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How to Shop for a Bathroom Vanity

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Shopping for a bathroom vanity is a lot like shopping for kitchen cabinets, a dresser, or even a table. You want something that’s high quality, lasts, and is fitting for the space. Your vanity will likely grace your home for some time. And not all vanities are created equal. We’ll help you find something that maintains its natural beauty for years to come.

Quality Indicators

Your vanity can be constructed with various materials. We’ve listed the three most popular options in order of the most economical to what is generally the most expensive option.

MDF (medium density fiberboard) is engineered from composite wood fibers and compressed together with a resin adhesive. It’s usually topped with a melamine layer for protection and decoration. This makes it a more economical option for furniture, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom vanities.

Real wood or plywood veneer consists of thin layers of wood veneer glued together with a fine grain appearance. Real wood veneer is thick—made like fine furniture. A protective coating is typically applied on the outside of bathroom vanities. And you can also choose from a wood or painted appearance. This is a popular option and is often more durable than MDF.

Bathroom Vanity
Plywood veneer vanity craftsmanship—a durable option

Solid wood vanities are made of lumber. They can have an attractive, rustic feel if a maker leaves the natural wood tones and knots exposed. Wood is naturally porous, so it can absorb moisture, expand, and potentially warp over time. This is not to say that manufacturers who use solid wood create inferior products, but rather that it’s less commonly used as it’s more expensive to construct a quality vanity from solid wood that maintains its appearance.

Most of these materials have some type of outer protection to shield the vanity from moisture.

Melamine is a coating that provides a smooth, protective surface. It’s used for different kinds of furniture and can be applied over MDF or plywood. A melamine coating can provide protection from moist environments and is less likely to scratch.

Polyurethane, a moisture-resistant finish, is used by vanity manufacturer Ronbow, one of the brands Handy Man carries. When dry, it becomes hard like plastic and can withstand harsh environments.

Other manufacturer brands Handy Man carries, like Bertch, use a thermoset coating. This provides stain and moisture protection. Bertch provides a “bulletproof” layer for high moisture conditions without deteriorating.

Bottom line: opt for quality materials to prevent bubbling, warping, cracking, and damage to one of the most used areas of your bathroom.

Vanity Construction

Quality craftsmanship extends beyond materials. How a manufacturer assembles a vanity impacts its durability and functionality. These fine craftsmanship features can save you from storage shortage and repair headaches later on.

Dovetail drawers are sturdy. The interlocking angles prevent the drawer from coming loose—especially if you have young children who may pull on it.

Slow-close drawers prevent the drawer from slamming into the vanity.

Full extension drawers allow you to access everything you put in the drawer with ease.

U-shaped drawers fit around the sink pipe to provide even more storage.

Consider your Space

You wouldn’t squeeze a large dresser into a tiny room, right? You also wouldn’t buy dark brown kitchen cabinets when your entire house is furnished with light birch wood, right? Well, the same goes for your bathroom vanity.

Because installing a vanity is typically one of the last steps during a bathroom remodel, you usually have a little time to order a vanity to your own specifications.

While custom vanity cabinets can have a lead time of 3 to 4 weeks, while you are installing your floor, tub, painting your walls, and more, you can be thinking about the vanity that will best go into your new bathroom.

You can get just about any wood species or color. If you have existing color and design schemes that you’re trying to complement, bring photos of your current bathroom to reference while you shop.

The same concept should be used to choose hardware. When you order your vanity, select your hardware. What you choose will determine whether the manufacturer needs to drill one, two, or no holes in the doors and drawers.

A small sampling of hundreds of cabinet and drawer hardware options available

Choosing the Size

Take the size of your bathroom into consideration when choosing your vanity. Vanities come in a range of widths, which increase in size in 6” increments. Standard sizes include 18”, 24”, 30”, 36”, 42”, 48” and 60”. And, like kitchen cabinets, you can fit pieces together to form an extended vanity.

You’ll also need to choose the appropriate depth and height of your vanity. For a small bathroom, you can get a vanity depth of 18”. You can even get creative and install a pot belly sink for additional space. A full sized vanity depth is 21”. For height, you can opt for a tall vanity, also referred to as comfort height, which is about 36”. The standard height of a vanity is 32”, but you can get one anywhere from 30” to 36” tall.

A vanity is an investment in one of the most-used areas of your home. Stop by your local Handy Man to browse options, and receive solid advice from our experts. “We’ll walk you through it.”

Updated February 2019

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