Toothpaste, dental floss, moisturizer, razor blades and deodorant -- these are items you use every day. Installing a medicine cabinet in your bathroom keeps all of those things and more in one convenient place. It also provides easy access and helps keep your bathroom clean and organized. Medicine cabinets, however, offer more than just simply storage space. Models with mirrors and built-in lights make grooming easier, stylish designs enhance the appearance of the entire bathroom and locks keep children safe from harmful substances. Keep the following questions in mind as you consider the wide array of available choices:
• Do you prefer a recessed or surface-mount cabinet?
• Would you like your cabinet to have mirrors?
• What materials can cabinets be made of?
• How many doors would you like to have?
• What features do you want or need?
Materials, Design and Installation Considerations
While many medicine cabinets are rectangular, there are other shapes and configurations available. Ovals and octagons present other options, as do units with radius tops and beveled edges. Installing a new medicine cabinet makes for a great do-it-yourself project, though recessed cabinets may present some tricky issues. Depending on your tastes and budget, a medicine cabinet can be simple and inexpensive or function as an elaborate focal point for your bathroom. With special features ranging from interior mirrors to automatic mirror defoggers, you'll have no problem finding a cabinet that fits perfectly wherever you want to install it.
Materials and Colors: If you've lived in your house for a long time and never installed a new medicine cabinet, chances are the one you have is rather plain. Modern cabinets give you the opportunity to upgrade in virtually every way. If you're working on a budget, look for a plastic cabinet. Plastic is economical, easy to clean and lasts a very long time. Wood can provide a warm, inviting look while steel offers strength and easy maintenance. If your cabinet has mirrors, they may be either framed or unframed. Color is another important consideration. While you'll want to ensure that a cabinet fits in with the overall theme of your bathroom décor, adding a cabinet with a brilliant blue, green or orange frame and interior can provide a welcome spot of brightness.
• Plastic can only be used in the construction of swing-door cabinets
• Match wood to a nearby vanity for a uniform appearance
• Stainless steel offers a great deal of aesthetic appeal
• Shelves may be composed of wood, plastic, steel or glass
• Frames may be made from aluminum, stainless steel, wood, plastic and more
Design: The most important decision you'll need to make when installing a new medicine cabinet is whether it will be recessed or surface-mounted. Recessed cabinets are built into the wall, allowing them to maintain a low profile and save space. In areas where recessed cabinets cannot be installed because of plumbing or electrical wires located in the wall, install a surface-mounted cabinet. These units are installed flush with the wall and generally extend outward between 4" and 8". Medicine cabinets may feature one, two, or three sliding or hinged doors, allowing you to select a unit according to your design preferences and how much storage room you need. Available styles include modern, traditional, country and antique. Install multiple cabinets if you need extra storage space.
• Measure the available space carefully prior to installing a recessed cabinet
• Larger recessed cabinets may not fit between studs
• Recessed cabinets tend to be deeper than surface-mounted cabinets
• Surface-mounted cabinets are easy to install and are available in many sizes and finishes
• Some cabinets feature adjustable shelves for customized organization
• Cabinets range from 14" wide x 22" high to 80" wide x 40" high
• Choose a cabinet that is proportional to your sink and vanity to prevent it from being overwhelmed
or drawing attention away from the vanity
Points to Consider
|Recessed||• Takes up less space
• Provides built-in look
• Often has deeper shelves
|• More difficult to install
• May require plumbing and electrical skill
|Surface-Mounted||• Easy to install
• Available in a range of sizes
• Can create a decorative focal point
|• May have shallower shelves
• Takes up more room
• Protrudes into bathroom space
Installation Considerations: Installing a surface-mounted medicine cabinet is a relatively easy task for a motivated do-it-yourselfer. Recessed units will require a little more work, as there may be plumbing and electrical issues to contend with. Before you begin installation, make sure you have the right tools on hand. You may need a drill, stud finder, screwdriver, keyhole or saber saw and chisel. Cabinets don't necessarily need to be installed above the sink or vanity. If there's a more practical location for your needs, don't hesitate to install the cabinet there. Stylish medicine cabinets can even be used for storage in other parts of the house.
• Consider consulting a professional if you plan to install a cabinet with electrical outlets
• Make sure you have electrical tape, cable and wire connectors if installing lights
• Basic tools such as a tape measure, level, pliers and utility knife will come in handy
Locks: If you have children in your house, look for cabinets that feature locks to prevent little ones from getting into harmful substances and accidentally ingesting them.
Push-Button Doors: Cabinet doors that open at the touch of a button are convenient and prevent fingerprints from accumulating, saving you from having to constantly clean the mirrors.
Mirrors: Purchasing a cabinet with interior mirrors will save you the trouble of having to open and close the doors repeatedly by allowing you to brush your teeth and shave just as easily with the doors open as with them closed. Units with integrated magnifying mirrors make grooming easier. Premium medicine cabinets may have built-in defoggers to prevent the mirrors from getting steamed up while you're in the shower.
Outlets: Built-in outlets let you plug in your electric razor, heat up a curling iron or even recharge your cell phone while you're getting ready for work.
Interior Lights: Interior lights provide additional light for grooming when using interior mirrors. They also make it easier to see and find what you're looking for quickly.
Corner Cabinets: If you're short on wall space, consider installing a corner medicine cabinet, which fits neatly into any corner of your bathroom to provide extra storage.