ADA: Wheelchair Accessible/Universal Design Kitchen 'Rolling Island' Modifying an Existing Island

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

A rolling island is the best way to create workspace and storage in a small kitchen without giving up function.


Islands are great for adding extra storage and extra work area to a kitchen, but islands can get in the way and make movement in the kitchen difficult.  Fortunately in the world of universal design the objective is versatility and function, so on the scene comes th rolling island.  One of my favorites.


For paradise in the kitchen all you need is an island on wheels.  There are a few options with rolling islands.
  • Freestanding rolling islands that normally live in the middle of the kitchen.
  • Islands that slide under counter tops.
  • Islands that act as moving peninsulas to complete a kitchen cabinet arrangement.
Modifying an existing island.  If you have an island in your kitchen that needs to roll.
  1. Check the bottom of the island most stationary islands have four 'legs' they stand on.  Make sure the legs are sturdy and will be able to accommodate the casters.  If the legs are wood make sure the wood is solid, and deep enough and wide enough to drill into without damaging the wood, at least 2"x 2" but the bigger the better.  If the legs are metal the casters will need to fit into existing receptacles after the foot pads are removed.
  2. Find the highest quality soft casters available. It's important the casters move freely under weight and that they are made of soft material that won't scratch the floor.   Here are some characteristics of casters that are important to take into consideration when choosing a caster.
    1. Load Weight. The heavier the load, the larger the wheel required for the caster. The weight of the load also influences the mobility of the wheel. Roller or ball bearings are recommended for loads over 400 pounds.  Most casters have load weights on the packages. 
    2. Floor Conditions. Make sure the wheel you select is large enough to pass over cracks in the floor, tracks, moldings and other obstructions. For floor protection on linoleum, tile, carpet, etc., use polyurethane or Performa rubber wheels. 
    3. Rolling Ease. The larger the wheel diameter, the easier it rolls. Roller bearings carry heavier loads. Ball bearings roll easier but carry lesser loads. When possible, use the largest ball bearing wheel for best results.
    4. Casters with locks, are highly recommended for islands just to keep things safe.
  3. Attach the roller to the bottom of the island, and wa-laa paradise on wheels. 

One last note, attaching a handle to your island can make moving the island even easier.  Just make sure if you do decide to add a handle that the handle is not somewhere that will snag on clothes and that you mount the handle into a sturdy solid wood surface.

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