How to Build a Bathroom Vanity Cabinet
One way to improve the look and functionality of a bathroom is with a well-built, attractive bathroom vanity cabinet. While bathroom vanity cabinets can be relatively expensive to buy, they're not at all difficult to build.
In this set of free woodworking plans, follow step-by-step through the process of building a 36" wide, 24" deep and 32" tall bathroom vanity cabinet. This set of plans covers much of the basics of cabinet building. Once you understand the basics of cabinetry, you'll be able to make many different types of cabinets.
While this may be a bit larger than the average bathroom vanity cabinet, with a large open compartment with two doors above a deep drawer, it can be easily modified to accommodate pretty much any size of bathroom vanity countertop. The doors and drawer front are quite simple, but one could easily add a raised panel drawer front and doors to accentuate the cabinet.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Miter saw or circular saw
- Table saw or radial arm saw with dado set
- Router with ogee bit (or other profile) and router table
- Biscuit joiner and #10 biscuits
- Large clamps
- 1 sheet 3/4" sanded birch or pine plywood
- 1/4 sheet 1/2" sanded birch or pine plywood
- 10' of 1x4 - pine or poplar (or optional hardwood)
- 8' of 1x4 - pine or poplar (or optional hardwood)
- 10' of 1x6 - pine or poplar (or optional hardwood)
- 16' of 1x8 - pine or poplar (or optional hardwood)
- 2 European-style cabinet hinges
- 25' roll of adhesive edging
- 2 20" or 22" drawer slides
- 3 door/drawer handles
- Woodworker's glue
- Finish nails
- Stain or paint of color of choice
- Polyurethane (if stained only)
Build the Drawer
To begin the woodworking for this bathroom vanity, we're going to build the dovetailed drawer first.
As noted on page 6 of the free woodworking plans you downloaded in step 1, you'll need two pieces of 1x8 ripped to 6 1/2" width and cut to 33 1/2" in length for the front and back of the drawer box, and another two pieces ripped at 6 1/2" in width measuring 22 1/2" in length for the sides.
Following the instructions that accompanied your dovetail jig, place one of the side pieces into the jig and set up your router to cut the tails. Cut the tails on both ends of each of the two side pieces before switching the configuration to cut the pins in the front and back pieces of the drawer box.
Dry fit the box together to ensure a proper fit and mark the lower inside edge of each of the four sides with a pencil mark to denote the location of the grooves for the drawer bottom.
Next, set up your router table with a 1/2" straight cutting bit for cutting these grooves. Set the depth of cut to 3/8".
Assemble the Drawer
Once you've successfully cut the dovetails and the groove for the drawer bottom of the bathroom sink cabinet, we're almost ready for the assembly of the drawer. However, we first need to cut the drawer bottom.
From a piece of 1/2" sanded plywood, cut a piece measuring 32 1/2" by 21 1/2". Sand the entire piece including the edges to smooth out any cut marks. It would probably be a good idea to sand each of the four drawer side pieces at this point as well.
After wiping all sawdust from the drawer bottom and four sides, we're ready to begin some assembly. Place a drop of glue in between each of the tails of one of the side pieces, and spread the glue using a small brush or thin piece of scrap stock. Try to spread an even layer of glue on all surfaces that will come in contact with the pins that will attach to the tails.
With the glue evenly spread throughout the tails on one end of the board, slide the front pin board into place. Your joint should be just loose enough to be able to slide together without needing to be tapped into place with anything more than your hand, but if you need a bit of force, use a rubber mallet to close the gaps in the joint. Wipe off any excess glue that escapes from the joint immediately with a slightly damp cloth.
Repeat with the tails on the other end of the side piece, and insert the rear pin board in the same manner.
Stand the assembly on edge and spread the front and back ever so slightly before inserting the drawer bottom into place in the grooves of the front and back piece. Slide the bottom down until it settles into the groove of the tail board (the side piece) as shown in the picture above. There is no glue applied in this groove or to the drawer bottom, as it should be allowed to essentially float in the groove.
Complete the Dovetailed Drawer Assembly
With the drawer bottom in place, we'll attach the opposite tail board using glue in both dovetail joints.
Place an appropriate amount of glue into the tails on both ends of this last side piece and spread the glue evenly throughout each joint. Place the board into its proper location and tap into place. Make sure that the drawer bottom is in the groove of this tail board before completely closing the dovetail joints.
Use a tape measure to measure diagonally across the completed drawer box from one corner to the opposite corner. With that length in mind, measure across the remaining two corners and verify that the length matches the first measurement. If the two numbers match, the box is square.
Using some long clamps and some scraps of stock (to protect the sides of the drawer box), clamp the joints in place to allow the glue to dry. While it isn't necessary to crank the clamps so tightly that all of the glue squeezes out of the joint, you likely will have a little bit more glue escape as a result of clamping, so be sure to clean it up as soon as possible after clamping.
Next, before we move on to the cabinet, this would be a good time to glue up the door panels.
You'll need six pieces of 1x8 ripped to about 6 1/8" in width and cut to a length of about 22 inches. (It is a good idea to leave the panel a bit big for trimming after the glue-up, as the finished size of each door will be 18" x 21 1/4".)
If you have access to a jointer, joint the edges of the boards and then line them up in the order that you'll want to glue up the doors. Mark some locations for #10 biscuits and cut slots using your plate joiner. Insert a bit of glue into each slot and add biscuits. Then clamp the panels for drying.
Build the Cabinet Base
While the glue sets up on the cabinet doors and dovetailed drawer, we'll turn our attention to the base of the cabinet.
As noted on page 4 of the free woodworking plans you downloaded in step 1, you'll need two pieces of 1x4 ripped to 3" width and cut to 19 1/4" in length for the two sides. You'll also need one 3" wide piece at 33" for the back and another at 36" for the front.
Connect the four pieces as shown in the detailed drawing using finish nails or a pneumatic finish nailer. No glue will be necessary on these joints.
Cut the Cabinet Side Panels
Next, we'll move onto the side panels of the cabinet. While we're building these panels out of plywood, one could easily use glued-up hardwood panels for a much more elegant look.
As noted in the plywood cut diagram on page 5 of the free woodworking plans you downloaded in step 1, we'll be cutting two cabinet sides, two identically-sized shelves (unless you anticipate a lot of weight on the shelf above the drawer, in which case you'll want to check the note in step 8) and a couple of support pieces.
Begin the cutting of the sheet of 3/4" sanded plywood by cutting the two cabinet sides, which are two pieces at 32" x 23". Then, cut a notch out of one corner measuring 3" in height and 3 3/4" wide (see page 2 of the detailed drawings). This notch can be cut most easily using a jigsaw and a Layout Square.
Next, cut two shelves measuring 34 1/2" x 22 1/4". Set these aside for the moment.
Finally, cut out two support pieces from the remaining plywood: one measuring 35 1/4" x 12", and the other measuring 35 1/4" x 5 1/2". These will be used as backs to support the structure of the cabinet.
Before moving onto the next step cut a piece of 1x4 at 34 1/2" in length for the top piece on the face of the cabinet.
Assemble the Cabinet Carcase
Before we move onto the assembly of the cabinet carcass, we need to do one more thing: we need to cut rabbets into the inside back edges of the two cabinet sides to accommodate the plywood back pieces.
Set up your table saw with a stacked dado set. Insert chippers to accommodate a 3/4" wide cut, and raise the blade to a height of 3/8".
Clamp a sacrificial strip of stock to the fence of your table saw, and move the fence until it is just touching the dado blade. Then, make a pencil mark one inch in front of the leading edge of the blade.
Place the right-side piece of the cabinet inside face down on the table, with the back edge against the fence. Cut a rabbet from the top-rear corner (on the inside face) downward until you reach the pencil mark with the bottom of the board, and turn off the saw before removing the piece. You should end up with a rabbit that extends down the back of the cabinet from the top-rear corner to about an inch above the floor.
Move the fence to the other side of the blade, and repeat the steps with the other side of the cabinet.
With the rabbits complete, it's time for some carcass assembly. Begin by attaching the two sides of the cabinet to the sides of the cabinet base using some 1 1/4" finish nails (either by hand or with a pneumatic nailer).
Next, place the bottom shelf onto the plywood base and adjust so that the front of the shelf is flush with the front of the sides and tack in place with finish nails. Add a couple of nails from the sides through into the bottom shelf for strength.
Then, attach the 12" wide rear piece into the rabbet in the back and on top of the cabinet base using glue and finish nails. Also, attach the top-back strut in place at the top of the rabbet using glue and finish nails.
Finally, attach the front face piece in-between the top front corners of the two sides using finish nails.
Complete the Cabinet Carcase Assembly
At this point, we need to add the shelf that will form the bottom of the main enclosure, just above the drawer. In this case, we'll simply be using nails to hold the shelf in place, but if you anticipate having a substantial amount of weight on this shelf in your installation, you may want to make the following modification to these plans:
Note: For stronger shelf support, the shelf could be cut 1/2" wider, and 1/4" dadoes could be cut into the two cabinet sides, precisely 6 1/2" up from the top of the bottom shelf. However, if you only plan on keeping linens and other lightweight items in the main compartment of the cabinet, this will not likely be necessary.
Rip a couple of pieces of scrap material to 6 1/2" wide to act as temporary spacers. Place one piece on edge on each side of the cabinet on the bottom shelf, then place the upper shelf into position on top of these spacers. Verify that the shelf is level, flush with the front of the side panels and precisely 6 1/2" above the bottom shelf, and attach to the sides and plywood back using finish nails.
Next, cut two pieces of 1x4 at 21 1/2" in length. Attach these two pieces just inside the top edge of each side panel, as shown on pages 2 and 3 of the of the free woodworking plans you downloaded in step 1. This will provide support to the vanity countertop.
The carcass of the cabinet is now complete, and it is time to dress it up a bit. The front edges of the two side panels, as well as the front edges of the two cabinet shelves, have exposed plywood edges that should be covered.
Using an ordinary iron as a heat source, apply some adhesive edge banding to these exposed plywood edges. Follow the instructions in the package of the edge banding, and then trim the excess off of the edges once the adhesive cools and has set.
Sand the entire carcass as needed to prepare for the finish.
Complete the Doors and Drawer Front
With the cabinet carcass woodworking completed, we'll move on the cabinet doors and drawer front.
Begin by removing the clamps from the door panel glue-ups and cut the door panels to their finished sizes of 18" wide by 21 1/4" tall, as shown on page 7 of the of the free woodworking plans you downloaded in step 1.
Cut a nice, clean section of 1x8 to 36" to length and sand the entire board, as this will become the drawer front.
Next, set up your router with an ogee bit (or profile of choice) to apply a detail to the front side of the two doors and the drawer front. Route only the front edges of the doors and the drawer front, as the back side edges should remain square.
Remove the drawer assembly from the clamps and sand thoroughly. Also, sand the two doors and drawer front, using progressively finer grits of sandpaper. Finish the sanding with a hand sanding for a perfect finish.
Finally, place the drawer front onto the front of the drawer assembly. Use a couple of small spring clamps to hold the front in place, with equal reveals on each side of the drawer but with a 1/4" reveal on the top. Attach to the drawer assembly with some 1-1/4" screws.
Finish and Final Assembly
At this point, the woodworking is essentially complete, and it's time to apply the finish of our choice.
Whether you choose to stain or paint this project, the first thing we need to do is to fill all of the finish nail holes. Place a dab of wood putty or other wood filler into each nail hole. Once the filler has dried completely, sand the raised filler until it is flush with the stock.
Wipe the entire assembly free of sawdust and apply your finish of choice. Because the cabinet will be exposed to higher than normal levels of humidity in a bathroom, be sure to finish all sides and edges of the cabinet, doors, and drawer thoroughly to protect the wood from moisture.
Once the cabinet carcass, doors, and drawer have been finished completely, attach the drawer slides to the drawer assembly and the insides of the drawer space of the cabinet carcass. Insert the drawer and check to see that it glides smoothly and closes properly.
Next, connect the two doors to the carcass using two European-style hinges on each door. Follow the instructions that accompany the hinges for the proper steps for drilling, installing and adjusting the hinges.
TIP: Once again, because of the excess moisture, it might be advisable to paint (or seal) the rather large holes that are necessary to accommodate the hinges. This step may be a bit of overkill, but I believe it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to moisture and wood.
Once the doors have been attached and have been adjusted to open and close properly, we have but one final step: attaching the handles. You'll need at least three handles of your choosing, one for each door and one (or two) for the drawer.
Place the handles in the locations of your choice and attach with the included screws.
When installing the cabinet, use a few long screws to secure the cabinet back into studs in the bathroom wall.