How to Make a Bathroom Vanity from an Antique Chest

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
Now not far from Chicago's bustling waterfront is the more serene community of Oak Park, Illinois. I'm heading there to meet Roger and Dominica Thompson. All three of us are in search of something old and something new.

Here, Roger Thompson, a Tai Chi instructor and lifelong sculptor and his wife Dominica, also an artist have decided to focus some of their creative energy on the bathroom. Specifically, they'd like to get rid of this pedestal sink and replace it with an oak vanity, one that they've invited me to help them create from an antique piece of furniture.

Hey, Dominica, how are you?
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Hi, Ron, really good to see you.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
RON HAZELTON:
Roger, pleased to meet you. Well, thank you very much. Love your house.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Come on in.
RON HAZELTON:
This is great stained glass, by the way.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Thank you.

DOMINICA THOMPSON:
The bathroom's up here, Ron, right here.
RON HAZELTON:
All right. Oak, oak everywhere. It's great. Did you, did you strip a lot of this by hand?
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yes, I did. It was a long hard project.
RON HAZELTON:
I bet it was. Even oak in here -- medicine cabinet.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yeah, that’s right.
RON HAZELTON:
No oak down here though.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
No and that's why I want, ah, an oak vanity in here. And I think it has to be an antique piece to go with the rest of the house. And it will also warm up the bathroom.
RON HAZELTON:
So our first step is to hop in my truck and pay a visit to a nearby antique shop. Roger and Dominica have already made some scouting trips here and have identified a few pieces that just might transform into a new vanity.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
This is a nice top.
RON HAZELTON:
A little, ah.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
It's way too short.
RON HAZELTON:
You know, this is interesting though, the marble.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yeah, I like the top.
RON HAZELTON:
We might keep this in mind.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Well, here is the one that we had looked at previously.
RON HAZELTON:
Oh, yeah. Well, this is a washstand too.

ROGER THOMPSON:
Right.
RON HAZELTON:
But -- better size.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Much better size.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
And a better finish and it will match our woodwork, yeah.
RON HAZELTON:
And it’s oak.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
RON HAZELTON:
And, so, which is essential. Yeah.
ROGER THOMPSON:
And the lines are simple enough that I think they will go with the house.
RON HAZELTON:
Yep, yep. And for the most part, they're straight. Got a little curve in the top here. And you know what's good about this too is that I -- because of the way it's designed and laid out, I think it's gonna make an easier conversion.

This drawer gives us a nice open space right in here. You're probably gonna have to remove something but that gives us at least a nice start on accommodating the bowl. Thank you, Gary.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Thank you. [LAUGHS]
RON HAZELTON:
I think you gave me the heavy end.

Well, with our cabinet purchased and back home we begin our conversion by removing the drawers and doors. That marble countertop we saw back in the antique shop inspired us so much, we decided to add a similar top to our vanity.

Made of a marble or granite-like material, it will be shaped and cut to fit right on top of our washstand.

All right, Roger, let's lift this up, kind of take it down to you. Just, just carry the whole thing down to you a little bit. All right. And then tip it up to me. Great. And then flip it right over on its top.

Now we'll need to provide the countertop fabricator with a template. So I've asked Roger to trace the top of the washstand under this brown paper. As he finishes, my carpenter, David Schulte shows up with a new sink from the home improvement center.

So this is the, ah, outline of the top. This is your new sink right here. Now every new sink comes with a template that shows you what the cutout needs to be. So we've actually got two lines here. This outside line is the lip of the sink, the inside line right here is the shape and size of the hole that we're gonna drop the sink into.

So if you take a pair of scissors and just cut up to that line.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
While Dominica cuts out the sink template, Roger and I take several important measurements so that we can indicate on our drawing or template the location of two support rails and the top edge of the drawer front.

We place the sink template on top of the countertop template, then trace the sink outline. After cutting out the sink opening, we place the countertop template on top of our washstand, tape it in place and trace the sink opening onto the washstand itself.

Now we've gone through a lot of steps to make our template right here. The fact is though that a template's going to be different for each piece of furniture and for each sink. But here are some of the basics that we kept in mind.

First of all, we transferred the actual shape of the top right here to our base template. And then we added a quarter of an inch. So we're going to have a slight overhang here. I think that's going to give us a nice detail. Then we had to allow for the fact that this drawer comes in here, we actually drew that on our template right here and then set the base and back far enough so that it would clear the drawer in its closed position. So what we've got here, bottom line is a template that shows us where to make our cutout on the top and gives the fabricator all the information they need to create the top with a proper shape and size.

So speaking of fabricators and tops, have you guys picked out a material here?

DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yeah, we picked out this one.
RON HAZELTON:
Dominica and Roger have decided on a manmade quartz material that's practically a dead ringer for granite.

Okay, so, ah, you're gonna take this over to the fabricator as a sample. I'll give you the template.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Right. It usually takes them 21 days to turn this around, so I'm gonna see if I can call in a few favors.
RON HAZELTON:
Yeah, you'll need them. If not,  we'll see you next month.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Well, or you'll have to move in with us. [LAUGHS]
RON HAZELTON:
So guys, we're ready to move on to the next step here while Dave is away getting that to the fabricator. We're gonna begin by cutting out that shape on the top.

We bore two starter holes, set the jigsaw blade in position and Dominica starts to cut. As an antique restoration professional, I have to say, it feels a bit odd cutting into an antique.

On the other hand, this piece is not completely original. It has already had several modifications made to it, and we'll be giving it a much longer life.
There's a, there's a rail back here, a piece running vertically here.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
I don't want to cut through that with a jigsaw. So we're just gonna finish this cutoff, just cutting through just the top right here. So we're gonna just cut down through the top without cutting into the rail.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
I’m just gonna pry it right off, there you go.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Okay.
[MUSIC]
All right. Now what we're gonna do is, we're gonna get our sink and we're gonna put some of the drain fittings on the bottom. We're gonna do some test fits in here so we can see just how much of this we have to remove to give everything clearance, right?
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Okay, great.
RON HAZELTON:
Let's get the sink.

When I put a new sink in, I put everything I possibly can on before I install the sink, so it's much easier to do it out here.
[MUSIC]
Using a couple of two by fours to represent the thickness of our new countertop, we do a test fit. We've installed all the plumbing fittings on the sink. Now, we have to create an opening for the drain to pass through, which means boring a hole through the back of our cabinet.

Now we're gonna have to cut a pretty good size hole in here. I want some extra room around that drainpipe and I've got a special tool and a technique for doing that. Let me show you.
[MUSIC]
Now one of the fastest and easiest ways to make holes up to several inches in diameter, is to use a hole saw. This is one right here. Has three parts -- an arbor right here that goes into a drill, a pilot bit and then the hole saw itself.

This will fit into almost any drill, usually one that will accommodate a 3/8" shaft is best. Just tighten this up. Now, one of the problems in using a hole saw is that you tend to get tearout, as the saw itself exits on the opposite side. I want to show you how to prevent that. So, let's start drilling from this side -- come around and finish the hole from this side.

Well, there you go. See what you end up with here -- a clean hole on the side that you began with, and also a clean hole on the exit side. That's a pretty good fit. Now you’re going to have to deal with the drawers. Obviously with that sink hanging down like that, the bowl of the sink -- this drawer can't go in anymore.

So we're gonna have to modify this, also probably this drawer down here below too, but let's start with the big one here.

I've transferred the shape of the sink bowl onto the back of the drawer for Roger to cut out with a jigsaw. I've also traced a clearance slot for the drainpipe that Dominica needs to cut out of the drawer bottom. The, the main thing here is just, the blade is going to move up and down, yes, at a rapid rate.  But you control how fast you move forward.

DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
So just take your time.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
All right.
[DRILLING SOUNDS]
RON HAZELTON:
Hey, not bad.
  DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yes.
  RON HAZELTON:
Was it?
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
No.
RON HAZELTON:
Okay, very nice job by the way, very nice job, okay. Hey, hey, we did a pretty good job, huh?

Our new countertop will be three inches deeper than our washstand. To make our washstand depth the same as the countertop, we're attaching a couple of oak strips to the rear edge of the sides.  Back upstairs, we've removed the old pedestal sink and water valves.

Now guys, you want to transfer the location of these water supply lines to the back of our cabinet.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
We normally just measure those, but these are coming out at an angle. That presents us with a little bit of a measurement problem. So, do you have that lip stick I asked for?
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yes, is it your shade.
[LAUGHTER]
RON HAZELTON:
You think.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
I think it's the real you.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
RON HAZELTON:
You're probably wondering why I wanted this, right? This is a, this is just a great marking technique. You can use this kind of a technique for putting stripe plates on doors, whatever. So I've put the lip stick on the end of these dowels.

I'm gonna slip them up inside the pipe like this and push them in, okay. Now we can set the --
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
-- so it like kisses it.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
-- cabinet back in place. It does kiss it.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yeah.
RON HAZELTON:
Oh, that's very nicely put. I wouldn't have thought you'd use that word, but okay now, put  this in our, in position.  You guys let me know when you're ready and now we're good. Now, I'm gonna reach down here, I'm just gonna pull this dowel out until it contacts the back of the cabinet.

I'll twist it a little bit, transfer the lip stick to the cabinet. That's where we want to drill our hole. Now this is how we're gonna attach the cabinet to the wall. This line right here is the inside of the cabinet. I put the L bracket up here, and a couple of marks for these holes and now we're gonna drill using a masonry bit.

This is actually a block wall right here, okay? Now into those, we'll put a couple of plastic anchors.

We screw the brackets into place and now we're ready for the cabinet.

All right, folks, we're ready to set this in place. So, ah, you see those ears we put on the wall here?
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Mm-hmm [AFFIRMATIVE].
RON HAZELTON:
After drilling pilot holes into the cabinet, we insert screws through the brackets and secure the vanity in place.

Now, we're about ready to put our countertop on. This is a special adhesive just for this quartz material and I'm gonna put just about five dots of this. Okay, guys, you can bring the countertop in now.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Okay, coming.
RON HAZELTON:
A little more here. The reason we're not putting more on is, should they ever want to take this off, it can be kind of popped up. All right, there you go.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Okay.

RON HAZELTON:
All right. Just set it right in place there. Okay, let it down slowly, slowly, slowly. Okay, now you can slide it around a bit. Well, our template worked.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yeah.
RON HAZELTON:
Huh.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Beautiful.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Something is working great.
RON HAZELTON:
Good job, Good job. That was a great templating job, both of you. Excellent. Okay, let's get the sink.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Yeah.
RON HAZELTON:
Okay. This is a sealant here, Roger. I'm just gonna put a bead of this around the edge of the lip here.

Being careful not to touch the adhesive around the lip of the sink, Roger and I slowly lower it into place.

Okay, this is warm water, Roger. I'm gonna put just a little bit of liquid dishwashing detergent in there. Mix that up and this is gonna make this water just a little bit slippery so that I can now -- my fingers wet in this, kind of go around here and just take off the excess material.

After wiping off the excess adhesive, Roger installs a new pea trap, hooks up the water supply lines and our vanity conversion is complete.

So you like the countertop.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Love this countertop. It's gorgeous.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Very nice.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
This is -- lookit.
RON HAZELTON:
I think you're gonna be really happy with this. I've used this material before, this quartz. It is non porous, won't stain, very tough. But even more important I think, to me, it looks like it belongs here.
ROGER THOMPSON:
And it really looks like stone. It's really nice compared to the other tops that we looked at.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
And it warms up the bathroom, makes the bathroom look a lot better.
ROGER THOMPSON:
Goes with our towels.
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Goes [LAUGHS] --
RON HAZELTON:
That was my inspiration.
[LAUGHTER]
ROGER THOMPSON:
All along?
RON HAZELTON:
All along. I didn't want to tell you that, but it was.
[SEVERAL SPEAK AT ONCE]
DOMINICA THOMPSON:
Just to match the towels.
ROGER THOMPSON:
So much trouble finding something to go with our towels.
RON HAZELTON:
Well, whether it's because it matches the towels or all the other oak features, our new custom made vanity looks like it truly belongs in this beautiful century-old home.

Learn how to convert a dresser into a bathroom vanity; includes tips on selecting a dresser and installing a drop-in sink.

In this HouseCalls project, Ron replaces a pedestal sink with an oak vanity created from a genuine antique piece of furniture. To make it appropriate for bathroom use, the top of the vanity is covered with a custom fabricated marble or granite-like countertop with a cutout for the new sink.