If you’ve already followed our DIY campervan cabinets post, then you might be ready to complete your cabinets with a stunning countertop. In our case, we installed a gorgeous butcher block countertop in our campervan and it has become one of the centerpieces in our tiny home.
In this post, we show you how you can DIY a campervan countertop from scratch.
You will learn:
- Popular countertop materials for campervans
- Dimension planning
- How to cut, sand, & oil/seal a countertop
- Installation guidance & tips
- Regular countertop maintenance
So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!
Popular Countertop Materials For Campervans
The first step to installing a countertop in a van is to select the material. Not every countertop material that you see in a standard home would be a good fit for a campervan.
Ideally, you want to choose a material that is:
As a result, you can immediately rule out the following countertop materials such as:
But several options remain for you to choose from.
1. Butcher Block
Using butcher block to create a countertop is a campervan favorite due to their warm look, wide range of colors, and easy DIY installation. In our camper, we used a walnut butcher block (from LL Flooring) to lay on top of our kitchen counters.
For those on a budget, plywood is also a popular countertop material for campers. And just like with butcher block, plywood comes in numerous different wood types and colors to match a camper’s interior design color scheme.
Lightweight, easy to clean, and affordable, it’s no wonder laminates are a popular campervan countertop material. Laminates are made using a plastic-coated top layer that is bonded to a particleboard core.
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Countertop Dimensions & Shape
When you purchase a stock countertop, it will likely arrive to you as a giant rectangle which you will need to cut down to size to fit in your campervan.
In our case, our walnut butcher block arrived to us as a giant 12’x25” board.
What To Consider Before Cutting A Countertop Board
Before cutting into the wood board, here are the top five things to consider:
- Cabinet dimensions: By now, you should already have your cabinet frame completed. So the final cabinet dimensions will influence the countertop dimensions. Don’t yet have cabinets? Read our DIY cabinets post.
- Overhang: Will your countertop hang over your cabinet? Our countertop hangs ½” over our cabinets, to create a nice overhang.
- Sink: The size and location of your sink will determine where and how big of a hole you will need to cut into your countertop. Read our camper sink recommendation for more.
- Stove: The size and location of your stove will also determine how you cut into your countertop. If you use a camping stove, like us, you do not need to plan for this.
- Van frame protrusions: You may need to cut into your countertop in such a way to wrap around any protrusions in your campervan’s metal frame.
Cutting Your Countertop Board
Now that you have a general idea of your countertop’s future shape and dimensions, you’re ready to start planning your cuts.
Plan Cuts With Painter’s Tape
Plan your cut lines by placing painter’s tape across the countertop. When completed, you’ll be able to cut along the outside edges of the tape to arrive at your countertop’s final shape.
In the picture here, you can see how we used the blue painter’s tape to mark out the general dimension of our kitchen cabinet and also accounted for our sink and a single protrusion from our van’s frame.
We did not have to account for a stove since we decided to use a general Coleman camping stove, which will simply sit on top of our countertop.
Painter's tape is something that comes in handy every virtually every step of the van conversion process. From painting, to vent fan installation, to sizing the countertop, painter's tape is always good to have around.
Cut Countertop Along Cut Lines
After you have laid out all your cut lines with painter’s tape, you’re ready to cut.
When cutting out the hole for your sink and stove, a standard jigsaw will do fine. That is because the cuts don’t have to look perfect and the cut edges can be easily hidden with a top mounted sink & stove.
However, when cutting longer edges you can get much faster and cleaner cuts by using a circular saw.
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Sanding The Countertop
Once you are finished cutting the countertop, you are ready to sand the wood to smooth out the surface.
Start sanding the wood countertop with 120-grit sandpaper. This is a good starting point as this courser sandpaper will smooth out the rough areas on your countertop.
Once completed, start working your way up the grit numbers. For our countertop, we used 220-grit, 320-grit, and 400-grit sandpaper. And by the time we were done, the top layer of our countertop was silky smooth.
Good for general woodworking, but this sandpaper set works great for butcher block sanding since you can attain an extremely smooth finish up to 1000 grit.
Sealing The Countertop With Mineral Oil
When you receive the raw countertop wood, the color lacks vibrancy. Though some people prefer wood in this natural state, you can bring out more color by oiling (or staining) the wood.
Another benefit of using oil is that the oil seals the wood pores and prevents liquid from entering the wood. Not only does water warp an unsealed wood board, but it also promotes mold growth.
If choosing oil, apply a single, thin coat of oil to your countertop and let the oil sit for ~10 minutes. Then, with a dry rag, remove any access oil.
Repeat the process at least 2-3 more times to properly seal your campervan’s countertop.
If you let the excess oil sit and dry on your countertop, you will get a sticky surface and the final color won’t be even.
In Steven’s video below, he does an excellent job showing you the procedure on how to seal a butcher block countertop.
Improves resistance to water and brings out the natural color of the wood countertop. Apply 2-3 times initially, then once every few months to maintain the color and water protection.
Installing The Countertop On The Cabinets
With the sanding and oiling completed, the countertop is ready to be attached on top of the cabinet frame.
If you don’t yet have a cabinet frame, check out our DIY van cabinet post to learn how to build one so you can install your stunning counter on top.
To firmly attach your countertop to the cabinet, extrude a generous bead of silicone sealant, with a caulking gun, onto the top frame of the cabinets. Then, with a friend, lift the countertop and place it onto the cabinet.
Allow 24 hours for the sealant to dry.
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Regular Campervan Countertop Maintenance
If you installed a laminate countertop in your camper, you won’t need to perform any regular maintenance.
But if you opted for a wood countertop (butcher block or plywood), regular maintenance is required to keep the wood in great looking condition.
Sanding & Oiling
The mineral oil you applied isn’t permanent. Overtime, the wood countertop becomes increasingly permeable to liquids. That is why it is a good idea to gently sand and re-oil the countertop 2-3 times a year.
It is OK to use only 320 and 400 grit sandpaper for countertop maintenance. This is enough to buff out most of the scratches and to restore the silky smooth texture to your van’s countertop.
Just because the countertop is sealed with oil doesn’t mean it’s impervious to mold growth.
To prevent mold, we never leave moist towels on our wood countertop for more than a few minutes. And any drops of water that land on our counter are quickly dabbed up with paper.
Occasionally, we will inspect our countertop for mold growth and if we see any, we spot clean the area with food-grade cleaner.
We hope our campervan countertop installation guide helps you to DIY your own gorgeous countertop. After 3+ years in our van, our walnut butcher block is still one of the highlights of our van interior.
If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments section below.
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