How to Install a recessed medicine cabinet
Hello Remodelaholics! Thalita here from The Learner Observer. Remember me? I’ve been a busy bee for the past few months growing two baby boys, and since the nesting phase officially hit, our house has been a mess of dust and general renovation dirt just about everywhere! One of the projects we’ve tackled is our main upstairs bathroom (you can see more of that here), and one of my main priorities was making this room more efficient. One way to do this, was to have things built in to the wall since our space is fairly small – enter the recessed medicine cabinet!
We could have easily just hung this on the wall since it’s only about 4 inches deep altogether, but putting it into the wall in between the studs really just seemed like the best option to make the space feel larger than it really is!
How to Install a Recessed Medicine Cabinet
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So first thing’s first. Here’s what we used:
- a mirrored medicine cabinet (we used this one specifically) (US readers can find similar models here)
- drywall saw
- reciprocating saw
- impact driver and drill
- wood chisel
- staple gun
- 2″ wood screws
You may also need:
- 2×4″ pieces of wood
You’ll notice our wall has a much bigger hole than necessary – this is because we also had to remove some terrible backsplash from the wall, and the drywall came right down with it. Normally, you’d start by simply measuring how big the back of your medicine cabinet is and making a cut roughly 1/4″ larger into the wall.
Once the drywall is all cut out, you can get started on cutting the wood studs. This is where the reciprocating saw and jigsaw will come in handy!
Because we had studs supporting the bottom of the medicine cabinet, we didn’t bother with adding a piece of wood along the bottom, but this would be helpful if your studs are too far apart to offer proper support. As for the pieces on the side, we notched out exactly what was necessary for the cabinet to fit right into the space, this way it’s well supported on the sides as well.
Once you have everything cut, do a dry fit to make sure the cabinet fits – we had to adjust our cut ever so slightly to make it a bit larger.
Now you’ll want to make sure you replace any insulation that may have been taken out. Our medicine cabinet is on an exterior wall, and living in Ontario, we needed to make sure there was insulation behind it.
Our medicine cabinet had holes already on the sides which were for the shelves, so this made securing it to the wall that much easier. All it took were 4 screws – two on top, and two on the bottom, and the whole thing was sturdy as can be! And that’s why you want to make sure there is wood directly beside your cabinet when fitting it in.
Now it was finally time to finish painting the walls, clean up all of the dust (oh my gosh, there was SO much dust), and we can finally use our medicine cabinet!
Not having one of these for so long definitely made me appreciate the convenience of being able to put things away right above the sink. Such luxury!
I love that it looks like a plain mirror when the doors are closed, but it has this (not so) secret storage inside. The cabinet it about 24×30″, so it has great height, which I love both for the storage and for my tall husband!
We had the extra challenge of making this work with the new board and batten in the room, but thankfully it all all worked out. If you happen to be doing something similar, you just have to be careful to leave a little space (about 1/8″) around the cabinet so that the doors can open properly.
And that’s really all it takes! In all honesty, I was intimidated by this job, but in the end it turned out to be so much easier than I expected! It also helps that I wasn’t really the one doing all the heavy work, of course!
Have you ever attempted to install a recessed medicine cabinet? Would you consider it now? If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!
More wall storage ideas, for bathrooms and beyond:
Build a Custom Recessed Medicine Cabinet
Old Window Turned Storage Cabinet
I wanted to do something like this in my bathroom, but the walls are solid wood with sheet rock over. I’m still thinking I may be able to create something like this though. Looks great!
Why did you put plastic over the insulation? Is there a reason you didn’t use insulation with paper backing?
I’m in Ontario, and as far as I know we use plastic as the vapour barrier, not the paper-backed insulation. I believe they basically dot he same thing, though! 🙂
I installed a pre-used cabinet that I bought at theRE-Store in my small walk in closet. The installation went smoothly and it looks great except for the 1/2″ or so that it sticks out so that the hinges on the mirror door work. Do you have any suggestions on how to “trim” it so the ugly plastic hinges aren’t visible?
Hi Caroline, That seems tricky, and since I can’t see it I’m afraid I won’t be great at making a helpful suggestion. Would small trim get in the way of the hinges as much as the drywall would have?
I use to install these on my husband’s construction site years ago. He has since passed away, but I do have a question that I can’t remember the answer to. What is the distance between the horizontal wall framing? I remember having the cabinet sit on the horizontal frame and snug against the vertical frame work. I’m installing a cabinet in my current bathroom Thanks for your help!
Looks great! How did your install impact the bathroom temperature given the reduced insulation value to the exterior wall behind the cabinet? I am doing a similar install and am worried about the drop in R-value making the bathroom cold in the winter.
For safety it might be wise to include mention of checking if it is a support wall. Noticed on another search that “exterior walls and those perpendicular to rafters are support walls” and for them “cutting studs requires replacing support with a header and jack studs.”
I also believe you need a vapour barrier over your insulation, especially in a wet location but anywhere to prevent mould. (I am not a tradesperson.)
All good points, Ann. Thanks for the comment and info!