Bathroom Vanity Materials – Pros and Cons

Choosing the perfect bathroom vanity is tough enough as it is, but when you factor in bathroom vanity materials, it becomes even tougher. Whether you’re fully renovating your bathroom layout or simply updating your decor, you will need to consider what is best for you, your home and your wallet – long term. No one renovates or updates to come back and do it again in a year or two. While choosing the first cheap, attractive vanity you see may seem like a no brainer, it would do you well do do a little research (or just read this article!).


In vanities or cabinets, you will most often find Solid Wood, Plywood, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), or Particle Board as the material listed. It can be confusing as to what you need to base your decisions on. Obviously price and durability are the most important. While ALL vanities work, they may not ALL work for YOU. Your daily hygiene habits and design choices can play a part in what will hold up best in your bathroom.   Let’s look at a Comparison.

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Most Common Bathroom Vanity Materials

Bathroom Vanity Material – Particle board

  • Composite sheet material made by combining wood particles with glue and then heated and pressed into sheets
  • Classified by particle size and overall density
  • Some particle board is stronger than others


  • Price; cost less to produce and less to buy
  • Can be covered with wood veneer, melamine, or laminate


  • Sags over extended period of time and under the weight of solid surface countertops, such as granite or quartz.
  • VERY easily damaged by water, and most importantly, steam

You may not realize how much steam comes into contact with your vanity. Every time you shower, take a bath, or even have the hot water running for more than a few seconds, your vanity is subject to the steam. This will cause the material to break down, and you will need a replacement.

Particle board bathroom vanity materials

The photo below is of a water damaged particle board vanity

For this reason, we do not use particle board for our bathroom vanity materials at either of our retail locations. While profit margins might be higher, we value our clients and want their purchases to last as long as humanly possible.

Bathroom Vanity Material – MDF:

  • Engineered wood composite similar to particle board, but denser and stronger
  • Compressed using tiny bits of wood, for a long time and at high temperatures


  • Price
  • Smooth surface
  • No knots or splinters around edges
  • Takes paint extremely well; custom cabinet or vanity makers won’t want to paint real wood due to the cracking of the paint


  • High maintenance (not easily repairable if chipped or cracked)
  • Exposure to water causes swelling
  • Glue within makes it difficult to sink nails or screws
  • Cannot be stained


Plywood is made from veneers of wood glued into layers that form sheets. Like particle board, these bathroom vanity materials come in a variety of thicknesses and qualities.

MDF bathroom vanity materials

On the low-end, soft woods, quick dry glues, and voids can be often found between the layers. This plywood is usually coated with a plastic that has a wood grain pattern applied because the wood they use isn’t very attractive and may not finish well.

On the high end however, it is a very attractive wood and a truly solid choice (no pun intended) for your bathroom vanity. It VERY rarely will degrade.


While you want to be cautious of water damage with all types of woods, high end plywood has a pretty high success rate in terms of holding up for a long period of time.

Some people question a vanity that has plywood on the sides or back, and wonder if solid wood would be a better choice? In reality, it’s not. The plywood will be more stable over the long run than solid wood. That is because the plywood will not move due to moisture/humidity/temperature changes like solid wood does.

If covered in veneer, it will be as stable as the plywood and will not chip/peel except under unusual circumstances. In that case, it would effect real wood in the same way. Plywood is a great choice for bathroom vanity materials, which is why we carry them in our stores.

Solid wood bathroom vanity materials

Solid Wood:

While nothing really compares with solid wood in most projects, it actually is not ALWAYS the best choice for a bathroom vanity. Solid wood comes in two variations; solid wood (all natural real wood) and solid hardwood.


Solid hardwood is the most durable wood material and is made from woods like oak, cherry and maple. Solid wood has the tendency to shrink and expand as humidity changes. Expansion can cause cracks in the painted finish and also warping (in extreme cases).


Real wood is porous in nature so it will absorb water molecules in the air.  However, I won’t dare say that real wood is a bad material. It’s been used for centuries and is still the preferred option by many contractors and builders. The strength and durability of solid wood is why many choose to go with wood bath vanities, so it really depends on what you find most important. By keeping humidity in control, most homeowners won’t have any problems with this beautiful material. It works best with a natural or stained finish, as opposed to paint.

Happy Remodeling!

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Small Bathroom: Choosing the Right Vanity & Tile

A small bathroom is one of the worst things on the planet. I remember the one in my first apartment, there was barely any space to move, you had to close the door to open the vanity cabinet but you also had to stand off to the side or sit on the toilet sideways so you didn’t hit your shins! There are many different factors that can keep someone from being able to do much about a small bathroom; whether it be that you’re stuck in an apartment and can’t make any structural changes or you own your own home, but you don’t have the budget to do a full bathroom remodel at the moment.
Small Bathroom: Monochromatic Color Scheme
Updating your tile and replacing your vanity are a couple of the easiest and most inexpensive ways that you can make your bathroom appear more open. We’ve got some tips and tricks on how you can utilize these to make your cramped bath appear “bigger on the inside.”

Be Basic

Simplicity is key when you’re wanting to make a small bathroom feel bigger! Skip the highly decorative and opt-in for more simplistic shapes and styles. In a space like this, less is more.
The subway tile look is super popular, and it’s a really basic look that’s also classy. However, what needs to be remembered with tile is size. Go for larger format tile – the less lines and grout, the better. This creates a longer line that isn’t broken up which makes the space appear larger because the pattern is continuous.
There are two ways to go with vanities her. You can choose a pedestal sink and be really minimal, but if you must have some storage space choose a floating single-sink vanity or one with open shelves instead of cabinets or drawers. A floating vanity will open up the floor space, which breaks up the space less, while an open vanity (shelves instead of drawers) moves your eye through the room and makes you think about what you really need in your bath.
Small Bathroom: Floating Vanity

Color is Key

This goes along with keeping it simple. When it comes to color in a small space you want to choose a single color or monochromatic theme. Brighter colors work best in small spaces, especially whites – plus white is classy!
Select bright, glossy white tile or backsplash that is bigger than the palm of your hand at least (remember go big or go home with the whole tile selection). If you have a light color scheme that isn’t white then keep your tile selection in that hue, it’ll still make the room feel bigger. However, it’s a little more complicated where you already have a dark bath. When you have a dark space that you can’t completely overhaul you can still choose a lighter wall tile or backsplash. Remember, you want to try to break up the colors and patterns as little as possible!
Small Bathroom: Contrasting Vanity
Lighter vanities are often less popular because bathrooms are already pretty bright so a vanity is the perfect piece to contrast lighter colors! This is where you can have some fun if you want to. Keep the vanity white (or whatever single color the rest of your bathroom is) especially if it’s one with drawers and cabinets, this breaks up the space less and makes a small bathroom feel larger. If you think you can spare to have some color feel free to contrast the room with a darker vanity, however, this will work best with an open style shelf vanity.
Shop Backsplash Tile Builders Surplus Cincinnati Newport Louisville
There are plenty of other tips to make your small bathroom look and feel larger, updating your tile and replacing your vanity are just a couple of the easiest and most inexpensive ways that you can make your cramped bathroom space look and feel “bigger on the inside.”
Small Bathroom: Bigger on the Inside Doctor Who

Builders Surplus is a full service renovation company with locations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Newport, Kentucky, which also serves Cincinnati, Ohio. We specialize in interior design, kitchen design, bathroom remodel, building materials, and home improvement. Interior Design and measurements come as a free service to our clients. We sell building materials ranging in every price point, from unfinished kitchen cabinets to top of the line Wellborn cabinets. In addition to interior design, we also offer installation services. If you have any questions or would like to set up a free design consultation with one of our interior designers, we would encourage you to do so. We love sharing our knowledge with clients & potential home renovators. We write about interior design, home decor, decorating ideas, and home improvement. We hope you’ll check back in for our next article! Happy Renovation!
Written By: Kat Flaherty

James Martin Furniture: Luxury Bathroom Style

James Martin Furniture: Bosco Buttermilk Double Bathroom VanityJames Martin Furniture produces some high-end, beautiful vanity sets and pieces! With over 100 years in the business it’s apparent that they definitely know what they are doing and what their customer base wants! James Martin is a luxury bathroom furniture brand that is dedicated to the idea of craftsmanship and pride in their products.
Shop Now James Martin Furniture Vanities

What is James Martin Furniture?

James Martin Furniture is a high-end, quality, luxury brand of bathroom vanities pieces and sets. The founders of James Martin Furniture set out 100 years ago to unite their combined experiences and build an uncompromising brand of bathroom cabinets that rivaled the style, techniques and qualities of other home furniture brands – even to this day! The founders of James Martin Furniture believed – and the company still believes – that by integrating the style of fine home furnishings into your bathroom that your bathroom space could become a space of beauty within your home and one of your favorite spaces to come home to relax and unwind!

James Martin Furniture: Double Bathroom Vanity

Why James Martin Vanities?

The bathroom furniture pieces created by the James Martin brand start out as genuine North American harvested hardwood. This wood is selected by the buyers who inspect each slab to endure that it meets the strict standards that are held by the James Martin brand. The wood is then ready to be made into the cabinet construction materials through a process of drying and moisture testing that ensures that the selected lot will yield the very best treated product.
The cabinets are then hand crafted and each component is created and installed by a skilled team of craftsmen. Such high-quality labor is put into these pieces that even the designs are hand carved into the wood to create a truly unique and beautiful piece of art. At each stage of production quality control experts are there to keep an eye and supervise the creation of the vanities and ensure that they are up to strict quality standards. The finish – whether it be stained or painted – is applied in several layers through several steps to give the cabinet depth and a richness of color. Finally, the vanity cabinet is once again checked by a quality control expert and given the green light to be sold as a one of a kind James Martin Furniture vanity cabinet.
Shop Now: James Martin Furniture Bathroom Vanities
James Martin Furniture Vanity Cabinets are one of the worlds leading producers of bathroom furniture and it definitely elevates the look and feel of any bath. If you’re looking for something different and more luxurious than a traditional cabinet vanity then consider adding a James Martin Vanity to your remodel!
Shop Now James Martin Furniture Vanities

Builders Surplus is a full service renovation company with locations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Newport, Kentucky, which also serves Cincinnati, Ohio. We specialize in interior design, kitchen design, bathroom remodel, building materials, and home improvement. Interior Design and measurements come as a free service to our clients. We sell building materials ranging in every price point, from unfinished kitchen cabinets to top of the line Wellborn cabinets. In addition to interior design, we also offer installation services. If you have any questions or would like to set up a free design consultation with one of our interior designers, we would encourage you to do so. We love sharing our knowledge with clients & potential home renovators. We write about interior design, home decor, decorating ideas, and home improvement. We hope you’ll check back in for our next article! Happy Renovation!
Written By: Kat Flaherty

Choosing Your Bathroom Vanity Styles

With all of the different bathroom vanity styles out there, how can you find the right fit for you and your bathroom? How can you be sure that the vanity you love will work with the space that you have? There are a few important questions to ask when you’re vanity shopping to help you narrow down your search. The answers to these questions will tell you what you need to look for. Then, you can decide on your mounting options, which we will discuss first.

Bathroom Vanity Styles & Options

Choose your Mounting: Standard, Wall Mount and Corner.

Standard: Also known as free-standing, this is the most common of bathroom vanity styles. This is your best option for maximum storage space. Standard, furniture style vanities are very popular at the moment.

 wall-mounted vanity
Wall Mount: Most wall-mounted vanities hang or float on the wall without legs touching the floor. This style looks more contemporary and opens up a small bathroom, but allows for some storage.


corner vanity
Corner: If you need to save space, this is the best option. Corner-mounted bathroom vanities have a 90-degree angle at the back so that they fit perfectly into a corner. They still offer cabinets for storage and just the right functionality for a powder or guest bath.


Now that you know the different mount styles, find the right fit for the bathroom your updating by asking these questions:

What bathroom are you hunting for?

A guest bath, powder room, or master bath?single bathroom vanity styles
A powder room is not for bathing, so you eliminate the need to store towels, shampoos, conditioner body wash, and scrub brushes.  If you have a medicine cabinet, you could do just fine with a pedestal sink, however, that will typically be the only storage in the space. If you have the need to store more, opt for a singe sink vanity. Opt for standard or wall mounting for powder rooms. Powder rooms can also be a great place to make a bold statement for less!
In a guest or hall bathroom, which might be used by children or teenagers, the vanity should be large enough to contain clutter and hold daily bathing essentials, but not have too much storage that everything gets thrown in. Drawers instead of cabinets are suggested to contain and organize toiletries.

The master bathroom is a main space for adults. Everything from hair, makeup, bathing, shaving, brushing and washing occur, so having PLENTY of storage for your various supplies is a must. Most couples prefer double sinks and cabinetry and drawers underneath. Standard or Wall Mount can work in this space. The style of the vanity could echo the style of the furnishings in the bedroom but it doesn’t have to match. While floating bathroom vanity styles will give the illusion of more space, a furniture-like piece standing on legs will help the bathroom blend in to the style of the home.

How much space do you have?

Now that you know which bathroom you’re looking for, break out your measuring tape! Measuring your space is important because vanities floating bathroom vanity stylescome in a range of widths. You don’t want to fall in love with one that just won’t work. A two-sink vanity is generally at least 60 inches wide, but with the addition of storage drawers and shelves, they can be wider. Single sink vanities can start at around 24 inches wide.

Single or double sinks?

Double sink vanities are wider than single sink vanities, but are ideal for bathrooms shared by two or more people. Single sink work well in small bathrooms.

What are your storage needs?

Vanities come with many options for storage, including drawers, shelves, and cabinets. Think about who will primarily be using the space. What is this person or persons daily hygiene routine like? Are they a girl with blowdryers, rollers, straighteners and a bag full of make up? Or is it a boy with cologne, a tooth brush and deodorant? This will greatly dictate what storage options you should choose.

How do you want to customize it?

What do you want in your base. The vanity base can come in a variety of materials, including glass, metal, and wood, which is the most common option. The style you choose will need to coordinate with your base. Glass and metal are seen as modern, while wood can be used for a variety of styles.
contemporary bathroom vanity stylesWhat type of countertops do you like? The countertops of vanities are highly customizable. The most popular materials are marble, granite, and stone. Polished stone finishes are durable and easy to clean. Though other common materials include wood, glass, and metal. Often vanities are available with countertops, but if you’re looking to customize, the countertop should be 1 inch larger than the vanity base. For example, if the vanity base is 36 inches wide, then the countertop should be 37 inches wide. At Builders Surplus, we sell individual vanities, individual vanity tops, and vanities with tops included. Whatever your preference, we can accommodate you!
What sink style do you prefer? Most vanities feature undermount sinks, which are mounted below the counter. Another option is a vessel sink, which sits above the counter. We have beautiful chiseled granite vessel sinks, copper, hammered copper and glass and porcelain vessels. This is a popular choice that can be a timeless look.
What hardware will you be using? The majority of vanities do not come with sink faucets and handles, which provides another opportunity to customize the look to your home. If you already have those things and need to work around them, choose a coordinating look or color scheme.
Will you have a backsplash or side splash? Consider whether or not you will need a sidesplash or backsplash to make the vanity work. If so, focus on brands that either include these pieces with the vanity or sell them separately. If you purchase these separately, ensure that the finish and dimensions match the vanity top. (For a backsplash, the length of the backsplash should match the length of the vanity top and with a sidesplash, the length of the sidesplash should match the width of the vanity top.)

Vanity Lighting

Regardless of the type of vanity you choose, proper lighting is essential. Typically, there is a lighting fixture over the sink or mirror but that can cast unwanted shadows on your face. This is not ideal for applying makeup or shaving. The better option is to use sconces instead! Placed on the wall at about five and a half feet from the floor and flanking a mirror will illuminate the face properly.
In a powder room, two sconces are all you need while in a master bath or guest bath with two sinks, use three or four, she says. A light over the tub and shower and one over the toilet should be ample light for a large master or guest bath.
There you have it! Follow these guidelines to find the bathroom vanity styles that will best match your renovated or refreshed bathroom space! Happy Remodeling!