Vanity Looking too Humble? DIY Guide to Replacing Your Bathroom Vanity

Replacing your bathroom vanity is a relatively easy project that will transform the way your bathroom looks. Whether you are making improvements on your house to sell it, found a deal on a vanity that you can’t resist, or just want to do something nice for yourself, this is a great project to take on. Before you go ahead and rip your old vanity out, you should make sure that you know exactly what you are getting into. All rehab projects have the potential for unexpected expenses, and replacing a bathroom vanity is no different. Here are a few factors to consider first:

1) Will your new vanity cover the same, if not more, floor space than the old vanity? If the answer to this question is no, you may find yourself replacing your bathroom floor (which could inspire you to replace your toilet) as well. Unless your flooring was installed under the original vanity, your flooring will not be consistent if you are installing a smaller vanity. Even if the flooring was installed under the vanity, it will not have worn the same under the vanity and out in the open. In addition to having some major floor scrubbing to do, you may find that the flooring that was under the old vanity is actually darker because it was not exposed to any light.

2) Is your floor in good shape? If your floor is in good shape, you’re fine, but if you’re thinking about replacing it in a few years, it will be much easier and it will look much crisper if you do it now and install the flooring under the new vanity. Once again, if you decide to replace your flooring, you should consider replacing your toilet as well.

3) Will your new vanity cover the same, if not more, wall space than the old vanity? If the answer is no and your bathroom is completely drywalled, it’s not a big deal, but you’re going to have to add some spackling and painting to this job. If you don’t have any paint the same color as your bathroom, you’ll be repainting. If your bathroom has wainscoting or tile on the wall, however, you will be facing problems similar to what is described on the first point. 4) Is your faucet new? If the answer is no, you’d might as well replace that as well. Salvaging the old faucet will take some time, and with the money you’re investing in this vanity, you’re not going to be satisfied with a grimy faucet that’s covered in water spots.

5) Will your mirror and lights go with your new vanity? If the answer is no, consider replacing them, but luckily, this can be done later if you choose. Just remember that it will be easier to do the electric work to replace your vanity lights while the vanity is out than it will be to do it while leaning over the vanity.

6) Do you have a standard hardware finish in your bathroom? If you don’t now, this is the time to set one. You’re going to want your vanity lighting fixture, cabinet knobs, cabinet hinges, door knobs, door hinges, door stops, faucet, toilet paper holder, towel bars, shower rod, and toilet handle to match. You can even get soap dispensers, garbage cans, tissue boxes, tooth brush holders, soap dishes, encased plungers, and encased toilet brushes that match as well. Polished chrome is traditional, but brushed chrome is more popular these days. Oil-rubbed bronze is also moving up in popularity, but unless you can get all of your accessories from the same manufacturer, this finish is not consistent. If the vanity you like doesn’t come with the hardware scheme you want, that’s okay because you can buy the hardware you like relatively inexpensively, but make sure your faucet is what you want, as a faucet is going to be a pricier object to replace.

Now that you know what you’re in for, let’s have some fun. Before you do anything, shut off the water to your bathroom sink. This can be done by simply twisting the valves (see picture) underneath your sink. Then, turn the handles on your faucet to let any excess water drain from the lines. Not all of the water will leave the pipes when you do this, so you will want to take a few precautions when disconnecting your faucet to keep from making a mess. Put some sort of drip pan underneath the first connection. Also, have your wet/dry vacuum ready to clean up any excess water. Then unscrew your first water line. It does not matter if you disconnect the hot or cold water first. Once it’s disconnected, suck the line dry with your vacuum. You may be thinking that you don’t care if you get your old vanity wet, but the more water you spill on that vanity, the more water you’ll drip through your house as you carry it out. Then disconnect the other water line.

Once your water lines are disconnected, you can disconnect the drainpipe. You’re drainpipe is probably connected through something called a slip joint connector (see picture). This is a basically a giant washer and a plastic screw cap that are used to connect the drain pipes. Simply unscrew this cap and you should be able to jimmy the pipes apart. Be careful once this is disconnected, though. If you have any drains that are nearby and at the same level (for instance, if you have bathrooms that are back to back) and someone uses the other drain, the water may come out through this pipe now. Make sure that this does not happen while you are working or you will have a huge mess on your hands.

Now that your plumbing is disconnected, you are just about ready to pull your vanity out, but first, you need to take down your mirror, whether or not you are replacing it. You are going to be removing screws from the same studs that your mirror is anchored into, and if you don’t take it down you run the risk of knocking it down or cracking it. If your mirror hangs like a picture, simply lift it up and remove it. If it is a large sheet mirror held up by mirror anchors, you may need a second person to help you brace the mirror. For this type of mirror, unscrew the top anchors and you should be able to slide the mirror out. Tuck the mirror away somewhere safe, and you’re ready to move on.

Actually removing the vanity is a very easy process. Open the doors and you will see two to six screws holding it into the wall. Once you remove these, your vanity should pull right out. If it doesn’t, it’s probably painted to the wall. Do not just pull it loose. Take a utility knife and score all of the edges around the vanity. This will prevent the drywall from tearing when you remove the unit. Then pull the vanity out. At this point, you can take the vanity outside. There’s no need to take anything else apart unless you are trying to salvage something.

If your new vanity is smaller than the old vanity, this is the time to make any of the repairs to your wall or floor that were mentioned earlier in the article. Do not rush these repairs; do them correctly. If you have to spackle your wall, do at least three coats, sanding in between each one.

It’s time to install your new vanity. First, find and mark your studs. You can probably do this by checking where the old vanity was screwed to the wall, but it’s always dangerous to trust someone else’s work. Verify where the studs are with a stud finder. Don’t go out and spend $40 on a high-tech electric stud finder. They are a waste of money and are often inaccurate. Use a classic magnetic stud finder that you can find at a traditional hardware store for about $3. These are the most accurate stud finders on the market. Once you’ve marked your studs, use a level to help you draw a vertical line as to the placement of the stud. The line should extend above the top of your actual vanity, but should not go beyond where your backsplash will be.

Now, put your vanity in place, without the top on. Your vertical lines should be extending just beyond the back of the vanity. Use your level to follow these lines and see where the studs are behind the vanity. Attach the vanity to the wall using 2-1/2″ drywall screws. Put two into each stud (one high and one low). Next, place the top on your vanity. Some tops are held in by gravity while others must be fastened. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions.

With the vanity secured and the top in place, you are ready to install your faucet. For the most part, this can also be done by following your manufacturer’s instructions, and it should as different faucets may have different quirks to them, but here are a few pointers. When you attached your drain, you may need to add an extension. Slip joint extensions are available in 6″ and 12″. Also, your new sink may have a 2″ diameter drainpipe, as that is standard today, but the old standard was 1-1/2″. This is not a big deal. You’ll just need to use a 2″ to 1-1/2″ reducer. This is also a standard product.

Connect your water supply with a woven hose (also known as polymer braid connector) such as Speedi Plumb PLUS (see picture). These are much easier to work with than the brass risers that were probably used to connect your old faucet. When you purchase these hoses, you’ll need two, so buy four. That way if any of them are bad, you don’t have to run back out to the store to finish your project. When screwing these connectors on, do so by hand. Tighten them as much as you can by hand and turn your water supply on. If they leak at the connections, turn the water off and use a wrench to turn each nut only a quarter turn. Over tightening will damage the connectors. After you’ve done this, turn the water back on.

Once you’ve successfully connected your water supply, remove the aerator from your faucet. Some manufacturers recommend bleeding the faucet by taking the entire thing apart, including the handles, but this has the potential to be a nightmare and is often unnecessary. If you just take the aerator (see picture) off the end and turn on the hot and cold water for a few minutes, you should successfully bleed all of the air from your faucet. Reattach the aerator when this is done. If this does not work, follow your manufacturer’s instructions on bleeding your faucet.

Vanity is secure, top is on, faucet is connected, and you are almost done. It’s time to hang your mirror, clean up your mess, and use your new sink to wash your hands before you give yourself a pat on the back. Great job!

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