Happy Homeowner: Free is my Favourite

(This is the fourth segment in a series chronicling my DIY bathroom remodel. Read parts One, Two, and Three.)

During this entire remodel process my husband and I starting thinking bigger than just the walls. After all, if we were going to invest that much time and energy into the bathroom, we should do the whole room and do it right. Right?

You might already know where I’m going with this.

I was probably still scraping the walls when my husband brought up getting a new vanity. He had fallen in love with one he found on the Costco website that was “a really great deal,” If you don’t already know me, let me assure you that anything with four digits is not a really great deal. After all, if I was content with throwing money around I would have hired a drywall contract to tear down my bathroom to the studs and hang new drywall before giving the walls a level 5 finish.

We found less expensive options, and really liked the large sink options with the current IKEA vanities. Still we remained unsettled because an IKEA vanity would mean we would have to re-tile the bathroom floor. Which, while the tile is nothing to write home about, it’s fine so why change it? It was actually my inlaws who talked him out of replacing the vanity. Sure the vanity was showing it’s 30+ year age, but it was sturdy enough for me to stand on for a week of scraping. It would live a while longer.

The mid-tone oak colour was too orange for our tastes and certainly too dated for our updated colour scheme. While I had been advised to paint instead of stain because stain is tricky, I threw caution to the wind. I tend to ignore naysayers. Anyway, if the stain didn’t work I could always cover it up with paint.

Functional, but in need of an update. Not to mention that toilet paper holder!

Actually, in this photo it doesn’t look as bad as it did in real life! The photo doesn’t show the orange/yellow tone so well, but you’ve seen mid-grade oak so you know what I mean. I wanted a shade or two darker and to take out that orange. I didn’t want a really dark tone. Nor did I want mahogany or espresso.

Doors removed and sanded, all ready to go!

I selected Dark Walnut for my stain. It would add the depth I sought without any yellow or orange. I hoped it would give me what I sought. Fingers crossed!

If you haven’t stained before, here’s a back to back. To the left is a cabinet door sanded and ready to go whereas the door to the right is mid-process.

I did a test run on the back of a door to get the timing right. The longer you let the stain sit the darker the end result will be.

I let the stain sit for exactly ten minutes before wiping off the excess. See how it brings so much life back to the wood!

I was so excited in this stage! I really prefer natural wood to painted wood. Well, preference may be a bit light: I love real wood.

To the left the stain has been wiped off while the door on the right the stain is still working its magic.

I staggered the doors so it went by pretty quickly. Stain one door, set the timer. Stain a second door, set the timer, wipe off the first door.

Foam brushes are my favourite for stain. Cheap and effective! Also note the bleached out shirt — as I’ve said these grungy shirts add to my credibility as a DIY-er.

Once I stained the doors I moved to the cabinetry. I was able to zip up the cabinets quickly and soon we had only to wait for everything to dry. I followed the stain with a coat of polyurethane to protect the wood from the water that inevitably comes from being a bathroom cabinet. The boys complained of the smell but it didn’t last long. Soon the knobs were back on the doors and the doors were back on the cabinets. Finally I returned the bathroom to normal use! (Again.)

Wood stain is very inexpensive and a little goes a long way. Compared with the cost of removing the old vanity and replacing it, I’m so pleased that I updated it for basically nothing.

It’s a subtle different from the original photo to this one, but I am very pleased now that I have removed the orange tone from the cabinet. I also installed a more modern toilet paper holder.

A word about the counter top. One of the primary reasons my husband was looking at replacing the vanity was because of the counter top. While it is a solid surface and still in good shape, the colour is a bit on the yellow side and the two sinks are shell shaped. Replacing the counter would require a new as well as two new sinks. The costs rose quickly. Ecologically, it killed me to think I would get rid of something that was perfectly fine because it was no longer pretty. I looked into refinishing the surface in white. While it wouldn’t do anything for the shell-shaped sinks, at least they would be white. Even refinishing is expensive. However the counter looked a little more neutral once I stained the cabinets.

For now, anyway, the counter stays. We concluded that it wasn’t worth dropping several hundred dollars on something the next owners will surely tear out. So for now we live with it.

What remains? Well that big builder-grade mirror needs a little bit of love, but before that there are some details that need attention. Tune in next time to see how a simple swap makes a big difference.

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