Kitchen islands let you take advantage of storage space that may not have been available otherwise. Many islands now have additional cabinet and drawer space underneath the top platform. Newer island models even come equipped with warming drawers, eliminating the need to use your oven to keep waiting food warm. Islands are also one of the easiest ways to add needed work space for prep work when cooking. They are available in dimensions as small as 18 square inches, as large as 60 square inches, and every size in between.
In many homes, kitchen islands become the center of activity and serve a lot of purposes other than food prep. Some people use them as home office spaces, project areas, and the like. Kitchen islands have much better space to spread out materials than most kitchen counters afford. In recent years, kitchen islands have been developed to be either free-standing or built-in, and each comes with special considerations.
With a built-in kitchen island, there is the requirement by electrical codes to install electrical outlets in it. This project involves running electrical lines up through the floor and therefore comes with the extra expense of an electrical contractor. Home cooks who choose this option often also have the need for an additional sink to be installed in the island, and the same applies to hiring a plumbing contractor. Outlets and sinks are advantages that come with the built-in option, and this decision is one that needs to be made fairly early on.
If you enjoy a great deal of cooking from scratch, you probably chop meat and vegetables frequently. One of the most popular types of kitchen islands is the one that eliminates the extra expense of a cutting board: the wooden butcher-block kitchen island. These also save on the added chore of having to wash and disinfect a cutting board on a regular basis. Butcher block islands come in a variety of high-quality woods, including maple, birch, cherry and oak.
If you are dedicated to the idea of a butcher-block kitchen island, one important thing to keep in mind is the thickness of the butcher block; it will eventually become pitted from continuous knife use on its surface. You select one at least 3 inches thick. This thickness will allow you to periodically sand down and refinish the surface to eliminate knife pits where bacteria can remain. A newer option from some manufacturers is a detachable butcher block top that can be removed from a built-in island for cleaning.