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Cabinets - Build myself, IKEA, carpenter?

My van is ready to get furniture built in it like the kitchen cabinets, overhead storage and the bed cabinet. For the last few weeks, I've been mulling over the decision to hire a carpenter, go to IKEA and get some pre-made ones or build them myself out of plywood (or a synthetic material).

I haven't found any good resources out on the internet that explain how to make the cabinets for a van. My thought is to just make regular cabinets and then cut into them to work around wheel wells and other sections, but I've also never made cabinets before. Is it going to be better to just buy pre-made ones or have a carpenter since I don't know what I'm doing, or is it really not that hard and I can do it rather quickly?

Does anyone have any recommendations?
 

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Don’t buy IKEA! they are not suitable for a vehicle much less a camper. Cabinets in a camper need to be sized smaller, typically, to conserve space. There are lots of threads on building cabinets and everyone has their own way. Some are very simple, other over complicated. I know this doesn’t really answer your question but read other build thread and ask specific questions of the builders first before you jump into it.
 

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I've been looking into some options myself, as KOV says the general consensus on the forum is IKEA cabinets come in limited sizes and might not be up to the rigors of a van existence. Some of these same people use IKEA components elsewhere in their vans, so I'll say there's IKEA and then there's IKEA. Some of these people probably don't own IKEA cabinets, or haven't looked at them closely or lately. That said, you have to choose wisely if you use their stuff van or no.

Aside from building from scratch, there are other options.

Barker cabinets make custom made-to-order cabinet kits out of plywood. They are on the pricey side, but look pretty good.

http://www.barkercabinets.com/

Scherrs does something similar and gives you the option of maple plywood instead of MDF.

http://www.scherrs.com/contents/en-us/d62_Frameless_RTA_Cabinets.html

You can also get custom preassembled drawers and faces from Barker and many others that you can put in your own frames.

http://www.barkerdoor.com/Baltic-Pl...MI6vSz0smo1wIVRVmGCh0YXwNsEAYYASABEgI8KfD_BwE

Another option that I'm looking into is buying IKEA drawers and putting them into your own frames. I recently bought a drawer assembly to see how feasible this might be, and it looks doable. Despite prerogative sawdust and plastic comments, these drawers are made mostly out of steel and the only particle board in them is the facing and the bottom of the drawers which are easily replaced with plywood. The SO is enamored with the IKEA drawer organization inserts and such, so I'm trying to keep her happy. If it doesn't work out I may get suckered into replacing the cabinets in my home. Oh well.

All this said I'm gearing up to build a full set of prototype cabinets myself and see how it goes. You never know until you try. YouTube is a good place to find how-tos and links to blogs and such. If you don't have time to learn, maybe you can hunt up a carpenter to build cabinets for you.
 

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Youd want 18" depth max. You can find 18" depth vanity cabinets. Below is what I was going to order. Two or three of them. Then I thought about how id have to cut them up to fit the water tank in there and decided ill probably just build my own. But after all my looking these are the cheapest ones ive seen that would have a pretty sturdy build when completed.

https://hdsupplysolutions.com/shop/...-1-2h-x-18d-natural-maple-bath-vanity-p520930
 

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RE: building your own. Do you have the basic tools (table saw, drill, orbital sander, etc) and just enough experience to be comfortable and accurate with them? If so, simple cabinets aren't a big stretch. Several of us here swear by pocket screw jigs. They really streamline cabinet construction. This is the one I have. It comes with plans for a simple generic cabinet that you can easily modify for your own needs.
http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?p=57243&cat=1,180,42311,46275
If you have the tools and skill to cut plywood square and accurate, you can build simple cabinets that are lighter and more road-worthy than IKEA's.
 

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RE: building your own. Do you have the basic tools (table saw, drill, orbital sander, etc) and just enough experience to be comfortable and accurate with them? If so, simple cabinets aren't a big stretch. Several of us here swear by pocket screw jigs. They really streamline cabinet construction. This is the one I have. It comes with plans for a simple generic cabinet that you can easily modify for your own needs.
http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?p=57243&cat=1,180,42311,46275
If you have the tools and skill to cut plywood square and accurate, you can build simple cabinets that are lighter and more road-worthy than IKEA's.
I'm following this advice, and starting with some of the easier items like wheel well boxes as practice first. No way I'm going to jump right into building the galley. I even practiced joinery with different thickness wood prior to doing my wheel boxes. We will see how it goes but I have at least some confidence! Then again, if I had limited time or tools, I'd probly buy them, and NOT from IKEA. Trhoppe had someone make his and they look pretty sweet.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Don’t buy IKEA! they are not suitable for a vehicle much less a camper. Cabinets in a camper need to be sized smaller, typically, to conserve space.
I had a similar thought in that IKEA uses particle board or MDF. Their bathroom cabinets are warrantied to be completely sealed from moisture, though. I'm not sure on the measurements they offer, but I imagine they can be cut to fit.

Aside from building from scratch, there are other options.

Barker cabinets make custom made-to-order cabinet kits out of plywood. They are on the pricey side, but look pretty good.

http://www.barkercabinets.com/

Scherrs does something similar and gives you the option of maple plywood instead of MDF.

http://www.scherrs.com/contents/en-us/d62_Frameless_RTA_Cabinets.html

You can also get custom preassembled drawers and faces from Barker and many others that you can put in your own frames.

http://www.barkerdoor.com/Baltic-Pl...MI6vSz0smo1wIVRVmGCh0YXwNsEAYYASABEgI8KfD_BwE

Another option that I'm looking into is buying IKEA drawers...
Good info. I'll check out the links.

Youd want 18" depth max. You can find 18" depth vanity cabinets...

https://hdsupplysolutions.com/shop/...-1-2h-x-18d-natural-maple-bath-vanity-p520930
Oh, wow! I had drawn up plans for 24". Why 18" max? More walking space?

RE: building your own. Do you have the basic tools (table saw, drill, orbital sander, etc) and just enough experience to be comfortable and accurate with them? ...
http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?p=57243&cat=1,180,42311,46275
If you have the tools and skill to cut plywood square and accurate, you can build simple cabinets that are lighter and more road-worthy than IKEA's.
Yes, I have access to all the necessary tools and I'm fairly adequate with a table saw and drill. Only use the sander a couple times. I can cut straight if that's what you're asking. (Installed the floor and wall panels myself) Haha. :)
 

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It really depends on your layout. Most of mine are 24" but the sink section is about 19" . It’s best to keep them on the narrow side tho particularly if you have a galley style layout. The best thing about making your own is you can make them any dept you wish and they will be sturdier and cost less.

When making my cabinets I always build the face frame in one piece first for all of them them I attach ¾" plywood for the sides and dividers and put a piece of narrow (4"—6") plywood strip at the back to mount them. I never put a floor or full back on them but that is a personal decision. Backs and bottoms are totally unnecessary and prevent and future modifications.

Something like this, for example.
 

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check the the seville classics "ultra hd" line of steel cabinets:
https://www.sevilleclassics.com/ultrahd-cabinets?cid=264
I read about people using them on the sprinterforum and bought one for my van, it is surprisingly decent quality and could be a bolt in solution if the dimensions of what they offer work out for you. The drawers are very heavy duty. One of the best things about them is they are keyed, the key locks all drawers and doors in place. I plan to modify mine to use a knob instead of the key but this feature is very useful for cabinets in a moving vehicle. You dont have to use the wheels that they come with. They are sold at sams club, via walmart online and other places. If you keep an eye out for these you will see them all over in commercial use...
 

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Well, I guess, if you like them go for it BUT I would say the are totally and completely unsuitable for a camper conversion in every way one could possibly imagine, BUT, that is only my personal opinion ;)

Good luck.
 

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RE: building your own. Do you have the basic tools (table saw, drill, orbital sander, etc) and just enough experience to be comfortable and accurate with them? If so, simple cabinets aren't a big stretch. Several of us here swear by pocket screw jigs. They really streamline cabinet construction. This is the one I have. It comes with plans for a simple generic cabinet that you can easily modify for your own needs.
http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?p=57243&cat=1,180,42311,46275
If you have the tools and skill to cut plywood square and accurate, you can build simple cabinets that are lighter and more road-worthy than IKEA's.
Steve, can you come build my van for me? (if it ever arrives!) I live in the sunny Shuswap :)
 

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Steve, can you come build my van for me? (if it ever arrives!) I live in the sunny Shuswap :)
Maybe we need regional chapters. Seeing somebody else's work in person in invaluable. There are some communities that do "build parties" - locals get together and tackle their common task as a group.
 

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Maybe we need regional chapters. Seeing somebody else's work in person in invaluable. There are some communities that do "build parties" - locals get together and tackle their common task as a group.
Great idea Thom, only issue is that being Canada, local is a relative term :) for example I am a 5 hour drive and then a 2 hr ferry ride away from Steve...mind you we sometimes go that far for a good coffee :)
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Well, I guess, if you like them go for it BUT I would say the are totally and completely unsuitable for a camper conversion in every way one could possibly imagine, BUT, that is only my personal opinion ;)

Good luck.
"Them" being the IKEA bathroom cabinets? I'll take your word for it. :)


Thanks for the tips, everyone. I think I'm going to do a hybrid of things.
After measuring and looking at my plan again, 24" was WAY too deep. Not sure what I was thinking. After plugging 18" into my floorplan, it looks much better. Thanks!
@Vanlifedestiny will start with wheel well boxes to cut teeth on building frames. Sounds good to me.
I'll do that and then hire someone pro to do the Murphy Bed cabinet since that will be tricky.
For the kitchen/overhead storage, I'll use the same pro and work with them to learn.
 

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BTW dont use framing for the boxes. Attach the edges of the box plywood to the others with glue and biscuits or Krieg screws, brad nails, dowels or something similar. Interior framing is the sign of a kluge job by an amateur and adds little strength if any.
You can do this!
 

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Another option. Take your tape measure to thrift stores and look for older decent quality ply furniture that you can paint. Bedroom furniture is normally 18" deep. Joints can be reinforced with brackets. You may want to remove everything except the drawer assembly. I've seen bedroom dressers fit nicely under the front of a bed.
 

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I don't follow all the builds here so I don't know if others have done it, but I plan to incorporate metal tool chests when I finally retire and build out a van. I already use them as dressers in my bedroom and plan to incorporate some of them in a new kitchen next year. The slim drawers are nice for small items and much more efficient volume wise than wood cabinetry. There seem to be hundreds of brands, styles, and sizes of them these days, many in stainless which matches the most popular appliance color. The price isn't bad compared to quality wood cabinets. They are more space efficient, stronger, have heavy duty ball bearing slides, most have latches to keep drawers closed, and they can always be pulled out and repurposed in a workshop or sold at far less loss than conventional cabinetry.
Eighteen inch depth is no problem. Fastening them to the floor is easy. If it comes with casters, just don't install them and use the holes to screw it in a plywood floor. Here are a couple of examples from Menards:
https://www.menards.com/main/tools-hardware/tool-storage/garage-cabinet-systems/performax-reg-27-w-x-32-1-2-h-x-18-d-silver-base-storage-cabinet/p-1444436064174-c-12653.htm?tid=6096851550025493537&ipos=3
https://www.menards.com/main/tools-hardware/tool-storage/tool-chests-boxes/masterforce-reg-16-6-drawer-side-cabinet/p-1444451673034-c-9188.htm?tid=7794431618937573226&ipos=19
https://www.menards.com/main/tools-hardware/tool-storage/tool-chests-boxes/masterforce-reg-16-3-drawer-side-locker/p-1444451679772.htm
You could incorporate some complementary wood/fabric panels to soften the look. Should look good and work well with 8020 aluminum framing as well. Main thing is to save building drawers/cabinets and wind up with superior functionality.
 

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I don't follow all the builds here so I don't know if others have done it, but I plan to incorporate metal tool chests when I finally retire and build out a van. I already use them as dressers in my bedroom and plan to incorporate some of them in a new kitchen next year. The slim drawers are nice for small items and much more efficient volume wise than wood cabinetry. ...cut....
Unique idea -- as you say it should be more space efficient.

Have you thought about noise though? Done any testing on that front? I'd be concerned the drawers may rattle way too much in a moving vehicle.
 

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I visit the local Habitat for Humanity Restore weekly keeping an eye open for wooden drawers and small filing cabinets.
 
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