When does a renovation go exactly as planned and the budget stay right on the money or even less than initially estimated? Well, I don’t know about you, but in my house, it happens exactly 0% of the time. There is usually at least an expense or two that was looked over or which comes up unannounced. Sometimes it is as easy as buying an extra small tool or an extra can of paint. This project in particular was a totally different story.
We started our bathroom renovation in hopes that we would just be replacing cabinet doors, counter top, sinks, and faucets, but what we ended up with was a full gut. Once we removed the counter top, we noticed a bit of moisture damage on the back side of the cabinet. The tough decision was made to just gut it all, save the front frame (which was undamaged and real wood), and build a new cabinet.
So, why did we go with building a new cabinet instead of buying one? First off, money. We really did not want to spend more than $1000 on this project. If you have looked into 72” cabinets recently, then you know how expensive they can be. Plus, a 72” vanity is not easy to find. Lastly, we had already ordered our door fronts and drawer fronts for the cabinet so we needed to incorporate them.
If you are a bit handy and have a saw you will probably be able to tackle this project as it was not that difficult. Here is a full list of the items that you will need to build the cabinets just as we did.
2 -4 sheets of plywood depending on the length of your vanity (the stainable kind)
2 strips of 1×2
1 strip of quarter round for finishing the edges off (this is not necessary, but I love this look)
Kreg Jig screws
Minwax stain and lacquer
sandpaper (I went with a fine and coarse)
table saw or circular saw
horses for cutting wood
First is the fun part…demo!
So take out your cabinets, but be careful with them if possible. You will need them in order to make a template for your new ones. Take pictures from different angles and write down the dimensions of the cabinet and the space from which they came. In your work area, take your cabinets apart. Carefully now. Use the pieces to either draw a template, measure, or both!
Measure 3 times, cut once
With the side pieces, we drew them out onto the plywood. The rest of it was measured and cut. Be sure to pay attention to how the wood will be situated in the cabinet as the plywood only has one stainable side. Cut it all out.
We saved our front piece as it was in good condition and was solid oak. If you cannot salvage your front frame, then you will need to make a new one. Pay attention to how this is constructed and copy it. This is the easiest way.
Time to stain, sand, and lacquer
Next you will need to stain all the wood pieces which will be showing. The front frame needed holes filled and a good sanding to remove all the original lacquer. The plywood does not need to be stained on both sides, just the stainable side.
Lay out your pieces, stain them all. You will let them sit for several hours (refer to your can of stain for directions). I used Minwax Red Mahogany stain. It is a really good product and I just love how the color turned out. Once that has dried, be sure that you have achieved the depth of color you were going for. If not, you may have to apply another coat of stain. It is easier to do all at the same time for sure.
Once that has dried, lay on the lacquer. You can use a small roller, a clean rag, or a paint brush for this job. We used a large brush and it went on beautifully. I used Minwax Polyurethane. Due to the Florida humidity, we had to let it sit overnight to dry. Sand with a fine grit sandpaper after each application of lacquer. This is an important step as it will make your final product smooth. Reapply the lacquer. I did 2 coats, but did 3 for the doors as they will get more abuse.
Like a puzzle
Once you have stained, coated, and let the pieces dry, it will be time to put it all together. Set the pieces together which make an individual cabinet or drawer unit. This will help you remember where to place the holes. Now, we get to use the Kreg Jig. Put holes in the front, bottom, and back sides of the side panel. Remember, the Kreg Jig holes will be on the UNFINISHED side of your cabinets and will be hidden after installation. You will install 1 screw every 4-6 inches.
Put your pieces together now. When tightening the Kreg pocket screws, it is crucial that you take it slow. It is very easy to strip out the inside of the jig holes, so taking it slow is key. There is a guide that comes with the Kreg Jig that will help you select the proper size screws for the materials you are working with. You can put them together in small sections before transferring them to your final room.
Once you have them in the final room, you will want to bring it all together. Before installing cabinets, you will need to cut all holes needed for plumbing or electrical. Measure three times, cut once! After your holes are cut, place your end cabinets in first, then the middle cabinet last. This may be a tight squeeze so I suggest using a wooden block and a rubber mallet to avoid damaging your cabinets (place a cloth between your cabinet and the block for extra protection).
Place a few screws high up on the cabinets to fasten them together. If you do it high enough the sink will hide these screws. Now, install your doors. Depending on which type of hinges you have, the instructions will be different. So all I will say about this is to be sure that you are exact with your placement and measurements. Some hinges can be adjusted slightly and that can be helpful.
I know that this is a long tutorial, but the process (although even longer), was not all that difficult. Take your time and measure everything carefully. The other tip is to have a bit of extra wood so that you are not scrambling for one more piece. I am a hoarder of wood for just this reason.
In my next post, you will learn how to install sinks, faucets, and plumbing for your new vanity.