Search: I Can Fix Up My Home
index sitemap advanced
search engine by freefind home page Read the blog Read electrical & appliances articles Read green building & energy efficiency articles Read home interior articles
Read home exterior articles Read drywall and framing articles Read plumbing articles Read painting and wallpaper articles Read tools and woodworking articles

How to Build a Recessed Medicine Cabinet; a Custom Bathroom Fixture

Build a Custom Bathroom Fixture to Increase Storage Space

© 2009 by Kelly R. Smith

Photo of Kelly R. Smith

Recessed Medicine Cabinet

A recessed medicine cabinet woodworking project

This article was updated on 07/12/21.

Ads we feature have been independently selected and reviewed. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission, which helps support the site. Thank you for your support.

Building a custom recessed (or inset) bathroom medicine cabinet will maximize your available storage space. Bathroom framing is often doubled to allow more room for plumbing. You won’t find a matching offset fixture at a home improvement store. And, your dimensions are most likely different than mine.

Because of this, this article provides general building plans that covers the steps without listing specific dimensions It's measure-as-you-go. A bath remodeling project is the perfect time for this project. All bathrooms must make as much use of available space as possible; we all quickly run out of room.

This medicine cabinet is built into the wall, virtually flush. Claim the wall cavity space that’s otherwise wasted. It is a perfect project for rainy days; it is so small that it can all be completed inside wood shop. Put those accumulated woodworking tips to work.

So How Was This Woodworking Plan Developed?

This project plan is based on the my personal bathroom remodeling job; it’s part of my Perpetual Remodeling Syndrome group of projects. What prompted it? The existing medicine cabinet was a contractor-grade unit and very shallow. Pointless.

Medicine Cabinet Rough Opening I designed an offset cabinet back around a wall stud and and a water supply pipe. This virtually doubled my storage space. But every situation is different, so no hard dimensions are given in this article. Start with the rough opening you have or develop and just follow the steps below.

Click on the small photos for a larger view.

Project Material and Tool List

  • Your choice of lumber (these pictures depict poplar, luan plywood, and red oak)
  • A wood finish (baths are humid, so choose a penetrating finish like as tung oil, spar varnish, or Danish oil)
  • Titebond III wood glue (excellent waterproofing properties)
  • Homemade wood putty (Save your sawdust from the project and mix it with a bit of Elmer’s Glue; the color match will be perfect.)
  • Shelving material (Acrylic (Plexiglas) was used rather than wood because it’s thin, waterproof, and strong)
  • 1/4” shelf pegs or supports
  • Door handle or drawer pull
  • Wood screws
  • A pair of self-closing hinges
  • Biscuit joiner and biscuits
  • Table saw
  • Drill press and bits
  • Four 90 degree picture frame clamps
  • Cordless finish nailer

Start with the Box Frame

The first thing to do is make the wall opening if it’s not already there. Generally, this entails cutting out the drywall flush with the inside faces of adjacent studs and adding a header at the top and a matching 2” X 4” member at the bottom of the opening.

Be sure the rough opening is square. The measurements between diagonal corners must be equal.

Next, design to box frame to fit into the opening. This frame is the heart of the cabinet and is the first component to be built. Since the joints won’t be visible and won’t undergo any stress, no time-consuming wood joinery techniques like mortise and tenon or dovetail joints are required.

Just glue and finish nails will do the job. A cordless finish nailer comes in handy here. The wood I used poplar.

Time to Put the Drill Press Into Service

Medicine Cabinet Rough Opening Now, lay out and drill the holes for the shelf pegs on the inside of the sides. The more holes drilled, the more shelf height options you’ll have.To be sure they are exactly the same height, lay the opposing side pieces aligned side by side on your work bench and mark straight across with a straight edge.

Next, drill the holes that will secure your cabinet to the rough framing in the wall opening; 4 screws should be sufficient, 2 on the right hand side (1 near the top, 1 near the bottom) and 2 on the left.

Medicine Cabinet Rough Opening Dry fit the pieces and make sure that the box is exactly square. Apply glue and nail it together. Now when you cut the luan plywood backing and nail it to the box frame, it will hold the box square while the glue dries.

Cut and Assemble the Cabinet Face

I made my cabinet face from 1” X 3” red oak. Since your box frame's leading edge will be flush with the drywall surface, the face will hide your box’s leading edge, as well as trimming out at the wall.

Medicine Cabinet Rough Opening Miter your corners at 45 degrees and use a biscuit joiner to join the face at the corners. Glue and clamp it up using the picture frame clamps. Allow the glue to dry.

When the glue is dry (overnight), secure the face to your box using finish nails and a nail set. Then putty all joints and nail holes. I recommend homemade wood putty for a perfect color match. Finally, sand the project completely and apply 1 to 3 coats of finish. When it’s dry, set the cabinet into the wall cavity snugged up to the wall. Make sure it’s plumb and secure with wood screws through the holes you drilled earlier.

Finally, Build and Install the Medicine Cabinet Door

There’s a lot of decorative options on this step. I built mine simple and to match the face. The door frame is constructed like the face was, only smaller to allow not only for a 3 dimensional look,but also to allow adequate room to mount the hinges on the face.

Be sure to check all these details before cutting. Attach a rectangular piece of luan plywood to the back. It should be large enough to sturdy the door frame while still fitting into the inner edges of the face.

Medicine Cabinet Rough Opening Finally, finish the door and mount it on the cabinet face and add a door pull if desired. Install the pegs and shelves and the project is complete and ready to be loaded up with toiletries. I hope you enjoyed learning how to build a recessed medicine cabinet. If so, forward it to your friends.

Did you find this article helpful? Share it!

Visit Kelly's profile on Pinterest.

More Woodworking Articles

Did you find this article helpful? Millions of readers rely on information on this site and our blog to stay informed and find meaningful solutions. Please chip in as little as $3 to keep this site free for all.


About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Looking for more great content? Visit our partner sites:
The Green Frugal
Running Across Texas

Do you need an article or blog post written? I offer these services at reasonable rates. Contact me for a quote!

If you have your own blog or site, monitize it the easy way.

Return to the Tools and Woodworking Articles

Return to ICFUMH Homepage

© 2009 all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile