The Custom vs. Prefab Vanity Conundrum
Custom vanities include any vanity that is custom made for your bathroom. This can include vanities that come from a custom woodworking or cabinetry shop or a vanity custom made by your contractor/carpenter. These vanities are typically broken up into 4 parts that need to be purchased separately and built on site.
The parts of a vanity include:
1. The vanity base
2. The counter top & backsplash
3. The sink
4. The hardware (knobs & pulls)
The labor to put together a custom vanity includes:
1. Custom painting or staining the vanity base --> Painter
2. Installing the vanity base in your bathroom & installing hardware --> Contractor/Carpenter
3. Fabricating a counter top and backsplash and installing it on top of the vanity base --> Stone Fabricator
4. Installing sink & plumbing fixtures --> Plumber
Typically a custom vanity costs about twice as much as a prefab vanity because there are more subcontractors involved in making and putting the vanity together. Plus, you need to purchase materials separately from various vendors (vanity base, counter top, sink, & hardware).
In most master bathroom projects I like to use custom vanities. This allows us to design every detail of the vanity from the overall look to drawer-by-drawer function, thus giving the master bath that spa-like feel.
In most hall and powder rooms I typically use prefab vanities because we are trying to be thoughtful about budget and sometimes we want a certain look that custom doesn't always provide..something fun and quirky for a powder room or a metal vanity.
* Pro Tip : If you are redoing your kitchen and bathroom(s) you can use leftover kitchen counter top slab on your vanity thus reducing the overall cost of a custom vanity.
See below for some custom vanities:
Prefab vanities come put together and ready to install. These vanities typically offer you a preselected handful of vanity base colors and stains, counter top materials, sinks and hardware finishes. You select your choices and the vanity gets built by the manufacturer and shipped to your home ready to install.
Prefab vanities come in standard vanity sizes: 24", 36", 48", 60", 72", and some sites offer larger sizes such as 80" and 90".
Most bathrooms can be designed around a prefab vanity so you can maximize your budget by not having to pay for a custom vanity. You just need to begin with a standard vanity size when laying out your bathroom. It still amazes me at how many architectural plans I see/redesign use non-standard sized vanities. Make sure you check your plans so you give yourself the option of going prefab if budget starts to become an issue!
People sometimes frown upon prefab vanities (mostly because they have seen or used ones that are super cheap!) but there are lots of high-quality, prefab vanities that are the perfect choice for a bathroom that calls for a vintage or reclaimed look, or an industrial metal look that you just can't create with a custom vanity.
See below for some examples of prefab vanities:
Here are some of my go-to prefab vanity vendors:
Restoration Hardware Modern $$
Quality Bath $$
Fairmont Designs $$$
The Furniture Guild $$$$
Here are some things to look for when finding a prefab vanity:
- Solid wood construction
- Soft close drawers & glides
- Dovetail drawers
- Pre-Drilled Hole options. Select your faucet first so you know how many holes need to be drilled into the counter top. Some vanities come preset with 1 or 3 holes so you will need to select the appropriate faucet.