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Water damage can be caused by a wide range of occurrences. Maybe you had a leak, the extractor fan wasn’t functioning properly, or the worst case scenario, your upstairs neighbors had a flood. In any way, there are a few things you can do to salvage your bathroom vanity from water damage.
Water can cause your bathroom cabinets to warp, swell, crack, sag, or bubble. It’s not a pretty sight. Although MDF will not fare as well in case of flood, solid wood vanities handles water and humidity better than MDF. MDF cabinets that have severe water damage should be replaced to prevent the growth of mold. You can find economical replacements at Tradewinds Imports.com.
Before You Make Any Repairs
The first thing you need to do is assess the damage. The most important thing is that the vanity is structurally intact. If the core foundation has been compromised, you will need to replace your cabinets; there is no other way. You cannot mount a heavy countertop on top of a weakened structure. It’s only a matter of time before the entire unit caves in.
Situations that Necessitate Cabinet Replacement:
- Flood Damage caused by a leaking or bursting pipe.
- Long term water damage caused by excessive humidity levels.
- Any occurrence where a cabinet is leaning or unstable
Before you commence your repair effort, you must fix the cause of the problem. If this means calling a plumber, then do it first. Otherwise the problem will happen again. Refer to these tips to finding a good plumber.
1. Peeling Veneer on MDF Cabinets
Repairing a delaminated veneer can be a quick fix. You’ll need to use a strong contractor grade wood glue to affix the veneer back to the cabinet surface. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the veneer (to protect the finish) and then clamp a piece of plywood to the veneer surface that you’re gluing. Allow to dry overnight.
I’ve heard of some people trying to redo the entire finish but seriously, in this situation, you should just go ahead and buy a new vanity. MDF vanities are very inexpensive and you’ll save yourself time and money (and a headache) without having to deal with a veneer that begins to peel back later on.
2. Getting Rid of Water Stains on Solid Wood Vanities
Oak, mahogany, and cherry woods form a grey-black stain when coming into contact with tap water. This is because tap water contains iron which reacts to the tannic acid contained in certain types of wood. The result is a deep grayish black stain. Oxalic wood bleach will remove any discoloration without changing the natural expression of the wood.
To remove water stains from bath cabinets, you’ll have to sand the surrounding area, treat with wood bleach, and refinish affected area. Use a saturated wood bleach with oxalic acid to remove the stains. You can apply the wood bleach with a painters brush.
*Note: All wood bleach residue must be removed before applying stain or paint! You can use distilled water (has no iron) to rinse the area off. Then neutralize the acid with a solution of 1 quart water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
Once complete, sand with 220 grit sandpaper and apply a finishing coat of your choosing. In most cases, you will want to use the original coating that your vanity came with. Sometimes, it helps to contact your manufacturer to get the exact paint code.
[READ: How to Restain Bathroom Cabinets]
3. Replacing a Waterlogged Cabinet Bottom
If your sink was leaking, you may have woken up to a puddle of water sitting on the bottom of your cabinet shelf. If soaked in water for any extended period of time, you’ll want to replace your cabinets to remove residual moisture that could wreak havoc on the interior of your cabinets. We’re talking mold here people!
General Tips for Dealing with Water Damage in the Bathroom
- You can hang on to your old sink, faucet, and accessories. You can find a replacement cabinet that fits the dimensions of your existing pieces and save a couple hundred bucks on these Closeout Vanities.
- Before deciding to scrap your old vanity, it might be worth your while to run it by a local cabinet maker to see if they might be able to save it. I might or might not work but it’s worth a shot!
- Water damage along the base of your vanity can be covered up with a baseboard moulding. Mind you, I said “cover up” because this will not solve the solution but it can be a temporary cosmetic fix for the time being. Make sure your cabinets are structurally sound first.
- If your replacement vanity has different dimensions than the original, be prepared to do some tile work. Think about the footprint of the cabinets before selecting a replacement! You can shop for vanities by size here.
- Removing and/or salvaging a countertop can be painful. They are glued down with construction adhesives to be a permanent fix so removing them can be hard to say the least. You can chip away but don’t be surprised if you end up damaging your countertop. You can source a replacement at your local hardware store.
- How to Install a Floor Standing Bathroom Vanity
- How to Install a Wall Mounted Bathroom Vanity
- How to Re-Paint Your Wood Vanity with a Gleaming Lacquer Finish
Make sure that your bathroom has adequate ventilation. This means running the extractor exhaust fan through the roof and measuring the room to make sure it flows enough air. MDF cabinets are especially susceptible to humidity once it pierces the initial layer of veneer.
For future reference, here are a few resources that you can use to find tips regarding materials that are suitable for humid bathroom conditions:
- What’s the Best Material for a Bathroom Vanity Cabinet
- 10 Solid Wood Bathroom Vanities that Will Last a Lifetime
About the Author
Cheryl Khan is an interior designer and writer at Tradewinds Imports, an online specialty site dedicated to luxury bathroom furnishings. She has extensive knowledge about all the finer details that go into planning the perfect bathroom renovation project and is an expert on all things bathroom!