DIY Vanity Lights
These awesome industrial-style DIY Vanity Lights are budget-friendly and a definite upgrade from builder-grade bathroom lights.
When I painted my bathroom, I took off everything on the walls – the light fixture included. It was immediately a no-brainer that I wasn’t putting that thing back up.
Rusted and gross, the builder-grade lighting had seen better days. Luckily, I had an idea in the back of my mind of cheap way to make a replacement.
I grabbed two sconces from my local Habitat Restore for $3.75 each, and shopped my basement for the rest of the supplies. I think the end result was well worth $7.50.
The general process goes like this:
- Spray paint sconces
- Sand and cut wood piece to size
- Cut holes in wood piece for junction boxes
- Carve space in back of wood piece for running power/Romex
- Stain wood
- Connect new Romex to existing wall power
- Hang wood piece
- Assemble light
There are a couple of tricky steps here, so I’d definitely consider this an intermediate project, and probably not one for beginners.
I want to address some of the steps that make this a more difficult project, so you can judge if it’s something you want to tackle.
Disclaimer: I am not an electrician. While I have a basic understanding of how electricity works in my own home, I am not a professional. Any advice you choose to follow is done at your own risk, and I cannot be held liable.
You’ll need to make two different electrical connections in this project in order to run power from the wall to the two sconces.
On its own, connecting electrical wires is not difficult (match colors together, put on wire cap, twist.) But it does make many people nervous, and if you are one of those people, this might not be the project for you.
The Romex needs space behind the wood piece to run to each of the lights. Therefore, it’s necessary to carve this space out of the wood.
The ideal tool for this is a plunge router. If you have one of these, you’re good to go. Unfortunately, I don’t.
A backup option would be a drill press and a Forstner bit. The result won’t be a pretty, but it’ll get the job done. If you don’t have a Forstner bit, a spade bit will work too. This is what I used.
If you don’t have a plunge router or a drill press, you might be able to get away with a Forstner bit and a corded drill. But, honestly, it would be unpleasant, and isn’t really a path I’d recommend.
Hanging the Wood Piece
Like pretty much anything else we hang on walls, drywall alone will not be able to support this light fixture. Therefore, it either needs to be screwed into a stud or screwed into drywall anchors.
The way I’ve designed these DIY vanity lights, screws go through the wood piece from front to back, then into the wall. Two screws are fully visible from the front. Countersunk into the wood, they look nice and intentional when they’re symmetrically placed.
But your studs are probably not centered behind your vanity, meaning that in order for the screws to look symmetrical and nice, they won’t hit studs.
It makes hanging the light much more difficult. I go over how to do it, but it’s not that much fun.
If you have plaster walls, well, that’s convenient. Congratulations. You only need to get your screws into the lathe, which is much easier than getting screws into studs.
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- (2) Thrifted Sconces
- (2) Small Junction Boxes – The junction boxes need to fit behind the sconces, and between the wall and the sconces. I have a weird old house full of small unused junction boxes, but if you don’t, I think this junction box is your best bet.
- (2) Clamp Connectors – Only required if you use a metal junction box with knockout holes. The blue plastic boxes have a this function built-in.
- (1) 2″ x 8″ Board
- Romex – This should match the Romex size running to the light – mine was 12/2. You don’t need very much. If you’ve ever done an electrical project requiring Romex before, you’ve probably already got enough scrap to do this project.
- Drywall Anchors
- Wire Nuts
- Black Spray Paint
- Wood Stain
DIY Vanity Lights
Step 1: Spray Paint the Sconces
Unscrewing a white nut underneath the sconce removed the globes from the sconces so that I had four separate pieces to paint.
Then I painted the globes with flat black spray paint. FYI – it wasn’t a fancy paint. It was something my dad found in a box of on the side of the road. Not kidding.
Step 2: Prep the Wood Piece
The piece I used was reclaimed scrap. By that, I mean I think it used to be part of a bed frame before I purchased it from the Habitat Restore. I already used most of the piece on my jewelry organizer project, and this seemed like the perfect project to use the rest!
It obviously needed some work. I sanded it down with my typical preparation method, then cut it to size.
I based this off of my vanity size, and how much clearance I thought looked good between the sconces and the bottom/top of the wood. This was about 24″ long and 7″ tall.
Step 3: Cut Junction Box Holes
I determined where the sconces would go on the board, then traced the junction boxes inside those spots.
Fun fact, I didn’t end up using the junction box you see on the right. It was too big to fit underneath the sconce, so I scrounged around my basement a bit more and found a smaller box.
Make sure you’ve tested the sconces with your junction boxes to make sure everything will fit before you cut any holes!
Once you’re confident everything will fit, cut the holes using a drill (to make the first hole) and a jigsaw.
It took me a bit of trial and error to get a hole that the box fit into, but with a little patience it worked out!
Step 4: Carve Romex Space
Eventually we’ll run Romex from the wall box to the junction boxes in the wood. Since the Romex will run behind the wood piece, we need to carve a place for it to sit.
Ideally, this is done with a plunge router. Since I didn’t have that, or a Forstner bit, I used a drill press/spade bit combo.
It’s not the most attractive solution ever, but it works.
Tip to make your life better: Carve more and deeper than I did above. Carve as much of the back as you can, actually.
Romex is a bit hard to wrangle, and you will thank yourself later if you have plenty of space for the Romex and are not just trying to fit it into a little line.
I went back and carved more after my first attempt at hanging.
Step 5: Final Wood Piece Prep
Test your stains on the back of the piece. Once you’ve picked one you like, stain the front.
For more information on finishing wood, be sure to check out my Fabulously Finished Reference Bundle. If you’ve ever had projects become disasters during the stain and finish process, this is the guide for you!
Since you can see it in the picture above, I’ll talk about it here too. Now is a great time to drill the holes for the screws. I used a countersink bit so that the screw heads fit nice and neatly into the wood!
Step 6: Connect Romex to Wall
Before you start, turn off the circuit breaker supplying power to your future vanity lights.
Grab your Romex and cut it so that it’s long enough to go between the wall power and your vanity lights, plus a little bit extra.
Then cut off the insulation so that each wire is at least a half inch exposed.
You turned off the circuit breaker, right? Shocks are painful.
Then connect the two pieces of Romex to the wires in the wall. You’ll connect the black wires with the black wires, white with white, ground with ground.
I’m not going to go into any more details in than that, since I’m not an electrician. If you need more info, this guy (apparently) is an electrician, and has a great video on splicing wires.
At this point, things should look something like this:
Step 7: Hang Wood Piece
Honestly, this is its own mini project. I’ll do my best to break it down in a way that makes sense.
These instructions assume you’re working with drywall.
- Grab your wood piece and determine its proper wall placement, making sure it’s level. Then with a small drill bit, drill a hole through the countersunk holes you already made, and into the drywall.This is like a pencil mark – now you know where your screws will go.
- Take your two drywall anchors and screw them into the holes you made.
- Take your two screws and screw them into the wood piece until they’re just peeking out the other side.
- Place your wood piece back on the wall, and arrange the Romex in it’s final position through the two junction boxes. If you’re working with metal boxes, attach the clamp connectors now.
- Align the two screws peeking out of the wood with the drywall anchors you put in the wall. Screw in place.
You can watch me do this process in my Youtube video of this project. Go check it out!
Step 8: Assemble Vanity Lights
Your circuit breaker is still off, right? Shocks are painful.
Connect the wires from each sconce to the wires in the junction boxes, then secure the base of the sconces in place with screws.
I spray painted these screws black as well so they’d be less visible.
Then reattach the globes to the sconces using the nut that originally held them in place.
Finally, add light bulbs and turn the power back on. Enjoy your new vanity lights!
Do I have to use junction boxes, or can I just connect the wires in the hole?
You have to use junction boxes. I know it’s a pain, but it’s much, much safer to have junction boxes in place.
What if I have plaster walls? Then how do I hang the light?
Almost the exact same way, except instead of using anchors, take a small drill bit and drill far into the wall at your “pencil mark” holes. Do you hit wood, or air? If you eventually hit wood, that means you hit the lath, and you can put screws straight into that.
If you hit air, move slightly (a half inch or so) up or slightly down and try again. You should hit lath this time.
I mentioned at the beginning that I only paid $7.50 for these vanity lights. Truth. But I recognize that you might not have everything on hand that I did.
So the following table details the approximate cost of the DIY Vanity Lights if you had to purchase all of the supplies.
|2″ x 8″||$10|
|Black Spray Paint||$5|
Obviously, this is less of a bargain if you have to buy all of the supplies. Take a look at the list and see what you have on hand and if this project is financially worth it before you invest!
Truthfully, I can’t believe how good these vanity lights looks. I’m a little in shock by how much better it is considering I only spent $7.50. I’m not going to pretend it was any easy project, but it was so worth it!
I’m in the middle of my bathroom remodel, but if you like how it looks so far, you should definitely take a look at how I switched my floor out for under $100.
And finally, if you like my DIY Vanity Lights please go ahead and save them to Pinterest so other people can find them too!