When it came to the kitchen, we were hoping to get things moving faster. Due to a local cabinet sale and the fact that our kitchen is an even 6 feet, we decided to buy the cabinetry for this part of the build and retrofit it to the bus. We have not seen this done in other builds but we’re very happy with the end product.
In this post: Lower Cabinets Countertop Upper Cabinets
For our 6 foot kitchen, we decided to get two 18″ cabinets and one 36″ sink cabinet to put between them. The “sink cabinet,” as oppose to another standard 36″ cabinet, has a false upper drawer so that the sink can fit down into it. We decided to put our sink in one side of this cabinet and our range in the other as they both need that open space under the counter.
There is about 5 inches of empty space between the floor and the bottom of each cabinet, right behind the toe kick. To secure our cabinets, we screwed 5 inch blocks into the floor, put the cabinets on top, and screwed the cabinets down into each of the blocks. The blocks were only positioned at the front corners of the cabinets because the back of the cabinets were secured to the wall.
Unfortunately, the toe kick (the long piece that covers the particle board down by the floor) is sold separately from cabinets. The toe kick that matched our cabinets would have been $6 but we had enough plywood already that we decided to make and stain one ourselves. We chose a dark stain to help the toe kick blend in with the floor, almost giving our cabinets a “floating” look.
Once the individual cabinet faces are lined up, there is a 1/2 inch gap between them that goes all the way back to the wall. Put another way: when the 18″ cabinet is set next to the 36″ cabinet, the front of them line up so that you do not see a gap from the front but there is a long gap between the cabinets as you look from above. We put 1/2 inch boards between each of the cabinets and screwed them both into the board. This braces the cabinets together and prevents any movement.
Tip: Anything that you build for your bus should be installed in a way that maximizes its contact with surrounding surfaces for optimal bracing. If, once you install something, there are gaps around it, fill the gaps to help maintain that space and minimize any possibility of movement. This is what shims are for! However, in a bus, you'll need more than just the average shims. We've used a lot of odd blocks to wedge things into their permanent spot.
We looked through all the stock countertops at Home Depot and Lowe’s and let me tell you, they were ugly. I’m not sure why these home improvement giants decided to stock such horrible countertops but they’re incredibly dated and unappealing pieces. Fortunately, we checked Home Depot’s online stock and were able to find a faux marble, laminate countertop for stock price. It just wasn’t stocked at our local store, so we had to order it.
Once it arrived, we marked up the holes for the sink and the range. We placed painter’s tape on the top of the countertop to prevent blow out and then cut out the holes with a saw from the bottom. Once these holes were cut, the countertop sagged in the middle of the 36″ cabinet. To strengthen it, we added reinforcement blocks around the sink and range holes. We then added the build-up blocks necessary for countertop installation (these pieces came with the countertop).
The last step was installation! We placed the countertop on the lower cabinets and screwed up through the plastic braces into each of the blocks.
These cabinets were the ones that were hardest to retrofit into the bus. With our curvy ceiling, we had to do many odd cuts to make our standard upper cabinets fit. Admittedly, if we did this again, we would just make these upper cabinets ourselves. However, they match our lower cabinets in many ways that we would not have been able to recreate so although this took some time and energy, it is a better-looking end product than what we would have made. The kitchen is a cohesive unit so it’s probably best to either build it all or use all similar pre-fabricated cabinets, not a combination of the two which would likely make it look mismatched.
Travis used cardboard and painter’s tape to create a template for the shape of the wall behind the upper cabinets. He aligned the template on the cabinets and made the appropriate cuts to the side as well as across the back of the cabinets.
We screwed the cabinets up through a ceiling board and into a stud that we had screwed into the metal ribs of the ceiling. We also filled in the space above the cabinet with wooden boards and screwed them into another ceiling board as well. We added more screws through the lower back of the cabinets into the wall. Lastly, as we did with the lower cabinets, we put wooden blocks in the 1/2 inch gap between the two upper cabinets and then screwed them both into that block. All braced together!