Travel, climbing, and Van-life



Van Build: Plumbing

The plumbing in the van is really just a hand-pump to bring water up to the sink, but I'll also go over how we made the vessel sink, and I think turned out pretty great. I wanted to do the vessel sink to save space both on the counter and below it, and so far it's worked out perfect.

I should also say that this step should probably be done on the countertop before it's installed, though it wouldn't be a big deal to do these steps right inside the van.


  • Vessel Sink
  • Water Slide




  1. Prepare the Sink

    The obvious first step here, in creating your own vessel-style (or above-counter) sink, is finding a bowl that you like. The two important considerations here are 1) the material, and 2) the bowl size. The important consideration on the material is how whether you will be able to drill a 1.5" hole in the bottom of it. I was thinking that a light-weight metal bowl,a sealed wooden bowl, or just a plastic bowl could work, and ruled out using a glass or ceramic one. In the end, the one I found is just a light-duty plastic serving bowl, that is microwave and dishwasher safe, and so far it's worked out well.

    Once getting the bowl, I used a 2-ish-inch diamond circular bit to put a hole in the bottom of it. This was actually tough to do, since I was worried the whole time about breaking the bowl, but it might also been because the bit was a little old. After quite a bit of smoke and effort, if finally gave way though.

  2. Cut Holes in Countertop

    Next, we cut a hole in the counter for the drain below the sink, and another smaller hole for the hand-pump.

    The hole for the sink drain was, I think, about 1.5", and just used a wood-grade circular bit. Then the hole for the hand pump was smaller, and just per the directions included with the hand pump.

  3. Place the Sink

    Now that there is a hole in both the sink and the counter, use the drain to clamp the two together. There should be threads that run up and down the drain, with some large nuts and washers that create the seal. Get these pretty tight, but, obviously, don't strip the threads or break your bowl.

    At first this was all I used to attach the sink, but, as you'll notice if you follow suit, the drain head will stick up about a 1/4" above the bottom of the bowl. A normal sink-bowl has a recessed area for the drain to sit, but, unless you are carving or hammering out your own bowl, that's not going to be there.

    So, to make the drain flush with the bottom of the bowl, and mainly to prevent any standing water, I found some white, underwater epoxy putty at Home Depot. To my surprise this worked perfectly. No standing water at all, and also no worrying about any leaks since the putty made a better seal around the drain.

    I guess the one caveat is that the putty still looks like putty in the sink. Though it's white and I smoothed it out as best I could, it still looks a little like play-dough at first glance. Still, a good solution though.

  4. Place the Hand Pump

    There isn't much to say here, except that hopefully you picked a sink bowl that is shorter than the height of the faucet. We had already drilled the appropriately-sized hole for the pump (about 1/2" I think), but now I just screwed the pump into the countertop with the provided screws.

    I think a cool alternative to a hand pump would have been a foot pump, since then you have both hands free. I saw another van-blog show that, and if we'd had some more time, I definitely would have explored it more.

    After putting in the sink and hand pump
    The placed sink and hand-pump in the counter.
  5. Attach the Hoses

    Next we just had to connect everything.

    From the hand pump, I ran a 3/8" (ID) hose down into the clean-water tank. I ended up cutting a hole in the cap for the tank and ran the hose through the cap, semi-sealing it with some trusty duct tape so the tank. I wasn't worried too much about maintaining water quality, but going over bumps I did not want anything to spill out.

    Next I attached the RV Drain-hose to the bottom of the drain. Unfortunatey, the threads did not line up, so I had to piece together an adaptor piece using PVC-pipe fittings. A nice guy at Home Depot helped figure something out, and it's worked so well since attaching everything I had to double-check that we actually used the adaptor. I then cut the end of the drain hose and, like the clean water hose, inserted it a few inches through the cap of the grey-water tank, attaching it there with duct tape. So now when getting rid of the waste water, I just need to unscrew the cap and take out the tank.

    Water tanks outside the van
    The two tanks conveniently fit side-by-side in one of my crates.
    Close-up view of water tanks with hoses attached
    The clean-water tank on the right, and the grey-water tank on the left, with the attached hoses.
    Finished kitchen area, with sink, fridge, and shelving
    The finished kitchen.

Water Slide

Coming soon