Bathroom remodeling comes in many different forms, but if we had to pick a favorite, replacing the vanity would definitely come out on top. In fact, you may not need to replace the entire bathroom vanity cabinet at all. A new vanity top and sink can do wonders for worn-out bathroom decor, bringing new colors and/or materials into the mix, and shifting the overall look into more modern and up-to-date territory. Getting there, however, is going to require some practical steps and technical know-how. Our guide takes you through the details, from start to finish.
There’s simply no substitute for the wow factor of a top-quality countertop material. Bathrooms, like kitchens, need a high-performance material—one that can resist stains, scratches, and mildew and still look its best, day in and day out. Here are some of the most popular and cost-efficient vanity top materials.
For color, durability, and elegance, granite is still the greatest countertop material around. It’s a beautiful stone that’s highly resistant to stains and scratches. The downside, of course, is that it’s costly, though creative shoppers can find a way around that, e.g. going with tiles instead of a slab. Granite will need to be sealed once or twice a year to help protect against stains (as will other natural stones such as marble).
Also known as engineered stone, this is a highly popular material that provides a natural stone look with even better performance. This synthetic quartz and silica composite is naturally mildew and bacteria resistant, which is a big plus in bathrooms. It’s available in a wide range of color options. Quartz vanity tops are naturally water resistant with no need for sealing, which makes them a smart complement to splash-prone sinks such as undermounts.
Solid surface refers to engineered materials, typically composite acrylic or polyester resins. These materials offer big advantages for bathrooms, including stone-like appearance, non-porous surfaces, and seamlessly integrated sinks and side/back splashes. Stains and scratches can be sanded out, and materials such as makeup and hair dye can be buffed out with household cleaners. Though more prone to scratching than stone, solid surface materials come in a much wider range of colors and patterns.
In addition to sink type and counter material, there are several other style factors to consider as you shop at hayneedle.com, including:
- Decorative edges, including curved and bow fronts, ogee (s-shaped) or beveled edges, or rounded corners
- A backsplash and/or sidesplash(es), which can be integral or “loose,” i.e. added separately
- Double sink vanities, a time-saving advantage in shared bathrooms (two-sink vanities are typically over 48 inches in width)
Before you start shopping for styles and materials, it’s best if you know the dimensions you’ll be working with. So grab a tape measure, paper, and pencil, and let’s get started!
Width of Vanity Top
If you’re replacing an existing top, this measurement’s pretty easy to obtain. It’s a good idea to measure the width at both the front and back of the vanity top, especially if it’s touching walls on each side. You may find a small variation. If it’s directly between walls, use the smallest of the two measurements, but drop about 1/4 inch.
If you’re buying a new vanity cabinet without a top, you’ll need to add an inch or two to its width dimensions, depending on its position, to get its appropriate top measurement. If the vanity abuts a wall on one end only, the top should overhang on the opposite end by about one inch to give it a more polished appearance. If the cabinet is free standing, i.e. not touching side walls, add two inches to its width measurement instead of one, so you’ll have one inch of vanity top overhang on each side.
Depth of Vanity Top
Measure from front edge to back of your existing top, or add one inch to the depth measurement of your top-less cabinet. A common bathroom vanity size is 21D inches, which would mean a 22D-inch top.
Measuring for Sink & Faucets
These measurements will help ensure that your new top matches up with the existing plumbing. The distance from the nearest side wall to the center of the drain hole is the sink position. FYI, the drain doesn’t have to line up exactly with the wall pipe, so if it’s not quite centered, don’t worry. Check with a plumber if you anticipate problems.
Most bathroom vanity tops come pre-drilled for faucets, which are available in several different types:
- Widespread faucets are the usual separate three-piece configuration—hot water handle, cold water handle, and spout. These faucets require tops with three holes pre-drilled. To check the drillings on your current top, measure the distance from the middle of one outer hole to the other. An eight-inch widespread measurement is typical, but this can vary from six to 16 inches.
- A center-set or mini-widespread faucet also needs three holes, but closer together, as the valves and spout are mounted to a single base, but appear as three independent pieces on the vanity. These faucets typically have a four-inch distance from outer hole to hole, which is known as a four-inch center-set.
- A single-hole vanity is also common in contemporary bathrooms. This is usually for a lever-style faucet with a single integrated handle that’s pulled upward and side to side to get hot or cold water. Single-hole designs are also used for vessel sink faucets.
Undermount sinks attach to the underside of the vanity top. The undermount provides a clean, seamless appearance, particularly in contrast with surface mounts, though they’re also more difficult to install.
Top mount sinks are also known as surface mount, but it’s their other name, drop in, that indicates how easy they are to install. These sinks are “dropped” inside the pre-cut counter hole, and the sink rim rests on the countertop (which is why they’re also known as self-rimming sinks). The counter hole doesn’t need to be quite as precise a match in this case as it does with undermounts.
Integrated sinks, aka integral sinks, offer the most seamless look for bathroom counters. In this design, the sink and vanity top consist of a single piece of material. This can be a very chic style for modern bathroom decor. Many of these sinks are rectangular in shape rather than round or oval.
The most boldly decorative of bathroom sink styles, the vessel is a basin-style sink that’s positioned entirely above the countertop. This style is commonly paired with either a wall-mounted faucet or a tall single spout.
Before you get started, turn off the water supply to the bathroom. Then disconnect the drain pipes and supply lines from the sink and faucet. If your old vanity has a backsplash and/or sidesplash(es), cut the caulk between it/them and the vanity and remove them.
Next, remove the screws holding the vanity top in place. When done, lift it off the cabinet and move it out of the way. Use a putty knife to remove any old adhesive and caulking from the vanity cabinet and wall. You’ll want a clean, level surface before you start the actual installation.
When the cleanup is finished, set the new top on the vanity, and check it with a construction level. If it needs adjustment, insert a shim or two beneath it (you’ll likely need a helping hand with a pry bar). Lower the top and level it. When you’ve got it level, lift it once more, and apply silicone adhesive along the cabinet edge where the top will rest. Lower it, and cut the shims so they’re not sticking out from the vanity. Now connect the top to the cabinet using screws and any included hardware (of course if it’s stone, you won’t need screws).
Next, connect the new sink and faucet following the manufacturer’s instructions. Caulk wall gaps and edges (including around the sink, if necessary). If you’re adding a new, non-integrated backsplash/sidesplash(es), apply clear silicone caulk along the edge where the splash will sit. Apply adhesive to the back of the splash before setting it into place (slide it back and forth a little on the wall to spread the adhesive). The splash should be flush with the top of the vanity. Clean off any debris and/or excess caulk, and wait about a day to let everything dry.