Emily Winters: Bathroom Renovation, Day 13

Vanity installation day was a joyous one, but not without its unique challenges. The installation has been a long time coming – since last April, to be exact, when I found the sale-priced vanity at Ikea during a visit to the Washington D.C. area. In many boxes, the unit has sat in the attic, awaiting a day when I’d be ready to update the bathroom and put it to good use. And really, in addition to actually having a new sink that better fit the space, all this time I’ve been really excited that it came with a bunch of add-ons, pieces that would immediately make it functional and organized.

Ahh, sometimes it’s those little things in life.

Pretty new sink!

Finishing touches, like this vanity installation, are really pulling the space together. Every day now, it’s looking more sleek.

There are many more pictures to see, including custom installation measures we had to take, and the addition of a mirror that makes the room approximately 100x larger than it was without (amazing). Keep reading to see it all!

Because I’m located in Rochester, NY the nearest accessible Ikea is over the Canadian border – and if you happen to know anything about the customs regulations, you’ll know that it’s hard to plan big purchases that you can easily take back into the United States (and vice versa, if you reside in Canada). A lot of people ask me which Ikea I travel to when I want to make a huge haul, but while the Burlington, Ontario location is almost always the go-to for small purchases (think, a bill <$150), it’s hard to buy anything substantial because of those customs regulations. I don’t have the rules about customs down pat (and everything I find online seems to vary a little bit or seems outdated), so always advise people to check out the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site, or contact that group directly by phone to find out specifics about transporting purchased goods between U.S. and Canada.

With that said, I do hit up state-side Ikeas as often as I can so I can buy expensive of items without the customs border run-around. I’ve never actually made a run to a far-off Ikea without there being an ulterior reason for the road trip, I just plan efficiently like that. For the same reason you’ll always want to know where the next bathroom stop on the highway is, it’s always good to know where the closest Ikea is located (I also have this rule for Starbucks). There’s one thing I always advise: Refine your Ikea wishlist constantly. You never know, or at least I never know, when a random road trip will pop up. Whether I’m out for work or play, I’m the first to raise my hand and carve out time for an Ikea stop if I know a store is in the vicinity, and because I have my list, I can usually jet right to what I’m looking for and make a purchase.

What else can I say, I’m a seize the opportunity kind of girl. And when me and Pete found ourselves in Washington D.C. visiting friends, those friends reminded us that there was an Ikea 15 minutes north, right en route to the highway we would need to be accessing to get home (this is the College Park, MD Ikea, curious folks). Cha-ching! Yes, it was April, and I had no urgent plans to begin remodeling the bathroom even though it was on a long list of To-Do’s at the time, but I decided to be opportunistic and pick up a vanity and sink while I had the chance, knowing already that there were many options I liked from the store. Another good tip: Even if you don’t know what you’re looking to buy, have measurements from your house on hand at all times. For the bathroom, I already knew I was looking for something <20″ deep and up to 60″ wide (the old vanity, shown in this post, was about 28″ deep and 32″ wide, a weird proportion for the space). Shown here as a store display model, everything about this new vanity made me happy, especially that it was sale-priced and had a companion 3-drawer set, also sale-priced. (Note, the in-store display is double-wide. I did not need two sets for my small bathroom but envy someone who would.)

Ikea vanity display.

Going into the shopping experience, I was undecided on the material finish, and open to adjusting the palette of the room based on what I found and liked on the spot. The light birch finish of the vanity I bought really won me over, despite preferring Ikea’s dark brown-black option for most other furniture I’ve acquired in the past. I knew that birch would look good with the gray in the room (even had I not repainted it on “Day 11“) and it was clean-lined and well-proportioned for the space, narrower and longer than the old vanity to make better use of the long entry wall in the bathroom.

Brand new bathroom vanity!

Psst. Totally aware that the 3-drawer unit is tilting to the left. It will be in a few other pictures in this post. Just needed to have the feet adjusted to be level, something that I didn’t do until just yesterday in real life (slacker). Oh yeah, and there’s a killer mirror up on the wall too, more to come on that.

I really love this vanity because it’s perfectly proportioned for my 5’8″ height. This girl doesn’t like to have to bend so far down to wash her face, know what I mean, tall people? Ikea makes cabinets that can be installed in two ways: 1. mounted to studs in the wall (so you can choose the height, should you want it higher or lower, or 2. with metal legs, which we used to make it sit directly on the floor. Even with the legs, it was still plenty tall. I’ve had a mild obsession with tall cabinets since my parents (also tall) replaced vanities in their house to be more comfortable with their height.

I’m skipping ahead. Let’s back this up for a moment. 

If you’ve never assembled something complex from Ikea, no fear. This vanity took most of an hour to piece together, but it wasn’t difficult, there were just many steps to the process. I assembled it, as well as the three-drawer companion piece, and left the sinktop itself in the box until the vanity itself was installed. I don’t really have any pictures of me doing this assembly. It was just me. In my bedroom across the hall from the bathroom. Watching Property Brothers because lately I’m kind of obsessed with the show. It was pretty simple, thank you Ikea.

But here’s the kicker: Because of the trim, we couldn’t sit the vanity base or legs flush against the wall. Uh oh. Briefly concerned that the vanity would be wobbily without being reinforced against the wall, and worried that the sinktop would sit away from the wall unnaturally, we came up with a quick but functional plan B.

Space between the vanity and the wall created by the baseboard trim.

We used pieces of pine that almost exactly match the birch veneer to wedge behind the wall mounts of the vanity, securing the vanity to both the pieces of wood and then to the wall using 3″ toggle bolts.

The anchors extended through a 5/16″ hole into the drywall, a hole that was large enough to fit the toggle through but still small enough to be then covered by the piece of wood and the vanity wall mount. With the screw drivers, we worked simultaneously to pull the toggle bolt tight against the backside of the drywall. That puppy wasn’t going anywhere.

Reinforcing the vanity to the wall creatively.

There’s always a possibility that I’ll paint the pieces of wood to match the wall paint color too, just haven’t done that yet.

Whether this Ikea model sinktop was intentionally designed to have a flexible depth of overhang is beyond me; my hunch is that the back of the vanity and the back of the sinktop are intended to rest flush against the wall, but because the base of the vanity was off the wall 3/4″, we made the executive decision to shift the sink top back against the wall, overhanging the back of the vanity and resting more flush with the cabinet drawers (there’s still a little overhang, maybe 1/8″, but nowhere near the display in the store). I’ll say, it wasn’t an easy decision and took a bit of positioning, stepping back, looking at it, adjusting, stepping back, approving before we bit the bullet and decided to install it permanently with tub and tile adhesive caulk.

Attaching the sink top to the vanity base with adhesive caulk.

With the vanity in place, we also caulked along the edges of the sink that rested on the vanity to help prevent any drops of water from causing harm to the veneer itself. In this picture, see what I mean about how the sink is positioned back against the wall overhanging the back of the vanity?

Caulking the sink into place.

Installing the plumbing itself was a little tricky, mostly because we didn’t read the instructions for our GRUNDTAL faucet until after we had installed the sink. It had been advised to install that faucet onto the sink before attaching the sink top to the vanity, so it may have taken us a little longer to get it in place and properly attached.

Because the vanity was wider, I was able to move it about 1.5′ to the right from where the old vanity sat, centering it a little better in the room. I only went as far as I was able to given that the vanity still needed to hide the plumbing coming out of the wall. See here how we were able to make the plumbing accomodate the uncentered incoming pipes? This was a big win in my book.


With the faucet installed, it was looking really great. We ran water through the pipes for a little while to ensure there were no leaks, and we were set.

A GRUNDTAL install.

OK, you’ve already gotten a few good glimpses of this new mirror. It’s huge, I’m aware. And I love every inch of it, because it makes the bathroom seem especially deep. I’ll be back next week to give you the full scoop on how I found it and installed it myself. It’s one of those tutorials that I think everyone needs to see.

Until then, enjoy this picture (minus the unfinished window, the now-off-center light fixture, and the needs-to-be-leveled drawer unit) and revel in how large my tiny bathroom feels.

Hi, I love that huge mirror.

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

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About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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