Refinishing a Wood Bathroom Vanity (Part 1): Preparation & Stripping


Click to add me to your favorite pin board!

We have absolutely no budget for a bathroom remodel, so I’m going into DIY mode to refinish this vanity using leftover supplies from my kitchen cabinet refinishing project. Due mostly to dry times, refinishing my master bathroom vanity was about a five day project with about 3-5 hours a day of work each day except the first (which was super quick).

In this series of posts, I’ll walk you through all the steps of refinishing a wood bathroom vanity:

  1. Stripping the wood varnish (or paint, if yours is painted)
  2. Sanding for a nice smooth surface
  3. Priming so the enamel sticks
  4. Painting a durable enamel

Let’s begin!

Empty the Bathroom

The very first step is to remove everything that isn’t related to this home improvement project.  It’s going to get extremely messy and dusty in here as we strip varnish and sand the cabinet faces.

Unless, of course, you can take your vanity or cabinet doors outside, which I couldn’t thanks to near constant rain during the week I spent refinishing this vanity.

refinishing a wood bathroom vanity

This is the cleanest this room will look for the next 5 days.

Remove Existing Hardware

Removing the cabinet hardware (knobs and such) is also essential – painting around things is bad. Very bad.

Apply Stripping Gel

CitriStrip worked very well on my kitchen cabinet project, so I’m using it again on this one.  One bottle has been enough for both my kitchen and now this bathroom.

Citristrip stripping gel great for refinishing a bathroom vanity DIY

Citristrip smells like an orange Popsicle.

Since all I’m removing here in the bathroom is a thin layer of varnish, I don’t need to lay the Citristrip on too thick: just a thin but consistent layer on every wood surface ought to do it.  For this step I use a cheap plastic paint brush and a few paper towels.

I’ll come back in 24 hours to scrape and sand the peeling varnish.

Citristrip on wood bathroom vanity

Hardware off, Citristrip on

$100 Home Office Makeover: Painting the Baseboard Trim (Day 3)

This is the third post in a series about improving my computer room to serve as a full-time office.

It’s Friday, or DAY 3! Time is running out to get this room into shape by Saturday. Here’s what’s left to do:

  • One more big wall of grey paint
  • Paint the baseboard trim
  • Put all the furniture into their new positions

Today’s post is mostly about my trim painting technique. If you’re like me, you 1) like the look of white trim but also 2) balk at the expense of hiring a professional to replace all your trim, especially if it’s functional otherwise.

I’ve talked about my trim painting technique before, but this walk through is much more detailed.

Quick Reality Check:

  • My wood baseboard trim is unpainted and unstained, so it’s ready to receive paint without any sanding or stripping. If your trim is already painted or has a glossy varnish, you may need to first strip and sand your trim, which probably cannot be done over your carpet.  Or just paint over it and see how it holds up.
  • This project takes about a full day for typical size bedroom.
  • Be careful! You’ll need to keep track of what sides of your shields have wet paint on them.

Supply List:

  • Plastic paint shields – these are cheap and readily available at hardware stores and paint aisles in department stores
  • Paint for your trim – You’ll need at least a half gallon. For my house I use Behr in Popped Corn in eggshell finish. Semi-gloss and satin finishes also looks nice on trim
  • Paint for your walls
  • Small paint brush – this flexible Wooster brush is my absolute favorite
  • Painting tape: Optional. Since I paint the walls after I paint the trim, I don’t need to tape the walls to protect them. If you are only doing trim, you may wish to tape along the bottom of the walls where they meet the wood trim.
  • Plastic sheets to protect carpet and other stuff that might otherwise become inadvertently exposed to paint

Step 1: Paint the top 3/4ths of your trim.

If your trim’s like mine, it’s going to need a few coats. I like to do this first coat quickly so it can dry as I do other things. I do this I do it before I finish painting the walls so I don’t have to worry about not getting paint on the walls, since painting the walls will cover up any sloppiness here.

I like to do this first coat without bothering with the shields, since setting them up takes time and gets them covered in paint.

Just grab your brush and go quickly over all the trim in your room like so:

Step 2: Put Shields in Place

Once that first coat is drying on the trim, it’s time to bust out the plastic shields. Stuff your shields between the carpet and the trim, like so:


Step 3: Paint the trim again, including the bottom 1/4th this time

Once the shields are in place, you’ll paint the trim again, this time going all the way to the bottom (as far down as the shield allows). Your top 3/4ths get a second coat and the part covered by carpet gets a first coat, which in most cases is sufficient. If you need to do a second coat just leave the shield in place and come back in 10-15 minutes to paint a second coat before removing the shield.

Don’t let paint pool on the shield, and don’t let paint form a bridge between the shield and the trim. If this happens, you may find it difficult to remove the shield. I like to remove the shield before the trim paint is fully dried.

Step 4: Paint the walls while you wait for the trim to dry

Much has already been written about painting walls, but while waiting on the trim to dry is a good time to get it done.

Step 5: Carefully paint the edge where wall meets trim


That’s it! I’m sure there are other ways to get this done, so experiment if you think there’s a faster and better way!

$100 Home Office Makeover: Painting Progress and Furniture Re-Arrangement (Day 2)

This is the second post in a series about revamping the largest room in my house to serve as a home office.  

It’s now Thursday. Here’s what I need to finish before Saturday morning:

  • Two more walls to paint
  • All of the wood trim along the carpet needs to be painted white
  • Put all the furniture / computers back into place

Some bits of advice from the first day:

  • Don’t let being alone slow you down – you’ll be amazed at how much you can do just by yourself! This is a one-person effort so far, and I shouldn’t need any help from Jim until it’s time to actually move furniture into position.
  • You should spend the five minutes it takes to cover the room in plastic This will save you horrible heartbreak and pain later if (when) you drizzle some paint somewhere you didn’t mean to.
  • Do that crazy thing you want to do with paint colors – I wasn’t sure my white and grey combo would look fab, so I started in the corner where the colors meet. They look fab.
  • Just keep going, get it done! I worked from about 9am to 7pm yesterday, will do the same today and tomorrow. When you are doing a big project, the most important thing is to just. keep. going!!


Layout before:

Layout after (including Freebie Desk!):



$100 Home Office Makeover: Painting (Day 1)

This is the first post in a series about improving my computer room to serve as a full-time office.

Big news! I was laid off yesterday. It was not a surprise at all, no hard feelings, the company I used to work for was bought by a company a year ago that has struggled to turn a profit on their purchase. A ton of talented, hard-working people were let go. My former employer’s loss is every competitor’s gain!

To celebrate and welcome this change, I am going to give the computer room a major update.

The computer room was hastily painted and set up during our late 2010 move. Not much thought was given to how to best utilize the space and we used the same workstation equipment we used in our apartment (and before that, our Illinois house). Two years later, though, we have a better idea of how we use the room.

Things I want to improve:

  • Jim and I would both like larger work spaces / desks (so we can stop augmenting them with TV trays and bar tables)
  • I would like to not face the window that features blinding sunshine every afternoon
  • Fresh wall color: I think the entrance hall grey would both brighten up and class up the room
  • I would like a permanent location for photographing plush for Etsy / DeviantArt

But here are the catches:

  • Jim and I must be able to see each others’ monitors. No getting up and walking around
  • I do not want to sit with my back to a doorway (perhaps I am a long lost member of House Atreides? Honestly, it just freaks me out.)
  • The bed and its nightstand must stay in this room for now (the walk in junk closet small bedroom simply isn’t ready to become a guest bedroom)
  • Budget: < $100

Before shots, including our normal amount of mess:

 Day 1 Progress:  Three walls painted grey and white.  The white corner will be useful for taking photos of things for my websites.


Check out Day 2, where I plan the new furniture arrangement and continue painting walls.

Secured By miniOrange