How to: Setting a vanity cabinet

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Here’s the finished vanity securely fastened, level, plumb, and ready to be plumbed.

Setting a vanity is a great skill to have under your belt. Here I will go over my method of laying out the plumbing in the cabinet and cleanly cutting the pipes into the cabinets.

Tools Required

  • Drill and impact driver
  • 48″ level
  • Measuring tape
  • Square
  • Holes saws: 1″ & 2 1/2″
  • Taper drill bit (the size of your mounting screw’s shaft)
  • Paddle bit (the size of your mounting screw’s head)
  • Driver bits (in my case, T15 and T10)
  • Wood plugs that match your paddle bit size and wood grain (I make my own with a plug cutter
  • Wood glue
  • Stud finder magnet
  • Mallet
  • Clamps (I like the ‘quick clamp’ style)

fig 1. Hidden fastening has kept this install looking clean!

So, A word on fasteners. There are many different options on the market, but there is a difference between an economy screw and a premium screw. More on this in a future blog post. For vanity cabinets and all my euro cabinet installations actually, I use 1-1/4″ GRK trim head screws to attach cabinets to cabinets and either these or Spax MDF/Hardwood trim head screws for attaching fillers. There are many reasons for this, but to hit the high points, they can be made to disappear, they’re wicked strong, the torx drive doesn’t torque out (no strippy, strippy), and they’re easy to patch. As an added bonus, some amateur-hour crapenter probably won’t be able to come in behind you and mess with your work.

fig. 2: The wall floor is not level, so I marked a line from the high point in the floor (left) to level, all the way across. I measure down from this level line to find my vertical hole positions.

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fig. 3. Positions marked on the back of the cabinet.

 

Step by Step:

  1. Find the center of the wall. For a three-cabinet vanity like this (master bath), mark the center of the middle cabinet. Line up your marks.
  2. Check your middle cabinet for plumb. If it’s close, mark the sides of the middle cabinet.
  3. Measure from the middle cabinet’s sides out to each pipe’s center. Mark the measurements above each pipe
  4. Find the high point of the floor. To do this, measure your cabinet (here it’s 34 5/8″). Mark that height on both sides and use a level to transfer the mark across the wall. The higher of the two marks represents your high point. Start here and work across the wall. By starting and your high point and establishing a level line, you can shim up your low points to level! (fig 2.)
  5. Measure down from your level line to the vertical positions of your pipes. Always mark centers.
  6. From here, transfer the marks to the backs of your cabinets. Keep the cabinets in their same orientation to keep things easy. Connect your horizontal and vertical positions to form cross marks (figure 3), and circle the intersections
  7. Chuck up your hole saw. Doesn’t matter which. Drill the center of each mark through the backing, but don’t complete the hole!
  8. Now, drill through from the inside to the back of your cabinet with the correct size hole saw. This keeps your holes looking clean with no blow-out.
  9. Now find your stud locations. Lay these out on your top rail. Drill through the backing, back to front, with a taper drill bit to prevent blow-out. Now, use a paddle bit to remove excess material to allow your screw head to seat into the stud and your head to be hidden.
  10. Put the cabinets in place, clamp them together, line up the fronts, and screw them together with trim screws through the drawer slide hardware holes, or in front of the hinge mounting plates. That way, the holes will be hidden. (fig 1.)
  11. Shim, level, and plumb the cabinets, then drive the screws through your pre-drilled holes into studs.
  12. Measure the gaps to the walls on the right and left, top and bottom. Cut fillers to match and screw them into place with trim head screws.
  13. Replace drawers and doors. Adjust to perfect.
The finished product.

The finished product.

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