Whether it’s a simple cabinet that hides the plumbing and holds a small amount of toiletries, or it’s a large double-sink model with multiple drawers and cabinets, the vanity sets the style for your bathroom.
If you’re in the process of remodeling your bathroom, choosing a new vanity can be a difficult decision. It needs to be the right size for the space, the right style for your decorating theme, and the right configuration for your lifestyle.
At BestReviews, we make difficult purchasing decisions easy. To find the perfect vanity for your bathroom, first check out our five recommendations in the product list above. And then read on to learn all that’s involved in choosing a new bathroom vanity.
What are your needs?
Before settling on a specific vanity, think about the type of bathroom you are buying it for.
If the vanity is for a small powder room, you won’t need much storage. A simply designed cabinet that covers the pipes and holds extra toilet paper and towels should be sufficient.
A vanity for a master bath needs to provide enough drawer and cabinet space to hold the daily toiletries and grooming needs of two people. If the room is large enough, a double-sink vanity lets the two of you get ready in the morning at the same time. Consider the items you keep under and around your bathroom sink. Do you want drawers for makeup? Cabinets for towels or appliances? Choose a bathroom vanity that lets you stay organized and cuts down on the morning hustle and bustle.
The vanity in a children’s bathroom or guest bathroom should have plenty of room for holding toiletries, but only needs one sink, unless you have several children or your kids are teens who tend to argue over bathroom space. A drawer or two is convenient for holding hair brushes, toothpaste, and skincare items, along with plenty of cabinet room for blow dryers, makeup organizers, and other necessities.
Did you know?
In most areas, building codes call for at least 18 inches from the edge of the bathroom vanity to the center of the toilet.
Types of bathroom vanities
As a general rule, if you are watching your budget, you’ll want to put the new vanity in the same spot occupied by the old one. Rerouting plumbing adds considerably to the cost of a bathroom remodel. It’s also generally far less expensive to stick with the same type of vanity as the one already in the space. There are three basic types of bathroom vanities.
Freestanding vanities: The most popular type, these bathroom vanities have storage in the form of cabinets and drawers underneath the sink. Freestanding vanities are not mounted to the wall.
Corner vanities: Corner vanities are perfect for a small guest bathroom or powder room. These are designed to be tucked into a corner and generally have just one small cabinet for storage.
- Floating vanities: These bathroom vanities look contemporary and sophisticated. Since they are wall-mounted, they also free up floor space underneath the vanity. Most have a combination of cabinets and drawers. Note that switching from a freestanding to a floating vanity almost always requires rerouting your plumbing, so if you are considering this option, remember to include the additional costs in your budget.
Sizes of bathroom vanities
Before buying a bathroom vanity, measure the available space. The right vanity fills the area without crowding the toilet or making it difficult to walk through the bathroom.
A small bathroom typically will have a vanity that is 18, 24, or 30 inches long. The vanity in a medium-sized bath is usually 36 or 48 inches in length. A large bathroom might have a 60- or 72-inch model. Double sinks generally require a vanity that’s at least 48 inches long.
The depth of the vanity is also an issue. Standard bathroom vanities are between 17 and 24 inches deep. In a small or narrow bathroom, a vanity that’s too deep will block access and look out of place.
Finally, consider the height of the cabinet. While 30 to 34 inches is standard, remember that the countertop you choose will add to the height, as will a raised or vessel sink. If you have children, don’t choose a high vanity that will be difficult for them to reach.
Bathroom vanity countertops
Not every vanity comes with the countertop. Some vanities are sold just as the cabinet, letting you choose the countertop separately. This gives you more leeway in picking a style and material.
There are two common styles of vanity countertops. Bathroom vanity tops are countertops with an opening for a sink and usually pre-drilled holes for the faucet. Bathroom vanity tops often, but not always, come with a wall splash. Vanity top sinks, on the other hand, are one-piece units with the sink molded right into the countertop. You will usually need to choose a faucet separately.
The countertop in a family bathroom receives a lot of wear and tear. You need a counter that can stand up to abuse, as well as look stylish. There are many choices of materials, including:
Granite: Granite is beautiful, durable, but very expensive.
Marble: Like granite, marble is classically beautiful but stains and is expensive.
Laminate: The most common countertop surface, laminate comes in a huge range of colors, is inexpensive, and holds up quite well. It can chip or wear thin, however.
Solid surface: Made from resin with crushed quartz, a solid surface is extremely durable, looks close to real stone, and is less expensive than granite or marble.
Tile: Tile can be very inexpensive and comes in a huge range of colors and patterns. Drawbacks to tile are the grout lines, which tend to become dingy, and the tendency of tile to chip or crack.
- Wood: Sealed wood is beautiful in a country or Tuscan bathroom, but it is susceptible to water damage. Use a wood countertop in a powder room or guest bath.
What’s your style?
There are bathroom vanities for every decorating style. Wood is the most popular material by far, but your choice of finishes is vast. Laminate, veneer, MDF, and plywood are less expensive options, and they can be painted to suit your tastes. Cabinet handles and drawer pulls are available in any style and finish you fancy.
Casual, country, or rustic decors are complemented by a bathroom vanity with simple lines, a natural wood finish, or distressed painted surfaces. A contemporary bath looks good with a sleek, symmetrical vanity in a smooth, glossy finish. Traditional bathroom vanities are usually trimmed, but not excessively ornate, and finished in natural wood or smooth paint.
Bathroom vanity storage
For most people, storage is the biggest concern when it comes to a bathroom vanity.
Concealed shelves hidden behind cabinet doors are very popular, although some vanities have a large open area below the sink without shelves.
Open shelves make it easy to grab a towel or roll of toilet paper when you need one, but they can look cluttered and dusty if not cleaned regularly.
Self-close drawers and cabinet doors have spring hinges that swing the drawer or door shut automatically – a nice option if you have kids who tend to walk away without closing the drawers or cabinets.
Soft-close drawers and cabinet doors automatically shut, too, but do so softly and without noise. This is a nice option if you have young kids who might get their fingers pinched otherwise.
- Toe kicks are the narrow strips along the base of the vanity. Toe kicks give a finished look to the cabinet and keep small items from rolling underneath it.
What about the sink?
Most – but not all – bathroom vanities include a basic sink. The four most common types of bathroom sinks are:
Drop-in or top-mount: The sink drops into the vanity from above, meaning you’ll have sealed sink edges running around the basin.
Undermount:Undermount sinks are mounted underneath the countertop, so there is no raised edge around the basin. This makes the sink easier to clean.
Integrated: These sinks are molded right into the countertop, making them easy to clean.
Vessel or bowl: These stylish sinks sit on top of the vanity counter. While they are quite trendy, they make cleaning the vanity more difficult, so they are best left to guest or powder baths that aren’t used frequently.
The faucet is almost always a separate purchase from the vanity. Most bathroom vanities are pre-drilled, so you’ll need to know the placement of the holes before choosing your faucet. The most common options are widespread faucets, which have separate hot and cold water handles separated by the spout, and centerset faucets, which incorporate the hot and cold valves into the spout.
Prices of bathroom vanities
You’ll find very small, basic bathroom vanities for less than $200 and designer vanities costing thousands of dollars, along with everything in between. As a general rule, however, you should plan on spending less than $1,000 if you’re shopping for a small vanity in a simple style.
Large vanities or those with high-end accessories or finishes generally cost between $1,000 and $2,000. Remember that you’ll also need the services of a plumber to install your vanity, unless you’re knowledgeable enough about plumbing to tackle the job yourself.
Q. I’d like to get as much counter space as possible. What should I consider when choosing a bathroom vanity?
A. Maximize your counter space by picking a vanity that completely fills the available space, only has one sink, and is either freestanding or wall-mounted.
Q. I’d like to replace my single-sink bathroom vanity with a double-sink model. Is that possible?
A. Yes, absolutely, as long as you have sufficient space. As a general rule, you’ll need a vanity that’s at least 48 inches long to accommodate two sinks, but there are some vanities that squeeze two sinks into a smaller size. You’ll lose out on counter space, however, if you go under 48 inches, so keep that in mind before making the switch.
Q. Besides space and the location of the plumbing, what should I keep in mind when choosing a new bathroom vanity?
A. Your new vanity should not block electrical outlets, light switches, vents, or heat outlets. Be sure you can open the doors of the vanity without banging into the toilet or tub. Also, make sure the vanity won’t disrupt the flow of traffic in the bathroom or block easy access to the shower or tub.