Our vanity: A brief study in how and why we DIY.

Here's a multiple choice quiz for you: Why do Rick and Erin DIY?

A. We find dust masks and safety goggles to be comfortable attire for lounging about during the summer months.

B. If we don't, we won't have anything better to do than sit around and watch Enchanted repeatedly while mindlessly eating homemade popcorn. 

C. It keeps us within our budget and allows us to spend our money on other more important things like Prada bags and souped-up BMWs.

D. None of the above

If you selected letter D, congratulations! You passed the test! Your honorary dust mask will be arriving in the mail shortly. (Sorry if you were hoping for a BMW.)

But seriously. The real reasons we DIY? It gives us a hobby we can enjoy together (that's huge), and it also allows us to be good stewards with our finances while accomplishing things that we want to. There's no way on God's good earth that we could have done much of anything on our house so far if we paid full price or a contractor for the work.

The vanity Rick built for our half bath is the most recent example of a big project we've decided to DIY.

We had a few issues with the vanity that came with the room: the bottom was rotted away from leaky pipes, the sink was super small, it made even my 5’2” self awkwardly hunch over to wash my hands because it seemed unnaturally low to the ground, and it had bird poop on it.

OK, well, everything but the bird excrement part is 100% truth.

We thought first about moving down the single vanity from the upstairs bathroom (we hope to install a double vanity there someday) but that was too big for the room. So, we began thinking of how we could build one ourselves, one that would be the exact size and style we wanted, while also keeping to a budget that would allow us to eat more than Spaghetti-Os for months on end. (I like to have projects, but the thought of an endless canned pasta diet would be enough to make me say a quick “NO THANKS.” Although you can make clever hidden Mickeys out of O-shaped noodles.)

Anyone else ever tried to find the Hidden Mickeys in Disneyworld?

Let's face it, though: it's not always cheaper to break out the power tools and get building. A quick stroll through the lumber aisles at a home improvement store will help you see just how not-cheap wood is. So when we decide to do something ourselves, we have to figure out how we can do it so that, in the end, it was actually worth the sweat, blood, and tears. (Though we don’t tend to get emotionally involved with our projects. It’s just stuff, after all.)

All combined, the vanity, sink, faucet, and drawer handles cost about $200 out of pocket. That "out of pocket" bit is key. Here's the best way I can describe our expenses:

1. The lumber came to $150, but we used a gift card, bringing our total to around $50.

2. We purchased this sink from Overstock, currently $132.99. When we purchased it several months ago, it was $149.99 and we used a $100 gift card earned through our Discover Cashback rewards program, making the cost just about $50.  Rick noticed that the price dropped to $132.99 about a week after we bought it, so he contacted Overstock and they gave us the $17 price adjustment to use toward a future purchase. (Yay for being a squeaky wheel!)

3. We used that $17 Overstock credit toward this Vigo faucet and drain combo, bringing our total for the faucet to about $70.

4. Satin polyurethane=$14. We put three coats on.

5. Our last purchase was the drawer pulls, which were $4 each from Home Depot.

To save on other expenses, we painted the vanity with the leftover paint from our living room walls (Glidden Seal Gray).

The other thing we do is link through our Discover page when making online purchases, because, for example, when you link to Overstock.com, you get an additional 5% cash back on the purchase. Bonus! With the extra money we saved, we can afford to buy cleaning supplies and toilet paper to stash in the vanity's drawers. (We made it look like three drawers, but we wanted a taller one for helpful things like Lysol, hence the false front on the bottom drawer.)

I'd write a tutorial about how to build this thing, fancy false-front drawers and all, but, as my bloggy friend Kelly from View Along the Way says, that sort of thing makes me want to "poke myself in the retina with a fork."

A really giant meat-spearing fork.

A really giant meat-spearing fork that was recently sharpened.

A really giant meat-spearing fork that was recently sharpened and scorching hot from sitting near the grill.

(Do you get my drift? Writing tutorials about building stuff=my boat is not floating. I like to have fun with this little blog.) :)

I'll enlist Rick if anyone wants some more specifics, because he will be less inclined to inflict pain upon himself in the process of describing how he drilled holes and made drawers, etc. If you're wondering, our loose inspiration was this vanity from Pottery Barn, the purchase of which would've caused us to be eating Spaghetti-Os for the rest of our lives.

Why do you DIY? What are your money-saving tips? This money-saving DIYer would love to hear your ideas. :)


  1. Wow! I consider myself the queen of diy but I've never tackled a vanity. I'm kinda scared. Actually, really scared. Well done!! If you ever decide you really have to get the words out for the world to see I'll be pleased to give it a try.

  2. How funny - I've had two blog posts floating around in my head lately: 1. Why we DIY, and 2. How to save money on DIY projects, and you went ahead and wrote one awesome post that combines them both.

    Oh yeah, and *built a vanity.* (!) I think you should enlist Rick to do the tutorial! Only because I just made Andy do one and it's only fair. :)

  3. I seriously wish that my husband thought any DIY project was hobby material, lol! You're so lucky that you have a shared hobby that is so productive.

  4. Rick obviously didn't write this post because us pharmacist always stick to the foil questions.
    d. a and b
    e. a, b, c
    f. a, c
    g, all of the above
    And your Nuva ring comment about made me pee my pants. Best one I've heard in awhile!

    I hear you on the DIY thing. I find DIYing much more rewarding than buying a bunch of new crap...which is also fun but not as fun.

  5. Like you guys, it has most definitely become a hobby that we enjoy together (and by "together" I mean that I tell my husband what I want constructed and he magically finds a way to get it done).

  6. Thanks for not making me feel insane for picking 17 pounds of berries :)

    I like you & Rick's view on why you DIY. I hope I find a hubby like that! Thanks for sharing this beautiful vanity! Bookmarked it for future reference!

  7. I finally getting around to more or less responding to some of the sweet comments on my blog, and realized I missed noting your other couple comments. Most notably on my "DIY security" which made me laugh imagining you & your brother's plans for an attack on an intruder. My sister and I used to do the same thing!! Too funny. Thanks for all the love. Comments make me smile too! It's just so cool to know someone somewhere is appreciates what I'm sharing :) Happy Tuesday!

  8. Color me impressed!!! Like super duper impressed...not only does this bathroom look amazing (applesauce jars as sconces? Genius), but all the money saving DIYs are super cool. I've just spent quite a while perusing your blog and all the fun I've been missing...definitely not going to miss any more of it!

  9. I agree with the DIY caution about spending more than it would cost to buy. everytime we do something my Rob dorkily makes spreadsheets and tries to figure out how much it would cost. Most of the time we just hack some goodwill finds! Also because I'm afraid he'd slice of his hand (and he would-- he's totally useless at power tools)!

  10. Brendan7/19/2011


  11. Anonymous6/02/2013

    I love the bathroom vanity. The color of paint you used is very nice. That would be a great color for our tiniest bathroom the other one is pretty small too. We've been needing a new vanity in the tiny br for a long time. My husband is NOT handy with tools at all. Although i'm very proud that he knows how to use a screw driver and I taught him how to use my drill. LOL
    Your sconces are looking very good. When I saw them I was thinking they would be really cute with quart size blue canning jars. I don't know where i'd put them but I sure do like yours and the idea. Irene


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