Updating A Bathroom Vanity

Updating A Bathroom Vanity by Becky
Vanity Makeover Tutorial


Hi, I’m Becky from Goodbye Faux Wood Paneling. My husband and I just recently started our blog in January and I was pretty sure our only reader was my mother so I was shocked when Cassity asked me to share our bathroom vanity project with all the fellow Remodelaholics and I’m really excited to share this guest post today! I’m a full-time working mother and have somewhat of an addiction to DIY design blogs. Since the handy hubby and I are always tackling projects in our own home on the cheap I figured it was finally time to start sharing some of them for others to draw some knowledge and inspiration from. Besides, I figured, even if we never have any blog followers at least we’ll have a chronicle of our home before and afters for our own sake.

The bathroom updating started pretty innocently, in fact it started with cleaning the tile floor. The cleaning went wrong when some grout got scrubbed out of the tile joints and then things snow balled from there. Once the grout project was complete the vanity seemed somewhat tired (read really really dated, and more suitable for cabin/RV use, than a “modern” bathroom”). Brace yourselves because here’s the horrendous before picture.


We decided to redo the bathroom vanity for three reasons; 1) it was tired 2)it would be good practice making cabinet doors for the project that never ends and 3) the floor tile doesn’t extend under the vanity so replacing it would have been difficult.

We used MDF for the panels and paint grade wood (poplar) for the door frames because it’s cheap, easy to handle in our makeshift wood shop (aka garage), and accepts heavy black paint just fine. For the doors, we really liked to the look of a beaded inset door and picked up a rail and stile bit set for our router table that we can use on other projects.


These bits are not cheap but we have a lot of cabinet doors to update throughout the house, so we bought one we liked and will save a ton going the DIY route versus buying new cabinets or having the doors custom made by someone else. After few practice runs and lots of fine tuning of the bit depth to get the doors to look just right we were pretty pleased with the results.


We put an applied bead on the face frames of the cabinet to dress up the existing face frame a bit as well as a piece of modified base board trim to add a “furniture-like” detail to the toe kick on our otherwise pretty basic cabinet. The whole cabinet received multiple coats of grey primer and glossy black latex paint as well as some classy brushed nickel hardware to top it off. Here it is all shiny and new looking.

As far lessons learned, the old standby “take your time” really reared its ugly head on this one, we got impatient to get it completed and that caused some naggling little problems such as brush marks, inconsistent reveals between the doors and door frame and slightly off kilter knobs. Thankfully, those things are really only noticed by us, and all in, we are really proud of our final results.


Here is a more detailed play-by-play how-to:

Here are the steps we took to get from point A to B:
Step One –  Remove the old doors and hardware. I also removed some 40 year old (probably original) contact paper from the inside and primed the whole inside of the cabinet.
Step Two – Cut and install base board around the bottom of the cabinet. I used some big box store pre-primed base board. I cut miters for the corners with our compound miter saw, cut the other edges and curved radiuses with a coping saw, and then Jens saved me some time and cut the straight portion between the two “feet” with a straight cut bit in his router. I installed it with finish nails using a pneumatic nailer/stapler (aka nail gun).
Step Three – Become impatient with lack of progress on bead molding (see step 4), and decide to prime/paint the outside of the cabinet. I used gray latex primer and Gildden’s Onyx Black latex paint in a High Gloss. In an attempt to achieve less visible brush marks I also mixed in some Floetrol latex paint additive. It may have helped a little but there are still more brush marks than I’d like. If I had a do-over, I’d probably use an oil-based paint and go for an eggshell or semi-gloss finish – it flows a little better and shows fewer brush strokes . The high gloss finish tends to show every single brush stroke. To get the luxe glossy look I’d then use a clear vanish over the oil-based paint to protect it and give it some more shine.
Step Four – Cut and install bead molding. Using 3” width poplar from the big box store Jens used his router to put a bead profile on each edge of the poplar. He then cut the bead off (leaving a shoulder on the bead) by running the beaded boards through his table saw. This was good practice for our built-in cabinets we’re constructing around our fireplace which will be done in hard maple. Our take away lesson here is to make sure we are using wood stock that is the same thickness as the cabinet face frame to cut the bead molding from.  If you use different thickness’ the back edges don’t sit flush which can lead to hardware installation issues later. The other thing we’ll do different with our other cabinets is leave a smaller shoulder on the bead molding, just an aesthetic preference.
After Jens cut the bead molding on his table saw, I cut it to down to the correct length using the compound miter saw for a mitered joint in the corners. Admittedly, I wasn’t as precise here as I should have been since I knew I could caulk the gaps in the miters and the paint would hide any sloppy miter joints. It’s a good thing I now have some practice because this’ll have to be perfect on our stain grade maple cabinets. The bead was installed with some finish nails using the air gun. I LOVE the air gun! I get giddy when I get to use it so I forgot to sand the bead molding before installing so the wood was a little fuzzy but the two coats of paint I put over it helped hide it a bit.
Step Five – Build the new doors. Using the leftover from the 3” poplar board that we cut the bead profile away from, Jens made cabinet door rails and stiles using his brand spanking new router table and a rail and stile router bit set. I’m not going to go into all the details, I’ll let Jens explain that complicated part in his own post some day for those of you who are into the hard-core woodworking stuff. For the panels of the door we used ¼” thick MDF. I then got the fun job of sanding the assembled doors and priming/painting them (See step 3).
Step Six  – Install doors and hardware. Besides picking out the correct hinges for an inset door, there’s not much to explain here. We used a more traditional looking hinge and pull in a modern brushed nickel finish to echo the new traditional form and modern finish of the cabinet. We also used some magnetic door catches for inset doors to help the doors stay closed. I installed the hinges on the cabinet first and then attached them to the doors, no mortising or trickery required just pre-drilling pilot holes once I got the positioning correct and securing everything with the provided screws. It was more art than science  attempting to even out the reveal around the doors and make sure everything was hanging approximately even. (I used playing cards as shims to help get the right spacing around the perimeter)


Website | + posts

Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I live in an apartment and the bathroom is very very small, the vanity is very outdated as well and lately I have been trying to come up with ideas as to fix that problem (as well as organizational tips). This sounds like a good concept but I wish there were more pictures! It would have been easier to understand the lengthy descriptions :(.

  2. I think your before and after pictures are transposed. When I looked at the first picture, purported to be the before, I thought hmmm, that looks very nice. Then the 2nd picture, the after, looks pretty questionable.