Refinishing Or Replacing Your Bathroom Vanity Cabinet

Today Carissa writes:

Dear Diva, I’ve lived in my house for 4 years now and I can’t take my master bathroom any longer! It’s fixtures are old and I’m ready for a re-do! Problem is, my budget isn’t very big. I have given it a lot of thought, and I think if I change the bathroom vanity I can get the biggest bang out of my buck! Problem is, I don’t know what to do. How do I decide whether I need to completely replace the vanity or if I can get away with just refinishing it? Any help would be gladly accepted! 

replace-or-refinish-bathroom-vanityCarissa, depending on the age of your home, this question may be easier to answer then you think. If you live in an older home or the fixtures in the bathroom are ancient, you may need to figure out what needs to be replaced first. To quote my grandmother; “If it won’t last the winter, then you need to replace it!” The reason I’m pointing this out is because I’ve seen countless home owners refinish items on the outside that were aesthetically displeasing, and then run out of money to replace the internal items that actually needed to be addressed. For example: refinishing the outside of an outdated vanity cabinet is nice, but if your plumbing is leaking or problematic, you won’t be able to use it.

Your first step should be figuring out what really needs to be replaced. Put aesthetics aside for a moment, and consider the state of the plumbing in your existing bathroom vanity. Is anything internally leaking, cracked, or just unusable? If you can answer yes to any of these, then you need to fix that item first before you move onto the cabinet portion of the vanity. If the answer is no, and you just don’t like the look of your bathroom vanity, then check out the pros and cons list below to help you decide on your next step.

Refinish your bathroom vanity cabinet

To refinish your vanity cabinet, you’ll need to first remove the old hardware. This means removing all vanity handles and pulls, as well as the hinges. The logic behind this is that you’ll have an easier time painting the doors and cabinet once they are removed. Next, wash the cabinet with a good household cleaner to remove any surface residue and dirt. For vanities that have been previously painted, I’d recommend sanding off the existing paint before applying a new coat.

  • For cabinets that have been stained on the other hand, I’d recommend using a deglosser before applying a primer. Watch this video on how to paint old cabinets to learn about Deglosser and go over the basics of refinishing a bathroom vanity cabinet. Once you’ve sanded or deglossed your vanity, apply the primer, and wait the recommended time for it to dry. Then apply your paint. Read the instructions on the paint can for best results. Typically, you’ll apply a minimum of 2 coats of paint. Then apply the new hardware and you’re set!

Vanity Cabinet

  • If you are new to painting cabinets, have multiple cabinets to paint, or just like having everything you need paint-wise in one handy kit, you might want to check out Rust-Oleum’s Cabinet Transformations painting system. It’s DIY friendly, comes in a variety of colors and helps simplify the process. I’ll admit it would be a little spendy if you’re working on only one tiny vanity cabinet since it starts at around $75 per kit. But for newbies and larger projects, I think it’s well worth the extra money.

One quick additional note, not all bathroom vanities are created equally. For example, a solid wood cabinet will be easier to refinish then a particle board one. Not to mention, that as life happens in your bathroom the new paint on the particle board will scratch and crack much easier than a painted piece of solid wood. For vanity cabinets that are made of particle board or have laminate veneers, I strongly suggest going the replacement route instead.

Refinishing Pros: Inexpensive, easy to do, and versatile – you can make the cabinet any color you choose!

Refinishing Cons: Doesn’t work well on particle board or laminate veneers, will not fix functional concerns, or increase storage space.

Replace your bathroom vanity cabinet

  • To replace your vanity cabinet, you’ll need to remove the old one and replace it with a new one. Keep in mind, you will also have to uninstall and reinstall all of the plumbing, as well. Depending on your DIY skill level, you may want to consider hiring someone to do this project for you. Watch this video on how to install a bathroom vanity to help you decide if you are up to the task. Plumbing is one of those home improvement projects that I warn people to only do if they’re confident in their DIY abilities and they can follow directions closely. I’m not trying to scare anyone, rather warn them that if it isn’t done correctly you could be creating a bigger problem for yourself – like a water leak or mold issue down the line.
  • Bathroom vanities come in a wide range of colors and styles, so you should be able to find the right vanity for your home. Not to mention, a wide range of prices, starting at as little as $39 and going up in the thousands of dollars. Because of this, I recommend waiting to choose a new cabinet until you’ve had a chance to sit down and go over your budget. This way you’ll have enough money to get the entire project done and won’t spend it all on the new vanity. Another important tip to mention, is to make sure you measure your old vanity or the space you have for a new vanity before going shopping. There is nothing worse than falling in love with and purchasing something that won’t work in your space!

Replacing Pros: Choose a whole new style, get more storage and increased functionality.

Replacing Cons: There are many steps involved in the installation process, and it can be expensive to have someone do it for you.

Whether you replace or refinish your existing bathroom vanity, I’m confident that you’ll make the right decision based on your own personal needs, style and budget!

Do you have questions about the selecting or the installation of: tile, carpet or wall treatments (window blinds, etc)? Then email me your tale of woe (diva(at) and perhaps I will be able to answer your questions right here at the Home Makeover Diva Blog!