It’s week 5 of the One Room Challenge and today on the blog I’m sharing how to DIY a medicine cabinet for a bathroom.
This will be a two-part series since we’re still trying to figure out how we want to attach the mirror. I’m between two options. Adding hinges so it functions like a traditional medicine cabinet or trying something unique and using drawer slides to slide the mirror open. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, keep reading for details on how to build a custom medicine cabinet for the bathroom.
Missed a post from the prior week? Click on the links below to catch up on all the fun!
DIY medicine cabinet
Our half bathroom is small and although this isn’t our primary bathroom in our home, the little storage we do have I want to try and keep. That storage being our medicine cabinet.
Rather than go with a store-bought medicine cabinet I wanted to try to make my own so I could use a mirror of my choice.
In part 1, I’m sharing the steps we took to DIY our own custom medicine cabinet. We’re not quite ready to install the cabinet yet but wanted to get a jump on building it so it’s ready to go.
A couple of things need to happen before we can install the cabinet. We were waiting on the plumbers to come this week to update and move the pipes. I also need to find a mirror that will work with the cabinet. As I mentioned above, we’re still trying to figure out how we want to attach the mirror.
In part 2, I’ll be sharing the finished product, the install, as well as the details for attaching the mirror to the cabinet.
Determining the size of the cabinet
When determining how big to build our medicine cabinet, we had a couple of factors we needed to take into consideration. The first being the width of the space between the studs and the second the depth.
The space between the studs where the cabinet will go is 14.25 inches. Because we’re unable to move the studs, this limits how wide our cabinet can be.
Another factor we don’t have control over is how deep the cabinet can be. The depth of the wall between the studs is 4.25 inches. Not super deep but perfect for what we need and the things we store in our cabinet.
The one thing we do have some flexibility on is how tall our medicine cabinet can be. we decided to set the inside length at 20 inches. When mapping this out in the bathroom space where the cabinet will go, 20 inches felt like a good length. It’s also pretty close to the size of the medicine cabinet we had that worked well.
Once we had our measurements, it was time to get our supplies.
Materials and tools
- Wood – You have some flexibility here and can use whatever you prefer. We first purchased a sheet of 1/2 inch plywood. We didn’t love the way it cut, though, and decided to grab 2 pieces of 1/2 inch MDF measuring 2 ft x 4 ft instead. This was easier to cut and didn’t splinter like the plywood did.
- Tape Measure
- Table Saw – Makes it easy to cut larger boards to size.
- Miter Saw – Makes it easier to cut boards to length.
- Kreg Tool – Use this to create perfectly spaced holes all at the same depth.
- Wood Glue
- Nails and Nail Gun – We opted to use our nail gun to attach our pieces together but you could use a drill and screws if you prefer.
- Wood Filler – optional, if needed.
- Shelf Pins
How to build a medicine cabinet
First, using a table saw, cut 4 pieces of MDF to match the depth of your cabinet. Since our walls measure 4.25 inches deep, this is the width we set for our top and bottom boards. For the side pieces, we knew we would be mounting these on top of the piece for the back of the medicine cabinet and took this into account. We cut these at a width of 3.75 so that when we added the 1/2 inch back, the total depth would equal 4.25 inches. These boards will create the frame of your box.
After you have the width cut, use a miter saw to cut them to length. We cut 2the top and bottom pieces at 14.25 inches to match the width of our cabinet. Then we cut the 2 side pieces at 20 inches to match the height we determined for the inside of our medicine cabinet.
Next, cut a piece for the back of your cabinet. We used our table saw to cut a piece of MDF measuring 20 inches by 14.25 inches.
Since I wanted our cabinet to have adjustable shelves, Mike bought a tool that would allow us to do this with ease. The Kreg Shelf Pin Jig Tool allows you to easily create evenly spaced holes all at the same depth.
First, attach the fence to the Kreg. This allows you to fit the tool around the piece of wood your drilling. Next, set the depth for your holes using the included drill bit and collar. There’s a handy space on the back of the Kreg that makes it easy to tighten the collar on the drill bit using the included wrench.
Then, determine how far down you want your holes to start. We measured 2 inches down from the top of our wood and set the top of our Kreg at that mark. Use a clamp to hold the tool in place so it doesn’t shift when drilling your holes. You can also use the included locating pin to keep the tool in place. This is helpful if you need to drill more than the allotted 6 holes. When you move the Kreg to continue drilling holes, drop the locating pin in the last hole to keep the spacing even and continue drilling. This YouTube video and this Kreg tool review also on YouTube are super helpful if you need to see this in action.
I highly recommend clamping your Kreg to your piece of wood as you work. We were being lazy and thought we could wing it and had to redo one side 3 times. No matter how careful we thought we were being, the tool shifted ever so slightly causing our holes on each side to misalign. Not fun.
Using your drill and the drill bit with the attached collar, drill into each hole until the collar meets the top of the hole. Because you set your hole depth on the Kreg when the collar reaches the top of the tool it will prevent you from going any further than your desired depth. This is helpful because you don’t want to drill entirely through the board. Just deep enough to hold the shelf pins.
Once you’re finished drilling holes down one side, flip the tool over to the other side to create a second row of holes that align with the first side. This allows you to install two pins per side to support the shelf.
Repeat this same process on the other piece of wood that will run on the opposite side of the one you completed.
Tip: To make sure the holes matched up on each side we used our level and tested along the way. After drilling a few holes, we added the shelf pins that were included and used some scrap wood to test the shelves. Making sure they sat level between the frame. In theory, if you’re using the tool correctly everything should be aligned and perfect but I suggest testing along the way to be sure.
How to assemble
Once you have all of your pieces cut and your holes drilled for the shelves, it’s time to assemble.
We used wood glue and our nail gun and nails to secure the pieces together. If you don’t have a nail gun though, you can use a drill and screws.
Add wood glue along the edge of your frame pieces where they’ll attach to the back piece of the cabinet. We started with the top and bottom pieces and secured them after with nails in each corner. Wipe away any access wood glue that seeps out in the process.
Next, we added the side pieces and followed the same process. Adding wood glue to the edge that meets the back and securing with a couple of nails to ensure it holds. Once the box is built, add some clamps to keep everything snug and in place while the wood glue dries. We let ours sit overnight since we wrapped up around dinner time.
The next day we cut 2 shelves to size for our medicine cabinet. We waited to do this until after the box had time to set up to make sure they fit correctly.
We ended up having 2 leftover pieces that were the perfect width for the cabinet. All we had to do was trim a bit off using our miter saw to make sure they were the perfect length to fit inside. Ours measured 13 1/3 inches in length but make sure to measure the inside of your cabinet for an accurate fit.
The Kreg tool came with 4 shelf pins and we used these to test and fit our shelves. Making sure everything fit as expected. We used our level one last time to double-check that the shelves sat correctly and that’s it! For now.
Now that we have our cabinet built, and we’ve dry-fit it in the space to ensure everything fits as expected, it’s time to figure out the rest of the details.
We used a bit of wood filler to fill in a couple of mistakes we made. We also had 2 rouge nails come through the side of the box. One through the back and another through the front on the inside. We cut those off using our oscillating multi-tool.
The MDF we used is pretty smooth but still pretty raw looking. I’m planning to either paint the cabinet to match the walls or cover the interior with contact paper. This will help it look finished and match the aesthetic of the bathroom.
When we go to install the cabinet, we’ll add a trim piece around the edge. This will allow us to secure the box to the studs.
The other important detail we need to figure out is the mirror and how to attach it. I mentioned in the beginning that we’re considering 2 different options. One would be to add hinges that would attach to the inside of the cabinet and the back of the mirror. This would allow the mirror to open up like a typical medicine cabinet.
Another idea we have is to add drawer slides to the wall and back of the mirror. This would allow the mirror to slide open to reveal the medicine cabinet behind. We like both options and it will probably come down to the option that works best with the mirror we find for the room.
In part 2, I’ll be sharing all the details on how we finish out the box, install the cabinet, and attach the mirror. Make sure to check back for the details and to see the final product!
Don’t forget to check out what the other designers are doing! For more inspiration and to cheer the featured and guest designers on, head to the One Room Challenge blog to follow along!