How To Remove A Dated Vanity Backsplash

Happy Friday, y’all! We’re painting the foyer today (pics on Monday – woop woop!) but I realized that I forgot to share two bathroom related happenings. And one’s a giant oops moment, so this should be fun.

First of all, it’s fitting that this thing is called a vanity because I did a little surgery and removed its love handle. It’s hard to see in some of the more recent photos of the bathroom, but this one shows it loud and proud:

That slab of counter against the right wall just felt imbalanced to us, and it’s actually a pretty simple DIY project to remove it. So if you have a side-splash thing that you’re not in love with (most modern sinks these days don’t have them at all and the walls are just fine) here’s how we gave ours the boot.

First we fired up the ol’ liposuction machine manual screwdriver and shoved it under the side slab, trying not to dig into the top of the sink (remember you just want to loosen and remove the side slab, not ding up the sink underneath it). You can use a rubber mallet or even a hammer to tap the screwdriver under the panel along the top seam, bottom seam, or even the side seam like this:

Eventually it got loose enough for us to yank it right off, although we were left with four puncture marks in our wall – along the top seam – where the screwdriver dug into the drywall.

Here’s where I said to myself: Self, don’t panic. Breathe in. Breathe out. You can do this.

I grabbed a sanding block, just to get off any chunks of glue or drywall that weren’t flush with the wall. Then I got my spackle and a 2″ putty knife (I like Dap Crackshot Spackling paste, not only because the name is entertaining but because it does the job). Using the spackle knife I just smoothed spackle over the entire area that I wanted to smooth out, building it up just a smidge beyond the wall in all areas so that when I sanded it down it would be smooth and flush again.

After it dried (I usually wait about 5 hours just to be sure), I got my sanding block again. I prefer a block since it has straight edges which can help you keep your wall straight instead of ending up with something wavy and pitted. This will be dusty, and you might panic because often when you sand something smooth there are a few little low spots or dings that come through and you’re all “man, I just want to paint this and be done with it” – but RESIST my friend. Put the paint brush down.

Wipe down all of the sanding dust and then go back with your spackle for a second pass at those dings and low points. Trust me, this ten minute second step is the difference between a smooth wall and an annoys-you-everytime-you-look-at-it wall. Here are the spots I spackled again, just to get them nice and flush.

After it was all dry, once again I used my sanding block to sand them smooth. Then it was time to caulk a nice clean line between the vanity and the wall with white paintable silicon caulk (paintable is key, and for brands I like Dap). That’ll keep any water from rolling down the side of the vanity, so it’s a nice “housekeeping” step – plus it just looks nice and finished. As for application, I just squeezed a line of caulk down the wall into that crack and then used my finger to smooth it out a few times until it was clean and unassuming.

Then (and only then!) did I allow myself to grab my paint brush and touch up the wall so it was nice and seamless. This was one of those lessons I have had to learn over time. You will never, ever be in the mood to do that second pass of spackle (“gee, there’s nothing I feel like doing more than spackling and sanding this wall that I already spackled and sanded”) but it makes all the difference in how smooth it looks in the end. At least for a bugged-by-dings girl like me.

Speaking of smooth, we spilled half a quart of the Baby Fern paint that we used on the vanity (and then painted over) right onto the concrete floor in the garage. Whoops.

There was panicking. It was a hot gelatinous mess. While we struggled to remain calm we both came to the same conclusion: let’s not touch the paint at all. Let’s not try to clean it up or thin it out or add water or anything. Let’s just let it sit there, and hopefully once it dries it’ll be a thick enough glob that we can peel off like a giant latex sticker.

So we waited about a week for it to fully dry, and then we yanked on it…

Wouldn’t you know it peeled right up in nearly one piece (there were a few spots we peeled off a second later that were left behind). There initially was a big brown wet-looking mark under it, which you can see in the picture above, but we hoped that once the mass of latex was up off of the concrete it would just dry itself out and go back to being normal looking.

Well lookie here. Besides a few slightly tinted spots, it’s not noticeable at all. In fact we’ve since moved all the stuff that was framing “the scene of the crime” and we can’t even really pick out the spill spot anymore.

I still kind of can’t believe our leave-it-and-peel-it-later approach actually worked. And I’m endlessly grateful that it was so easy (even attempting to wipe that up when it happened might have taken a while and resulted in a giant mess). So when in doubt, just do nothing and wait a while and hopefully whatever problem you have will peel off like a sticker. Well, I guess that advice doesn’t work for everything, but for a giant goober of paint in the garage, it was a pretty darn good outcome.


Psst- We’re trying out a new little bonus feature on Friday posts by ending with four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. You know, just in case you don’t want to go back to work just yet…

by ElizabethAnn by KatyRICEdesigns by KellyLawler1 by ArtisanDesarts


  1. says

    You know, I didn’t think removing that side piece would make that big of a difference but it does! Looks great and yes, definitely fill in those dings because if you don’t, you’ll always see them. I do not know this from experience…at all..nope…um…okay, fine…I do.

    GENIUS on the paint spill! I know I probably would’ve been tempted to get rid of it right away but your way is much smarter which is why you are you and I am me. :)

    Happy Friday guys!

  2. says

    Very cool, I had visions of Slimer from Ghostbusters when I saw the paint mess! I wish I had an easy “love handle” removal, but unfortunately we have some “extra padding” in the form of tile inlay covering over it. Previous owner was creative!

  3. Jenelle says

    Every time I see that picture of your vanity painted green, I think you completely covered it in Frog tape. Then I realize it’s paint. Then I get really relieved when I remember you painted over that color. Good call. :)

  4. Julie says

    I love the self talk!

    “Self, don’t panic”

    I’m so using that from now on! Looks great. Can’t wait to see pics of the foyer Monday!

  5. Lisa E says

    How clever to just let the paint sit there until it dried! I would have never thought to do that and would have made an even bigger mess in my attempt to clean it up. Nice sanding job, too. I’m impatient so my attempts are never great.

    • says

      Ditto to all of the above. I have to say I’m probably most impressed with the paint spill/clean up over the love handle removal and wall patching. I cannot believe that leaving it alone worked so well!

  6. Misty says

    Does this sink have one of those scalloped edges in the front? I’m sorry, but those are the worst! Who ever thought that was a good idea?! I’m pretty sure I’m not offending you since I think you are going to eventually replace it :)

    • says

      Oh yes, we have five scalloped seashell shaped sinks in this house (which is especially amazing because we only have 2.5 bathrooms). They’re all on the to-do list!


    • Caitlin says

      Ugh we have 4 scalloped sinks! Eventually we’ll replace them too but for now, but until then plan is to resurface them in white so they aren’t yellow scalloped sinks. gotta use what you got!

    • Amanda says

      Caitlyn, what are you planning on using to resurface your sinks? I would love to do mine as well in white!

  7. says

    That looks so much better! It was way off balance before. You’ve do some much for that little bathroom in such a short time!

    I’m scared to death of inflicting puncture wounds in our walls. They’re 73 year old textured plaster and I have no idea how to patch them! (Guess I’ll just have to learn and blog a how to for others like me, huh?)

    • says

      We’ve patched 55 year old plaster in our first house and it was exactly the same method that worked! It’s crumbly but spackle works really nicely if you let it dry before sanding. Good luck!


  8. Kara says

    I think your bathroom posts are inspiring us to take the plunge on painting the cabinets in one of our condo bathrooms. The bathroom and kitchen cabinets match and we’ve been wanting to paint the kitchen ones, but it seems like a big commitment if we don’t love it. Starting with the bathrooms seems a little less scary.

  9. Melissa says

    So, this is kind of unrelated, but I’ve wanted to do a few projects, including our kitchen cabinets with chalk paint. I’ve seen a few posts in the forum sections of YHL, but I wanted to see if you guys would do a blog on chalk paint. Have you used it? Tell us about wax, etc.

  10. Sarah says

    And here I thought this was going to be a weight loss related post ;) So glad the wait-n-peel method worked in the garage.

  11. Dena says

    Very lucky on that green paint spill! While renovating my son’s closet this summer (ripping out falling-down shelves, adding new ones, painting interior) he spilled an ENTIRE GALLON of latex eggshell paint on the tan carpet. He basically used 10 rolls of paper towels to suck up the 2″ depth of paint, and dumped bucket fulls of water on it, then sucked it up with a shop-vac — and the carpet came clean. You’d never know it. Now that section of old carpet is lighter and cleaner than the rest (darn it!).

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