For van lifers, a camper van sink is a multipurpose essential. It’s a kitchen sink, bathroom sink and a place to wash your clothes. Most sinks get installed in the kitchen counter. Therefore, the countertop material is important when considering what type of sink to install. Many of the sinks listed below are not camper van specific. Plenty of folks uses regular kitchen sinks in their van conversions. First, we’ll start with a quick lesson on wooden countertops and water absorption. Then we’ll discuss van sink considerations such as shape, size and material. And finally we’ll look at the sinks themselves!
(Completely unrelated, but is it “absorB” and “absorBent” but then it’s “absorPtion”?)
- Wooden countertops
- Van sink considerations
- Undermount sink
- Top-mount/drop-in sink
- Farmhouse sink
- Vessel sink
- Collapsible sink
- Sink/faucet combo
If you plan on using any type of sealed, waterproof countertop, this section doesn’t apply to you. Feel free to skip down to the sinks! This focuses on wooden countertops.
Scrolling through #vanlife on Instagram, most countertops are wood. So is Mark’s. A wooden countertop is a beautiful addition to any van conversion. However, they generally require more maintenance. But we’ll leave wooden countertop maintenance for another post. Instead let’s focus on how it affects your sink choices.
Let’s think of a board. They are cut lengthwise with the grain. The long sides of the board are edge grain. The ends of the board are, well, end grain. The end grain sucks up water and moves it through the wood almost like the tree were still alive. Therefore, the end grain absorbs far more water than the edge grain. As a result, it is best to avoid exposing unsealed end grain of a wooden countertop to water because water damages wood. So, keep this in mind when we get into van sink options.
Van sink considerations
When designing my kitchen, I wanted to maximize my counterspace. I also wanted as much sink volume as possible. The larger the volume the easier it is to wash dishes, pots, pans and even clothes. So, when it came to shape and size, I wanted the biggest bang for buck so to speak. In other words, for the counterspace the sink took up, I wanted to maximize the volume. That’s why I think round sinks are dumb. Now let me tell you why.
Installing a round sink with the same dimensions as a square or rectangular sink takes up the same amount of countertop. However, the round sink gives you less sink volume. Also, round sinks with a curved bottom give you even less sink volume. Additionally, it’s harder to stack items in sinks with curved bottoms. Overall, I don’t think they’re worth it. That’s my opinion though. Plenty of folks out there have round van sinks are quite happy.
The last thing to consider is what the sink is made of. Porcelain, enameled cast iron and fireclay are all beautiful choices. They add a clean look and style to your camper van kitchen. But they also add a lot of weight. Instead, consider a metal sink. Copper adds a rustic look, and you can’t go wrong with the functionality and durability of a stainless steel. In the end, remember it’s your home. Choose whatever sink will make it feel like one. I’m not the boss of you!
Now on to the sinks themselves!
An undermount sink gives your counters a sleek, clean look. In addition, you can wipe debris right from the counter into the sink with no problem. As the name suggests, you mount them under the countertop. However, undermount sinks don’t mount well on all types of countertops. They work best with solid countertops that can support the weight of the sink. For example, you wouldn’t want to use one on a laminate because it likely can’t support the weight. Also, it’s best if the countertop is waterproof or water-resistant. This is why I bought up edge and end grain on wooden countertops.
Installing an undermount sink in a wooden countertop exposes the edge grain. As a result, the wood is more likely to get damaged because it’s exposed to water when using the sink. Also, regardless of the material, if the seal between the sink and countertop isn’t watertight, condensation can build up under the counter. This can lead to mold and mildew issues.
These are the most popular kitchen sinks out there. They also serve well as a van sink. First, they are the most affordable. Second, top-mount sinks are the easiest to install. Third, you can install them on any type of countertop. That’s right, no need to worry about the grain of a wooden countertop! Fourth, they are the easiest to seal. Additionally, there are many van/RV-specific top-mount sinks available. But unlike an undermount, top-mounts make cleaning harder. The lip sitting on the counter prevents you from wiping crumbs straight into the sink. Additionally, the lip takes up take counterspace.
When buying the sink for Mark I didn’t pay attention to the mounting and accidently ordered an undermount. Oops! However, we were able to install it as a top-mount with no problems. We put a thick bead of sealant under the lip, dropped it in, wiped off the excess sealant, and done!
If you’re going for looks and functionality, a farmhouse sink is the way to go. However, they are also the most expensive option. You can find them in porcelain, copper, stainless steel, fireclay, and even enameled cast iron. They are bigger and deeper than traditional sinks, giving you more room.
Farmhouse sinks have three mounting options: top-mount, flush mount and undermount. However, the preferred method is undermount. Flush mounting a farmhouse gives you a clean look if you do it right. But if the gap between the sink and countertop isn’t sealed right, it can trap debris and get nasty. Regardless of the mounting method used, farmhouse sinks require extra support. Also, because the front of the sink protrudes from the cabinet, it’s easiest to build the cabinets around the installed sink.
Vessel sinks are reminiscent of the wash basin days and most often used as bathroom sinks. But their smaller size makes them a good choice for a van if you’re looking want a stylish sink. The downside is the area where the counter meets the sink is harder to clean.
There are two ways to install a vessel sink. One, cut a hole in the countertop for the drain and set the sink on top. This is the easiest installation method, but the top of the sink sits well above the counter. As a short person, I am not a fan of this. Two, the vessel sink is semi-recessed into the counter. This makes the installation a little more complicated, but it lowers the height of the sink.
They are available in many different styles and types. You can find vessel sinks in stone, wood, copper, glass, and enameled cast iron to name a few. However, the durability depends on the type. Because the exposed edge, the less hardy types are more susceptible to cracks.
A regular stainless-steel kitchen bowl makes a simple but functional sink. And you don’t have to worry about a drain! Fill up the bowl to do dishes and pour the water out when you done. Preferably in a grey water tank. Or an environmentally friendly way that aligns with Leave No Trace principles. Also, you can do dishes outside if you want.
Now this is more of a camp sink than a van sink. But like a kitchen bowl, it gets the job the done. Unlike a kitchen bowl, these bad boys collapse down to save space.
Now this is a camper van specific sink! These sinks come with a foldable faucet and glass cover. The cover is handy because it gives you additional kitchen space when the sink isn’t in use. However, the downside is these sinks are quite shallow. Also, they are a little pricey for the size.
Which van sink do you want?
Whether you’re going for style, function or trying to save space, there is a van sink out there for you! Which one will you choose and why? Let us know in the comments!
Need help with your van layout? Check out our Camper Van Layout and Design guide!