How to Install a Bathroom Vanity

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Installing a new bathroom cabinet and sink is an easy DIY upgrade that can shave 10 or 20 years off the appearance of your bathroom. Learn about this and other ways to improve your home and add more DIY skills to your list of credentials in “Upgrade Your House.”  
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Replacing your old bathroom vanity with a new setup will greatly improve the overall ambience of your powder room. Who knew a simple DIY project and a paint job could do so much?
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Step 1: Set the new cabinet in place.
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Step 2: Secure the cabinet to the wall.
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Step 3: Lay a bead of silicone caulk along the top edge of the vanity.
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Step 4: Assemble the drain parts and apply a fine bead of silicone caulk.

Install a bathroom vanity, replace a kitchen sink and other handy DIY skills can all be learned in Upgrade Your House: 101 DIY Improvements (Creative Publishing International, 2010). The excerpt from this book, adapted below, will teach you how to install a bathroom vanity, with step-by-step photos. It is taken from the chapter entitled “Updating Bathrooms.”    

Standard bathroom vanities and tops are basically small versions of kitchen cabinets and countertops. However, since most people generally have lower expectations when it comes to bathroom materials, you don’t have to go out of your way — or your budget — to make the vanity a major showpiece. A fresh paint job on a basic vanity will do the trick. As for the vanity top, you can renew dulled, stained, or damaged surfaces following general tips given for kitchen countertops.  

This is not to suggest that vanities don’t get noticed. They are predominant features in most bathrooms and should be in great condition. If your old vanity isn’t worth salvaging or the top is an eyesore, consider replacing the whole shebang. You can buy stock vanities at any large home center from $50 to more than $300, depending on material, size and accessories. Many are available with a matching top, complete with an integrated sink.  

Replacing a Bathroom Vanity 

This project shows you how to install a new vanity cabinet and a matching top with integral sink. To prepare for the installation, disconnect the faucet and sink connections. If you’re buying a new faucet for the vanity (usually a good idea), you can install it while the new top is off of the vanity cabinet.  

To remove the old vanity cabinet, remove the screws securing the vanity top. Typically, the top is fastened through a mounting bracket at each corner of the cabinet. Cut through any caulk joints between the vanity and the wall, then lift off the top. Next, remove all screws fastening the cabinet to the wall and floor. If you’ve cut the caulking along the wall, the vanity should lift right out. Scrape off any caulk left on the wall, and clean the floor thoroughly.  

Recycled and Cheap Vanities  

If you’re upgrading your bathroom, you can save yourself the cost of a new vanity by recycling an old dresser. Many dressers can be easily recycled for service as a vanity. You simply need to find a vanity top that will fit the dresser, or use a dresser that accommodates your current top. Remove the dresser’s top and back, and any drawer that impedes the drain and water supplies (attach the drawer front to the frame to maintain the appearance). Otherwise, the dresser is installed as any other vanity. 

How to Install a Bathroom Vanity 

Be sure to look at the step-by-step photos to see how to install a bathroom vanity in the Image Gallery

Step 1: Set the new cabinet in place so it is centered over the plumbing lines. With the cabinet tight against the wall, check it for level. Shim between the top mounting rail and the wall (at stud locations) as well as underneath the bottom edges of the cabinet to get the vanity cabinet level and plumb. If the fit leaves gaps, you can hide the gaps with trim after the cabinet is installed.  

Step 2: Secure the cabinet to the wall by driving 3-inch drywall screws through the back mounting rails and into the wall studs. Drive screws at both sides of the cabinet, at the top and bottom. Trim all exposed shims with a utility knife or chisel. Prepare the vanity top by installing the faucet. Also install the drain tailpiece and flange in the hole of the sink basin. 

Step 3: Lay a bead of silicone caulk along the top edge of the vanity and set the vanity top in place. Measure carefully to make sure it’s centered.  Check the fit of the backsplash against the back wall. If there are any gaps wider than 1/8-inch, scribe the top edge of the backsplash and sand the edge to fit the contours of the wall (follow the manufacturer’s directions). Connect the top to the vanity using the fasteners provided with the cabinet.   

Step 4: Assemble the drain parts and make sure everything is properly aligned. Connect the water supply risers to the faucet, and hook up the pop-up stopper assembly and drain.  Apply a fine bead of silicone caulk (use clear or a color that matches the vanity top) where the vanity top meets the wall. For appearance and cleanliness, also caulk where the side edges of the cabinet meet the wall, or add trim to hide wide gaps. Use only as much caulk as is needed, to prevent a messy job. 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Upgrade Your House: 100 DIY Repairs and Improvements, published by Creative Publishing International, 2010.