How To Build RV Cabinets: A Detailed Guide

In this article, we’ll explore some steps by step methods to build fully functioning cabinets in your RV. Building RV cabinets is quite an easy task for the pros. As a beginner, you only need to pay attention to taking an accurate measurement when working with the required materials.

Fortunately, there are many different styles of van cabinets you can choose depending on your preference. Most RV cabinets are made from woo – a sturdy material you can always trust to produce quality products.

Wood cabinets are superior, reliable, and easy to install.

Nonetheless, you can still use alternative materials such as aluminum, though they are usually more expensive than wood. Many aluminum manufacturers provide you with endless options, from a fully functioning construction set to corners, covers, and connectors.

Aluminum is stiff and lightweight, and you can fill any open spaces on the aluminum rails using wood panels, fiberglass, or plastic.

Common types of RV cabinet cases


Mostly, cabinets are simply boxes. In most cases, you can use two different approaches when building cabinets or boxes. They can either be integral or skinned and well framed.

1. Skinned and framed

These cabinets are often made of aluminum, steel or solid wood. They are used to create a sturdy frame for the cabinet. All the sides on the cabinets are then filled with panels for better support.

The main reason why most people prefer this type of construction is the fact that it has a lighter weight. While the frame keeps the cabinets robust, the sides are often made of lightweight material.

2. Integral cabinets

While they may have an official name, they are often referred to as integral since all sides on the cabinet make up your cabinets. Put simply; you need to join all sides to the bottom, top and back, without installing a frame.

Integral cabinets is a more sturdy design because you need to use durable material to provide the much-needed strength. However, it’s still simple to build and is more sustainable; this is one of the best ways to build RV cabinets. And you never have to worry about squeaking and rattling.

When building cabinets for your RV, remember that integral installations are heavier but more durable than skinned and framed cabinets. But this will depend on the materials you decide to use for either option.

The weight difference is somewhat minimal. For beginners, plywood is an excellent building material as it is lightweight. You can opt for the ½” design that’s suitable for building cabinets for your camper.

What type of wood is best for building cabinets?

It is advisable to use plywood as the best choice of building material if you want to build quality wooden cabinets. Plywood is lightweight and resists warping and moisture.

In addition to being durable, it comes in attractive, large sheets. On the other hand, you can choose solid wood that is slightly high end. However, solid wood has a few drawbacks in terms of weight, warping, and price.

When you are buying sheet woods, remember that ‘plywood’ just means plywood. That means you should never settle for any lesser alternative. Most often, some of the lesser quality options include the oriented strand board, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard.

These are cheaper options since they simply consist of wood chips or sawdust mixed evenly with glue. Unfortunately, they weigh more and often suck in water easily. 

Joining techniques


Let’s first discuss how you can install integral cabinets in your RV. As mentioned earlier, the integral design is reliable and easy on the eye. There are easy ways you can join all the sides together neatly.

Use of pocket screws 

You should shop for quality pocket screws to help you build cabinets for your RV! Pocket screws are reliable and easy to use. If installed properly, they are almost invisible!

Pocket screws are not perfect, but the system behind them is excellent. You have to purchase a clamp and a screw jig. If you have all the right tools, fix the jig clamps on the board, and then drill into the wood using the specific angle; this will create a ‘pocket’ where you can place the screws. 

After you place the screws in their respective pockets, ensure the board is appropriately lined up, and drive the screwdriver into the wood to hold the screws tightly into position.

Pocket screws will pull the screws to an angle of 90 degrees, which is an excellent feature when installing cabinets in your RV.

Picking the right hardware usually depends on personal preference. It will also depend on the color you prefer, stainless or brass. And when building doors for your cabinets, you can choose inset doors or overlay doors. 

Here are a few pointers when installing RV van cabinets.

RV slides work perfectly instead of installing traditional doors. More importantly, they usually come with a spring functionality that helps to keep the drawers properly closed even when you are driving off the road. 

When properly installed, cabinet slides give your RV a beautiful, modern look. They shut better than your usual cabinet doors, too. 

If RV slides don’t appeal to you, you can opt for latches. They help to keep your cabinets drawers closed when cornering. After all, you don’t want the drawers to open and spew your personal items when cornering. Latches are, therefore, convenient in securing your cabinet doors. 

Securing the RV cabinets

How you intend to secure your RV cabinets in position will depend on the vehicle. However, it is essential to find a way to secure the cabinets properly; this will prevent them from flying side by side when driving off the road.

When building RV cabinets, you may realize that they aren’t as functional as expected. They might be too tall, too narrow, or too deep. Fortunately, here are a few smart solutions to fix these problems. You can implement these ideas when building your RV cabinets.

Cabinets too deep

One common problem amongst RV owners is that their pantry cabinets may be too deep that it is tough to reach items from the back. It may also be difficult to reach items that have been stored on the upper cabinets.

A simple solution to deal with this problem is by installing wire racks. While this is an expensive option, you easily make wire racks by yourself.

Cabinets too narrow

Another common problem is that some motorhomes have extremely narrow pantry cabinets. You can decide to install drawer slides to open and close the cabinet doors.

Cabinets too messy

This problem is similar to cabinets that are “too deep.” To save on storage space, you can build spacious cabinets. You can install wire basket cabinet drawers, which are pretty straightforward. And to organize the cabinet much better, build drawers with enough space that could allow you to hang narrow baskets inside.

Cabinet shelves too tall

Shallow, tall shelves usually take a lot of space, and they can cause the items inside to spew all over when you open the cabinet doors. To solve this problem, you can install a nail polish bracket on the cabinet.

You can also save on space by installing magnetic walls or add wire shelves, as well as tension rods to keep your items in place. Buy these wire shelves online or at your local furniture store.

Not enough space in your cabinets

To create more space in your RV, you can store your items in containers and then hang them neatly into position using brackets. You can mount these containers on the sides of the RV.

However, this option might be somewhat pricey, but there are cheaper alternatives. As an alternative, you can buy storage containers that hang over the door. Fortunately, there are multiple styles and designs you can choose from.

Here is a summary of how to build cabinets for your RV

#-1 The frame

After you have the right measurements, you can build a frame from ‘1 by 3’ boards fastened securely together using pocket holes.

#-2 Pocket holes

Essentially, pocket holes help you when joining wood together as they are incredibly lightweight and robust. Moreover, they are simple to use.

#-3 Kitchen frame

You can make rectangular frames to use in your RV kitchen. Afterward, you can attach them to the main kitchen frame using ‘1 by 3’ cross pieces.

#-4 Building rear supports

You can attach ‘1 by 2’ lumber at the front to keep the frame well secured. Screw the countertop as well as the bottom to hold everything together. Subsequently, install 1 by 3 pieces to separate the sink area from your water tank. You should use plywood when building the cabinets to make them strong and durable.


You should consider buying corner clamps to help you attach wood together. Corner clamps can easily hold wood perfectly together. What’s more, they enable you to adjust the joints properly before you glue or screw it together.

Follow these tips if you want to build your RV cabinets faster. Also, remember to ensure you have all the right tools and equipment before you start working on your RV van cabinets. You can check video tutorials online to get a better understanding of what is required of you.

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