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How To DIY A Stunning Kitchen Counter In A Campervan

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How-To-Build-A-Kitchen-Counter

In this article, we will show you how we built a beautiful, custom kitchen counter in our campervan.

This project was one of the most technically challenging parts of our entire van build, but if you take it slow and steady, we’re convinced that anyone can create their own campervan kitchen counters.

Seriously, if we can do it, so you can.

Table of Contents
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    Step 1:

    Design Van Counter Dimensions

    Constructing a kitchen counter in a camper van is one of the most complicated parts of a van conversion. So it’s a good idea to plan ahead and get your dimensions correct the first time around.

    Using Adobe Illustrator, we created a side-view and birds-eye-view of our van interior, which includes our kitchen counters.

    Diagram 1.1 - Bird's Eye View Of Kitchen Counters

    Birds Eye View Of Camper Van Floor Plan Design

    Diagram 1.2 - Bird's Eye View Of Kitchen Counters

    Complete Camper Van Floor Plan Design (Side View)

    In the diagrams above, you can see how we made room for all the major items that we planned to store in our counters. You can even see how we planned to partition the counter with drawers.

    Even though we used Adobe Illustrator (a paid software) to design our camper interior, you can use any old free drawing software to get the same result.

    To learn how to make your own digital layout, check out our camper van interior layout creator post.

    Step 2:

    Build A Cabinet Base (With Toe Kick)

    Building Kitchen Counters In A Campervan - Toe Kick Area
    Toe Kicks Under Our Left & Right Counters

    We decided to build a toe tick area at the base of our kitchen counters. This was so that we could stand closer to the counters without always jamming our toes into the base of the counters.

    You might initially feel that building a toe kick is just complicated foo-foo, but after over 2-years living in our van, we’re glad we put them in. Toe kicks do a lot to help make your van feel more open and less cramped.

    Materials & Tools List

    Below are the materials and tools we used to build our toe kick base for our camper van kitchen counter.

    Table 2.1 - Toe Kick Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Find

    1/2" Plywood Boards

    Primary cabinet construction material

    Local Lumber Yard

    6x1 Wood Screws

    Holds plywood boards together

    Wood Glue

    Reinforces plywood board joints

    Table Saw

    Used for cutting plywood, but you can use a circular or jig saw.

    Framing Square

    A fantastic large 90-degree ruler that we used for all aspects of our van build.

    Great Instructional Video

    We loved watching Frank Howarth’s Youtube channel when we constructed our kitchen counters.

    In the video below, Frank describes how he created the toe kick for his own kitchen counter. And we tried our best to replicate his method.

    Step 3:

    Build Van Kitchen Counter Frame

    Finished Campervan Kitchen Counter Frame
    The finished product!

    Materials & Tools List

    Below are the materials and tools we used to build our van kitchen counter frame. It is similar to what we used to build the toe kick base.

    Table 3.1 - Kitchen Counter Frame Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Find

    1/2" Plywood Boards

    Primary cabinet construction material

    Local Lumber Yard

    6x1 Wood Screws

    Holds plywood boards together

    Wood Glue

    Reinforces plywood board joints

    Table Saw

    Used for cutting plywood, but you can use a circular or jig saw.

    Framing Square

    A fantastic large 90-degree ruler that we used for all aspects of our van build.

    Installation Instructions

    The difficult journey of our campervan kitchen counter construction by cutting 1/2″ Birch plywood boards with our table saw.

    We created the kitchen counter frame by screwing together our plywood boards. We also used lots of wood glue at the plywood joints to ensure a strong hold.

    Keeping the plywood joints at exactly 90 degrees was crucial here. We were always using our framing square to ensure every intersection was as close to 90 degrees as possible.

    Having long clamps is also a must. You will need to keep the plywood joints held tightly together until the wood glue dries.

    How To Build Kitchen Counters In A Campervan - Short Kitchen Counter Frame Construction
    Short counter frame

    Once the plywood frame pieces were glued together and dried, we glued 2×1 pine wood beams to the frame to create our counter fronts. Again, it was super careful measurement taking and lots of wood glue and clamping.

    Kitchen Counter Frame Construction
    Clamping the counter front pieces together

    Lastly, we put in a 1/2″ plywood frame across the top of our kitchen counter frames.

    We did this by cutting our 1/2″ plywood into strips and gluing the strips across the top of the frame. We did this so that our future butcher block countertop can more comfortably sit on the counter.

    You can see how this looks in the picture below.

    Adding A Kitchen Counter Top Frame
    Completed drawer slide installation on main, driver-side counter

    Step 4:

    Building Cabinet Drawers

    Drawers For Our Campervan Kitchen Counters
    First drawer completed

    The last part of the counter construction was creating the drawers and installing the drawer slides.

    This was easily the most time intensive part of the counter construction project as measurements had to be super exact and drawer slides had to be extremely level when installed.

    Materials & Tools List

    Below are the materials and tools we used to build our van’s kitchen counter drawers.

    Table 4.1 - Kitchen Drawers Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Find

    1/2" Plywood Boards

    Any kind of wood works, but plywood also works great here.

    Local Lumber Yard

    Pocket Hole Jig

    Helps create strong plywood joints when building drawer frame.

    Drawer Slide Jig

    Immensly helpful jig to install perfectly located and level drawer slides.

    Drawer Slides

    These soft-close slides are perfect to attach drawers to counter frame.

    Cabinet Handles

    Beautiful brushed copper cabinet handles.

    Cabinet Handles Jig

    Helps to install perfectly located cabinet handles every time.

    Wood Glue

    Reinforces plywood board joints

    Installation Instructions

    The last part of the counter construction was creating the drawers and installing the drawer slides.

    This was easily the most time intensive part of the counter construction project as measurements had to be super exact and drawer slides had to be extremely level when installed.

    First we measured the exact dimensions of each drawer space in our counters. Because each drawer slide is 1/2″ thick (and two slides are required), the physical width of each drawer had to be exactly 1″ less than the drawer space in the counter.

    DIY Tip: The Kreg Tool's Pocket Hole Jig became very useful for creating strong drawer frames. We definitely recommend picking one up.

    Frank's Video Comes In Very Helpful...Again

    Again, it’s difficult to discuss the construction process in a written blog. And we think Frank Howarth does an excellent job explaining how to do this in his video, below.

    Finished Drawer Frame

    After watching Frank’s video, below was our finished result.

    Base of a drawer for our campervan kitchen counter
    Bottom view of our small drawer

    Attaching The Drawer Slides

    When fixing the drawer slides to the kitchen counter frame, we relied heavily on the Kreg Tool Drawer Slide Jig. This jig helped to make sure our drawer slides were properly level and in the correct location to easily fit our drawers.

    Step 5:

    Sanding & Painting Van Kitchen Counters

    Now that the entire construction process was finished, we could finally get to sanding and painting our cabinets.

    Materials & Tools List

    Below are the materials we used to sand and paint our counters.

    Table 5.1 - Sanding & Painting Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Buy

    80-Grit Sand Paper

    1st stage sanding

    120-Grit Sand Paper

    2nd stage (smoother) sanding

    Anti-Mold Spray

    Kills & deters mold growth

    Anti-Mold Primer

    Kills & deters mold growth

    Paint

    It's paint...

    Hardware Store

    Helpful Tools

    Electric Sander

    Makes sanding easier and quicker

    Filtered Face Mask

    Filters out wood particles and paint fumes.

    Paint Brushes

    To paint with...

    Hardware Store

    Directions

    With everything completed, we sanded our kitchen counters and drawers with both 80 & 120-grit sand paper.

    And lastly, we painted our counters with both an anti-mold primer and the same ‘Twinkling Lights’ off-white paint that we used for our campervan walls.

    Learn More: How We Created Beautiful Campervan Walls

    Step 6:

    Installing Butcher Block Counter Top In A Van

    Butcher Block Countertop For Campervan Kitchen Counter
    Cut lines for our Walnut butcher block

    To match our dark brown cedar plank ceiling, we wanted a kitchen countertop that was also dark brown in color. As a result, we ordered a 8′ long Walnut Butcher Block from Lumber Liquidators.

    The butcher block needed to be sized correctly to the shape of our kitchen counters, so we used blue painters tape to create our cut outline. We also used tape to create a square cut line to fit our future sink.

    Materials & Tools List

    Below are the materials & tools we used to install a butcher block counter top on our kitchen counter.

    Table 6.1 - Butcher Block Materials & Tools

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Find

    Butcher Block

    We went with a Walnut counter top, but Cherry or Oak work well, too.

    Local Lumber Yard

    Circular Saw

    Best saw to cut through butcher block wood.

    Sand Paper Set

    Different grit sandpaper to get a perfectly smooth finish.

    Tung Oil

    Water treats the countertop and gives the wood a vibrant color.

    Any Hardware Store

    Tung Oil Applicator

    Helps apply tung oil to butcher block.

    Butcher Block Cutting and Fitting

    We then used our table saw, jig saw, and drill to cut the walnut butcher block board down to size.

    Pro Tip: We made the width and depth of our butcher block 1/2″ larger than our kitchen counter frame. This will give the countertop a nice 1/2″ overhang.

    Sanding & Oiling The Butcher Block

    Once the two countertop pieces were cut to size we sanded the butcher block, starting with 80-grit sandpaper and stepping all the way up to 400-grit paper. This gave our butcher block a silky smooth feeling when running your hands across the countertop.

    To bring out the rich, deep brown colors of the walnut wood, we gave the butcher block 4 coats of tung oil. The oil really helped not only to seal the wood from moisture, but also gave the wood it’s beautiful deep brown color.

    7 Must Have Items For A Photogenic Campervan - Backsplash
    Finished kitchen counter with countertop

    Step 7:

    Attaching The Butcher Block Countertop

    With the sanding and oiling completed, the countertop is ready to be attached to the counter frame.

    Materials & Tools List

    Below are the materials and tools we used to attach the butcher block countertop.

    Table 7.1 - Attaching Butcher Block Materials Table

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Find

    Silicone Sealant

    Adheres butcher block to counter frame.

    Caulking Gun

    Helps extrude silicone sealant onto counter frame.

    Installation Steps

    The last step was the attach the walnut butcher block countertop to our kitchen counter frame.

    To do this, we extruded a generous bead of silicone sealant all across our 1/2″ plywood counter top frame and simply sat the butcher block on top.

    24 hours later our butcher block was firmly held in place.

    Go Back: DIY Campervan Build Guide

    Video Of Our Campervan Kitchen Counters

    In the above video you can see our campervan kitchen counters live. (Turn on subtitles for English).

    In the video, you can right away get a feel for our walnut butcher block counter top. And a few minutes later, we open up all our drawers or cabinet doors to show you what we store inside them.

    Enjoy!

    Go Back: How To Build A DIY Camper Van

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