Recently I went over the approach we decided to take to add to the structure of our buffet-turned-bathroom-vanity to ensure its ability to support a marble top without cracking. If there's one thing I'm known for in both my professional and hobbyist life, it's knowing how to solidly over engineer a project. I'm hopeful that my solution soundly fits into this category, otherwise we could have some cracked marble on our hands.

With the upper portion of the vanity work complete, I turned my focus to the lower section. I had four primary goals remaining before we could call the vanity carcass "ready for paint." I'd need to:

  1. Modify the skirt boards to shorten them and align them more with our general aesthetic
  2. Shorten the legs as much as possible
  3. Add structure to make it more rigid
  4. Cut various holes and notches to accommodate the plumbing

We've always known we'd be altering the height and skirt boards of the cabinet, but weren't sure how. We'd planned on cutting some off of the bottom and also removing the fancy decorative element in the middle, but I wasn't sure if we'd do it in place or some other way. When I disassembled the bottom (photo above) and was able to remove the skirt boards, I was elated at the fact I could then make the alterations on the table saw. It's so much easier.

The first thing I did was to remove about 1/4" of material from the tops. This was a little difficult due to the legs and needing to alter my saws fence setup. I couldn't just set the table saw on 1/4" as this would have likely caused some pretty significant kickback of the small spear-like material, possibly injuring me, or at least freaking my bean enough to make me think better of it. I ended up using a length of 1-1/2" poplar as a guide fence and slowly ran the whole thing through the saw, ripping it to size.

After the top was removed I just had to flip the piece around the remove about 1-1/4" from the bottoms.

I settled on that amount to remove after much debate, taking off a little at a time. I'd cut about 1/4" each time and bring the board upstairs for Wendy and a friend's review. After several trips to the saw, 1-1/4" was ideal, making the entire drop in height 1-1/2".

Finally, I cut off the hanging down wood in the middle of the skirt board and instantly improved the whole look of the vanity. Man, neither of us ever liked that design detail.

With the skirt boards cut we were quickly approaching the moment of truth in this project. We established the 1-1/2" overall drop and now needed to cut the legs to evenly drop the overall height of the vanity.

Using the newly cut skirt boards I marked the cut line in pencil, then clamped a guide to the vanity and grabbed my circular saw. I really wish I could have cut the legs with something more stable than the circular saw, but those are the breaks.

I measured very carefully, about 40 times, and then took the plunge.

And there it was, a single shortened leg, only 3 more to go.

I made short work of the remaining legs, then we flipped the vanity to learn that I didn't do a bad job, but it wasn't perfect. I think the circular saw wobbled just a bit on one leg, leaving it about 1/32" shorter than the rest. Rats. I'll have to shim that leg up a bit somehow before we install, but since the skirt boards are being installed, that's not a major issue.

Next I moved onto adding the structure to the vanity's bottom. When I initially flipped the vanity I immediately knew how sound the structure I'd already added to the top was working out. Upside down it was solid, sturdy, and level. (You can see this photo was taken before I trimmed off "the bulge."

Given this, I decided to add structure to the bottom in a similar manner to how I added it to the top. 

Starting with a somewhat clean slate I began adding new wood with ample glue and lots of screws. The most sturdy part of this whole vanity is undoubtedly the four legs, so I screwed many of the supports right to these legs as their primary anchor point. I then went around the vanity screwing in other critical places until I had myself a new base skeleton.

I used lower profile boards in the front and on the sides, but a larger 3-1/2" board on the back since it won't be visible from the skirt boards.

When I was happy with the added structure, tested by leaning, bouncing, wiggling, and other very scientific measures, I moved onto the skirt board alterations.

The final item in our task list required me to somewhat dramatically alter the internal structure of the vanity to accommodate the already placed plumbing supply lines and waste. Would you believe it, the old buffet retrofit didn't just magically line up in perfect locations. So I had to cut a few notches for the internal waste plumbing that will be necessary from the sinks, as well as a major alteration to allow the supply lines to reach the faucets.

This unfortunately meant that we'd be losing some additional drawer space in the upper middle drawer. I ended up cutting that section down significantly to about half depth, then made some major changes to the rear supper to give the plumbing the room it needs.

The end result of my efforts don't look particularly pretty, but they're sturdy, should work well, and will be hidden completely working the vanity.

We are well on our way to a true repurpose, and I'm feeling pretty good about the process. We've got a fair amount left, including the whole painting saga that isn't going well so far, but I'm excited to get this part of the project knocked out. We'll also need to alter the upper drawers to small lean outs, lower drawer to half depth, and maybe a notch or two out of another. You know, no big deal. It's at this point in the process we're both wondering why we didn't just buy a new vanity. But let's face it, that's not how we roll.

Comments 2


4/30/2014 at 7:00 PM

Getting there!!

Alex Dent
5/1/2014 at 12:28 PM

Alex that's really coming along and looking sturdy. You certainly have a lot of patience to figure all this out instead of building something from scratch. I don't know anything about cabinet making or marble for that matter but I was wondering if it'd help with supporting the marble and preventing cracking if you "filled in" the top with something like plywood?

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