Introduction: Make a Bathroom Vanity Out of an Old Dresser
In this instructable I will show you how to make a bathroom vanity from an old dresser.
What you need:
5/8" thick MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)
5/8" this painted OSB (Oriented Strand Board)
scrap wood pieces
various wood screws
tablesaw or circular saw with a guide
a small drill press is useful but not necessary
Step 1: Find a Suitable Dresser
We were renovating our bathroom and wanted to have a nice vanity to go with it. A lot of the options out there were either crap or too expensive. We had an old dresser hanging around that we thought might do the trick. To make sure that the dresser is suitable, measure your old vanity to see how wide it is. Our old one was 36" and out of sheer luck this dresser was also 36". Perfect match. You also want to make sure that it is solid enough. This one was made out of solid birch and had no cracks in it.
Step 2: Prepare the Dresser
Get the dresser ready to start working on it. My steps were to remove the drawers. Since the drawers were also solid wood I kept them to use as scrap pieces. I left in the top divider to help support the false drawer that will be added. Remove the bottom divider to make ample room for access to storage. Paint or stain the dresser to suit your tastes. In our case we painted the dresser white. Since there is not a lot of work done on the outside of the dresser, it does not hurt to apply the finish early. However if you want to be extra cautious you could wait until you are ready to install it. To ensure that the dresser was of the correct height I cut off the legs shorter than I needed so I could later add levelers.
Step 3: Make a Template
Find a big piece of corrugated cardboard or some other stiff material like wall board. Make a template for your sink. Use a razor knife to cut out the pattern. Place the pattern as close to the center of the dresser as you can and use a jig saw or router to cut out the hole. The top on this was very thick so I used a router to make it easier. Also don't worry if you are off a little bit since the counter will cover up any minor mistakes you make with the hole for the sink. After you are done test fit the sink and make any adjustments that are necessary.
Step 4: Cut Out the Doors
This step is made easier by using a table saw. You could also do it with a circular saw and a straight edge to guide it. Measure the opening on the front. Mine was 31" x 29". Cut out a single piece from the 5/8" MDF to match that size. At this point you need to decide if you want to add a false drawer to the front. This is usually a good idea so when the doors are open it hides the underside of the sink. My false drawer is 7". So first I set up the table saw to cut out that part. Then I set it up to cut the remaining sheet right down the middle. Since the table saw blade is 1/8" thick, that gives you some space to work with when adjusting the positioning of all the pieces.
Step 5: Add the Panel Detail
Now a flat panel door is pretty boring. If you have a router with a groove bit you can add a simple detail to create a great looking door. When I first tried to make this detail I tried to use the table saw and fence with some clamps to hold the work pieces and then move the router by hand to create the groove. After messing up 2 sets of doors I thought there had to be a better way. Of course that is to use a router table. I didn't have any extra cash to buy one or make a big complex one, but I did have a spare piece of OSB painted white. So I drilled 2 holes for the screws to hold the router and a third, larger hole in the middle for the bit to come through. I then clamped it flush to the top of my Black and Decker work bench. Now I had a quick and easy router table that would last at least this one job that I needed it for.
You need to be able to adjust the depth of your router. This is easiest with a plunge router. I set the depth of cut to about 1/4". I didn't measure it , I just made adjustments and tested on scrap pieces until I had the look I wanted.
Find a piece of scrap wood to use as a fence on the router table. Set the fence, using a couple of clamps, to allow the center of the bit to line up with the outside of the work piece. Take each workpiece and run all 4 edges across the router. Once you are done with that move the fence so it is about 2 1/4" from the center of the bit. Take each workpiece again and run all four edges along the fence. You should end up with a nice little detail on the door that makes it look like the door was assembled from pieces instead of being 1 piece.
Step 6: Paint the Doors
Paint is the final thing to needed to make these doors look great. I used white to match my the dresser. If you used a stain you will have to find a paint that will go with the stain you picked. Before you paint them make sure you go over them once with a 120-150 grit sand paper. Make sure you get into the grooves that you used the router on. After use a tack cloth or damp cloth to wipe away all the excess sawdust. Since this will be in the bathroom you should use a good quality paint. Even with a good paint MDF just sucks the paint in so two coats of paint are almost always necessary.
Step 7: Install the The Shelf
Most dressers don't have a bottom in them. They don't need it since the drawer is always there. I used shelf panels you can find at Home Depot. Most home stores that sell lumber usually have shelf panels. They are made with OSB and painted white with a white vinyl strip glued to the front edge. They usually come in 8' lengths and depths of 12", 16" and 24". I needed a 16" for mine. Simple measure the longest width on the inside of the dresser. Then cut the shelf to length on the table saw or use your circular saw with a straight edge. With the position of the legs on the dresser you will need to cut a small piece out of each corner to get the shelf to fit. When you cut the shelf you should also cut it about 1/8" short to allow for a little play to position it. Before installing the shelf make sure there are some supports underneath on the sides. The old ones on mine were dry rotted so I had to use more scrap pieces to replace them. Use flat head screws to secure the shelf in place. Pre-drill the holes for the screws and also counter sink the holes to bring them flush with the surface. I have a nice little bit for counter sinking flat head screws but you could also just use a large standard drill bit.
Step 8: Install the Vanity
Check the vanity against the current plumbing so you can cut holes in the correct place for everything. Also make sure there is room at the back for the faucet to come down through the top. You might be able to notice that I made enough room for the faucet but later found out that the integrated plug plunger would not make it all the way down. This is something I might fix in the future but is not a big deal for me. Dry fit everything in place in the bathroom so you can tell where the vanity will end up. In my case it was about 3" away from the wall so I had to install 2 2x4s to screw it into the wall. You should definitely screw it in place or you might end up with a very wet bathroom if someone uses the vanity as leverage to get up. At this point you should also level the vanity. This is where the levelers come in handy. Just screw them out to in the right spots to bring it to level side to side and fornt to back. Once you are satisfied with your dry fit, remove the sink and install the faucet first. After you install the faucet attach the water supply lines. For a do it yourselfer you should go with flexible lines. They come in varying length and are much easier than copper. At this point the vanity should be secured in place. You can now install the counter top and sink. I used a granite counter with the sink already attached. Since it is so heavy I could use silicon caulk to secure it in place. If you are using a laminate counter you should screw it down from underneath. Once it is in place attach the supply lines. If you are lucky the sink drain will line up with the old drain pipe. If it doesn't line up you will have to cut part of it out and rebuild it. If you are not comfortable doing this you can ask a friend or get a professional plumer. Once you have the drain installed turn on the water and check for leaks.
Step 9: Install the False Drawer
On the front of the dresser the old drawer divider is there to provide support for the false drawer. However, this is not enough to attach it. I just used some scrap pine to build out the frame of the dresser to be able to attach the drawer front firmly to the dresser. Make sure you pre-drill all the holes that are going to hold screws. If the scrap wood is dry it could split and MDF does not support self tapping well. You need a guide hole in MDF or the particles just pull out. Make sure the screws are long enough to hold in place but not so long they come out the front of the false drawer. I used 2" wood screws with round heads. The scrap wood plus my drawer front is about 2 1.4" so there is enough wiggle room for this screw. Use 4 screws on each side to ensure a good hold. 2 screws go through the scrap into the dresser and 2 go through into the drawer front. The final piece of decoration for this is the drawer pulls. I found that putting then at roughly a third of the length from the outside looks good.
Step 10: Install the Hinges
I am using European zero clearance hinges for my doors. So I need to drill a 1 1/4" diameter hole to accomodate the hinge. I found a hinge kit at Home Depot that came with a forstner bit designed for hinges and a template to easily mark where all the holes go. This is where a drill press comes in handy. It ensures the the holes go in perpendicular to the door. Once the large holes are drilled to fit the back part of the hinge you should also pre-drill the holes for the screws. MDF is especially bad at holding screws if you don't pre-drill. With the doors off the dresser now is a good time to install the door pulls. Simply drill from the front through the door. Make sure your bit is slightly bigger than the screw so it goes through easy. If you are using a hand drill for this be careful you do not push to hard since the drill chuck could land hard on the surface when the bit comes through. This would ruin your paint job and you would have to do some touch ups. Also when the drill bit comes through the back there is usually some tearout. The screw head is big enough to cover it up. If you want to avoid the tearout anyway just clamp a board firmly over the back and this will support the MDF enough to avoid tearout. Next with these types of hinges the side of the dresser does not come in far enough to put the door in the right spot. More scrap wood to the rescue. I just used some scrap pine to build up the frame far enough to fit the hinges properly. Once the new supports are in you can screw the hinges in place. Use a straight edge or level to ensure the screw holes for both hinges on each door line up as close to vertical as you can make it. There are some adjustment screws on the hinges but you should try to get the alignment correct with using them. You may also find that you will have to put a strip of wood where the hinges attach to make up the clearance you need for this type of hinge.
Step 11: Are We Done Yet?
Almost done. There are just a couple of small details to mention. Wood doors make a lot of noise when they close. You can buy little self adhesive rubber bubbles that you can put on the top and bottom corner of your doors. This will reduce the noise a lot when the doors close. Also in my bathroom I have a medicine cabinet that had an old flat panel door. I replaced it with one I made to match the vanity.
This is my first Instructable. I hope you enjoyed it.
Participated in the
6 years ago
amazing job! Looks a thousand times better than box store vanities!!!!
Reply 6 years ago
6 years ago
You have skills no doubt. But I'm just really puzzled that you removed the drawers and put in doors instead. I know the drawers would have had to be modified to fit around the plumbing, but I just find drawers infinitely more functional than a big giant opening you have to bend down and look into.
Reply 6 years ago
Making drawers that will slide properly and fit around the plumbing is more work than I wanted to do. This dresser was pretty old and action on the drawers was already not that great.
7 years ago
wondering what the dimensions are of your dresser?
Reply 7 years ago
31" x 17" and with the counter top on it it is 31" off the floor. I cut the legs down and put adjustable feet to get the height I wanted. Also those dimensions are for the body. The top is about an inch out the front and the 2 sides.
8 years ago on Introduction
Wow, it really looks great!!!
Reply 8 years ago on Introduction
9 years ago on Introduction
10 years ago on Introduction
10 years ago on Step 11
very great and inspiring tutorial...I was looking for something like this as the vanities in market are so expensive
10 years ago on Step 9
you could have hinged the drawer front from the bottom and added storage compartments to the back side.
Reply 10 years ago on Step 9
Good idea. I will have to see if I can modify mine.
10 years ago on Step 11
Great idea, and good work. I may use this one day....
Reply 10 years ago on Introduction
Thanks. Glad you liked it.