bathroom vanity - questions about materials and finish.

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Forum topic by joshtank posted 05-09-2011 09:50 PM 1537 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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224 posts in 2394 days

05-09-2011 09:50 PM

so our abnormally small bathroom has left us without any reasonable options for a cabinet as wide and we would like. we need a fairly narrow depth. so i get to build it! (my preference all along)

a few things..

1. i’m thinking plywood carcass and poplar for the face frames and door / drawer fronts.

what sort of plywood? it IS going to be painted.

2. the finish. i’m going to paint the whole thing white. since it’s in a bathroom we want something resistant to water AND be easy to wipe down and clean. suggestions from you pros?

3. the top. it’s going to be either tiled with a drop in ceramic sink.
OR be painted wood with a drop in sink.. if it’s painted wood.. should it be polyed? or what is the best sealer.. obviously it WILL get wet.

maybe painting it with the same paint as the cabinet will look odd though?... if it’s natural wood i’d probably go maple or red oak.. in which case it’d be stain and then have poly? i have good poly left over from doing my floors.

thanks for your help. trying to get stuff done before the baby is here!

-- Josh - Jacksonville, FL -

6 replies so far

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 2746 days

#1 posted 05-09-2011 10:46 PM

On #2 – I use floor paint (alkyde) – sturdy for ever.

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2060 days

#2 posted 05-09-2011 11:51 PM

1. Birch plywood.

2. Alkyd semi-gloss or gloss interior trim paint. If you brush, add Floetrol and use at least white china bristle brush (Purdy). If you are a sick perfectionist, get a ox hair Purdy.

3. If tile, use Advantech 3/4, then hardibacker, then Ultraflex 2 thinset, then porcelain tile or granite tile with 1/16 grout lines, then an epoxy grout (or at least Tek XT) unsanded. Porosity is not your friend when it comes to bath and kitchen tops. Do the edges in a routed hardwood (painted or stained and poly’d).

If painted wood top, then poly is fine. I wouldn’t do it. Just cap it with Wilsonart or Formica (HD or FX180 can look just like a chunk of granite). Do the traditional hardwood edge… painted or stained.

If you do the wood top, at least prime (or better redgard) the sink cutout, drop the bowl in and use GE silicone II (or equivalent) around the perimeter.

C’tops usually contrast or complement the cabs (as opposed to matching) except the common and way overdone feel-like-you’re-in-a-hospital all white.

That’s my .02 USD

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2205 days

#3 posted 05-10-2011 02:27 AM

Josh, I built a replacement vanity in a small bath. I think it is the 21” deep version and about 24” wide.
I used hickory for the faceframes and 3/4” cabinet grade plywood for the sides and bottom. I also used Hickory for raised panel doors and hickory for 2 false drawer fronts. All the wood has about 4 coats of poly and after 3 years it is holding up good. The top is a white 1-piece cultured marble. That too is still looking good. If the wood is properly finished it should hold up even in a bathroom.

-- Website is finally up and

View joshtank's profile


224 posts in 2394 days

#4 posted 05-10-2011 07:22 PM

this is already becoming very helpful for planning this out! thanks!

I’m definitely doing the tiled top. the hardwood around the sides is going to be painted. So I should poly that too yes? any particular poly to use over latex paint for these edges? i don’t want it to look too different from the rest of the cabinet that is just painted… or should i ply the whole thing as well as paint


-- Josh - Jacksonville, FL -

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2075 days

#5 posted 05-12-2011 10:05 PM

Prefinished birch or maple plywood has baked on lacquer finish. You could also use melamine for the carcass.

Just be aware that if these wood products get a submerged bath because a plumbing leak or pipe burst, the water resistance breaks down completely. Melamine is particle board with a heavy duty resin material added to the face. It cleans up very well but don’t let water stand on it. Edges are susceptible to becoming sponges. Seal every inch of exposed wood/melamine with poly, varnish or lacquer. Even areas you can’t or won’t ever see. These areas are subject to large moisture changes in a bathroom and can make for a mess of your vanity.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2060 days

#6 posted 05-15-2011 06:49 AM


Use oil-based alkyd (not latex) on the wood edge and the painted cabinetry in semi-gloss or gloss. Then you will not need to poly over it.

If for some reason you can’t deal with oil-based, at least use a semi-gloss or gloss acrylic enamel (yes, it will probably be an exterior paint… as in gets wet all the time). Hint Hint.

Regular latex is less durable than either of these.

Good luck.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

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