Renovate a bathroom? Sure, why not? I’m not exactly a novice with handy-work. I am not afraid to take on new jobs and learn something new, but I felt overwhelmed at times with the bathroom renovation. The process centered around replacing the bathroom sink and vanity. Looking at options, my wife and I liked the refinished dresser look. However, buying one new was expensive, $750 or more easily. Also, I was not pleased with how many came with fixed drawers or simply doors that hid the plumbing. I wanted a functioning dresser for our bathroom supplies. Without seeing anything I liked new, I figured I would invest $60 and buy an old dresser from my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It was used, and I had the time. Here is how I did it.
Approximate Cost: $250
Approximate Time: 15 hours, spread over two weeks.
Step 1: Identifying the need
First, the complete bathroom remodel was initiated because bathroom tile kept coming loose. I pulled these up without any tools. But, here you get an idea of the size of the bathroom and the old vanity.
I passed by the old dresser above in the ReStore. It had newspaper in it from 1984. It smelled awful. But, I knew once I was done refinishing it, we would never know. Yes, the drawers were falling apart and the back needed repair, but in each case I figured I would be doing work in those places anyway.
Step 2: Removing the stain
I purchased all my supplies at Lowes, only because I could get a discount. I prefer shopping at Hatt’s True Value in Thorndale, PA. I’d give them a shout out any day of the week. I bought some Goo Off, 3M Finishing Pads, and some heavy-duty dishwashing gloves. I applied the Goo Off with an old paint brush, and let it sit for the recommended time (15 minutes I think). I used the finishing pads to wipe away the finish. With little effort, I was able to remove a lot of the stain. I re-applied, waited, and removed more. It was very easy. You must just be patient. The chemicals need time to work… and I recommend doing it outside. The process is very caustic. The drawers above show the before, during, and after from JUST using the chemical stripper. I did not sand anything yet. Doing so within 24 hours of using the chemical stripper (which softens the wood) may lead to gouges in the wood. Be patient.
Gaining confidence on the drawers, I moved to the dresser. This had more detailing. I used the finishing pads more often here. The pads bend nicely into the grooves of the dresser. When I worked on the detailing at the bottom of the dresser (a cool face… who knew), I used an old tooth brush. Again, these pictures are without any sanding.
Step 3: Dry-fitting the sink
I purchased a simple sink from Lowes, and I used the provided template and measured everything many times over. When I was confident I had the template centered, I drilled a 1” hole at different spots around the inside edge of the sink template. Then I used a jigsaw to cut the remaining hole. Good news, the hole is surprisingly bigger than you need. But, with a drop-in sink enough overlap exists to hide all your potential poor cuts. I learned here that the top of my dresser is really three boards joined together. I did not secure all the boards before I cut my sink. I ended up with some uneven boards that I fixed much later (and with some disappointment on my part). I recommend screwing a support board to the left and right of your sink on the underneath the top of your countertop. This will keep any boards from loosening when you cut the hole for your sink.
Step 4: Stain and polyurethane
Using the sink cut out, I tested a few different stains. I then asked my Facebook friends which looked best. If you have never stained anything before, it is easy. Just follow the directions on the stain. Simply, apply with a foam paint brush, let it sit, then wipe the excess stain with an old cloth. It will take patience and time to do the entire piece. If you make an error, you can sand and restain your piece, so even this process allows room for error. After the stain dries thoroughly, apply polyurethane. Let it dry, lightly sand, re-apply. Repeat. I applied three coats to the entire piece with a fourth coat on the top. Polyurethane protects you piece against water, and the top is the most prone to water penetration.
Step 5: Plumbing concerns
Now begins the scary part. The back of my dresser was already broken, so I didn’t need to do too much to accommodate for the existing drain. I put the dresser in my bathroom, lined up the plumbing needs (supply lines and waste pipe), then I used my drill and jigsaw to cut the back of my dresser. I thought this might really compromise the dresser, so I eventually cut a piece of ¼ plywood and screwed and glued it for additional support on the back of my dresser. As for installing the sink, it is easy. Even the new sink hardware is easy. Again, both had ample directions in the box when purchased, just take your time and follow each step.
Step 6: Modifying the drawers
Now, modifying the drawers took some creativity. Let’s start with the bottom drawer, which was in the worst shape when I bought the dresser. The interior plumbing barely interferes with this drawer. I attached a shortened drawer back, and it works just fine. You could also jigsaw cut a hole in this drawer’s back to allow for plumbing to pass. You should not have to do much.
The middle drawer took serious modification. I removed the back of the drawer (it hammered off with ease) and cut it into two pieces. With the back of the drawer off, I pulled out the bottom of the drawer and cut this too. Then I used some wood pieces I bought from Lowes (⅜” thick and 6” tall, I believe, but use your existing dresser as a guide). I framed out the hole I just cut. Notice please, my cuts are not pretty, but no one sees this except my family. Use glue and nail and you will be successful.
I did not want to screw these top draws fast, but it might be easiest. I had to completely disassemble the drawers and measure a narrower interior. It works, but I don’t know if the resulting space was worth all the effort. I eventually bought drawer knobs and pulls from Lowes. This looks much better, as seen above.
The entire project, with dresser purchase, stain remover, supplies, the sink, sink faucet, plumbing supplies, hardware, and pine boards totaled somewhere between $250 and $300 from Lowes. Some of my supplies are not completely used (left over sand paper, Goo Off, etc), so I place the total much closer to $250.
For a project I had never done, I am very happy with the results. My wife and I now have a custom bathroom vanity which is much nicer and uses the space much better in our small bathroom.