 4d finish nails.

  3. Apply glue to the top edges of the cabinet and secure the 36 x 25-inch piece of plywood with 4d finish nails. Install the three wood shelf supports to the top edge of the tall plywood back with 4d finish nails.

  4. Install hinges on the two 17 1/2 x 29-inch plywood pieces, which will serve as doors. Attach the doors to the cabinet.

  5. Secure the 36 x 12-inch piece of plywood to the top of the second tier supports with 4d finish nails.

  6. Tip

    Clean up excess glue with a damp cloth. Set all nail holes and fill with painter’s caulk or wood putty.


    Do not leave power tools unattended in the presence of children.

    Do not paint or stain without proper ventilation.