Kitchen islands don't have to cost a fortune

Posted2/28/2014 12:01 AM

You don't have to be a millionaire to own an island. You could have your own personal island right in your kitchen. If you kitchen is large enough, you can add a central workspace, or island, in just a weekend and without spending a fortune.

An island could be as simple as an old dresser, with a few minor changes. You can remove the drawers, and use baskets or boxes for storing kitchen gadgets.

You also could use ready-made cabinets. They should be the same size as your existing base cabinets.

Add a butcher block or stone work surface. You even could go with a matching counter top, if you like.

Paint the island to match your existing kitchen cabinets to really make it fit in well.

Add lockable wheels to the bottom so that it can be more mobile when you need it to be.

You can customize it by adding racks for pots and pans inside, pullout sliding storage, a hand-towel rack and other "kitchen aids."

If you are more experienced, you can add a small sink or electricity, as long as you do it safely and according to your local codes.

You can add an overhead pot rack, or even a classy chandelier or some pendant lights.

All that extra workspace and storage might be a little paradise for your right in your own kitchen!

Add wheels to shelving

Storage shelves are great for garage organization. They can be tall enough to hold a lot of stuff but narrow enough to fit right up against a wall. Put them on wheels, and they will be even better. Other cabinets, tools and even your workbench also can be put on wheels. Then you easily can move things around when you need to clean or make space for a special project. So get rolling!

Sand in tight spots

Sanding is just part of the game when it comes to a lot of projects. Sometimes you can use a power sander or a rotary tool with a sanding attachment. Other times you'll just have to do it by hand. If you need to get the sandpaper into a thin spot, try wrapping it over the end of a putty knife. Then you can slide the knife, and the sandpaper, into the area and move it back and forth to do the sanding. The knife blade will act as a good backer to help you get the job done the way you want. Remember this little trick the next time you find yourself in this situation!

Super hints

• You can turn any surface into a magnetic surface with a special paint, available at paint and hardware stores. Create a magnetic note center in your kitchen or office, or turn a wall in your child's room into a magnetic wall for photos. It's super easy!

• I know there are lots of shortcuts to cleaning a paintbrush, and I'm willing to try all of the tips we receive through the mail or in emails. I do, however, make sure my paintbrushes are cleaned, thoroughly, before I store them. I've thrown out too many brushes through the years, and have learned that if you don't clean them as soon as you finish using them, they probably never will come clean. The only exception for me is natural-bristle brushes after use with oil-based paint. I'll let the solvent do the heavy lifting on those!

• We love cable ties and use them for tons of things. One creative upgrade to the cable tie is the screw mount, which is sold to go with these. It attaches to the wall with a screw or nail and holds cable ties right where you need them.

Q. We have an older kitchen with tile countertops. I know a lot of people don't like tile, but I do -- I love the color and look of the tiles. I want to find a good way to preserve the grout and the tiles. What tips do you have?

A. You can seal the grout several ways. The best way to do it is to "paint" the sealer on to the grout. It is a tedious chore, but worth it. It should last for a long time as long as you don't use abrasive cleaners on the grout. You even can get a sealer that has color so you can lighten the grout lines, if you want to.

Q. We have a great room that is open up to the roof line, which is two stories tall. It's really big and roomy, but all of the heating and cooling vents are located on the ceiling, so the seating area doesn't get enough. What could we do to help with this problem?

A. If you have a ceiling fan, you can use it to help move the air down into the actual living space. If that isn't an option, you might have to have an HVAC company come in and add ducts into the lower part of the room. It might not be that hard to do if you have ductwork already in the walls going to adjacent rooms.

Q. Our water is considered to be "hard" and has a lot of minerals in it. The taste doesn't bother me as much as the wear and tear on my water-using appliances. I've replaced several filters and other moving parts in my ice maker, dishwasher and toilets. Do I have to put up with this forever, or is there a solution?

A. If you don't already know, vinegar is your best and least-expensive solution. Use it to clean and dissolve these minerals. Put it in your dishwasher while empty and run it through a cycle, once a month. Put some in the toilet tank overnight to dissolve buildup. A whole-house water filter might be useful, although those are more expensive. The most expensive approach, although very helpful, is a water softener. Most require regular upkeep, but maintaining one appliance versus several might be an acceptable option for you. Talk to your water utility company to see what it recommends.

Reader tips

• Our master bathroom is great. It's very large, and we have plenty of room with our even larger walk-in closet. The only drawback is that it's upstairs. My wife created a really nice little "coffee bar" in our bathroom. She took a corner of the counter and put the coffee pot, two cups and a bag of coffee on a large tray. Now we have our coffee upstairs each morning while we are dressing for work. Last week, I surprised her with a small refrigerator for Valentine's Day. It's in the closet, so it's easy to access, and we can now have breakfast upstairs, too.

• Since we have downsized, it's been nice having a smaller house to take care of. We had to get rid of a lot of stuff, but also have gotten creative with some extra storage. We put over-the-door storage in almost every closet we have. This has become a very efficient way to store lots of things. We should have done this years ago in our larger house just to keep things organized. We have similar but smaller door storage on several of the cabinet doors as well.

• Our home is more than 20 years old, so I knew our water heater was living on borrowed time. When it started to leak, I couldn't get a plumber out to replace it for several days, so I took matters into my own hands. I shut off the power and water for the water heater, and hooked a garden hose up to drain it outside. If I hadn't done this, it just would have drained, and kept on draining, until the plumber showed up.

• I started noticing more and more popped nails in our lake house. Someone told me it was because of the weather this winter, but I'm not sure I believe that. Anyway, I bought a box of drywall screws and went around to all of the popped nails and installed screws just over or under each one. Then I took a nail set and drove the nails back down into place. I spread some drywall compound over all of the nail and screw heads, and touched it up with paint. Problem solved!

• We use Teflon tape to seal plumbing connections, so I know how well it works and how easy it is to use. As a crafter, I'm always looking at household products as options to use in crafting. I have started using this Teflon tape to seal up paint jars and cans. It works great. I also use it on glues, and it works even better. I've not had a stuck lid since I started using it!


• If your wooden deck is old, weathered, cracked and just looks bad, check out Behr's DeckOver. It will resurface your deck or concrete patio to give you a smooth, slip-resistant finish that will look good for years to come. It is easy to work with, comes in a variety of colors and will give an old, ugly deck an upgrade in just a weekend. To find out more, go to or see it at your Home Depot store.

• When it's time for a new circular saw, you need to take a look at Rockwell's Compact Circular Saw. It weighs half as much as the older, large models, has a much thinner blade, cuts faster and cuts with only one hand holding it. If you've never used one of these smaller circ saws, you're going to love this! To find out more, go to to see it in action and find out about some of the other great features it has.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

© 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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