Building a custom recessed (or inset) bathroom medicine cabinet will maximize your available storage
space. Bathroom framing is often doubled to allow for plumbing. You wont find a matching offset fixture
at a home improvement store.
Because of this, this article provides general building plans that covers the steps without listing
dimensions. A bath remodeling project is the perfect time for this project. All bathrooms must make
as much use of available space as possible.
This medicine cabinet is built into the wall, virtually flush. Claim the wall cavity space thats
otherwise wasted. It is a perfect project for rainy days; it is so small that it can all be completed inside wood shop.
So How Was This Woodworking Plan Developed?
This project plan is based on the my personal bathroom remodeling job; its part of my
Perpetual Remodeling Syndrome
project. What prompted it? The existing medicine cabinet was a contractor-grade unit
and very shallow.
I designed an offset cabinet back around a wall stud and and a water supply pipe. This 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 or Danish oil)
Homemade wood putty (Save your sawdust from the project and mix it with a bit of Elmers Glue; the color match will be perfect.)
Shelving material (Acrylic (Plexiglas) was used rather than wood because its thin and
1/4 shelf pegs or supports
Door handle or drawer pull
A pair of self-closing hinges
Biscuit joiner and biscuits
Drill press and bits
Four 90 degree picture frame clamps
Start with the Box Frame
The first thing to do is make the wall opening if its 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 wont be visible and wont 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. I used poplar for mine.
Time to Put the Drill Press Into Service
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 youll 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
Next, drill the holes that will secure your
cabinet to the rough framing in the wall opening screws should be sufficient, 2 on the right hand side
(1 near the top, 1 near the bottom) and 2 on the left.
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 boxs leading edge, as well as trimming out at the wall.
Miter your corners at 45 degrees and use a
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. Finally, sand the project completely and apply 1 to 3 coats of
finish. When its dry, set the cabinet into the wall cavity snugged up to the wall. Make sure its
plumb and secure with wood screws through the holes you drilled earlier.
Finally, Build and Install the Medicine Cabinet Door
Theres 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.
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.