This weekend, the cold and rainy weather finally cleared out a bit, the sunshine brought some warmer temperatures, and I was finally able to take my stock cabinets outside and make some progress on my bathroom vanity. I’m so pleased with how it’s turning out so far, but I have quite a bit of work left to do. I only have the basic build complete, so I still need to make adjustments to the drawers, add trim, wood fill, sand, caulk, prime, and paint.
I was contemplating two different vanity styles, and I decided to go with the style that has the little turned feet and allows me to keep the drawers. I actually liked the look of the other one better, but it would have given me less closed storage, the shelf on bottom would have given me one more thing to dust (and since I’m always working on my house, I create a huge amount of dust!), and the open shelf on bottom seemed like overkill since I’ll have open shelving in the linen storage area.
So I actually decided to go with the more practical option over the one I thought was prettier. Mark this day on the calendar, folks, because me choosing practical over pretty is a rarity!
I do still think it’ll turn out very pretty when it’s finished. Here’s how it looks at this point with the basic build (minus the drawers) complete.
Now let me show you how I got to that point. And keep in mind that you can use this not only as a bathroom vanity, but a buffet or credenza as well. The trim and hardware will do wonders to dress this up!
I started out with three unfinished stock cabinets from Home Depot – one 30-inch cabinet and two 12-inch cabinets. These stock cabinets are 24 inches deep, and while that’s the perfect depth for a kitchen or laundry room, it’s really too deep for a bathroom vanity, which is generally 21 inches deep. But it was especially too deep for my bathroom, where there are only 24 inches between the wall and the door jamb, so even the standard 21-inch depth would be too much and wouldn’t allow enough room for the overhang on the countertop and the trim around the door.
So I took the cabinets outside, and starting with the big cabinet, I turned it on its side and used a hammer to knock off the toekick.
Then I measured up 4.5 inches (the height of the toekick) and marked a line where I would cut to remove the side piece.
I used my circular saw to remove that, and once it was off, the back piece pretty much fell off on its own. So this is what I had at that point. The one cut side was now level with the bottom rail on the front of the cabinet.
Then I flipped the cabinet over onto its other side, and cut off the extra 4.5 inches from that side to make it even with the bottom rail on the front.
That took care of removing the toekick and making room for cute little turned furniture feet. Now I needed to cut off some of the depth to turn this 24-inch-deep cabinet into one that was 18.5 inches deep. That’s the depth I decided on for my vanity, but standard vanity depth is 21 inches.
While keeping the cabinet on its side, I measured and marked 18.5 inches from the front and drew a cut line. And again, I used my circular saw to cut that side along the line.
After I cut the side, I turned the cabinet upside down and repeated that on the bottom. This was a bit harder since there’s a lip on both sides, but I just made sure that I had my blade set so that the cut was deep enough to still cut through when I had to raise the saw up to cut the ends and clear the lips.
And finally, I placed it on the other side, and cut the second side in the same way. At that point, it looked like this.
I had to be a bit careful with it at this point because I had basically cut away everything that was supporting the structure on the back side. And on some of these cabinets, the bottom panel isn’t glued in very well, so it can easily come apart. One one of the small cabinets, the bottom panel actually wasn’t glued in at all, so I just added some wood glue, put it back in place (it sits inside a routed out groove), and held it together with some finishing nails shot through the sides of the cabinet and into the edges of the panel.
And here’s what it looked like from the front with the toekick cut off.
Because I had cut off all of the supporting structure from the back, I had to add some supports. I did this by cutting two pieces of 1 x 4 lumber to the correct width, and attaching one at the top, and one at the bottom, using wood glue and 1.5-inch 18-gauge finishing nails shot through the sides of the cabinet and into the edges of the boards. I forgot to get a picture of the supports I added to the big cabinet, but here’s a picture of one of the small cabinets where I did the exact same thing.
Another option, which would actually look nicer, would be to cut a complete panel out of 1/4-inch plywood and attach it to the back of the cabinet. That would not only give it the needed support, but would also completely enclose the cabinet again. With that option, it would still be a good idea to add the top 1 x 4 before adding the back panel so that you can screw through the 1 x 4 when installing the cabinet in the room if you’re using it as a vanity. That’s not needed if you’re using it as a free-standing buffet. Anyway, I opted to do it this way, just using the 1 x 4’s, simply because I already had 1 x 4 lumber on hand, and I didn’t have any 1/4-inch plywood on hand.
With that, the large cabinet was finished, but the two side cabinets required one more step. I turned the cabinets upside down and added four widths of 1 x 4 lumber, which I attached with wood glue and 1-inch finishing nails. I did this so that I could attach the furniture leg hardware and the turned feet. I added two feet to the right side of one cabinet (front and back), and then added two more to the left side of the other small cabinet.
Then I took the cabinets into the bathroom and placed them against the wall. This is what they looked like at this point.
Clearly that’s not the look I was going for.
The last step of this basic build was to connect the three pieces so that it would look like one piece of furniture. I did this by placing the middle and right cabinets on their backs, and then I used wood glue between the stiles and clamped them together.
Once I made sure they the cabinets were flush with each other on the front, top, and bottom, I drilled four pilot holes through one stile and into the other, and then secured them together with 3-inch screws.
Don’t ever attempt to screw these together without first drilling pilot holes!! Not only is it virtually impossible to get such a long screw all the way in without a pilot hole, but if you do manage to get a screw in there part of the way, you’ll split the wood. Pilot holes aren’t optional.
With those sections securely attached, I placed the other small cabinet on its backside on the other side of the large cabinet, and repeated that process.
With them all attached, I was able to stand the vanity up and move it around as if it was one solid piece of furniture. The 1 x 4 support pieces that I added to the top on the backs of these cabinets will be used to secure the vanity to the wall as soon as I’m ready to do that. Before I put the drywall up, I made sure that I had 2 x 4’s in place running horizontally between the studs so that I can just screw the vanity to the wall all along the top edge and not have to worry about locating studs.
I have a long way to go before this actually looks like a finished piece of furniture, but trim, paint, and hardware will do wonders for this vanity.