How to Update A Boring Bathroom, Step Two: Replacing the Bathroom Countertop
You know how you start a home improvement project and it suddenly grows arms and legs until it's like an octopus threatening to drag you under? This is kind of what happened to me and my big fat bathroom re-do I started this year. Thinking it would be the easiest place to start, I decided to renovate the vanity area, countertops, sinks, and faucets. Ha! Not so easy and a project within a project within a project. However, because I'm an avid do-it-yourselfer, I will not let this defeat me! I first repainted the existing vanity since it still had plenty of life left in it and dressed it up with new knobs. My second step was to replace the all-in-one sink and countertop combination, basic white, really ugly! Not a hard project for the do-it-yourselfer and it really can transform your bathroom.
Supplies For This Project
Here's your supply list for this project:
- the new countertop
- putty knife
- small tube of Liquid Nails
- silicone caulk
- putty knife
- box cutter or caulk remover
- fine sandpaper
- paint marker to match your countertop (for laminate only)
- iron (also for laminate only)
- circular saw
- measuring tape
- a helper with big muscles
Disconnecting The Old Faucets
First things first, turn the water off under the sinks or you could have a disaster! Next you will have to disconnect the existing faucets from the plumbing under the sink. Be sure and put a bucket underneath, because there will probably still be water in the P-trap. You don't have to remove the faucets themselves from the countertop since once you disconnect them from below, you can pull off the whole vanity top, faucets in all in one unit. There will be supply lines connecting the sinks to the plumbing underneath that you will need to disconnect. If some of your plumbing underneath is ancient, it might be a good time to replace it. See what I mean about a project within a project?
Removing The Caulk From The Side Splash
If you're fortunate, as I was, that you're vanity top is not glued or screwed down to the existing cabinetry, it's a huge help. I was also lucky that the backsplash was attached to the vanity as all one unit, so I didn't have to remove it from the wall. However, the side splash was a different story! I used a box cutter and removed the old caulk in the seam between the wall and the top of the side splash as well as the seam between the side splash and the countertop. It actually worked pretty well, although I know they make tools for that which are probably safer and have less chance of bodily injury!
Removing The Side Splash
Now comes the hard part...once you remove that caulk, the side splash is still stuck to the wall! You are going to have to pry the side splash off the wall. This is when you start praying that you had a sloppy builder as I evidently did, because the side splash was only attached to the wall with two globs of silicone glue.
Do NOT try to use a flat head screwdriver to pry it off the wall, you will only damage your drywall. Get a very thin putty knife and CAREFULLY slide it between the drywall and the side splash a little at a time until you have it pried off. Once you have everything detached, have a plan for where you're going to haul that big guy and have help, because mine, since it was a double sink vanity was HEAVY! Mine is going to get donated to the Habitat for Humanity store which will actually pick up large items like this if you call them first.
Choosing A Countertop
Countertops...they come in an amazing array of styles, materials, and colors. You can get laminate, corian, concrete, marble, granite, it's only limited by your budget. And as a single mom, my budget is limited...I pinch pennies till they squeak and yell for mercy! Of course, I wanted granite, but after pricing it, then pricing the labor for the installation and the drilling of holes for the faucets and drains, granite was way out of my budget. I was in a home improvement store and stumbled across some countertops while I was looking for something completely different. There were black and brown speckle with a beautiful beveled edge and looked like granite, but they were a laminate. AND they fit into my budget! SOLD!
Now some people may say I sold out by using a laminate instead of the coveted granite, but you have to prioritize. I wanted to spend the bulk of my money on my luxury shower and that's one thing I won't scrimp on. With this granite-look countertop, when I have more money later on, I can always go back and replace the countertop. But a tiled shower...not without considerable time, trouble, and expense!
Laminate Countertop Edges
What's really amazing about laminate countertops these days is not only are they made to look very much like granite, they also come in several different edge profiles, really adding to their good looks. The countertop I chose had an edge profile which was just beautiful, not only on the front edge of the countertop, but also on the backsplash as well called full-wrap ogee. They also sell end cap kits to go with these countertops cut into the same profile as the countertops. I only had to buy one since I had only one exposed edge.
The countertops also come in several different lengths, so before you go to the home improvement store to buy yours, make sure you carefully measure your existing countertop. I was hoping I would find one the exact size of my vanity, but instead got one that was a few inches longer. So I ended up hauling the whole thing out to my deck, laying it on sawhorses, measuring and marking my lines with a measuring tape and cutting the excess off with a circular saw.
Edge Profiles For Countertops
Installing The New Countertop
You need to use some fine sandpaper to sand the edge you cut with the circular saw. Run a line of liquid nails around the top of your vanity and with the help of a friend, drop the countertop down on top of the vanity, making sure it's flush with the back wall and against the side wall if you have one as I did on one end. It sets very quickly, so you need to get this right the first time. Let it dry for a little bit and you are ready to put on your end cap. You'll need your iron, because you will be actually ironing the end cap on, sounds strange, I know, but it works. After I had ironed the end cap on, there seemed to be a lot more excess than was needed, so I took a little fine sandpaper and sanded it down flush with the countertop edge. I didn't like the white line where the two joined together and I had a stain marker which matched perfectly the brown color in my countertop, so I just colored that edge and it looked much better. I also had to buy a side splash which was simple enough to attach to the wall with Liquid Nails. I sealed up all the cracks and seams with clear silicone caulk.
A Brand New Bathroom Countertop!
And voila! I had a new countertop and a nice looking one at that with a minimum of expense and effort. I was really impressd with the difference it made in the whole room and I'm ready to start the next project...dressing up that ugly wall mirror!
If you'd like to read about the first step in this vanity renovation, please read Updating A Boring Bathroom, Step One: Painting The Cabinets.