The Best Cabinet And Drawer Hardware For Your Bus or Van Conversion
-Written By: Brock Butterfield -
During your bus or van conversion process you should always be thinking about how much vibrating and shifting the contents of you tiny home on wheels will be doing as you hum down the open road. Most of you that are converting a skoolie or van probably have the desire like myself to take the road less traveled which most of the time means it's also less maintained.
I'll be sharing some tips and advice on choosing the right cabinet and drawer hardware to keep them shut during transit regardless of how bumpy the road may get. This information has been gained through trial and error as well as meeting other "full timers" in van or bus conversions that have discovered better hardware.
Drawer and Cabinet Catches
Some of you may already know the term "drawer catch" but I didn't when I began to search for the right hardware. I would Google "drawer stopper" or "hardware to stop drawer from sliding out" with little luck in finding the correct item I was seeking.
A catch essentially is a small piece or hardware that is installed on the cabinet or drawer as well as inside the cabinet or drawer that prevents them from opening until you engage them in some sort of way. Here are the four different types of catches that I have found to be the most effective bus and van conversions.
- Push Button Knob Catch
These in my opinion are the best catch to use on drawers especially if the drawer is going to hold items that are heavy. The knobs come in different colors and shapes and work by keeping the drawer shut until you press the center of the knob which then engages the catch to release. There are better versions that require you to push the button in and then turn the knob. Those versions seem to be a little better built and are most common in boats and high end RVs.
The first van conversion I saw these installed in was when I met Dani and Roland from Native Eyewear. I had no idea such a thing existed until I did a little tour for a blog write up on their amazing van conversion.
The push button knob catch can be used for cabinet doors as well if you didn't build your cabinets with a lip on the bottom (which I recommend) but these catches range anywhere from $10 - $27 each so quite a bit more than the other catches I mention below. However, it's one of those "you get what you pay for" situations and there's nothing worse than driving down a bumpy dirt road with a nice breeze in the air, you hit a bump and your serenity is disrupted when your silverware drawer opens and dumps everything out on the floor.
Here is a link to push button drawer and cabinet catches that I found online.
However, these catches are great for cabinet doors IF you've built the cabinets with a bottom lip. Otherwise the contents in your cabinet can and will build up enough pressure when shifting to open the door and spill your coffee beans everywhere. One of my good friends who lives in a van without a bottom lip on his cabinet says he's still finding coffee beans from his first excursion in his van when his catch failed and dumped everything out.
These are easy to install and require no drilling through the front of the cabinet or drawer unlike the push button knob catch. I'm still running this style of catch on my two cabinet doors as I have a bottom lip and they work well enough. The price difference isn't that much from the push button knob catch but every dollar saved adds up to less hours I have to work while on the road so I'll run them until they fail.
These double roller catches run anywhere from $0.80 to $17 but the cheaper ones are, well, CHEAP.
Here is a link to the double roller catches that I found online.
- Magnetic Catch
The magnetic catch is has it's pros and cons and is self explanatory on how it works. The thing I like about these catches is that they're easy to install and have less moving parts to fail like the push button knob catch or double roller catch.
However, find ones that have a strong enough magnet to hold larger cabinet doors shut or a drawer is tricky. Most people that I've seen use these have to resort to installing two magnet catches on each door and I've seen almost no success with keeping a drawer closed.
If you decide to go this route I'd only recommend them for small cabinet doors with cabinets that have a bottom lip on them.
These magnetic door and cabinet catches run anywhere from $2 - $11 and again the cheaper ones are going to be less effective. An alternative to buying these would be making your own. I feel like you could make your own with Gorilla Glue, heavy duty magnets and some sheet metal.
Here is a link to the magnetic door and cabinet catches that I found online.
- Child Safety Catch
These have actually proven to be pretty darn effective in my bus when my double roller catches started to fail on my drawers and I was on the road. I needed something quick and found these child safety catches. They're a little complicated to install in comparison the the above catches I've mentioned but they do work well.
One annoying thing I've come across is when you're cooking and may only have one free hand it's extremely hard to open the drawer, push down on the safety lever and open the drawer at the same time.
I would only recommend considering these for drawers as they do allow the drawer or cabinet to open slightly (enough to get two fingers in to press the safety release) so I can foresee an issue with then installed on cabinets as they may allow smaller, skinnier items to sneak through the crack. The last thing you need is your tortillas and taco seasoning escaping before taco night!
The price range for these is anywhere from $6 - $12 or you can buy them in bulk for a reduced rate.
Here is a link to the child safety catches that I found online.
Cabinet Door Struts
I've seen mostly two ways that people build cabinet doors. The first and most common is placing the hinge on the side where the door opens left or right. The second is to install the hinge on the top so that the cabinet door always stays closed. While the second method is a great idea it has it's draw backs with being on a vehicle that is on the road. They still require a catch to keep the door from opening slightly if you're on a bumpy road and force you to hold it up and open or install something to hold it open.
The coolest and what seems most effective way to keep the cabinet door open when hinges are installed on the top are struts. Our friend Ashley showed us how she used these in her Bumble Beast Sprinter van conversion.
These are pretty standard in RVs and aren't too harsh on the wallet. You can find a four pack of cabinet struts for around $25.
Here is a link to the cabinet door struts that I found online.
Side Note To Save Some Money
If you tend to find yourself ordering a lot of items for your bus or can conversion on Amazon like I did it might be worth looking into getting a Prime account. I saved a lot on shipping plus it's free two day shipping. I've also been taking advantage of the free music and movies that come as a perk to the Prime Membership. You can try it for free for 30 days so keep that in mind if you want to check it out first.
Here's a link to look into an Amazon Prime Membership if you're interested in the perks.