When it came to the skoolie 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 method done in other skoolie kitchens (yet) but we’re very happy with the end product.
In this post: Lower Cabinets Toe Kick Countertop Upper Cabinets Sink Range
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 for installation.
There is about 5 inches of empty space between the floor and the bottom of each cabinet. To secure our cabinets, we screwed 5 inch blocks into the floor, put the cabinets on top, and screwed the cabinets down into the blocks. We only put blocks at the front corners of the cabinets because we secured the back of the cabinets to the wall. If you’re no cabinet maker or you’re looking to save some time on your skoolie kitchen, we recommend this strategy.
Once you line up the individual cabinet faces, there is a 1/2 inch gap between them that goes all the way back to the wall. Put another way: when you put the 18″ cabinet next to the 36″ cabinet, the front of the cabinets 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 helps to brace the cabinets together and prevent any movement.
Tip: Anything that you build in your skoolie 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 skoolie, you'll need more than just the average shims. We've used a lot of odd blocks to wedge things into their permanent spot.
Unfortunately, the toe kick (the long piece that covers the particle board by the floor) is sold separately from cabinets. The toe kick that matched our cabinets would have been $6 but we had enough plywood that we decided to make and stain one ourselves. We were already planning to stain other parts of the build, including the pieces that frame our skoolie kitchen. Ultimately, we went with a dark stain to help the toe kick blend in with the floor. This helped give our cabinets a floating look. The dark stain also helps to frame the light, neutral kitchen and make it pop with some contrast.
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 styled 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 it up for 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 come 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 skoolie kitchen. 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 most likely would have made.
Think of a skoolie kitchen as a cohesive unit. It’s probably best to either build it all or use all similar pre-fabricated cabinets, not a combination of the two. This can make it look mismatched. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do. I’m sure there are many success stories out there but unless you really know what you’re doing, this is a good general rule.
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 across the back of the cabinets.
Now, this is crucial: you need to secure your upper cabinets into more than just your ceiling boards. A great way to do this is to screw a stud into the metal ribs of the ceiling before installing ceiling boards. We screwed our cabinets through the ceiling board into the stud as well as into additional wooden boards that we put above and between the cabinets. We also added more screws through the lower back of the cabinets into the wall. All braced up!
We have a 9″ deep sink that is about 16″ by 16″. The cabinet that it’s in is a “sink cabinet,” so the top drawer face doesn’t have anything behind it. We wanted plenty of space to do dishes and we figured that we should use the depth of this empty space to our advantage.
As we previously mentioned, the range fits right into the “sink cabinet” space as well. Theoretically, we could have chosen four 18-inch cabinets instead and put the sink and range wherever. However, the more cabinets you have in your skoolie kitchen, the more wasted space you end up with between them. We also did not want the sink or range on either of the edges because that would make them more difficult to use. Our setup allows us both to have our own space for food preparation and to cook and clean functionally.
We caulked around the edges of the sink and then dropped it into the countertop hole. We wiped off any residual caulking that squeezed out onto the counter. Lastly, we slid the screws into the channel around the sink and tightened them down to the counter. To read more about our water system, see our Plumbing blog. You may also notice the little black switch on the face of the cabinet by the sink. This is for the water pump, which runs off of electricity (see red wires around the sink below). No skoolie kitchen is complete without a water pump switch.
For our range, we have a two-burner propane Ramblewood. We chose to use propane instead of electric because (1) we wanted to optimize the capacity of our battery bank, (2) propane is very efficient and therefore does not need to be refilled very often, and (3) we were confident that we could do it safely. However, this range does use electricity to ignite the propane. This is why it comes with a very big battery to pop in the bottom.
The range also came with a roll of foam that goes around the bottom perimeter. This is what makes contact with the countertop and seals the range to it. We used the provided screws to attach metal brackets around the perimeter of the range.
You need to tighten these brackets to the countertop, but apparently our countertop wasn’t thick enough for this range installation. To make it fit, we attached wooden blocks for the brackets to tighten into.