Vanity unit buying guide

Vanity unit buying guide

Pauline, Self-taught DIYer, Leeds

Guide written by:

Pauline, Self-taught DIYer, Leeds

134 guides

Bathroom refurbs often involve picking out a brand new vanity unit for your countertop or inset basin. But between wall-mounted units to freestanding units and materials such as hardwood, MDF or metal, there's a lot of choice out there. Read on for our top tips to choose the perfect vanity unit.

Important features

  • Vanity unit design
  • Material
  • Colours
  • Size
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Vanity units: drawers vs. shelves

Generally speaking, when it comes to bathroom furniture, the type of organisation you need comes down to your habits.

If you already have a dedicated space for storing towels, like a dressing room, chest of drawers or even a cupboard in the bedroom, a basic vanity unit with drawers should cover your needs. This way, the unit will only be used to store medicine, beauty products and toiletries.

A vanity unit with shelves alone should be fitted with organisers and dividers to store the following items :

  • hair brushes and hairdryers;
  • medicine;
  • toiletries;
  • wipes, etc.

Often, the ideal solution for a range of storage options is a vanity unit with drawers at the top and a cupboard at the bottom.

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Vanity units with double basins

Single basins vs. double basins

Of course, you will have to think carefully about the size of the furniture. If you have a big family – or a big bathroom – a double basin vanity can be really practical.

Take note of the space you have available and use your measurements to pick a vanity unit size and model. Bear in mind that:

  • a single basin vanity usually measures around 60 to 110 cm;
  • a double basin vanity will measure about 120 to 140 cm.

The amount of usable storage space required depends on the types of products you want to store and how accessible you need them to be.

Quick tip: for a super organised unit, think about adding some bathroom storage boxes or baskets.

Inset basins vs. countertop basins

Depending on the style of your bathroom, you may be looking into getting a countertop basin to sit on top of your vanity unit.

This type of instalation really highlights the basin itself whether you go for a ceramic, stone or glass basin. A countertop basin also maximises the amount of storage space beneath the unit as the waste takes up less space.

If you go for an inset basin, you need to choose a vanity unit that can accommodate your chosen basin. This means going for a standard size or even cutting the vanity unit to fit the basin. Choosing an inset basin means that the top of your unit will be taken up by the basin waste no matter whether you go for cupboards or shelves. This means you will generally only be able to store items in the space around the waste which may be ideal if you only have hair or makeup accessories to store, but less efficient if you have larger items to stow away.

Wall hung vanity units

With more and more wall hung toilets and cabinets making their way into our bathrooms, it's only natural that vanity units are going the same way!

Wall hung vanity units, also known as floating vanity units, must be securely fastened to the wall which means choosing the right wall plugs for your surface.

The number one advantage of wall-mounted furniture is that there is no base meaning you free up floor space beneath the unit. As a result, the floor and surrounding area is easier to clean. What's more, moisture won't be able to build up beneath the unit which can be often an issue in poorly ventilated bathrooms without windows or good extractor fans. Similarly, water splashed from behind a bath screen or shower curtain won't be able to run behind the unit.

Bathroom vanity units: which material is best?

The materials used to make vanity units are similar to those used for any other type of bathroom furniture. The most commonly used materials are:

  • solid wood: teak is often used thanks to its rot-, water- and moisture-resistant properties alongside woods like bamboo or pine;
  • MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard): good mechanical strength and available in a range of different colours;
  • melamine or chipboard: more affordable than MDF but more fragile. Once again, a wide range of colours is available;
  • rust-resistant lacquered metal for contemporary style;
  • mixed materials such as wood and metal.

Teak copes very well in moist environments – there's a good reason it's used to build so many decks!

Once you've settled on a material, it's up to you to figure out the following factors:

  • colour (with the exception of wood);
  • finish: matt or glossy, it all comes down to your own preferences!

Maintenance requirements vary between materials. For example, marks and stains will be more visible on a glossy painted unit than on natural wood furniture.

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Bathroom furniture sets

Custom-made vanity units

If you have a specific bathroom layout or you are in the process of renovating, it is possible to hire a carpenter to create a unique piece of furniture in the style and material of your choice. In this case, you can either come up with a plan or some ideas yourself or take inspiration from a catalogue of bathroom unit designs.

The great thing about hiring a professional is that you can really make the most of their creativity and skills to create the vanity unit that you want, but you also get to choose from a selection of finer materials.

In summary, your choice of vanity unit depends on the number of people using the bathroom as well as your storage requirements. When it comes to style, only you can decide what suits you best!

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Guide written by:

Pauline, Self-taught DIYer, Leeds, 134 guides

Pauline, Self-taught DIYer, Leeds

With a handyman-father, I grew up with the soft sound of the sander and hammer on weekends. I am both manual and cerebral, I learned the basics of DIY and the customisation of furniture because I was passionate. The salvage mentality is a true way of life that allowed me to know how to use all the tools and products needed to give something a second life, from a sander to varnish. I have two favourite activities: the transformation of old furniture and decoration tips. I am always ready to lend a helping hand to revamp a table or to restore a mirror that was intended for the tip that will become a friend’s centrepiece. I’m convinced that it’s possible to reinvent an interior by small, regular modifications and I constantly research low-cost ideas.

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