I’ve always admired dressers converted into vanities. In our city bungalow there just wasn’t enough room in either bathrooms for a dresser-vanity, so when it came time to remodel the bathrooms in our current house I was happy to see there would be enough room in the master bath, but just barely.
Although I do confess I did look longingly at some of the wonderful vanities that are available now. Especially the ones that look like…what do you know, dressers. Seems like others have admired the look, too. Except that the price tags on these started around $300 and climbed up from there.
Back to the original idea.
Believe it or not, this was the “temporary” vanity we lived with for 1-1/2 years. It started out simple enough – we were exhausted after spending all our free time in the summer working on both bathroom remodels, I had to go back to teaching in September, and we were trying to get our new garage weather-proofed before the winter set in. We thought we’d get to it in the winter when we’d have a covered garage to work in. But with the rest of the bathroom completely finished, a curious thing that can happen to do-it-yourselfers at one time or another happened to us:
We stopped seeing it.
It just sorta became part of the room. Hard to believe with that lovely pieced together top and golden sink. I think, too, it was because we were going to have to make the vanity and we weren’t sure how long it would take or how hard it would be. But when we finally got around to it a few months ago, we found it wasn’t that hard at all and actually didn’t take too much time – live and learn, sigh.
This is what we started with: a $79 dresser from the Salvation Army that I had originally bought to be my nightstand. I thought I needed the storage, but really didn’t, so it sat empty. I sure hope you can score something cheaper, but I was looking for specific measurements, and you know how that goes. Plus, have I mentioned how expensive the thrift stores are here? OK, I’ll be quiet about it…
It wasn’t a fine antique, though, and needed to be painted and the top refinished. The slats separating the drawers had been replaced with a lighter color wood and both of the side panels had big cracks in them that needed to be filled. The top also had a major scratch (top left in the bottom picture) that went all the way to the wood. So it was a perfect candidate, in addition to being the exact size we needed to fit between the tub and wall.
Here’s how to make a dresser into a vanity for your bathroom:
1. Purchase the sink first, fit to the dresser top measurements. Make sure to measure the true cabinet and not just the top piece of wood – this dresser had an overhang of more than 1 inch, so I measured inside of this to get a small enough sink.
We bought the smallest, basic self-rimming sink that we could find for this dresser, similar to the one pictured above (affiliate link). Most of the models were too big. We seriously considered a vessel sink, but with the new faucet needed, it would’ve cost about $250 instead of under $100 (we’d already added a new faucet).
2. Trace the sink hole. Remove the top drawer, lay the template that came with the sink on the dresser top and trace around it with a Sharpie-like marker.
3. Cut. Take a deep breath and cut it out with a jigsaw. It’s OK, you can do it…
4. Lay the sink in the opening and breath a sigh of relief when the sink fits in the hole.
(Sorry about the lack of photos for these next steps…poor planning):
5. Finish the dresser top. Remove the sink and sand and refinish the top (if needed- alternately, the top can be painted). Paint dresser body and drawers, if needed too.
6. Coat & protect the dresser top. Using a water-based polyurethane (I like satin finish and have good results with both this brand and this one), apply 4 to 5 coats. Since this top had a short back piece, I made sure the joint between them was covered well so that no water from the sink would get between them.
7. Attach the sink to top. When dry, run a bead of clear caulking (it works much better with wood counters than white) around the rim of the opening (here’s what we used). Carefully place the sink right on top, pressing down lightly (you do not need to add caulk around the rim of the bowl after it’s in place- that’s a sure sign of a do-it-yourself job).
8. Cut opening for plumbing in back. Set the vanity close to its eventual spot in order to measure where the plumbing hits on the back of the cabinet - after many DIY slip-ups, I don’t trust only measurements anymore- we use our eyes and measurements now- but this is just us, you don’t actually have to have it near its spot. Use a jigsaw to cut a square out of the back piece of wood large enough for all the plumbing to set in. Set the vanity in it’s permanent spot.
9. Attach the faucet and plumbing. Hook up all the plumbing with no drawers in place.
10. Customize drawers. Each drawer will need to be treated differently:
Top drawer options:
- It can be taken out entirely and made into a false drawer by cutting the front off and gluing it back in place.
- Or you can get one of those kits that turn sink drawers in kitchen cabinets into a flip-out with a narrow plastic holder attached.
- The drawer can be customized to fit around the sink and still have storage.
I wanted more storage, so we cut out what was needed to fit the sink, and then added some 2×4 wood scraps for new sides to make small “drawers” on each end of the drawer. These are perfect for toothbrushes, deodorant, and lotions. Of course, if you have enough room for a dresser with three drawers on top, you’d lose the center drawer and still have two functional drawers. That would certainly be the easiest.
This took the most finagling, but basically we (of course you’ve probably guessed that this part doesn’t really involve me…I’m using “we” merely to show my support) made a box to fit around the plumbing. This leaves plenty of space for toiletries.
We merely cut a square cut out of the back to fit around the drain pipe. This drawer lost no space at all.
11. Secure to the wall. For this last step, we found the studs and put a couple screws in so that the vanity is secure and not attached only by the plumbing. Because this dresser had an overhang in the back, we had to add a piece of wood to the back to allow it to touch the wall before screwing in, but not all dressers would need this.
And there you have a slightly stripped-down version of how to turn a dresser into a bathroom vanity. What? You were expecting plumbing how-tos? Sorry, that’s way beyond my skills. Brian does that with a little help from his friends (thanks, Dan!) and I stay far, far, away.
Especially because it was my idea.
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