When we got our 19′ Flying Cloud Airstream one thing I was highly unimpressed with was amount of counter space available. There was absolutely no counter space at all as you can see in the picture titled “Before”. For folks who camp only in the summer and are able to go outside to eat or cook, this might work just fine for you and you wouldn’t bat an eye. When you are a family of 3, camping at the ski area or in snowy/rainy conditions with outerwear hanging everywhere and two of you are playing games at the table while mom is trying to cook – this situation gets very frustrating. We knew there were changes that needed to be made but we wanted to “live” in the trailer a bit before we started on the major updates. This summer, after working out our plans, the demolition went into effect and things changed quite a bit from this set up.
One decision I made was to remove the propane cooker. I am not excited about a propane oven – we have used them for years on the sailboat to varying degrees of success and I find them a complete pain in the rump. Plus, I don’t do a lot of baking on the road and this felt like a huge waste of space. The 3 burners on the top were fine, but I never used more than 2 at a time and it took what felt like years for water to boil (I am used to cooking with gas at home as well and the BTUs available in the trailer weren’t what I was used to). Once we 86’d the cooker that opened up a huge amount of space for us. Not only would we have a greater amount of counter space, but I could change out the tiny sink for something a bit bigger. We opted to keep the existing cabinets with some adjustments because we didn’t want to completely reinvent the wheel. We capped the LP connector but left it in place in case we ever need it in the future, the furnace vents stayed where they were and we retained our lower drawers. You can’t see it in the picture above but we we made sure to keep our ventilation hood because we needed to come up with a solution for cooking and ventilation is very important. We have had some carbon monoxide issues with this trailer already and now that that is fixed we don’t plan to create an issue. The lighting in the hood there is a really nice feature to have as well.
As my plan started coming together I started looking for “island sinks” or “bar sinks” and found a small 15″ Ruvati Bar sink on Amazon. We needed an over-mount sink and I liked the 16 gauge steel which would keep my washing water warm longer. I wanted a single hole for the faucet since we had already changed out the original faucet for a more modern one with a combined spigot/sprayer (I didn’t like having sprayer off to the side). The other serious bonus to this sink was the drain was closer to the wall than in the middle of sink which meant storage under the sink was actually becoming a reality (before it was incredibly difficult to store anything worthwhile under there.
With the change in where the drain was, and the fact the sink was deeper, my DH (Dear Husband) had to re-plumb the drainage piping and change the vent a bit to make it all work smoothly. You can see his solution in the picture on marked “New plumbing set-up”. He was also able to fit the water filter under there so we are still able to access it easily as well.
During a fit test we found a couple of issues with the width of the sink, especially in regards to the cabinet door hinges and a solution had to be found for that. We had plans to extend the counter with a rounded edge so that it met the cushion in the dinette. This plan allowed us to move the outer cabinet
wall under the sink a bit to make more space. As we planned to use the same cabinet door we were limited though. My DH found some different hinges that mounted on the outside of the cabinet that were not too ugly – in fact you barely notice them at all once the counter tops went on.
In deciding which type of counter I wanted to use I had to keep in mind weight of the trailer. We were taking off white plastic counter tops which were light weight. I really love the look of stone or wood but they are too heavy. Tile counters are totally out of the question for me and I was not liking any of the Formica counter tops I was seeing either. I got this crazy idea that copper counters were the way to go. I started looking into them and found a company that makes special copper sheeting with beautiful patterns called Color Copper. DH thought I was completely nuts and was worried about the installation and what was going to be required. We did a whole bunch of research and I ordered the sample pack of copper sheeting (although I already knew I wanted to use their copper in the “Enchantment” finish). Once the samples arrived we worked out the cost and winced. We were thinking of doing the thicker (24) gauge, but it was cost prohibitive for us. We looked into the thinner (36) gauge and what would be required and decided we would move forward with that. We ordered the sheets, the gallons of epoxy and waited for the temperatures to be right where we needed them for this project. We ordered enough material to also do the bathroom sink area and the entertainment area since they all used the same counter tops to begin with and it wouldn’t look right not to do them all.
When everything arrived DH was a little nervous about the whole thing so he started with a small counter that was going to be on the easier side- the bathroom sink area. This was going to be a simpler project with all straight lines, and recovering the counter that was already there.
The first step here was to measure out the copper piece. He simply marked it with a red sharpie and used tin snips to cut it to size.
Next he sprayed on an adhesive that would hold the copper sheets to the counter base. (Note: He only did this on this counter because we found it left some tiny bumps that only we see, but he didn’t like it. He used a different adhesive on the other counter tops.) He attached the sheet onto the wooden base by gradually lowering from one edge to another (on bigger pieces he used dowels to help him with the process). Once the copper piece was lined up and pushed down, he used a roller to squeeze out any bubbles and bumps to make the whole thing nice and flat. Then he cut the holes for the sink and the faucet. For this counter we wanted the sink to sit on top of the epoxy so DH installed the edging around the edges of the counter top and installed the piece into the trailer.
He made sure the trailer was completely level in every direction and that the inside of the trailer maintained a minimum of 75 degrees (the epoxy may cloud and have other issues if the temperature falls below this so it is really important to abide by this rule). From here he put plastic sheeting on everything making the trailer feel like a murder scene from CSI, he poured on the self leveling epoxy and we watched. If bubbles came up he used a heat gun to get them to pop. We gave the counters a few days to cure before reinstalling the sink and faucet but were really pleased with the outcome. With the edging, rather than using silver screws we were able to find these pretty brass round-headed nails to tie everything together. From here he felt comfortable tackling the entertainment area.
The entertainment area proved slightly more difficult because of the shelving that sits on top of the counter and the rounded corner for the edging. Once DH figured out where the shelf was attached, he was able to detach it and suspend the shelving while he worked. He put the copper sheet right down on the existing counter top underneath the shelf. In the pictures on the left you can see how he used the dowels to help assist him in the placement of the copper. Afterward that job was finished he reinstalled the shelving, installed the edging, put plastic absolutely everywhere and then poured the epoxy. Again, we waited and blew out any bubbles and then let the counter cure. This counter turned out even better than the first and he was feeling more confident and like he was beating the learning curve.
Before I continue on I thought I would mention the edging we used. For the fronts of the counters we used a nice wide piece of aluminum. It measures 1.5″ along the front but the top has a 1/8th” lip and has little holes every 12″. The back and side edgings of the counters were the original Airstream edging pieces they use to fill the spaces and they have a 1/4″ lip (although we had to buy some extra from the factory for the new counter top which proved extraordinarily difficult). The epoxy levels out at 1/8th of an inch so these edges allowed us to fill the counters with the epoxy and it would fill to the top of the front edging. The edges are glued and hammered into place after the copper was adhered and then brass nails were put in place to hold the front more securely and to add a bit of fun!
Finally it was time to start on the kitchen counter. This was a brand new counter base that DH cut and we were test fitting along the way. For this counter we knew we wanted the sink to sit on top and the epoxy would flow along it’s edges so it would be sealed in. I really wanted this so if water spills, as it is prone to do, it wouldn’t end up in the cabinets. He cut the counter out and we had multiple test fittings to make sure it was still easy to get in and out of the dinette seat, that the door to the under-sink cabinet would open and close, that the sink would fit inside the cabinet and to see how much space we were opening up for ourselves. We also got our new Iwatani butane portable stoves and wanted to see how they would also fit onto their new shelf and the new counter. Once we worked the cabinet out, everything was ready to go with the counter install.
DH started as he did with all of the others. He cut the piece of copper to fit the counter, applied the adhesive and stuck it down well. He cut out the hole for the sink and got everything ready to install before taking it out to the trailer. All of the edging had to go on as well. First thing he did was attach all of the plumbing. He had already done a test run with this before the sink was on top of the copper and this proceeded quickly. Again he got everything taped down but somehow missed sealing certain points he thought wouldn’t be an issue. Sadly some of the epoxy did drain down the gaps and there was some clean up involved, but unless you know where to look it isn’t visible and the counter turned out beautifully.
Finishing the Project
There were a couple of little finishing details that we wanted to incorporate into the design. We had our new butane stoves that I mentioned above and needed a place to store them, but we also needed a place for our convection/toaster oven that we were installing. This unit requires us to be plugged in, just like the air conditioner, but we wanted the capability on those occasions to bake. We found a Wolf Counertop Oven on sale and it had everything we wanted. Where the old stove was we installed shelves to house these items and DH lined them with the left over copper sheeting we had. He found some copper pipe to use as stays to keep the items in place while we are traveling and he applied heat to the pipes to get them to magically change colors as you can see in the picture (I am also including a video of the process below). We also used those pipes to help create a little extra support for the counter extension and DH made a little panel to help hold the dinette back-cushion in place better (it drives me crazy how they move around even when snapped into place).
The Finished Project
It took blood, sweat and tears, a lot of problem solving, a few (many) swear words, lots of research, and cost more than we thought it would but we are super happy with the way it all turned out. We actually need to put a new counter top in our home bathroom and are considering using this material again. We just love the way it looks, and the warmth it adds to the room.