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This is how to Build a Campervan Kitchen Unit (2024)

One of the most important areas of your van is the campervan kitchen unit. It has many functions, from housing the sink and stove, to the fridge, cutlery drawers, and storage cabinets. Truly a camper van kitchen unit is essential. Thus and therefore, in this illustrated guide we will learn how to build a kitchen unit from start to finish.


I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan,writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!


So let's jump in and learn about how to build a campervan kitchen unit!

How to build a campervan kitchen unit

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not. By using these links, you are helping me to continue writing free educational content!

 

Note: Did you know that you can get a free electrical wiring diagram by signing up to The Van Conversion Newsletter 🙂

 
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Camper van kitchen unit dimensions

Some furniture is very simple to build, some is more complex. But no matter what you build, it is important to consider ergonomics. Poorly built furniture and storage will look funky, function poorly, and quickly give you a very sore back trying to get to it!

Storage Dimensions

  • Maximum shelf height: 1.8m

    • High shelf - This is too high for most vans

  • Book shelf height: 1.6m

    • Standard eye height

  • Lowest shelf above kitchen unit: 45cm above kitchen unit

    • Any lower than this and you start to obscure the view of the back of the worktop

Kitchen Unit Dimensions

  • Standard Kitchen unit height: 90cm

  • Standard Kitchen unit Depth: 60cm

  • Shelf above a kitchen unit: 1m above the kitchen unit

    • You can just reach a shelf of this height when leaning across a standard kitchen unit. This is usually the bulkhead storage which happily coincides with these dimensions

  • Campervan overhead lockers depth: 30cm

    • You can just reach the back of a shelf of this depth when leaning across a standard kitchen unit

  • Depth of a sliding drawer: 50cm

    • Standard depth of a sliding drawer

  • Depth of a wardrobe: 60cm

    • Standard depth of a sliding drawer

  • Crouching space in front of a low cupboard: 1m

    • Allow this space in front of a low cupboard

  • Crouching space in front of a low cupboard with open sliding drawer: 1.25m

    • Allow this space in front of a low cupboard with a sliding drawer

kitchen unit dimensions

How to build a Campervan Kitchen Unit

In this guide we will learn how to build a camper van kitchen unit that looks something like this:

campervan kitchen unit
Bae 😍

I even installed a terrarium in my campervan kitchen unit! 👇

van terrarium
Keep your friends close, but your plants closer

Truly, a camper van kitchen unit is essential, so let's look at how to build one!


Step #0: Finalise your campervan layout

Step 0... Make sure you have finalised your campervan design plans. This means mocking up your van on paper, or using a CAD software. The kitchen unit is so large and important that you need to know exactly where it will go. I recommend using Vanspace3D to design your campervan, its an awesome drag n' drop CAD software specifically for campervans.

campervan kitchen unit plans
My campervan kitchen unit plans

My kitchen unit houses the following:

  • Cutlery drawer

  • Fridge

  • Double bin

  • Fresh & grey water containers

  • Pots & pans

  • Propex heater

  • Gas locker

  • A secret compartment for hiding valuables

  • Sink and hob

Campervan design in CAD
I first designed the kitchenette in SketchUp

Step #1: Build the carcassing frame

The first step is to build the carcass of the kitchen unit. I used 2X2 timber for this, though I recommend 2X1 as it is lighter overall and won’t affect the structural integrity.

Note: I used the carcassing method to build this unit.


It is important to know exactly which compartments you want in your camper van kitchen unit. I needed compartments for the LPG heater, gas bottle, cutlery, pots & pans, water containers, fridge, and garbage bins. I also needed to account for the depth and width that the SMEV sink and stove would take up on the top.

Carcass of the campervan kitchen unit
Carcass of the kitchen unit

The carcassing frame was built using simple butt joints that were screwed/glued together. I used a lot of pocket hole joints when building the frame.


To ensure the angles of the cuboid frame are at 90° angles, you should use a carpenter's square.


Step #2: Ply-line the back of the camper van kitchen unit

Ply-line the back of the campervan kitchen unit. This is a straightforward job with a jigsaw or circular saw.

Cutting plywood for campervan kitchen unit

A handy way to ensure you are cutting in a straight line is to use a chalk line. You flick and snap the chalk line down on the plywood and it will give you a nice, straight 'chalk line' to cut along.


If you are installing the kitchen unit against one of the walls (rather than across the front like me), you may not want to ply-line the back of the kitchen unit. The back is not in sight, and you will shave quite a bit of weight by not installing it.


Because my camper van kitchen unit separates the cab and the living quarters of the van, I insulated the back with board insulation and covered with some more ply.

Insulating the campervan kitchen unit

Next, ply-line the individual compartments of the camper van kitchen unit.

Shelves for the campervan kitchen unit


Step #3: Install the kitchen top

The kitchen top is an essential part of any campervan kitchen unit. It is a very hard surface that can take a lot of wear and tear. We install the sink and stove into the kitchen top.

campervan kitchen unit installation
A spacious kitchen installation by @vanlifecustoms

Measure the required size and cut the kitchen top using a circular saw. Kitchen top wood is very hard wood. So make sure you are using a new, very sharp circular saw. Do not use a blade with a very high tooth count. You should use some tapping and cutting fluid to reduce the heat and increase lubrication while you are cutting.

Cutting a kitchen worktop

Tip: Installing a fence on your circular saw will help you get a super clean, straight cut.

cooking in a campervan
Cooking up a storm!

At this point, you will want to make a cut-out to allow for the installation of the sink and stove. The SMEV 9222 comes with a cardboard template which you can trace around with a pencil. You then simply cut around the traced line with a jigsaw.

Here is a guide on how to install the SMEV 9222.

Installing SMEV in kitchen worktop

Finally, glue down the kitchen top to the carcass using wood glue. Add some sealant where necessary and clamp it down for a few hours to 'seal the deal'

Sticking campervan kitchen worktop

Step #4: Build the doors

The last step is to build the camper van kitchen unit doors. Build these in the same manner as the wardrobe: lengths of tongue and groove secured together with horizontal cladding slats on the back.

building doors of campervan kitchen unit

Attach each door to the side furring using two strap hinges. Install a door knob on each door. I also installed magnetic catches to keep the door shut tight when driving.

Campervan kitchen unit doors

The final step is to install some stripwood (narrow decorative timber) around the edges of each door to make them pop!

I made similar doors for the smaller compartments in the campervan kitchen unit.

small storage in a van

The alternative: Buy a pre-built kitchen unit

Building a kitchen unit yourself can take a lot of time and is quite complex. Davanco Designs sell beautiful pre-built kitchen units specifically for campervans.

Davanco flat pack furniture
Davanco flat pack furniture

Conclusion

And that's all there is to building a campervan kitchen unit!


Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you join).


If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!

van conversion book

Until next time,

Shane ✌️

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