The DIY bathroom project has been rumbling on for a while now. We’ve been trying to create a traditional Victorian style bathroom, with a few contemporary twists (ie a walk in shower). We gave quite a bit of thought to the sinks, and decided we wanted a double door washstand preferably with two sinks.
But these are pretty expensive to buy new – for example Neptune are charging £1650 for their undermount double door washstand before customisations. So we started trawling the internet for something that we could adapt. We reckoned that if we could get hold of an old victorian washstand for not too much, it couldn’t be that hard to convert it – could it???
And that’s when we chanced upon a suitable cupboard on Ebay. It was being sold for £45 by a local antique shop that was closing down. The dimensions (55cms wide x 120cms long) were perfect.
The first job was to take the worktop off as we would be replacing this with a granite top. Then we (I say we, but in this case I was ably assisted by my better half!) set to work sanding down the cupboard. Why sand it? Well, there are a few paints on the market – such as Annie Sloan – which can be applied to varnish without sanding. However we found the Annie Sloan colours a little limited, and so we set about removing the varnish with an electric sander and some good old fashioned elbow grease!
Sanding a cupboard like this is a lot easier if you can get hold of some sort of sander. For this we used an old Bosch sheet sander I’ve had for a while, but you can pick up sheet sanders in your local DIY store for as little as £30. The best plan is to use a sheet sander for the large flat areas and then sand by hand the trickier, recessed and/or decorative bits.
We primed the cupboard in (my favourite paint supplier) Johnstone’s Joncryl water-based primer undercoat and then applied a top eggshell coat in Farrow & Ball’s Charlestone Grey. I then had to dismantle the front off each drawer with a saw in order to make room for the undermount sinks.
The next step was to mark and drill holes in the base of the unit to allow the pipework (4 hot and cold feeds and a central waste pipe). I did this using one of the cutting circles in a Bosch six-piece hole saw set that I bought from Screwfix earlier in the project. It cost about £45 but has been a great bit of kit that I’ve used for drilling everything from new holes in the attic water tank (to accommodate a new 22mm feed to our power shower pump) to holes through stud work for the new pipework.
With the holes drilled and the soon-to-be-washstand in place I could then set about sorting out the pipework. I read a lot on forums about the pros and cons of using flexible hose to connect the supply pipes to the relevant taps, but after much thought I decided on this project to do the job properly. I’ve really got to grips with plumbing over the last few months – armed with my Irwin Hilmor pipe bender and Rothenberger blow torch – I much prefer to solder my pipe joints rather than use push fit pipe, particularly for pipework under the floor as there is much less chance of any of the joints failing in the future.
So I decided to take the 15mm copper pipe right up to the taps using tap connectors, soldered onto the 15mm pipework (see photo above). This dispenses with the need for flexible hoses, but means you have to be a bit more precise with bending and soldering your pipework.
I’ve used 43mm solvent weld pipework for all the new waste pipes that take waste water away from the new shower, bath and sinks. This gave me a bit of a headache because I couldn’t initially find bottle traps for the new sinks that had the right thread for the sink waste on one hand and were able to connect to the 43mm solvent weld waste pipework on the other. The solution in the end was to use a bottle trap with connections that fitted the smaller diameter 36mm solvent weld pipework, which I then connected to the 43mm waste pipe with a reducer (the grey collar in the picture above).
Clearly this would have been obvious to your seasoned plumber, but as I had never done any plumbing before taking on the challenge of our new bathroom everything takes a bit of figuring out!
I fitted isolating valves to each hot and cold water feed so that these can be shut off individually should there be any future problems with the taps. The solvent weld pipework is great fun to put together in that you paint the solvent onto the pipe, push both ends together and it welds both pipes together in a matter of seconds. A word of advice though. In my case I constructed the pipework first then dismantled it all to apply the solvent, and despite putting tiny lines across each joint with a marker pen I still managed to glue a couple of joints together incorrectly! Luckily I had some spare.
We found a local granite company to make the top, and prepared a template, using the original cupboard top as a base, and cutting into this our desired position for the new sinks and taps. A quote of over £700 came back for our original choice of 30mm granite top which suddenly made all our efforts to achieve a high quality washstand for a reasonable price look a little futile. Luckily though we went back with a lowered spec – 20mm granite, in a different grade of stone with half bull nose edge and managed to get this for roughly half the original price. Lucky also because in hindsight 30mm granite would have been a bit much for a washstand of this size.
NOTE: if you embark on a similar project remember to allow for the width of the edge of the sink when working out where to have the tap holes located, as otherwise the fixing nuts of the taps may get in the way of the sink. You also need to make sure your taps project far enough into the sink.
Once the granite arrived, I drew a marker pen line the circumference of each sink around the underside of each sink hole, so that the sinks could be positioned in exactly the right place. I then piped a bead of clear silicone around the top of each sink and carefully pressed each sink into place on the underside of the granite.
When I purchased the undermount sinks I also bought some fixing bolts – which cost the best part of £20 for both sinks, which I thought was quite expensive. As the granite was only 20mm thick, and on advice from the granite company I decided against using these, and instead built two wooden supports for each sink to sit in. The sinks are glued pretty securely to the granite with the silicone but the wooden supports create that extra insurance against them ever coming loose in the future.
Once the taps were plumbed in and each sink waste fitted, the final job was to silicone in place the splashback. I applied a bead of silicone to the underside and rear of the splashback, carefully laid it into place, and then completed the task by applying a bead of silicone to the bottom and top edge of the splashback before smoothing it off with a special silicone smooth out tool purchased from my local builders merchant.