How to Build an RV Dinetteby John Cagney Nash
Whether revamping an existing galley area in a recreational vehicle (RV) or building an entirely new facility, a sturdy and functional dinette is a requirement for many owners. Unlike the dining area in a regular home, an RV dinette must be securely attached to the floor. And limited space dictates that bench seating double as storage area. Designing and building a RV dinette booth is a complex but straightforward task, if well-planned.
Decide on the dimensions of all the panels and structures that will comprise your dinette, using a notepad and pen to draw out a comprehensive plan. First, decide on the size of your tabletop. It should be as large as possible for ease of use, but not extend into any high-traffic routes so as to interrupt free movement up and down the RV and through the galley area. Tabletops are typically around 30-inches from the floor, around four feet in length and two feet in width.
Determine the dimensions of the seating booth. Typical RV dinette bench seating is 30-inches high with a seat depth of around two feet; the benches will be the same length as your tabletop. The width across RV dinette tabletops from seat back to seat back is usually just under four feet. The bench seat backs should extend up higher than the seats to create integral backrests, and only one end piece will be need per booth because the end up against the RV wall can be left open. Design the bench seating so that either the seating panel or the end panel is hinged and latched, then you can use the interior space for storage.
Assemble your materials, trading off weight against provision. Use sufficient plywood to build the tabletop and the panels of the seats. Use 1-inch plywood not the particleboard used by most RV manufacturers, because particleboard separates in humid situations. Choose utilitarian or decorative uprights sufficient to make two table legs. Ensure your screws are long enough to give your project strength, but not so long that they will protrude from the other side of whatever you are screwing into.
Mark all your measurements from your plan onto the sheets of plywood with a permanent marker pen, then use a circular saw to cut the panels. Use a pencil to note each panel's purpose in an inconspicuous place. Finish all sawed edges by running over them with a sanding machine fitted with a medium-grit sandpaper.
Assemble the benches using internal battens or "L"-shaped brackets to hold them together, and apply proprietary wood glue as you assemble each joint for added strength.
Position the booth seats exactly where you will want them to be permanently located, then use your marker to draw around their insides on the RV wall they butt up against. Remove the booths and attach battens to the wall, locating them so they follow the insides of the lines you have drawn. Put the booths back in position and screw through them from the outside into the battens, locking the booths in place. Use "L"-shaped brackets at the opposite ends to secure the booths to the floor.
Cut a batten to the same length as the width of the table top, and attach it to the wall of the dinette area exactly midway between the benches. If this can be done beneath a window, then pleasant views will be made available to those using the table in the future. Have an assistant hold the tabletop in place, its wall end resting on the batten, and--with the tabletop level--measure the drop between the underside of the tabletop and the floor below. Cut the table legs to that length.
Attach the table legs to the underside of the tabletop, then fit the tabletop in position and screw through it from the top into its batten. Screw and glue the bottom of the table legs to the floor.
Finish the exposed areas of plywood. You can waterproof the tabletop with several thin coats of high-gloss lacquer, allowing each to dry and lightly sanding the surfaces before applying the next coat, or simply stretch a waterproof tablecloth over it and staple the undersides to hold it in place. You can lacquer or paint the booths, or staple or glue fabric to them.
- Always drill pilot holes before driving screws through plywood. Countersink all screw heads so they do not snag clothing or tablecloths when the dinette is in use.
- Always check to ensure no underfloor components, such as holding tanks, will be punctured when you drive screws into the floor.
- Use a household wire locator to ensure no wires or pipes run through the walls where you plan to fasten the battens.
Items you will need
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