how to build RV cabinets

A DIY Guide for How to Build RV Cabinets

Chris Coleman

Storage cabinets will convert your RV into a proper home. Besides saving space inside the RV, these storage units also enhance the smart look of the interior. No cabinets in your camper? Don’t worry. You can always add a few units by learning how to build RV cabinets.

There are two options. You can either purchase cabinets for campers or build them as per the size of your RV. DIY building RV cabinets will save your money and make you proud.

Different Types of RV Cabinets

Before learning the techniques of building cabinets, you must have a clear idea regarding the cabinet types. You can build two types of cabinets for a campervan:

cabinets for campers
There could be different cabinet types.

Framed and Skinned Cabinets

In this type, you can use aluminum, steel, or even solid wood to construct the box frame. These are the lightweight cabinets for RV as their sides constitute of lighter-weight material. As per the design, the frame of these units provides the maximum strength.

Integral Cabinets

This type does not have any frame. You can construct it by joining its sides to the top, bottom, and back. The sides of the unit make up the box. Since it’s built with heavy materials, it provides strength to the RV. These cabinets are also easier to build.

Note: A general concept is that integral cabinets are heavier than the framed and skinned type. However, the weight depends entirely on the materials they are built with. There will be a minimum weight difference between them if you use the same materials.

How to Build RV Cabinets: A DIY Guide

Knowing how to build camper cabinets will give you the confidence to start the DIY project. However, remember that accuracy is mandatory in this case, as correctly-structured storage ensures better performance and accident-free service.

Warning: Proceed to build RV cabinets only if you have previous experience in carpentry. A camper is an expensive vehicle, and you would not want to ruin it with unsuccessful attempts of building RV cabinets. In the case of inexperience, purchasing cabinets or calling a carpenter is a better option.

RV Cabinet Building Materials

You have a lot of options to choose from while building cabinets for campers. Here are two common materials and the advantages of using them:

Wood

You will see that many RV cabinets have wood as the compounding material. Wood is easy to work with besides being a stable and affordable option. Installing wood panels requires a minimum number of tools.

If you are willing to go for something with less weight, softwood can be an option. Besides being lightweight, this material is also soft. Plywood is the automatic choice for wooden cabinets. While authentic wood is of higher quality, it comes with limitations, such as weight, cost, and warping. On the other hand, plywood is lightweight and durable. It comes in large, flat sheets and is resistant to moisture and warping. Moisture resistance is a crucial point to consider if the cabinets are going to be placed in a humid environment.

building rv cabinets
Wooden cabinets are the most common.

You should use original plywood, not any other low-quality boards. You may find cheaper alternatives in the market, like particle boards, medium-density fiberboards (MDF), and oriented strand boards (OSB). Skip these if you are only considering lightweight building materials for RV. Other drawbacks of these plywood alternatives include gas emission from the glue, absorption of water, etc.

Aluminum

This could be another choice for the cabinets. But this will be rather expensive compared to the other materials. However, if money is not an issue, go for it.

Extruded aluminum channel is a lightweight and durable material. You can fill the gaps between aluminum rails with wood, fiber, aluminum, or plastic panels.

Joining Techniques

Let’s focus on how to build RV cabinets by joining the parts. The described method is for integral cabinet storage.

1. Use Pocket Screws

For building cabinets, using pocket screws is a brilliant method. With these screws, the building process will be easier and faster. If you can install them properly, they will remain almost invisible.

Purchase a pocket screw jig. A clamp is required too for attaching to the jig. With these, you do not have to drill dozens of pocket holes.

Clamp the jig to the board. Thus, a special kind of drill bit will get into the wood at a particular angle. It will create pockets for the screws. For attaching the wood board, place a screw into the pocket and tighten it using a screwdriver. Pocket screws can attach the boards in 90 degrees, which is a convenient angle for building cabinets or boxes.

2. Attach Slides and Latches

This is the second and last part of how to build RV cabinets. You can pick up hinges, slides, or latches according to your choice.

Latches: If slides are not your favorite option to keep cabinets closed during cornering, use a flush-mounting latch. It will protect the cabinet contents from spreading all over the RV if there is an accident.

lightweight cabinets for rv
The measurements have to be precise.

RV Slides: RV slides are popular methods to keep the cabinets closed. No matter how rough you drive or how bumpy the roads are, the storage will remain closed because of the spring-loaded detent of the slides. It’s easy to open and close the slides.

Corner Clamps: Corner clamps can hold two wood pieces together quickly at a perfect 90-degree angle. You also get to fine-tune or adjust the joint before screwing or gluing it. With these clamps, it’s possible to speed up the cabinet building procedure. Usually, two clamps are enough but bigger or complicated joints can take four clamps.

Wrapping Up

RV cabinets are tremendously useful for organized storing of the items you need during camping. Many camper models come with inbuilt cabinets, but you still may need some extra storage. By learning how to build RV cabinets, you can create a secure place to keep necessary items safe. Be careful during the DIY project and try to be accurate in measurement to build flawless cabinets for RV.

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