Unfinished bathroom vanities and cabinets provide a blank canvas for creating your dream bathroom. With a little elbow grease and creativity, you can transform basic unfinished cabinets and vanities into beautiful, custom features that reflect your personal style. Here’s everything you need to know about working with unfinished bathroom furniture.

Benefits of Unfinished Bathroom Vanities and Cabinets

Choosing unfinished bathroom vanities and cabinets offers several advantages:

  • Cost savings – Unfinished vanities and cabinets are less expensive than prefinished options. You avoid paying extra for a finish you may not like.
  • Customization – With unfinished pieces, you can stain, paint, glaze, or decorate the vanity or cabinet however you like. Prefinished options don’t offer this flexibility.
  • Ease of matching – Unfinished vanities and cabinets make it easier to match existing woodwork and floors in a bathroom. Their neutral base accepts any stain color.
  • Quality materials – Unfinished vanities and cabinets are typically made of quality hardwoods like oak or poplar. The wood is left raw so it can be sanded and finished later.

Preparing Unfinished Cabinets for Finishing

Before finishing bathroom vanities and cabinets, proper prep work is crucial for getting good results:

  • Clean thoroughly – Remove any dirt, oil, or dust from the unfinished wood with tack cloths. Make sure the surface is completely clean.
  • Fill any holes/imperfections – Use wood filler to patch nail holes, cracks, or dents in the wood. Allow filler to dry completely before sanding smooth.
  • Sand lightly – Use 120-150 grit sandpaper to smooth the wood. Don’t sand too aggressively or you could damage the surface.
  • Wipe clean – Tack cloth the wood once more to pick up any remaining dust before finishing.

Finish Options for Unfinished Vanities and Cabinets

You have endless options when it comes to finishing bathroom vanities and cabinets:

  • Stain – Penetrating stains are popular for accenting wood grain. Consider a gel stain for easier application over large surfaces.
  • Paint – From basic white to bold colors, painted finishes hide wood grain and transform the look. Use latex or enamel paint.
  • Glaze – Glazing involves applying a translucent colored coat over stained wood to age and highlight details. Multiple glaze colors can be layered.
  • Lacquer or polyurethane – Clear top coats protect the finish and provide a smooth sheen – options range from matte to high-gloss.
  • Distressing – Make wood appear aged by intentionally creating worn edges, cracks, or dents before applying the final finish.
  • Wallpaper – For a unique look, apply wallpaper inside cabinet doors to complement the main cabinet finish.

DIY Finish Application Tips

Follow these tips when finishing unfinished bathroom vanities and cabinets yourself:

  • Work in a well-ventilated area and follow all product safety instructions.
  • Apply stains and finishes in thin, even coats using a good quality brush or rag. Too thick of a coat can bubble or peel.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended drying times between coats. Rushing the process can ruin the finish.
  • Lightly sand between coats with fine (220+ grit) sandpaper so the next coat adheres smoothly.
  • Work methodically and be patient – finishing cabinetry can involve 10+ thin finish coats. Proper drying time is key.
  • Finish all cabinet box interiors and doors/drawers to prevent unfinished areas from soaking up moisture.

Hiring a Professional for Custom Finishes

For specialty finishes like distressing, glazing, or painting with unique techniques like ragging or sponging, consider hiring a professional cabinet finisher. They have the right tools, materials, and workspace for safely achieving custom results.

The quality of prep work makes a big difference in the end look, so don’t skip proper sanding and cleaning even if hiring a pro. Also discuss how many coats are included and any warranties provided.

Maintaining Finished Bathroom Vanities and Cabinets

To keep custom finished bathroom vanities and cabinets looking beautiful:

  • Use coasters under bottles and wipe spills promptly to prevent water marks.
  • Clean with a soft lint-free cloth and mild cleaner safe for finished wood. Avoid abrasive scrubbing.
  • Use cabinet door/drawer bumpers to prevent scuffing between surfaces.
  • For painted finishes, gently clean areas that see a lot of moisture like around sinks.
  • Re-apply protective top coats periodically (every 2-3 years) to maintain the finish over time.

With the right prep work, finishing technique, and maintenance, you can enjoy stunning custom finished bathroom vanities and cabinets that coordinate beautifully with your unique decor. The possibilities are truly endless!

Frequently Asked Questions About Unfinished Bathroom Vanities and Cabinets

Can I finish unfinished bathroom vanities and cabinets myself or should I hire a professional?

You can certainly finish bathroom vanities and cabinets yourself, especially if you choose simple stain or paint finishes. Hiring a professional is a good idea for achieving specialty finishes like antiquing, glazing, ragging, etc.

What are the best paint and stain options for finishing bathroom vanity cabinets?

For paint, enamels and latex paints formulated for cabinets are good options that provide a durable finish. Gel stains allow better control when staining vanity cabinet doors and drawers. Always choose high quality products from reputable brands.

How do I achieve a distressed finish for my unfinished bathroom vanity?

Distressing involves intentionally creating worn, cracked, or faded effects. Methods include rasping edges with tools, applying glazes unevenly to create worn areas, nicking the wood with chains, and drying finish coats with a heat gun to produce cracks.

Can I wallpaper the interior of my unfinished bathroom cabinets and drawers?

Yes, wallpapering inside cabinets and drawers is a great way to customize and coordinate with your main cabinet exterior finish. Use an adhesive formulated for cabinets and ensure all surfaces are properly prepared and free of debris.

What type of top coat should I apply to seal my custom finish on unfinished bathroom cabinets?

Polyurethane and lacquer provide durable, water-resistant top coat options. Matte or satin polyurethanes minimize yellowing over time. Always apply multiple thin top coats, allowing proper drying time between each.


Unfinished bathroom vanities and cabinets provide a blank canvas to build your dream bathroom look. With proper preparation, application of the finish of your choice, and ongoing maintenance, you can enjoy stunning results. Take your time, follow key techniques, and don’t be afraid to get creative with cabinets that reflect your personal vision.