Friday, 6 April 2012

Born Again Washstand

Dear Joe,

I have a lovely antique wash stand that I would like to turn into a vanity for my guest bathroom.  What do I need to do to make this work?  I have a friend who did it with an old dresser and I just love it so I went to the flea market and bought an old piece, cause I want one too.  Please help me because I don’t want to screw it up.



PS. I love your column.

Thanks Jen,

I am glad I can at least entertain and hopefully inform you with my little piece.

You know that’s a great idea.  I love to repurpose antiques. It gives them a second life and perhaps helps you to hold on to something that you might not otherwise have any need for and probably scrap or get rid of. 

I have done what you want to do a few times and have learned some things along the way.   The most important consideration to making this a usable piece of furniture in your bathroom will be height.   You want the height of the vanity top to be safe and practical as well as the height of the sink rim and faucet.  A comfortable height is between 29 and 36 inches depending on your height and whether or not there will be young children using it,  So your vanity top should be in that range.  You can shorten or extend the legs of the piece to optimize it for your comfort.

You have many choices when it comes to the type of sink and faucet you use, but again it all has to work together to provide a comfortable work space.  For instance, if you have a dresser that is 36 inches tall, then a drop in sink will not raise the effective height of the station.  But if your washstand is only 29 inches tall then you can opt for a vessel sink which stands 5 or 6 inches tall, and you will still be comfortable.  If you have smaller children, or are short of stature, then maybe a semi recessed sink would be a better choice only standing proud of the top about 3 inches.  When children are expected to use the sink regularly, a vessel sink is not a very practical option.  They do not put up with a lot of abuse as they are only attached to the cabinet by the brass drain pipe.  A semi recessed or drop in are much safer for kids.

The other major consideration is running the plumbing inside the cabinet to operate this new sink.  A standard rough in height for the drain is 18 inches.  Supply lines can stick out anywhere, wall, floor, high, low…You will need to calculate the optimal location for the pipes before you try to place the unit in its final location.  To do this, you need to know the height of the floor of the dresser, the height of all the drawers and the bottom of the top.  Now you can have your plumber relocate the pipes to protrude at the height of the top drawer allowing the p-trap to clear the bottom drawer.  A notch cut into the top drawer and boxed in will allow the drawer to remain functional for storing toothpaste and such whilst not interfering with the plumbing bits.

Once it is screwed to the wall and before you place the sink on, you will want to very substantially seal the wooden top with a high quality waterproof wood finish, or high build epoxy, to protect it from the constant moisture it is bound to endure. Another option is replacing the original wooden top with a custom cut granite or marble top. 


Whichever way you choose it makes a nice complement to your traditional home especially when paired with an old roll top tub and other antique finishes.

Keep making it beautiful

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