Bed + Bath

Full Length Medicine Cabinet

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HI05790400
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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

A classic medicine chest is a great storage solution for several reasons. First, it keeps your stuff right where you need it, near the sink. Second, its multiple shallow shelves store small items in plain view, so there’s no digging around for everyday necessities. Built-in medicine cabinets are recessed into the wall, minimizing the use of precious room space. And finally, most medicine chests serve a dual purpose in the bathroom by having mirrored doors.

Indeed, the basic medicine chest design leaves little room for improvement. That’s why the bathroom cabinet in this project takes the same great features and simply makes more of them. This built-in cabinet has a 3½"-deep storage space yet projects only ¾" from the wall (not counting the overhead crown molding). Inside, it’s loaded with adjustable shelves, so it can hold not only prescription bottles and toiletries, but also taller things like shampoo bottles and cleaning supplies. And the cabinet’s door is tall enough to accommodate a full-length mirror—a great convenience feature for any bathroom.

How to Build a Full Length Medicine Cabinet

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    Determine the overall height of the finished cabinet (with trim), then subtract the height of the trim assembly above the door. Add ¼" to find the height of the cabinet box. Measure up from the floor and draw a level at the installed box height between two wall studs where the cabinet will go.

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    Cut one or more exploratory holes in the drywall between the host studs, then examine the stud cavity to make sure that no electrical cables, plumbing pipes, or other elements intersect the cavity. Cut out the drywall between the studs, up to the level line.

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    Measure between the studs to determine the overall width of the cabinet box.

    Tip: If the studs aren’t plumb, leave some extra room for adjusting the cabinet when you install it.

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    Cut the two side pieces 1½" shorter than the floor-to-top dimension from step 1. Cut the top piece, middle shelf, and bottom shelf 1½" shorter than the overall cabinet width. Cut the adjustable shelves 3⁄16" shorter than the fixed shelves. Cut the back panel equal to the overall width of the cabinet and the same length as the sides.

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    Drill holes into the box sides for the adjustable shelf pins using pegboard with ¼" holes as a drilling guide. Align the pegboard so the hole pairs are evenly spaced across each side piece, and drill the holes to the depth of the pin plus the hardboard using a stop collar on the bit. Make sure the hole pairs are matched on both pieces so the shelves will hang level.

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    Assemble the cabinet box by fastening the sides over the ends of the top and bottom and middle shelves using glue and 2" screws. Position the bottom shelf so its top face is 4½" from the ends of the sides. Position the top piece flush with the top ends of the sides, and position the middle shelf roughly halfway in between.

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    Align the box sides and top with the panel edges as you work to ensure the assembly is square. Prime all sides of the box, including the back, and then add two top coats of paint to the box interior and front edges of the side pieces.

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    Use cedar shims to fill any gaps along the studs and to adjust for plumb. Fasten the box sides to the studs with 2" screws so the front edges of the sides are flush with the surface of the drywall.

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    Cut, prime, and install the 1 × 4 side trim and 1 × 6 base trim with 2¼" finish nails, overlapping the sides of the box by ¼". Add the bead and head trim over the ends of the side trim. Install the crown molding over the head trim with 1½" finish nails, mitering the corners and adding return pieces back to the wall. Measure the opening created by the trim pieces and cut the door panel 1⁄8" narrower and shorter than the opening.

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    Fill any voids in the panel edges with wood putty or auto body filler, then sand the panel smooth and prime and paint the panel. Paint the cabinet trim, and fill and paint over the screw heads inside the cabinet box.

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    With three small butt hinges or a single piano hinge, mount the door to the side trim. Mortise-in butt hinges for a flush fit. Install a drawer pull or knob, then add a magnetic door catch onto the door and cabinet box side.

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    Have the mirror cut to the desired size by a glass dealer. Secure the mirror to the front of the door panel with a recommended adhesive (you can remove the door if you used butt hinges). If desired, add trim around the edges of the mirror. Install the adjustable shelves.