I created a functioning sink for my 1999 Chevy Express conversion van. Back when I decided I wanted to give this van traveling a try, I knew there were certain creature comforts I felt I couldn’t live without. This gal wants a sink, bathroom and shower. Of those three basic needs, I want to talk about how I created a sink for my van. I could talk about the bathroom and shower, but those are topics for different posts.
From Sewing Cabinet to Van Sink
I’m an upcycler. In other words, I like taking items that might otherwise end up on a junk pile and repurposing them. In the case of the sink, I used an old sewing cabinet. This cabinet was my grandmothers. It’s been sitting in my basement for well over two decades. I do not sew and had no intentions of using the sewing machine. I tried selling it and eventually tried giving it away, but it forever remained in the basement.
Baking Pan Sink Basin
I decided to remove the sewing machine (wish I had before photos) and use the cabinet as a hideable sink. For the sink basin, I used my mother-in-law’s old baking pan. I believe the old pan was aluminum and didn’t want to use it for baking so it became a prime candidate for becoming a sink basin.
With the sewing machine removed, I had a nice rectangular opening to fit the baking pan. The opening was a little wider than the baking pan so I used old wine corks to fill in the gap (I love recycling things). Once the opening was the right size, I was able to sink the basin right in. Unfortunately, my non-professional handiwork wasn’t very pretty. To cover my handiwork, I used water-resistant shelving paper to cover the unattractive parts. It hides everything nicely.
Adding a Faucet and Drain
I purchased a manual faucet from Amazon. The faucet works by pumping the small lever. A vacuum is created and the pump pulls the water up from the water source and pushes it through the spigot. It sounds primitive, but it’s functional.
I took some time to decide whether I wanted the faucet in the center or off to the right of the basin. Actually, the more I thought about it, the sewing cabinet pretty much made the decision for me. The dimensions told me the faucet had to be located in the center, so I went along with it. The center it is.
As far as the basin drain goes, I went to Home Depot and browsed their selection. I opted for a rather inexpensive, no-frills drain. It was a sink drain/pipe combo. Just what I wanted.
Sink Holes and Drill Bits
Now that I had my faucet and drain, I had to get the correct sized drill bits to create the holes for installation. I needed a 1 ⅞” wood cutting bit for the faucet. I also needed a 1.5” metal cutting bit for the drain.
Fortunately, Home Depot had the correct size metal cutting bit (Milwaukee), but not the wood bit. I had to go to Amazon for that. I got the Freud Precision bit. Once I had the necessary bits, I got busy.
I drilled the 1 ⅞” hole in the cabinet for the faucet. Fortunately, it fit perfectly. Next, I drilled the 1 ½” hole in the baking pan. That, too, worked out perfectly. However, not wanting to tempt fate I also caulked the opening with silicone to prevent leaking. Unfortunately, I bought the wrong silicone. I should have purchased the clear, not the white. Oh well, it’s ugly but it works. No leaks!
You’ll note basin’s drain hole isn’t centered. I opted to drill the hole in the corner instead of the center. By placing the drain pipe on the side of the basin, I was able to line it up perfectly with the grey water tank beneath it. The beauty is I can always turn the basin around to allow it to drain either the front right or back left, depending on the tilt of the van.
Setting up the Water
For the fresh and grey water tanks, I purchased two 6-gallon water containers manufactured by Ozark Trail. Six gallons is probably much more than I need, but I can always modify things later. In the meanwhile, I’ve got the ability to use 6 gallons of water on my trips.
Because the sewing cabinet was so tall, I had to adjust the height. I wanted to make sure grey water would flow directly into the receptacle without worrying about leaking. As a result, I cut about 4 inches off of each cabinet leg to lower the entire setup. The lower center of gravity reduces the chances of the sink tipping over every time the van turns.
Hooking Things Up
The rest was easy. All I needed to do was run a tube from the faucet to the fresh water container and insert the sink drain into the gray water container. I added fresh water to the appropriate tank and inserted the faucet tube. I placed the sink drain into the gray water tank and decided to give it a whirl.
I primed the faucet a few times and voila! The water flowed from the faucet, into the sink and down the drain into the grey water tank. Because of the shape of the “basin”, I had to sponge the remaining water in the basin down the drain. I think I’ll eventually replace the basin for something that drains better, but for now, everything works.
One Last Modification
Because I didn’t want to have the sink situated right by the Chevy’s fuse panel, I had to swap the opening direction of the sewing machine cover. It initially opened to the left. I swapped it so that it now opens to the right, leaving the fuel panel dry and away from the sink.
Oh, almost forgot to mention. I “cut” a square out of the top wooden cover so the faucet would have clearance. Actually, I didn’t cut it. I hacked it up pretty badly. I’m still trying to come up with something to make it not look so bad. In the meanwhile, I covered the rough hacked edges with the very same water resistant shelving paper that I used to cover the other unattractive spots.
Here’s how the sink currently looks. I’m aiming to fix up the “uglies” and pull out my environmentally friendly milk paint and give it a new look. I’m just trying to decide what colors to use. I’ll update the post once I have the uglies removed and the sink painted.
P.S. The sink makes a rather comfortable writing/computer desk.