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IKEA Bathroom Remodel : A Beginner's Guide On How To Update Your Cabinets and Plumbing

Updated on July 17, 2011
The incredible tile mirrors in my bathroom.  In this shot the 1970s vanity has already been taken down.  Ugh.
The incredible tile mirrors in my bathroom. In this shot the 1970s vanity has already been taken down. Ugh. | Source
The ugly wallpaper on the other walls in the bathroom ... What the hell was the previous owner thinking?!
The ugly wallpaper on the other walls in the bathroom ... What the hell was the previous owner thinking?! | Source

Little house. Big Projects.

4 years ago I bought my lovely little home. And by little, I mean little. My little house barely tops out at 450 square feet. It makes up for its tiny stature by the fact that it's a floating home and I wake up every morning living on the Columbia River (literally, on it)!

When I purchased my little slice of paradise, I knew it had a lot of projects to get done. The walls were all painted a horrible brown color, the kitchen was less then pretty, the layout was horrible, and the bathroom had mirror tiles from the 70's covering an entire wall.

Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me. But ... in the past 4 years, not a lot has gotten done. You see, I was single and living the bachelor life. I was content with a crappy kitchen, ugly walls, tacky mirrors, and a host of other small little "imperfections" which I quietly ignored.

Then I met Hana, my lovely partner, and things started to change.

<silent tear for the end of an era>

First to go was the ugly brown paint. The main room and back room were quickly repainted with warm and vibrant colors. I LOVED the change a simple coat of paint made to my house. But, I'm not what one would call a "handyman", so anything beyond painting just kind of scared me. Until this weekend ...

Everything in the house was starting to come together, but one room had yet to be touched ... the bathroom. This tiny little crap hole (forgive the pun) just seemed so far beyond hope that I hadn't even begun to think of what to do with it.  So what did we do?

We went to IKEA.

The Super Store of Budget .... Everything!
The Super Store of Budget .... Everything!

An Explosion of Ideas

Saturday morning started out with a simple,

"I bet we could replace the vanity in the bathroom today. That shouldn't be too hard."

So we went to IKEA to look at what bathroom vanities they had available that would fit in my tiny bathroom. While there, we also found little knick-knacks that would look wonderful ... if the walls we painted a new color. And the vanity we found would look really perfect with this new sink we discovered. And if we were going to get a new sink, we might as well replace some of the other things in the bathroom as well ...."

As you figured - we decided to do a lot more than just replace the vanity.

We decided to go to war.

The gutted bathroom.  Only the toilet stayed .. everything else was removed in about 2 1/2 hours worth of demolition.
The gutted bathroom. Only the toilet stayed .. everything else was removed in about 2 1/2 hours worth of demolition.

Phase 1 : Destroy

We returned from our scouting trip scratching our heads. How do we even begin to tackle such a project?! This is where I took a tip from years of watching Trading Spaces ... I decided to demolish and gut the entire bathroom.

Armed with a crowbar, goggles, gloves, and a box to throw everything in, I walked into the bathroom determined to not exit until everything was out. Glass shattered. Wood splintered. The rusting toilet-paper holder cried as it was ripped from the wall and thrown into the trash. Nothing was spared.

When I got to the old sink and cabinets, I faltered. I had never done any plumbing before. I wasn't exactly sure what to do. But I did know one thing ... I didn't want water to come shooting out of the wall - so I made sure the water was turned off. Then I simply started disconnecting everything that attached to the fixture on the wall. I also had to unscrew the cabinets from the wall, but in the end, the entire until was outside waiting to be taken to the trash.

Phase 2 : Paint and Learn

I went to the local home improvement store to pick up our desired colors and ask a few questions about the upcoming install. After the adrenaline rush of the demolition, the reality that I had just destroyed my bathroom hit and I was scared that I was in over my head.

I had a lot of questions to ask. Luckily, the salesman at the store pointed me toward "Home Improvement 1-2-3". If you are new to home improvement projects I cannot stress enough how much you need to buy this book!

Full of color pictures, illustrations, tips on what tools you need, and easy to understand instructions from everything from installing lighting fixtures to basic plumbing ... this book will become my bible for the next couple of months.

Now came Hana's turn. She went to work sanding down all of the walls preparing them for paint while I went to work taking measurements and reading through the home improvement book on the subjects I was likely to encounter during the install. After Hana was done painting (which didn't take long ... have I mentioned it's a small bathroom?) we hopped in the car and went back to IKEA.

Phase 3 : BUY and BUILD!

Have I mentioned how much I love IKEA? For under $400 we bought a new sink, cabinet, vanity, shelving unit, shower cable, shower curtain, bathroom things (like soap dispenser and toothbrush holder), towel rack, toilet-paper holder, floor rug, bath towels, and a trash can.

Everything loaded up easily into the trunk of my car (which isn't very big) and off we headed back home. I'd like to mention at this point that if you haven't built anything from IKEA before, then you'll want to buy some basic tools. Things you'll need are :

  • A Hammer
  • Philips and Flathead screw drivers (long neck is best)
  • A hacksaw (for plumbing)

And that's pretty much it. Power drills are useful, but IKEA likes to put screws in hard to reach and awkward places - so you'll end up reaching for the basic, hand powered screwdriver more often than not. Most of IKEA's furniture comes with any special tools (like allen wrenches) required during the build. You can also buy a neat little IKEA toolbox which has everything you'll need to build almost anything they sell.

We got everything home and, while Hana put a second coat of paint on the walls, I started building everything we had bought. The first thing I ripped into were the cabinets and the sink. I did this first because - well - we needed a bathroom sink before we went to bed. Before this project, I had never done any plumbing at all, but IKEA's easy to follow instructions made it simple to set up the sink and connect all the hoses. I had to go get a new hose from the store for one of the faucet attachments because the old hose was leaking. Note : buy plumbers tape if you're doing a plumbing project ... it helps a ton.

By the end of the night we had all the walls painted and a new working sink. Not bad for a few hours work which neither of us thought we were going to be doing when the day started!

Phase 4 : Finish up and Accessorize!

We got up the next day and went about building the shelving unit and the vanity. Both of these were incredibly simple to assemble, and within an hour we had both in their proper places. The vanity was a little scary to install, and I would definitely recommend having two people work together, or else its nearly impossible. One person must hold the vanity in place while the other secures it to the wall. After all is said and done, though ... it was pretty easy.

Then we got to do the fun stuff like hang the towel rack, shower cable, and toilet-paper holder. Then we hung our new matching shower curtain, place our knick-knacks where we wanted them, and hung our towels up. And just like that, the bathroom was finished! TA-DAH!

Our new bathroom!  That's Hana and I reflected in the picture, admiring our work :)
Our new bathroom! That's Hana and I reflected in the picture, admiring our work :) | Source
The wall where the ugly wallpaper use to be.  Sorry for the bad picture quality ... I'll get some new ones up here soon.
The wall where the ugly wallpaper use to be. Sorry for the bad picture quality ... I'll get some new ones up here soon. | Source

Now Go Remodel Your Home!

This project was not only way easier than I expected, but the end product is SO much nicer than I ever could have hoped for. This just goes to show that, with a little bit of time and effort, anyone can improve the quality of their home. Just be prepared to be a bit creative in your planning and don't be afraid to ask for help from your local home improvement store when you run into an obstacle ...

This project also proves that it is impossible to walk into IKEA for a small project ... and not leave without plans to re-do your entire house.

Have fun!

Follow my adventure of living simply and discovering the better things in life on my blog!


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      nice hub

    • Fortadam profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Friday Harbor

      Thanks! It was a really fun project :)

    • ChristineVianello profile image


      8 years ago from Philadelphia

      Very cute!

    • Fortadam profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Friday Harbor

      Thanks Callie! It was a really fun project and I don't fear going to the bathroom in my house anymore. Lol :)

    • calliemorris profile image


      8 years ago from London

      Haha enjoyed reading this hub... As always, IKEA WINS! You are brave to tackle it all yourselves though... Good work - voted up


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