Converting an old cabinet into a bathroom vanity is a great way to save money while giving your bathroom a custom, high-end look. With some basic DIY skills and the right materials, you can transform a dated cabinet into a beautiful new vanity that looks like it came right out of a magazine. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to turn a cabinet into a stunning bathroom vanity.

Determine the Size and Layout

The first step is to take measurements of your bathroom and determine the size of the vanity you need. Measure the width and depth of the available space to find a cabinet that will fit. Allow enough space for the sink and any accompanying fixtures like faucets.

It’s also important to decide on the layout. Will the sink be installed in the center, or off to one side? This will impact your design. Make sure to account for plumbing and electrical requirements as well. Having a layout in mind from the start will ensure the vanity is functional and matches the rest of the bathroom design.

Choose a Cabinet

Once you know what size you need, start shopping for a suitable cabinet. Old antique cabinets or used cabinets found at thrift stores or garage sales are ideal candidates for DIY vanity projects. Look for a cabinet made of solid wood rather than particleboard, without any elaborate detailing that will drive up refinishing costs.

Make sure the dimensions fit the space in your bathroom. Allow for extra height to install the sink basin above the cabinet. A depth of 20-22 inches is standard for most bathroom vanities. Opt for a closed cabinet with doors and drawers to conceal plumbing and toiletries. Shallow drawers around 8 inches deep are useful for organizing bathroom essentials.

Prepare the Cabinet for Refinishing

Before painting or staining, you’ll need to thoroughly clean and prepare the cabinet. Start by removing any hardware like knobs or hinges and take off any doors/drawers. Use a liquid deglosser or sandpaper to rough up the existing finish so the new paint can properly adhere.

Fill any holes, scratches or imperfections with wood filler and let dry completely. Sand the entire piece with 120-150 grit sandpaper to smooth and even out the surface. Vacuum off any residual dust. The cabinet needs to be completely clean and smooth before applying the new finish.

Add Design Details

Now is the time to add any extra design elements to elevate the look of your DIY vanity. Consider adding crown molding trim along the top for a built-in look. Install new hardware like decorative knobs, handles, or hinges. Gluing trim around the edges of the cabinet frames can provide nice detailing as well.

Getting creative with legs is another way to customize the vanity. Fluted legs, tapered legs, or bun feet all make attractive options that align with different design aesthetics. Make sure the legs are sturdy enough to support the weight of the cabinet and sink.

Apply Paint or Stain for the Finish

Your choice of paint or stain will drastically change the look of the finished vanity. White and neutral painted cabinets feel clean and bright, while wood stains add warmth and dimension. The options are endless!

For painting, use a high-quality primer first. Apply two coats of cabinet-grade paint in your desired sheen – satin and semi-gloss are good choices for bathrooms. If staining, apply a pre-stain conditioner so the stain absorbs evenly. Apply at least two coats of oil-based stain, allowing ample drying time between coats. Finish with a polyurethane topcoat for protection.

Install the Sink and Fixtures

Now comes the fun part – it’s finally time to install the sink and transform that old cabinet into a functioning vanity! Have any required plumbing and electrical work completed beforehand. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly install the sink basin and faucet.

Many sinks come with a template and pre-drilled holes for the faucet and drain. Connect the drain pipes and supply lines. Seal around the sink with caulk. Add any finishing touches like soap dispensers, mirrors, and lighting fixtures. Make sure to thoroughly test for leaks once everything is installed.

Style and Organize the Finished Vanity

You did it – that dated old cabinet is now a stunning, custom bathroom vanity! The final step is decorating and organizing. Fill those pretty drawers with rolled washcloths, candles, cosmetics, or bathroom cleaning supplies. A decorative tray is useful for corralling smaller items.

On the countertop, style the space with flower vases, artwork, candles, and other decor that matches your personal style. Install a mirror or medicine cabinet above the vanity to finish it off. Adding closed cabinets allows you to neatly tuck away any unsightly plumbing or toiletries for a polished, spa-like look.

FAQs About Turning Cabinets into Bathroom Vanities

Some common questions about taking on this type of DIY vanity project:

What kind of cabinet is best to convert into a vanity?

The best cabinets are made of solid wood like oak, maple, or cherry. Avoid particle board or plastic laminate cabinets. Optimal size is 20-22 inches deep and 24-48 inches wide. Make sure it’s sturdy enough to support a sink.

What is the most water-resistant finish for bathroom vanities?

The most water-resistant option is marine epoxy. Polyurethane varnish also works well and is easier to apply. Use multiple coats for best protection.

Should I keep the cabinet doors when making it a vanity?

Yes, doors are recommended to conceal plumbing and toiletries. Shallow drawers around 8 inches deep are perfect for organizing bathroom essentials.

How do I cut the hole for the sink in the cabinet top?

Use the sink template as a guide. Drill a pilot hole then use a jigsaw to cut along the traced outline. File and sand the cut edges smooth. Be precise for a custom fit.

What is the standard height and depth for a bathroom vanity?

Standard vanity height is 31-34 inches. Depth ranges from 20-22 inches. Make sure to account for the sink basin and backsplash when calculating height.

Should I get a vessel sink or undermount sink?

Vessel sinks sit on top of the counter, while undermount sinks drop in from below. Vessel sinks are easier to install as a DIY project. Undermount has a more built-in and seamless look.


Upcycling an old cabinet or thrift store find into a bathroom vanity provides a big upgrade for your bathroom while being budget-friendly and eco-conscious. With some carpentry skills and creativity, you can customize the size, layout, and finish to perfectly suit your space. Focus on preparing the cabinet properly, installing high quality sink fixtures, and styling the space attractively. The end result will be a stunning, personalized vanity that looks straight out of a magazine. With the right approach, converting a basic cabinet into a bathroom vanity is a very achievable DIY renovation project.