How To Update a Bathroom Cabinet

6 hours
Bathroom Bling!

bathroom cabinet

If you had a chance to watch the Janes on the Tony Danza Show on July 19th, 2005, then you saw how easy it is to take a bathroom cabinet that looks outdated and turn it into something fresh and new! If you happen to have a cabinet you want to do this with that is slightly different, no worries, you can apply these same techniques to just about any cabinet.

The materials and equipment you'll need are the same for most cabinets—the only time it probably wouldn't work would be dependent on if it has a plasticized laminate surface like Formica. The reason for this has to do with how hard it is to cut evenly. If your cabinet is covered with a Formica-like substance, then ask at your local home improvement center which type of drill bit and blade you will need to use for your cabinet.

Let's get started.

Project Steps

The bathroom cabinet we chose is a very common style: a "basic two-door standard issue with single paneled plywood doors" cabinet. The directions that follow might vary slightly due to the size or type of cabinet you have, but most should be applicable.


Step 1

The first thing you'll have to do, if it's a hanging cabinet, is to pull it off the wall. The reason for this is to allow you to be able to get around it easily and for proper ventilation while you're painting. If, by chance, you can't get it off the wall (either you're physically unable or your landlord would freak), or if yours is new, then start with Step 2.

Step 2

You'll now want to remove the doors from the cabinet. While you're at it, take off the hinges to allow you better leverage in step 3.

JANE TIP: When removing anything like hinges, you'll want to have a Ziploc baggie handy to place both the hinges and the screws into. This way you won't have to worry what you did with the pieces when you go to put it all back together. Also, be sure to make note of how the hinges attached. This will make it easier when reassembling.

Step 3



The next step will be to remove the panel in your door. Remember, in our example we are using a "single-paneled" door cabinet. For this we are going to use something called a jigsaw. It is an easy-to-operate tool but in order to be able to get started with it you will need to create a hole to insert the blade into. A "starting point" if you will.

Make sure you put on your protective eyewear as working with a jigsaw will make a great deal of sawdust and you'll want to be sure to protect your eyes. To make the right size hole, you will need a drill with a ¼" drill bit attached. Drill into the center part of the panel into an area that will be discarded and away from the edge you want to cut so that you can turn the saw any which direction. You can choose to either drill only one hole or as many as you like. Though only one is necessary.

Step 4

bathroom2Once the holes are drilled, now you're ready to cut out the panels. At this point you will want to be in an area that you don't care if you create a great deal of sawdust (a garage is a perfect location if possible). You'll need a work surface that will allow you to clamp the door to it with a C-clamp to keep it steady as the saw can tend to shake things around a little. Keep your fingers where you can see them and do not grab a hold of the cabinet anywhere near where you are cutting.


Take your time, beginning in the hole you just drilled out, saw towards the edge. Follow the line of the edge and know that if you make a mistake, it'll be okay. There are ways to fix mistakes. As you're cutting however, just make sure that you do not remove the blade from the cabinet until it has stopped moving. Once your cuts are done, the panels should be free from the cabinet door. These are to be discarded.

JANE TIP: When using the C-clamp, place some sort of fabric in between the clamp and the door to protect it from leaving behind a dent. We used a leather glove for this. Also, check before you begin to saw that you aren't wearing any lip-gloss. The sawdust sticks to it and it's NO FUN! Trust us, we learned the hard way!

Step 5

Way to go! That was the hardest part of this entire project and you are close to half way finished. Now you'll need to sand down the rough edges you've created by cutting out the panels. While you're at it, sand down the entire cabinet-inside and out using a medium to fine grit sandpaper. If any of your cabinet is covered with laminate, you will need to sand down the smooth finish on it or else the primer will bead up like oil in water.

JANE TIP: While sand paper is a tried and true method of sanding, due to the fact that we had many curved and rounded areas we tried a sanding sponge and found it worked really well for this. It comes in many different grits, we used the fine grit and it did exactly what we needed.

Step 6

Now that you've sanded down the entire piece, you'll need to go over it with a tack cloth (a sticky piece of cloth you can buy at any home improvement store) or a damp paper towel to remove all of the residual dust.

Step 7



It's time to prime! If you are priming over a laminate or Formica, then you will need to use a more adherent primer to guarantee the life of the paint. Roll it on over the flat surfaces and then go over it with a brush in the areas that you can't get to with a roller.

JANE TIP: One neat trick to painting both sides of a cabinet door at the same time is to lightly attach nails to the inside side of a cabinet in all four corners. What this does is it let's you paint the side with the nails, flip it over and paint the other side without ruining your wet paint. Once you've painted your two coats and they've fully dried, just pull out the nails and you're good to go!

Step 8

bathroom4Once the layer of primer is dry you can go ahead and apply your 2 coats of paint, letting them dry in between. You will apply them the same way you did the primer, though watch to see if you are happy with the texture. Remember, the texture you see when it's wet is what it will be when it's dry. After the paint is dry, carefully remove the nails from the back side of the cabinet doors (if you followed the Jane Tip above).

Step 9

If you plan on installing door knobs, now is the time. Measure where you want them, mark and then drill the hole.

JANE TIP: An easy way to know what size drill bit you will need is to place the threaded end of the screw up against the barrel of the drill bit. What you are looking for is to see if they have the same diameter. In this case, you will want the drill bit to be slightly larger than the screw.

Step 10

bathroom5Before putting the door knobs on, you'll want to fill in the new openings that you've created when you cut out the panels. You can use so many different materials such as fabric, steel, tile and the list goes on and on. We chose to use wire mesh so that it would create an open feeling and we could use it more for décor.

In order to use wire mesh, first you'll need to cut the mesh to a similar size as the opening. Make sure to add at least 1" to the measurements of the opening to allow at least ¼" extra overlap to attach it. When cutting this, choose an area where you can easily clean up any mesh shards that fall from the cutting. These pieces are small and not something you'll want under your bare feet.

JANE TIP: We quickly found that it is a good idea to cover the edges of the mesh with tape. Fold a piece of tacky tape in half over the edge and do the same all the way around. The reason for this is two-fold: First, you'll want to protect the mesh from falling apart or "shedding" into your new cabinet—and second, the edges of the mesh can be fairly uncomfortable to the touch and may grab at any linens you store in the cabinet once complete.

Step 11

Now you're ready to start stapling. You'll want to use either a staple gun or an electric staple gun for this. We prefer an electric staple gun as it makes the process quicker and less fatiguing. Make sure to place staples every ¼" to 1".

JANE TIP: You can begin stapling any way you would like but we found that the mesh ended up looking more taught if we started by putting staples in the middle of each of the sides before getting started. This allowed us to work with it on all 4 edges without worrying if it was pulled taught. Then we finished off the rest.

Step 12

Almost finished, next put back on the hinges and put on the door knobs.

Step 13

Last but not least, put the cabinet back up on the wall (that is of course if you took it down to begin with.)

And there you have it, a beautiful new cabinet just like the one we made, but even better because this one is yours! Every time you look at it you'll know that YOU did it!