Refinishing the bathroom vanity

In my last post, readers, you learned about all of my top secret plans for home improvement while Dan is away, and gets no say in the matter.  I actually think the projects I chose for this two week stretch were the best ones to do when it’s just me puttering around the house.  The second one has been somewhat disruptive, and I think if I had someone else here it wouldn’t be nearly as efficient.

As the title of this post has already told you, the other project I’m tackling is the bathroom vanity.  It’s been on my hit-list from day one, because up until last week, it looked like this:

The BEFOREI had already started removing the hardware when I thought I should take a good ‘before’ shot, so this is what you get.  Sorry.

The vanity is straight-up orange.  It’s 1980’s horrendous oaky-orange, and I have hated it from the moment I saw it.

Our first meetingThis picture is from the our final walk-through last year, and it perfectly sums up everything I hate about the bathroom (except for the shower, which I hate most of all).  The vanity is orange, the half-wall tile is hideous, and the grout is blue, the sink top is a yellowy-cream colour, and in this particular picture, the toilet paper is hung the wrong way.  We painted the walls in the bathroom late last year, which went from a blue tone to a more neutral greige, but the orange vanity still made my heart sad.

I had all I needed to start work on the vanity transformation without making another trip to Rona yet.  I hadn’t bought the stain, but I was still conducting research on the best one to use.  Gel?  Regular stain?  Which topcoat to use?  What about an all-in-one product?  The internet had lots of helpful tutorials and reviews, and some advice came a bit too late.  More on that soon.

Step one was removing all the hardware and taking the cupboard doors off.  I also filled some small holes from what I’m guessing was the old towel bar that used to be on the end of the vanity.  A little wood filler and a light sand and we were off to the races!

FIlling holesThen I got down to sanding.  I thought a chemical stripper was too intense for just a wee bit of varnish, so I opted to do it all by hand.  I also don’t own one of those handy little palm-sized electric sanders, so it was the ol’ sanding block for me.

I started with the drawers, since they were the flattest pieces.  I took it down to bare wood, and here’s the difference with all that orange gone:

First drawer sandedIt also took A LONG time to do each piece.  This above picture is just the first stripping level sanding, with 100 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sponge block.  The beveled edge was the worst, and it took some extra care to get all the little crevices.

But all of that was nothing compared to the doors.  Oh lord, the doors.  The outer edge bevels are still there, along with these teeny weeny little bevels along the inside panel.  AND IT’S THE SAME ON THE BACK.  On my first evening of sanding, where I naively thought I could hammer out all the sanding in one sitting, I only got the two drawer fronts and one door front done.

One door FRONT doneFirst evening progress, which took about 3 hours:

First evening progressDon’t flip that sanded door over, it’s still orange on the back.

I complained bitterly to my mother after calling it quits on night one, and we hummed and hawed about whether Simon owns a power sander I could borrow.  We also discussed which stain I would be using, and while I researched as I talked to her, I discovered that the product I was leaning towards, Minwax PloyShades, which is a stain with top coat built right in, does not require you to sand off all of the existing finish.  It only requires that you rough up the surface, unless you’re going from a darker stain to a lighter one.  I was aiming for a dark brown espresso/chocolate colour, so I most certainly did not need to be sanding all the finish off.  Damn.

But that’s ok, readers.  I told myself that I would properly sand all of the fronts of the vanity doors and drawers, since those take up the most surface area of what you see.  All other areas would just be roughly sanded, including the backs of the doors.

The second evening was all about me powering through the last three door fronts to make them match the other ones I did the night before.  It also took about 3 hours.

Finally.And here you can see that I stopped caring juuuuuuuuuuust a little bit about sanding it right down to bare wood.  The one on the left is the first one I did, the one on the far right is the last one.  This was exhausting.

All doors fronts done, at long lastMy mother and Simon took pity on me and presented me with a power sander to borrow for the rest of the project.  Yippee!  I picked it up from my mom, and made a quick stop at Rona to buy the PolyShades stain.  The colour options are much more limited with the all-in-one stains, but ‘Tudor’, a nice dark blackish-brown, seemed just about right for what I was going for.

The rest of the sanding was completed in about 20 minutes the following night with the power sander.  My life.

Holes patched and sandedThe holes are all patched and sanded, and the side of the vanity is suitably roughed up.

Roughed up and ready for action Pictures: power sander, aka the love of my lifeI went over everything with the sanding blocks to smooth it all out, using the 150 first, then the 220 grit.  I vacuumed every surface and nook and cranny of the vanity, and then wiped it all down with a tack cloth to be sure I got all the dust.

I also taped down newspaper to protect the crappy peel-and-stick vinyl floors, and the surrounding counter top and walls.

protecting the crappy floors in the bathroomLet the staining begin!  I’m midway through the staining process as I write this, but I’ll do a whole post about it when it’s done.  I have to wait 8 hours between each coat, so it’s slow and steady progress.


About joeyandjanice

Two crazy kids trying to make sense of the jumble surrounding making the jump from renting to owning our first home. Join us here as we stumble towards the biggest purchase of our lives.
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3 Responses to Refinishing the bathroom vanity

  1. EatDrink&DIY says:

    slow and steady wins the race! good luck with it though, it’ll be worth it in the end. Have you thought about painting the tiles and grout?

    • I’ve seriously considered it, and I read your post about painting your bathroom tile in the shower, it seems very doable. It’s on my one-day list, but we’ve got a bunch of other house stuff that will take priority over getting rid of the blue tile.

  2. Pingback: The multi-layered staining level of finishing the bathroom vanity | Joey & Janice buy a house

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