Remodel a Bathroom With a New Vanity and Cabinets, by James Dulley

Dear James, I am planning to partially remodel my bathroom with just a new vanity and new cabinets. What are reasonably priced options and can I just install them myself? – Oliver J.

Dear Oliver: Just replacing the cabinets and the vanity is the typical do-it-yourself bathroom renovation project. A full remodel would include replacing the tile floor and the bath or shower area. Adding these often makes the project more complicated than most people can handle on their own.

Even if only a partial renovation project is carried out, the costs can be significant. There is a huge selection and selection of vanities and cabinets with different prices. It would be advisable to stick to the basic sizes you have now. This minimizes any plumbing, electrical, and other changes required.

There are simple design tips that can make a relatively inexpensive bathroom cabinet look like a more expensive one. Vanity units are actually three narrow cabinets together. In the middle is the sink, and in each of the sides there is either a drawer or a door with large hinges.

Adjust the depth of the cabinets so that the center cabinet that houses the sink is offset and extends a few inches further than each of the side cabinets. The costs for the slightly deeper cabinet are not much higher than for the others. This gives the vanity an expensive, bespoke look at a low cost.

The most cost effective way to complete this staggered cabinet layout is with a standard rectangular countertop that extends over each of the side cabinets more than the center one. If your budget allows, install a bespoke countertop with a smoothly curved leading edge that extends over the center cabinet. This creates a more even overhang of the worktop over the cabinet fronts.

Installing the vanity unit is not a difficult do-it-yourself task. Almost all cabinets are designed so that they can be screwed together from the inside so that the screws are not visible. The hardest part of the job is getting into the cabinets to power the screws.

Always remove the cabinet doors and any drawers before attempting to assemble the vanity. This makes it easier to reach the screws and reduces the chance of scratching the surface on the fronts or overstretching and bending the hinges.

When choosing your cabinets, consider using ones with quick release levers to remove the doors from the hinges without removing all of the hinge screws. With the doors and drawers out, the cabinets are lighter and easier to use.

Unless you’ve chosen an offset design, it’s imperative to have a professional-looking vanity that the cabinet tops and fronts are perfectly matched. The easiest way to achieve this is to place a long straight edge along the top and sides. Once they are properly aligned, lock them in place with rubber clamps and screw in the screws to secure them in place.

You may have seen some optional attractive face trim for the cabinet fronts, doors, and drawers. These are usually installed from the rear. Be careful not to drill too deep or use a screw that is too long. If you do this, you can pierce the front. In this case, you need to hire a professional to touch up the surface.

The final step is to make sure the vanity mat is level from side to side and front to back. In most homes, the floors and walls are not right, so some small wood washers may be required. Always use screws, not nails, to attach the vanity to the bathroom wall.

Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit To learn more about James Dulley and to read the features of other creators and cartoonists at Creators Syndicate, visit Creators Syndicate’s website at

Photo credit: congerdesign at Pixabay

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