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Building Countertops for a Popup Camper

Project Popup Camper: Countertops

Okay, I got some work done on Project Popup. For those of you who forget, go here. For those of you are mesmerized by our handsomeness and don’t want to leave this page, our picture will be there too.

Seriously now. Project Popup is a 2000 Viking camper trailer. I bought it with some existing water damage from a minor roof leak. The minor roof leak turned into the whole roof needs replacing. And a few items inside need some tidying up.

Like the counters.

For those of you who follow Dadand, you might already know that I am convinced I can do just about anything—or at the very least, give it a try.

That’s not the ego talking, but more of a motivated-control-freak-I-can-do-it-better-attention-to-detail-OCD kind of way.

And I think with a few tools, some common sense and just stopping to actually think about what you need to do, anyone can do this stuff.

So here’s how I approached the countertops in Project Popup. Oh, and I approached this wearing hearing and eye protection, and knowledge of the tools I am using.

The main countertop had some wood rot from the leaky roof just on one side. So I decided to replace it—and do the sink countertop while I’m at it, since I could get both pieces done from one sheet of 4’ x 8’ x ¾” particle board.

Here’s the water damage on the main countertop. Some of it crumbled away as I ripped it out. BTW, I didn’t cover the removal process here, but everything is held together with some wood screws, and they were stingy with those. I think this had like 4 screws holding the whole thing in.

I began by getting all “woodworker-like” on my table saw, ripping the sheet of particle board down to a width about 2” oversize. I’ll use the old countertop as a guide to get it to final shape.

Some ¾” particle board. It’s ugly and heavy and cheap. It’s OE (original equipment) standard so I didn’t hesitate to use it for the new counters. I suppose you could use some fancy schmancy birch plywood and save on weight, but spend 2-3x as much.

My awesome jigsaw and the faint pencil line that will soon receive utter devastation from 18 teeth per inch.

I traced out the old countertop shape on my new wood, centering it, since my new wood is cut about 2” oversize. And since I’m going to be using my router to achieve the final shape, I took my Bosch jigsaw and knocked out some of the waste area where the counter doglegs—it’ll make it easier on the router and I won’t have a heavy piece falling to the ground when routing. I then screwed the old countertop to the new one for the routing process.

So here’s the old screwed into the new. And a clamp. You’re looking at the bottom of the counter, so the screw holes in the new wood will also be on the bottom, but not all the way through since I used 1 ¼” drywall screws to fasten. Don’t ever be the person who blindly drives a screw into something without knowing what’s behind it, or how you will finish something. Just think. Please.

This is a shot of the overlap I left all the way around, enhanced by my photo-bombing feet in the dirt work area. Old counter on top, new on bottom. My router will chomp away at that overlap via a flush cut bit, making it match the original shape perfectly.

Just one shot showing the sink countertop getting ready for the same treatment. Try to do all similar tasks, for all pieces, at one time so you can ensure accuracy and only setup tools one time.

The flush cut bit. Note this one has the bearing on top since it’s a 1” long bit. The bearing rides along your “guide” piece (the old countertop) while the blade cuts flush.
When setting up a router, I like to use a machinist’s square to set bit depth, and then try it out on some scrap pieces of wood.

This shows some progress cutting

Now that I’m done, unscrew the old countertop and get ready to laminate.

Here’s my J roller, some contact cement and my “glue pot”. I use to work at a shop that had a real glue pot, ready to go all the time, but an inexpensive automotive spray gun will work great. Get your 20% off coupon and wait for this to go on sale and you can often walk out of Harbor Freight Tools only $12 lighter.
I’ll add that you use the spray gun to spray the contact cement. You can thin it a little bit with acetone if you have a problem, but don’t use too much. I usually put about 35 pounds at the cap of the spray gun and the contact cement should spray on fairly smoothly. You can also use a disposable brush to apply the cement.

I filled my spray gun about ¼ full so I wouldn’t waste the cement and have a tough time cleaning it. I laid the top of the counter face down on the laminate so I could center it, making sure there was laminate overhanging all sides of the particle board.

I flipped the counter up on its edge and proceeded to cover both surfaces, the particle board and the laminate, with contact cement. There are many ways to do this (google “laminate counter wooden dowels”), but since this was a fairly small countertop, I could manage this way. Be sure to evenly coat both surfaces, then let them dry to the touch. Once dry, I laid the particle board back down on the laminate…Careful, you get one shot at this.

Then I flipped it all over and worked the laminate onto the particle board with my J roller. Working from the center out, I used moderate pressure to make sure it adheres. Well “Twin B” did this one for me.

Now I had to trim the edge of the laminate to be flush with the particle board. Time for another flush cut bit. This time on my laminate trimmer. You can use a router just the same. Note the bearing is on the bottom of this bit.

Since the bearing is on the bottom of my bit, I need to trim with the lam side up. Here’s a shot after I made the pass with my lam trimmer.

The counter edges were finished with a plastic T-molding. I wanted to re-use the old molding so I just measured the old counter for setting up my router. You can find this stuff in all kinds of colors online, and some of you may remember they edged all of the arcade games in this stuff.

You’ll need a slot cutter for your router. You can pick up an inexpensive set at Harbor Freight, just have your t-mold handy first to measure before you buy. And get that 20% off coupon out.

I set up my router by placing the slot cutter in the slot on the old counter, then brought the router down to rest on the top of the laminate. Easiest setup. Ever.

I always have a few cans of black and white spray bomb handy. Here, I used flat black to seal up the bottom of the counter to protect against moisture and humidity, and it looks nicer than the bare wood, even if you’ll only see it when you stick your head in a cabinet looking for the wheel chocks that rolled around during the trip to the campground.

There’s an access hole for the propane stove line, and the plastic grommet didn’t want to stay in there…

So out came the Gorilla Glue and with a little dab the grommet is never coming out ever.

That’s it. Some easy counters. This is really not that different from building laminate counters for your kitchen.

So my next post for Project Popup will show the counters installed, and then I can move back to working on that leaky roof.


Disclaimer: This information is intended as a guide and not step-by-step instructions. Always wear eye protection and read and understand the user’s manuals for the tools you are using. All DIY projects are “at your own risk”.


  • Tb

    Like the article. Do you have the link up for the roof. Dealing with abs tear off of a Coleman


    • Marty

      Tb, not sure how I missed your comment but thanks for checking us out. I made some progress lately on the roof and will be posting soon. I don’t have and ABS roof like on the Coleman’s but have seen/heard quite a few at the campgrounds lately. Check back to see my solution (in fiberglass).


  • Trent F

    The T-molding keeps coming out of our counter top. Any suggestions how to get it to stick/ survive the winter?


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