How to Create Wood Counters from Flooring (in a RV)
If you’re looking for an affordable way to update your kitchen, today we’re sharing how we created wood counters from unfinished flooring in our RV.
All in all, I’d say this project cost us about $100, but could be more or less depending on the materials/tools you have, and how big your kitchen is. As you can imagine, our RV kitchen is pretty small.
Here are a couple before photos of our RV kitchen:
While our kitchen was in pretty decent condition, it wasn’t our style. We think it’s important to create a space that reflects your personality, tells your story, and ultimately makes you happy. This kitchen was functional, but it didn’t feel “ours” and we were ready to put our stamp on it.
A little Backstory
As we planned our RV kitchen renovation, our first instinct was to purchase counters from Ikea. We figured this would be one of the most affordable options, plus it would simplify the project vs. building them ourselves, a huge plus considering our massive to-do list and time constraints.
However, we had to consider the amount of weight we would be adding to our RV, something you don’t need to stress about in a sticks and bricks home. What we discovered is most wood counters were at least an inch thick, with the majority being closer to an inch and a half. While this is beautiful, it also means more weight. Womp Womp.
We tried finding options through other companies that were closer to 3/4″ thick but those turned out to be out of our budget.
It was at this point we looked into additional options including using contact-paper, plywood, faux-wood laminate, or a more green-friendly option, but nothing made us as excited as using real wood.
Here’s a photo right before we installed the backsplash and countertops.
Back in June we made a trip to North Carolina to pick up reclaimed wood from the wedding venue we were married at. We left thinking we had wood that could work for our counters, but unfortunately that didn’t pan out (although we did use it in various other RV projects).
We were running out of time and were too lazy to make the hour drive to Ikea so instead we drove 5 minutes down the road to our local Floor and Decor. This is where we picked out our RV flooring, and we were hoping they may have some affordable, and lighter wood counter options.
While their butcher block was out of our budget, we came across another option that we could afford… unfinished red oak flooring. I had seen flooring used as counters in the past, but had dismissed it because we wanted something “easier”.
What’s funny is I was drawn to this unfinished wood back when we were looking at actual flooring options, but it was too heavy and impractical for our RV so I forgot about it. For our counters though…. we knew it would be perfect! Not to mention this would make our countertops about 3/4″ thick, including the plywood base, meaning we could save on weight vs. buying a butcher block top.
There were 3 different options of the flooring available and the one we chose was “Utility”. This is the least expensive option because it has the most imperfections, and we were told the bundle would have more “throw away” pieces. We figured this would just add character, and purchased two bundles at $20 each, to ensure we had enough wood.
If we were to do it again, we would have bought the next grade up, because the quality would have been better, and we wouldn’t have wasted as much wood. Just something you may want to consider.
While creating our wood counters from flooring was somewhat time-consuming, it was a fairly easy process, affordable, and helped transform our RV into a rustic modern motorhome.
Keep this in Mind
One thing to consider before installing wood counters is that they do take a lot more work to maintain. You’ll need to be cautious of water stains and scratches, plus you’ll need to re-oil them every so often. Chances are they won’t stay in pristine condition, but if you love the warmth they add and the rustic element they bring into your kitchen, that extra work may be worth it. We knew they would require more maintenance but were open to the challenge, so we installed them anyway.
We’ve had our countertops installed for roughly 8 months now, and we plan to share an update on them soon. Would we do this process over again? Yup, because we feel like we got a lot of bang for our buck and love how they look, imperfections and all.
I’ll hand it over to Eric to explain how we installed the wooden kitchen counters in our RV.
How to Create Wood Counters from Flooring (in a RV)
If you’ve come this far I’m guessing you’ve decided to use flooring to make some awesome countertops. I’m thrilled you have because we couldn’t be happier with the way our RV kitchen countertops turned out.
Watch the Video:
Here’s a quick video where I touch on the steps we took to create the wood counters from flooring in our RV.
- Ryobi Airstrike
- 1 1/4″ Brad Nails
- 3/4″ Brad Nails
- Wood Glue
- Wood Filler
- Kreg Jig
- Miter Saw
- Tung Oil with Citrus Solvent
- 1X2 Boards
- Tung and Groove Hard Wood Flooring
- Edge Trim
- 1/4″ Plywood
Side note: If you’re working on your countertops inside your home or RV you’ll want to cover/protect your cabinets, especially if you haven’t sealed them yet. Yeah this is one of the reasons we had to paint ours again. We decided to install our counters right in our RV kitchen, but you may find it easier/better to build your counters somewhere else and then install them. We also used wood glue AND our nailgun which may have been overkill, but we wanted to make sure our wood counters stayed put, especially while driving down the road. You can still see some of the nail holes, even after filling them in, but they blend it pretty well, especially after we sealed them. Even so, you may want to only use the nailgun if you’re attaching trim, but that’s up to you.
Step 1 – Measure
Before you measure your countertops you’ll want to remove any items installed on them. For us that included our kitchen sink and stove top. If you’ve never removed a RV kitchen sink or stove you can check out these posts: Kitchen Sink Removal, and Stove Top Removal.
Once you’ve removed them you’ll want to measure all of the outer edges of the countertop. Meaning you should measure all the edges including the back wall and cut outs where the sink and stove sat.
To help keep track of measurements, I draw a rough shape of what I’m building on a piece of paper. For this project I drew our countertops as a shape that resembled a L. Then as I measure each edge I label the corresponding line on my drawing.
With all the measurements written down you can go ahead and remove the old counter top.
We had to use our cabinets as a template because back when we removed our counters, they were glued down so tight that we broke one area in order to remove it. Oops.
Step 2 – Create a Base
Now your old countertops are out and you have all the measurements you need to make the new ones. But you can’t just put the flooring down because there isn’t a solid surface to attach it to.
This is where your plywood comes in.
As you know, our countertops are in our RV which meant we needed to conserve on weight but also provide good support. In order to accomplish both objectives we chose 1/4″ Plywood as our base. If you’re creating these countertops for your sticks and bricks home you’ll likely want to use thicker plywood or MDF board.
When we were going through this step I stood back and stared at the open top cabinets in place and pondered on how to cut my plywood. I considered cutting a 45 degree angle which would have split my L shape from the corner. I ultimately decided against that because I knew I’d be taking that approach with the top flooring layer.
I felt it would be stronger if I cut the plywood into two different pieces, but splitting it where the bottom part of the L shape meets the top. Basically creating a L out of two straight pieces of plywood.
I made my cuts then placed the two pieces on top of the cabinets. Once placed I used my hand to apply pressure in various spots to find any weak points.
There weren’t spots that created concern, however I choose to add a couple of cedar braces anyway using 1X2 boards and our Kreg Jig. This step was a precaution I chose to take, this may not be necessary, use your best judgment.
Cutting holes for the sink and stove can be done before installing the plywood on the cabinets or after, it’s totally up to you. I chose to cut the holes before I had installed the plywood.
I went back to my L shape drawing and grabbed my measurements. Then marked off the cut outs I’d need on top of the plywood, for good measure We then placed the sink where we wanted it on the plywood, and used it to create our cut-out template.
We purchased this sink off eBay for $20 so it didn’t come with a cutting template, but most sinks will come with that. You’ll basically want to follow the instructions for installing your sink into your counters, which will vary depending on whether it’s undermount or topmount. The same will go for your faucet – we installed ours later on.
After that I drilled a hole in the center of the sink template to make it easier to then cut out the hole for the sink using our Jigsaw.
Next you’ll want to do the same for your stove.
Note: If you’re going to cut it out after the plywood is installed you’ll want to make sure there aren’t obstructions on the underside of the plywood when you use the Jigsaw.
Once I had my sink and stove cut-outs I decided to add a couple more braces underneath the sink. I ran two 1X2s long ways across the edge of my cut out. This way I would ensure the sink was fully supported. After we finished the countertops I realized how sturdy they were and am not sure these braces were necessary. Regardless I added them and know for sure our sink is supported.
We did a quick test just to make sure the sink fit, which it did.
This was another quick test we did with our sink, after we put the plywood base in place.
I had my braces in place and my plywood cut so it was time to attach it. I placed my plywood back on top of the cabinets then grabbed my Ryobi Airstrike, 3/4″ Brad Nails and my Ryobi Drill and screws.
Before nailing and screwing down your plywood you’ll need to know where the supports are, that way you’ll actually attach to something haha.
Knowing where I’d be placing my screws and nails I secured the first piece of plywood. If you’re using the Ryobi Airstrike you’ll want to test how deep it’s sending the nails on a piece of scrap plywood first, this will ensure you’re getting the best hold.
After the first piece of plywood was secure I moved to the second.
Below you can see me using screws to attach the plywood to a brace below.
Now it’s coming together! With the holes cut for the sink and stove and the plywood attached it started to look like a countertop.
Step 3 – Arrange
Once you have your solid surface to work with it’s time to play around with your flooring. If you elected to go with utility grade tongue and groove flooring you’ll have to try a bunch of different combinations to get it to line up right, and may have to toss out several broken pieces. If you went with a higher grade flooring it may be a bit easier.
We decided to arrange our flooring on top of our countertop base first. This way we could see how it would look without attaching it permanently, before making our final cuts and glueing/nailing it down. You don’t have to do it this way, but it worked out well for us.
We started with the back corner of the counter then built out row by row with the groove side facing the walls.
We found the first two pieces we were going to use and cut the groove ends to 45 degrees so that we could get them to line up correctly.
Once that was done we placed the 45 degree cuts together creating the beginning of our first row. Next we built rows along both walls connecting the pieces end to end.
At this point we didn’t worry about the length of the rows, meaning the rows actually hung over the edge of the plywood base we’d created.
We continued this process, picking two pieces to began each row with then cut the groove ends to 45 degree angles. We’d connect each new row to the previous using the tongue and groove.
After finishing two rows we came to the openings for the sink and stove. When this happened we’d leave a little overhang there as well. We made sure not to place flooring completely across the openings in order to make it easier later on.
We then repeated this process until our entire plywood surface was covered with flooring.
It looked funny because we had over hang at every edge, but not to worry the funny look wouldn’t last for long.
Step 4 – Cut
All of that overhang I mentioned in the last step is going to come in handy. With all your flooring placed on the plywood base, you can look at it from underneath to see where your flooring pieces need to end.
Grabbing a pencil trace the line from underneath the flooring where the plywood base ends. You should repeat this process for all edges, included the edges for the sink and stove.
Once all your pencil marks are created you’ll want to pull up the flooring piece by piece. When you do this make sure to create a system that helps you remember which pieces go where. We stacked our wood on the floor in rows so we would know which piece to attach to the counter next. You can find a system that works best for you, perhaps numbering the pieces on the back.
Then use your miter saw and cut the pieces of flooring to the appropriate lines you’ve just drawn.
It’s important to note that some of the pieces that go along the sink and stove openings may need to be ripped down. If that’s the case, the easiest way to accomplish this is by using a table saw. If you don’t have a table saw I would suggest using a hand saw. There were a couple of cuts I didn’t feel comfortable cutting on the table saw so I used the my hand saw, while it took a lot longer I felt it was much safer.
Once all of your cuts are made it’s time to actually install the flooring onto the plywood base.
Step 5 – Install
You’re looking at the flooring resting on your cabinets and are pretty excited, but now it’s time to make it permanent.
Next grab your first two pieces and place wood glue on the bottom of each piece as well as on the plywood where the pieces will sit. I’ve found the wood glue works best if you spread it around evenly on the piece of wood using a brush. Then place your first to pieces down.
Now you’ll want to do the same for the first two rows all the way to the edge. After you have them in place grab your mallet and give them a tap. This will help make sure everything is tightly together just as if you were putting it down as flooring. We also used our nail gun and put a couple of nails in each piece while pushing the row tight in place against the wall.
Then continue the process for all of the pieces you have.
Step 6 – Trim
If you look at the edges of your new countertops you’ll see the tongue and groove showing through, so you’ll likely want to add some trim to the edge to give it a more finished look.
Finding the right trim can be a bit tricky, so you’ll have to look around at your various hardware stores to see if you can find the style you want that matches the wood you used. You may want to use something with clean lines, or something like this, which is what we used, mainly because it was red oak and the perfect size.
I’ve always found 45 degree angles to be a bit tricky but they always work out well. In order to make it as easy as possible you should start on one side and work your way all the way around one piece at a time.
Sometimes as we create things measurements may be slightly off so I’d remeasure your edges before beginning to make cuts to your trim.
Once you cut your first piece you can go ahead and use the same wood glue and nail trick for the trim. Continue the rest of the way around and your trim is done.
Step 7 – Fill
As you stand back and look at your new counter top with the trim in place you may see a couple of knots and little nail holes. The objective of this next step is to get those filled in.
First you’ll want to use your wood filler to fill in the nail holes that exist. Once you’re done filling those in I’d run your hand across the surface of the counter top to see if you can find any other indentations. If you do, go ahead and fill them in.
Next you’ll want to epoxy any knots or larger holes you can find, which you may or may not have depending on the wood you use. (The photo shows Golden Oak wood filler, but we should have used Red Oak to match our flooring).
We followed this awesome post from Pretty Handy Girl. The epoxy will fill in clear which allows for you to still see the character of the knots. If you happen to get epoxy on the countertop outside of the holes you can wipe it up. It is better to wipe it up quickly, but if you miss it don’t worry because you can get it up later.
After you’ve filled the knots with epoxy and nails holes with filler you’ll want to give it roughly 24 hours to set (at least if you used epoxy).
Step 8 – Sand
When you come back the next day you’ll want to sand down the entire countertop. If you notice the epoxy has raised a bit higher than the surface of the countertop go ahead and sand it flush. Another reason you want to wait to sand even the wood filler is because the dust can get into the epoxy and create a hazy look.
Note: The sand paper you use on the countertops will depend on the stain/sealer you’ll be using later. We chose to use a natural tung oil with citrus solvent which suggested we not use a sandpaper with a grit higher than 150.
Step 9 – Seal
There are various options when it comes to sealing your wood countertops, but we opted to go with Tung Oil. You can check out our post on sealing our countertops naturally here.
Planning to create wood countertops from flooring? I’ve put together some additional resources you may find helpful:
You can find all of our RV-related posts here.