Re-purposing an old workbench into a kitchen island

Rental property number 3 had a major kitchen countertop issue! Its countertop space was extremely limited and I was looking for a way to make it more suitable for cooking. I didn’t want to invest a ton in this project and decided the only option was to create a crafty kitchen island for under $30.

Luckily, my mother had found an old basement workbench for $2. A complete steal for assembled treated wood!

Well worth the $2 investment

The overall dimensions were 6ft by 3ft. It was sturdy, ugly, and ready for refurbishment. I began by lightly sanding and painting on primer.

1 coat of “no sand” primer. My favorite brand is “Kilz Hide-All”

After priming was complete, the table is ready for tile prep. I used inexpensive 3″ x 1″ pine boards to line the long edges. I chose metal tile edging for the short table sides; mainly to give it a little contrast. Total cost of edging was about $15.


Next, I painted the pine edging to match the kitchen walls. My thinking was that this would break up the white a bit. It would also match well with the gray grout I was planning to use on the tile. I chose 3″x6″ self spacing subway tile. This was an easy decision because I had it laying around AND its inexpensive to install/use. At 22 pennies per tile….this is a great choice whenever possible.

I laid my mortar and prepared to set the subway tile. After this it’s as simple as snap, stagger, lay, and repeat. The metal edging is pushed in the mortar and installed underneath the tile to create a clean edge on the short table sides. On the long table sides, I screwed the painted pine edges about 1/2″ above the table top. This allows the subway tiles to set within this edge and create a clean “lip.”

Also, please note the paper plates underneath each leg for painting. Paper plates and plastic cups are THE MOST USEFUL thing to have around any renovation project.

Pressing in subway tile

Finally, I ended my project with some gray grout to offset the white subway tiles and match the kitchen walls. Overall, I see this as a successful re-purposing. The tenant will have added countertop space and a nice eat-in area.

Finished project: Under $30.00…roughly

Revitalizing old pieces can be a great addition to any property. I’ve done many similar projects in my own home. Although it might be high in labor….it is definitely inexpensive in materials!


Written By:
Luke Langhals


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