Friday, December 19, 2014

Bathroom Remodel Part 9: Concrete Vanity

Part 1: Demolition
Part 2: Plumbing
Part 3: Material selection and Floor Tile
Part 4: Shower Tile Prep

The vanity. Ohhhhh the vanity. This thing has been in the making for over a year, though if I'm being honest, most of that time it was sitting out on our deck during the summer while we tried to ignore the feelings of shame it conjured up. I'll explain in a bit.

At this point, I'll refer you back to the original design.

As you can see, between the shelf, the towel bar, the sink/faucet inserts, and the continuous three sides, this was not going to be the most simplistic thing to create. 

We bought a sheet of MDF and a sheet of plywood for the base (or in this case, the "front" of the vanity. Using the Kreg Rip cut, we just started cutting pieces according to the diagram above and screwing them into the plywood base from below. I used some caulk for the seams to create smooth corners.

I sawed some PVC pipe to the same thickness as the form, and attached both pieces with some screws and sealant.

You know, it's weird writing about all of this right now, because it was SO long ago that we built this form...back in October 2013! I'm trying to recall our thoughts behind the decisions we made so I can put them into blog-form for you, and it's just strange. Anyway.

This is the shelf for the inside of the vanity. At the time they didn't sell Afrormosia wood of this thickness, so I opted for 2" maple and decided to just stain it to match. This is the underside of the shelf, which I joined using pocket holes and glue.

I sliced off two pieces of the leftover maple to use in the concrete form.

And here we are fully assembled! The reason we chose this orientation for the form was because we wanted the most unfinished (AKA ugly) side of the vanity to be the back side; the side against the wall that no one would ever see. This made our job a lot harder in terms of caulking the seams and pouring the concrete, but I think it was worth it.

Top view of the plumbing holes:

Towel bar hole:

To reinforce the concrete, we added some chicken wire. In hindsight, we should have included metal L-brackets at the corners and you'll see why in a bit. 

I think this form took almost three 80 lb bags of concrete mixed with some white Portland cement to lighten the color. It was a surprising amount of concrete considering that it really doesn't look that big. That also gives you an idea of how much this thing ended up weighing.

I love the shot below. What's going here is that we needed some sort of vibration to jiggle the air bubbles out of the concrete, so we used the air compressor my parents had given me weeks before. To keep the air pressure from building up and triggering the auto-shutoff feature, Boyfiancé used the hooked end of a caulking gun to pull the pin, releasing the air. And of course, to pass the time, he surfed Facebook on his phone. 

When that was done, I used a piece of scrap wood as a screed and leveled out the excess. You'll also notice that I built some bracing around the sides to keep the MDF from bowing from the pressure of the concrete.

The vanity sat in our garage and cured for about two weeks. At some point, we got brave and attempted to bring it upstairs to be sanded and finished. The reason for this is because we wanted to keep it in it's form as long as possible to avoid damage, and going up the stairs was going to be a particularly jarring journey.

We tried making a ramp up the front steps and pulling/pushing it up, but with 240 lbs and gravity vs. the two of us, things were not working out in our favor. Luckily our awesome neighbor was observing (AKA laughing at) our struggles and came to the rescue with a hand truck dolly and another set of muscles. Eventually we got the thing up the stairs where it settled on our balcony.

This is the part I was excited for: the reveal! I started taking off the form piece by piece, and some parts came off easier than others.

At one point, I was having trouble pulling off a piece of MDF and so, like an idiot, I braced against the leg to get it off. The good news is that the MDF came away, but the bad news is that I created this:

Cue the sad, sad trombone. This was a pretty low point for me, because this whole time I had envisioned a perfectly smooth, continuous concrete surface and now I had ruined it. RUINED IT! I was so depressed about it, in fact, that we did literally nothing to this vanity for the next six months while it just took up space on our balcony and served as a constant reminder that I need to BE MORE PATIENT. *infinite sadness*

When May 2014 rolled around, we decided it was finally time to do something about this chunk of concrete taking up space. Obviously now we knew the leg corners were incredibly weak so we decided to add some galvanized L-brackets (that I should've originally embedded in the concrete). To do this, I used some masonry nails and our hammer drill with masonry bit to get the job done.

Then it sat around for another few months before we got to polishing it up. I totally spaced on taking photos of the finishing process, but it was exactly the same as the method we used for the shower niche. Boyfiancé did most of the work, filling the bubble holes with concrete slurry and sanding it all down. This time, instead of using the diamond sander for our Dremel, he just used our orbital sander with some regular sanding pads. Picture me kicking myself for this because I hunted far and wide for sanding pads that were specifically designed for masonry/concrete, and even bought a few products that were a total failure. Why we didn't think to try regular sanding pads in the first place, I don't know, but learn from us: don't underestimate the humble sanding pad.

When it finally came time to move this beast again, we were prepared. Boyfiancé built a frame/brace for the inside and outside to keep things from moving or CRACKING, good god. We also bought our own hand truck dolly and used some tie-downs to strap the whole shebang together.

After the initial heave-ho, Boyfiancé claimed that it was actually pretty easy to roll around, and was able to do it with minimal help from me. Because I was taking photos :)

Before taking it all the way into the bathroom, we had to make a stop indoors so we could seal it and install the shelf and towel rod (the reason we didn't do this outdoors was because it was raining like crazy). Boyfiancé put three coats of concrete sealer on, which took a few days. Once that was set, we hammered in the shelf. You can see here that I stained it with a pretty dark stain (the light maple did NOT absorb stain very well, so I had to pick something extra dark like Jacobean from Minwax paired with a deglosser). It also got a few coats of the Good Stuff varnish. 

Not pictured is the towel bar, which we slid in from one side and glued in place with some Liquid Nails. 

Then it was time to strap the whole circus together again for the final move. This was a pretty exciting moment for we were sending our really dense and heavy child off to college.

The plan was to lower our child on the tile in front of the door way, then shimmy it into place with cardboard underneath the legs to protect the floor. Then we would yank the cardboard out and everything would be perfect.

It was hard work and very tricky, but we totally did it!

I'll leave you with a photo of Boyfiancé reading up on the plumbing situation for the sink. Consider it a teaser for the FINAL REVEAL coming up in the next post. YES!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a lovely accomplishment! I hope you're still inspired to share more of your projects with us. You're work is beautiful!!! =)