Guide to Selecting Bathroom Cabinets

Bathroom cabinets are widely considered to have the most impact in a bathroom reno, but choosing from the mile-long list of options can be overwhelming. You’ll find yourself pondering unassembled versus finished cabinets, stock versus custom, contemporary versus country and maple versus cherry, to name a few. So, how and where do you start?

1. Consider Your Budget

Ensure your bathroom cabinets are within your means by sitting down, assessing your finances and creating a bathroom reno budget before starting your project. Compare your ideal design and layout plans to the bottom-line budget and adjust both accordingly to yield the best results.

New bathroom vanities and cabinets can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars well into the thousands, and while you get what you pay for, there are hacks to help offset the outflow. For instance, seeking the help of a certified bathroom designer may save you more money than going it alone. Designers offer industry connections and unmatched special rates with even the swankiest dealers and showrooms.

Buying unfinished cabinets then finishing and installing them yourself can cut costs, but be forewarned: the process can be painstaking. However, if you hope to avoid all ortho-related injuries, your best bet is finding unfinished cabinets online. There’s endless options and sizes, plus shopping online for the best deals can help make your renovation dollar stretch a little further — and who doesn’t love that?

Pro tip: Be sure to look at comps in your neighborhood and surrounding areas before starting any major bathroom renovation. Investing in luxurious custom bathroom cabinets may be necessary to compete in certain zip codes, while overspending on cabinets may offer little-to-no ROI in others. Check out our guide for maximizing home value here, and use the information gathered to inform how to approach your bathroom cabinet selection.

2. Determine Your Layout

Whether you’re starting your bathroom design from scratch or remodeling within pre-set parameters, determining your layout should come early in the process.

If you’re refreshing your bathroom on a budget, try to work with the existing plumbing, water and electrical features in your space to minimize the scale of your project. On the flip, if you’re working with a generous budget, you may benefit from reconfiguring the existing features to suit your lifestyle.

When planning a new layout, take the time to reflect on how you plan to live in your bathroom and what features you need to feel satisfied with your space. If you apply your makeup and skincare routine at your ensuite vanity, consider adding a built-in vanity table between your double sinks or in the corner of your room. If you’re selecting cabinets for a shared kids’ bathroom, invest in cabinetry with ample out-of-sight storage to cut down on the (inevitable) visual clutter as much as possible.

3. Measure Your Space

In addition to determining the layout, you’ll need to notate the height, length and width of your space — dimensions are critical when installing bathroom cabinets. A few factors to keep in mind while measuring: Include the location of doors in the space, the placement of your vanity mirrors, location of electrical and water fixtures and distance between the cabinetry and plumbing fixtures.

The standard bathroom vanity height is around 31 inches, and the depth is between 17 and 24 inches. Cabinet width varies based on the type of room and storage necessary for that space. A double-vanity cabinet measuring between 48 and 60+ inches is ideal for a primary ensuite. Modest single-sink cabinets (ranging from 24 to 36 inches) offer exceptional storage for small guest bathrooms and pint-sized powder rooms alike.

4. Stake Out Storage

The secret to creating a spa-like oasis at home is equipping your bathroom with ample storage. More storage means more space to stow away skincare products, hair potions and towels galore.

Take stock of your existing bathroom and take note of what items you use regularly and go from there. Do you need drawers to hide makeup or open basket cubbies for grab-and-go accessibility? Would you benefit from extra cabinet doors that offer greater storage flexibility? Another valuable factor to consider is how many people will use the bathroom, and what their storage needs are. Will their needs evolve, or are they set in their ways for the foreseeable future?

5. Decide on Cabinet Quality Grade

This is a big one. There are four types of grades: ready-to-assemble, stock, semi-custom and custom — each with their own positives and negatives. Once you’ve nailed down your budget and your layout, it’s time to pick your grade.

Ready-to-Assemble Bathroom Cabinets

Ready-to-assemble (or RTA) cabinets are the best for budget-conscious bathroom projects. Be aware: While RTA cabinets are easy on the wallet, they may cost you more over time because the material and construction aren’t always the best quality, so you may need to replace or repair them down the line.

Stock Bathroom Cabinets

Stock bathroom cabinetry is the next most-affordable grade, and while stock cabinets offer a step-up in quality, they lack variety. You have a few styles and materials to choose from, and stock cabinets are generally only available in standard sizes.

Semi-Custom Bathroom Cabinets

Semi-custom bathroom cabinetry provides higher quality and far more variety than the first two grades. There are endless drawer and door styles to choose from, but like its predecessors, semi-custom cabinets are measured in 3-inch increments, preventing you from the perfect, tailored fit.

Custom Bathroom Cabinets

Custom bathroom cabinets are the epitome of luxury and come with price tags that match. Custom cabinets are made-to-order to suit your needs and fit your bathroom like a glove. If you can dream it, you can have it as long as your budget allows. Prices aside, the other drawback for custom bathroom cabinets is they have a longer lead-time than their RTA, stock or semi-custom counterparts.

6. Find Your Style

Now for the fun part. Allow your Pinterest boards and the architectural blueprint of your home to serve as combined inspiration for selecting the prettiest bathroom cabinets.

Look for shaker-style cabinetry in classic white or wood finishes when outfitting a traditional or transitional bathroom. Don’t be afraid to pack panache into your midcentury ensuite; search for walnut finishes and splayed feet or dialed-up color on flat-panel doors. Sucker for coastal or modern farmhouse design? Weathered white oak cabinetry with snowy white marble counters wow in both settings.

7. Select Your Finish

Your bathroom cabinets should be able to withstand a perfect storm of elements (heat, water, next-level moisture) combined with the chaos of everyday life. Standard cabinetry features a particleboard, plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) frame, finished with solid wood cabinet doors and drawer faces. Generally speaking, these cabinets will serve most spaces well and are great options for budget bathroom renovations.

As your budget increases, so do the number of materials and finish options available to you. With a quick online search, you can find painted or stained designs, distressed options and tons of wood and laminate pieces. Our top tip: Avoid wood veneers as they do not hold up against humidity, and it’s only a matter of time before peeling begins.

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