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Ashley Mann spent three years living full time in a 38-foot, 5th-wheel RV with her husband Josiah and their cat, Kitty. Her favorite thing about RV life is the challenge of finding the perfect way to organize a space, and she loves seeing all the creative and clever ways people come up with to customize their RVs.
So often the cabinets inside motorhomes and campers have a lot of wasted depth or vertical space due to not having enough shelves. I had this problem in the cabinet over the window in my living area, so I decided to use this technique shared by DIY guru Isabelle LaRue to add shelves to these RV cabinets.
I wish I had known about this idea for adding shelving to RV cabinets before I spent money on extra wire shelves when organizing my kitchen cabinets, because this would have been cheaper and sturdier! And not only is this shelf easy to make, if you decide later to remove it (or if you're afraid to use screws in your RV), you can take it out completely and it won't leave a trace!
How to Add Shelving to an RV Cabinet
Step 1: Measure and buy lumber for the RV shelves.
After measuring my cabinets, the first thing I did was make a trip to Lowe's to buy lumber for the shelf and have it cut.
Make sure when measuring that you take into account all the strips of wood inside the cabinet that can make the length of shelf need to be shorter than the actual width of the cabinet.
To avoid adding any more weight than I had to, I decided that instead of making the shelf the full depth of the cabinet, I would just make a long narrow shelf, just 4.5″ wide, on the back wall of the cabinet. Also, instead of making supports that were the same width as the shelf, I used narrower pieces of wood for the supports.
We got rid of most of our power tools when we moved into our RV, so I had the employees at Lowe's do all the cutting for me.
Step 2: Assemble the shelf.
The easiest way to see how this is done is to look at the photo below. Basically, the shelf rests on the supports, and the supports are stuck to the sides and back of the cabinet with double-sided, removable mounting tape.
I put all the pieces in place to make sure they would fit before adding the tape.
Step 3: Attach the supports to the walls of the cabinet, and set the shelf on top.
In addition to two supports at each end, I also used three more supports against the back wall of the cabinet along the middle of the shelf to provide extra support in the middle of the shelf. You can see one of them in the photo below.
The Best Mounting Tape to Use
The real key to this project is acrylic mounting tape. I use this stuff for all kinds of projects in my RV because it is super strong yet amazingly easy to remove and has never damaged any of my walls or left behind any residue. It even works in the shower where it's constantly wet, and on the outside of my RV in extremely hot and cold weather.
To create these shelves for my RV cabinets, I put three or four 1-inch pieces of tape on the backside of each of the supports and pressed it up against the wall.
Then I set the shelf on top…which was a bit of a job because of the divider in the middle of my cabinets. I thought for a minute I was going to have to have the board cut in half and put each piece in separately with an extra support in the middle, but I was finally able to wiggle it in.
Then I realized that a few of my supports were a tad too short. (Oops!) So, I just folded some of the mounting tape and used it to add a few extra millimeters of height, and that worked perfectly.
The Completed Project: Added Shelving in My RV Cabinet
This new shelf is very sturdy and makes the perfect place to store a few extra books and some longer items like rolls of gift wrap. I will definitely use this technique again in the future!
Update: Shelf Added to a Kitchen Cabinet
I decided to add another shelf to the cabinet under my kitchen sink. This time I decided to try using some wood I already had as the supports, just sticking them to the walls of the cabinet instead of cutting new lumber to a length that would allow it to rest on the floor of the cabinet. That worked just fine for storing bags, wrap, and aluminum foil, but when I later decided to store my heavy kitchen sink covers, the adhesive failed. Therefore, I definitely recommend that your supports go all the way to the bottom of the cabinet so the shelf isn't relying on the adhesive for support.
Still, under the sink ended up being a great place to add a shelf to an RV cabinet!
Video of the Shelf
Here's a video of me demonstrating and talking about the shelf:
For more ideas for organizing and storing things in a camper or motorhome, check out my RV organization resource page!