Full bathroom remodel, part 6: installing the vanity

Jim Mallery | Improvement Center Columnist | March 2, 2015

Sixth in an eight-part series on bathroom remodeling

In part five, you learned the basics of heating your bathroom flooring, and you have a right to be proud of your new, heated floor. But now is not the time for vanity. Rather, it's time to install the vanity.

A new vanity cabinet is a vital cog of your bathroom remodel, bringing life and vitality to your project.

The vanity cabinet installs as any other base cabinet -- with one exception: you may have to cut holes in the back panel to accommodate plumbing.

A few words of caution: When you order the cabinet, make sure your plumbing is under the sink area of the vanity and not behind the drawers. In this project, the handle of one water valve was too close to the drawer and couldn't turn. The old multi-turn valve was replaced by a quarter-turn valve, thus solving the problem.

new valve installation

A new, quarter-turn water valve was necessary because the drawer slide in the new vanity was too close to allow the old multi-turn valve to turn.


Installing the cabinet

For ease of handling and to protect the furniture, remove the doors and drawers before installing the vanity cabinet.

It is likely that you did not run your new flooring all the way under the cabinet. After all, why tile more square footage than you need? You can screw or glue some plywood filler to the subfloor to bring it up to the depth of the floor tiles. With shims, you can fine-tune the leveling.

installing furring strips

Furring strips, roughly the thickness of the floor, are screwed and glued to the subfloor to support the vanity cabinet.


With a four- or 6-foot level, you can get your shims in place without moving the cabinet in and out of position as you make adjustments. Just put the level across the shims and adjust them till the level's bubble is centered.

Hint: When shimming under cabinets, anchor the shims with a dab of construction adhesive so they don't shift after the cabinet is mounted.

Once the cabinet is level, mark the studs and screw your cabinet to them, using 2 1/2-inch cabinet screws -- No. 8 or No. 10 multipurpose screws work fine in the absence of cabinet screws. The mounting board at the back of your cabinet must be flush to the wall before you screw it, so you will probably need to shim it.

Hint: Tack the shim to the wall before you screw the cabinet; otherwise the shims may slip behind the cabinet.

If your bathroom remodel calls for a double vanity -- perhaps using two 36-inch vanities in a 72-inch space -- you must join the two cabinets. To do this, line up the cabinets and tightly clamp their stiles -- the vertical slats that frame the doors or drawers -- together.

clamping vanity cabinets

A filler piece fills the gap between the two cabinets that create the 6-foot vanity. Here the two cabinets are clamped firmly to the filler; screws through the stiles into the filler will hold everything together.


Drill a pilot hole and countersink for a No. 8, 2 ½-inch multipurpose screw, and join the cabinets. Depending on the type of hinge, you may be able to hide the screws under the hinge. Once the cabinets are joined, screw the unit to the wall.

stile screw

The countersunk multipurpose screw (#8, 2 ½”) holds the cabinet to the filler.


Note: Your cabinet manufacturer may have included mounting screws. There may be two types of screws: wide, washer-type heads for holding the cabinet to the wall and a standard conical head for countersinking into the stiles.

Next, part 7: installing the countertop

About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.