Lesson 3: Converting an Antique Dresser into a Vanity
Converting an Antique Dresser into a Vanity
First, you need to acquire a piece of furniture that is the appropriate height , width and depth. Most vanities are 33 high, plus or minus an inch or two will also work. It should be a minimum of 18" to 19" deep in order to receive a small (16") vanity sink. 22" to 23" deep in order to receive a 20" sink, etc. 24" is recommended for a minimum width and the maximum width is only the space available in your bathroom.
I recommend an oval sink...say 16 inches deep by 19 inches wide. A shallow sink is also recommended. To determine sink size needed measure the top of the cabinet from inside the cabinet and make sure you can safely cut a hole into the top without disturbing any necessary bracing or cutting into the front facing or back.
1. Remove all drawers or doors from the piece. If there is a back-splash you may need to remove it also in order to cut the opening.
2. You will need to make a template (on cardboard or paper) of the outside rim of the sink, some sinks come with a template. Then measure in, (usually 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch or so depending upon the manufacturer) to determine the actual opening of the sink. Cut the outside of the template. You should now have a mirror dimension of the lip of the sink. Place the template over the bottom of the sink to make sure your template fits perfectly.
3. You now need to find the center of the dresser top. Taking two measurements, one from left to right and one from front to back will give you the center. Where the two lines meet is your center. Drill a small hole in the center of the counter top or transfer the center mark to under the counter top. You now need to determine if the sink is going to interfere with any bracing or the front and back of the top. Place your template under the top. Use the drill hole or center mark and measure to align the template. First check to see that the inside cut (where the sink will set) is free and clear. If not, you will need to move the template forwards or backwards until the hole is free. Keep in mind most of the time the template will need to be moved towards the back of the top so as not to interfere with the front plate of the cabinet. Find the center of your template (as above) and drill a hole or transfer your center mark to the top of the counter top. Align your template on the top using the new hole or mark to align the template front to back. (It is normal for there to be a 3/8" to 3/4" space at the back of the sink top and a 1" to 3" space at the front of the counter top.) Trace inside of the template. You are ready to cut.
4. Cut by drilling and using a jig saw. If the top is not one solid piece you may need to glue and screw 1" by 2" bracing under the top from the inside to give it support once you have cut the opening.
5. Make sure the sink fits in the opening. Transfer the plumbing (water lines and drain pipe) measurement from the floor or walls to your cabinet. It is preferable that the plumbing runs through the back middle portion of the cabinet, but not necessary. You will get the most usable space from your cabinet drawers if the plumbing is run this way. Extend the drain pipe and water lines through the cabinet.
6. If the cabinet has doors, simply reinstall them. If it has drawers or a combination of drawers and doors you need to get creative. How much space your plumbing takes up will determine the drawers functionality. The top drawer, however will never be usable. Remove the sink for access. Remove the sides, back and bottom from this drawer. Use four small metal straps and from the inside of the cabinet, screw the drawers front to the inside on the cabinet. Use cardboard or paper to get it aligned perfectly in the drawer opening. (Or you can tape the drawer into position and use a construction adhesive to seal/glue the the drawers front the inside of the cabinet instead of metal straps) Depending upon your plumbing this may be necessary for the remainder of the drawers but I usually just rebuild each of the lower drawers to maximize there usability. It is simple to shorten the depth of each drawer. If you are not comfortable with it, it shouldn't take a good finish carpenter more than an hour or so to cut the backs of the drawers. This will make them quite usable.
7. In order to protect the wood dresser top from water damage, apply several coats of a clear satin latex varnish. Latex varnish will not yellow with time the way oil-base will. Your done and have a one-of-a-kind vanity.