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Apart from the bed, the counter is the only other major structure inside the van, and is our primary storage space for clothing. It also houses the entire heating and water systems. We used SketchUp to figure out the dimensions and packaging of everything that needed to fit within the structure.
The counter is divided into 3 sections. The section on the left (towards the rear of the van) holds the heating system. The middle section is where we store our clothes. And the third section, toward the front of the van, is where we installed the sink – with the water tank and plumbing system underneath it.
The frame for the base of the counter is built out of pine 1x2s, corner braces and plenty of screws. It is attached to the floor of the van directly with screws. And yes, we built the frame in our living room. Frankly, we probably built about a third of the van in our living room.
After screwing the frame to the floor of the van, we screwed pieces of 1/4″ plywood onto the frame, and layered that with the 1/4″ cedar panels, to match the walls. Doubling up on the 1/4″ layers provided some rigidity to the walls of the counter, since we would be cutting holes for the heater vent, charger ports etc.
We made the countertop from a beat up old table we found on Craigslist for ten bucks. Once cut, sanded, and stained with mineral oil, it looked as good as new! A nice butcher block counter can easily cost over $100. Gotta love a good bargain transformation.
The counter is cut into three sections. The middle section is hinged onto the frame, and acts as the lid to the storage space underneath it. We installed a gas shock to keep the lid propped open. The underside of the lid is padded with a foam strip to ensure it doesn’t rattle while we’re driving.
Heating System Section
The propane heating system takes up the left part of the counter. Check out our Heating System page to learn more. We also created a little shelf in here, for a charging station for our camera batteries. The section of the countertop that covers this section pops right off, and is held in place with magnets.
Water System Section
The far right of the counter holds the sink. The entire water system (water tank, pump and plumbing) is installed in the space underneath the sink. Check out our Water System page to learn more.