How to Install a Medicine Cabinet
Time Required: 2-4 hours
Medicine cabinets provide storage space for your bathroom and most have at least one mirror so you can check your reflection. There are two primary types of medicine cabinets. A surface mount medicine cabinet attaches directly to a wall and doesn’t require moving any plumbing or electrical lines that may be behind the line. A recessed mount medicine cabinet is installed in a wall. It has a built-in look and usually has deeper shelves than a surface mount model.
There are different steps to install each type of medicine cabinet. Use this guide to learn how to install a medicine cabinet.
Before you shop for a medicine cabinet, decide which side you want the door on. Be sure there's enough space in your bathroom for the door to open without hitting anything. Some medicine cabinets have doors that slide to the side, so you don’t have to worry about a door opening into a room. A bi-view cabinet or tri-view cabinet with may need space for doors to open on both sides. Reversible door cabinets are also available.
In general, medicine cabinets are available in sizes up to 60 inches wide and in various heights. Chose the medicine cabinet size that’s best for your needs but keep it in proportion to the size of your sink and vanity.
Recessed medicine cabinets require cutting into a wall. If you install a recessed cabinet, choose a wall without electrical or plumbing lines behind it, if possible. Otherwise, the lines will have to be moved, which is a job for a professional electrician and/or plumber. Be safe and use a professional or choose a surface mount medicine cabinet instead.
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As a rule of thumb, a recessed cabinet should be installed so the top of the cabinet is 72 inches above the floor, but adjust it as desired. Make sure you can see your face and some of your body in the mirror while leaving room for a soap dish or other items you may keep around your sink.
Most studs in homes are set 16 inches apart, so if your medicine cabinet is wider than that, you'll have to cut into a stud and through the fasteners that connect the stud to the wall. Then you'll need to screw 2- x 4- blocking to the existing wall framing to hold the cabinet in place.
Have someone help you hold the medicine cabinet against the wall. Use a level to make sure it is level and plumb. Outline the cabinet with a pencil. Put the cabinet down and use a stud finder to locate any studs within the outline.
Use a keyhole saw to make 4-inch square cuts on both sides of the studs within the outline. Make the cuts shallow, so they’re no deeper than the drywall, to avoid hitting any electrical or plumbing lines. Remove the cut-out drywall and any insulation and use a flashlight to look around inside the wall. Again, ask a professional electrician or plumber to move electrical lines or pipes that are in the way.
After any electrical lines or pipes have been moved, double-check your outline to make sure it's level and plumb. Then use a keyhole saw to cut along the outline. Remove the drywall and any insulation or other debris.
Use a drywall saw to cut behind the studs and through any screws fastening the wallboard to its back edge.
Now you’ll install blocking to secure the cabinet to the wall. Put a 2- x 4- framing stud into the opening horizontally. Hold it level and butt one end up against an intact wall stud. Mark the spot where the 2- x 4- meets the stud and saw it to that length.
Repeat this step with three more 2- x 4s- to fit at the top and bottom.
Put the cabinet into the blocking and push it gently but firmly, so the face frame is flush with the wall. Insert drywall screws through the predrilled holes in the cabinet to hold it in the blocking. Caulk around the edges of the opening, if needed, to cover any small gaps.
Put the door back on the cabinet, add any hardware and insert the shelves.
A medicine cabinet surface mount is easier to install if you have concrete, poured plaster and other type of walls that are hard to cut through. It’s also a better choice if there are plumbing and/or electrical lines behind the wall you want to use, because you can install it without having a professional move them.
Most wall-mounted medicine cabinets come with pre-drilled strips attached to the top and bottom interior of the cabinet. They’re usually 16 inches apart, which is the standard spacing between most wall studs. To begin the installation, use a stud finder to locate studs in the wall you want to use and mark them with a pencil.
Remove the cabinet door to make the cabinet easier to handle. Have someone hold it against the wall, lining it up with the studs if you can. Make sure the door can open freely.
Most medicine cabinet surface mount models are installed 72 inches above the floor but adjust the height as desired. Use a pencil to mark where the top and bottom of the cabinet will be. Make sure the cabinet will be level and plumb at those marks.
Take the cabinet away from the wall and look at the back of it. Use a tape measure to measure from the top to the first pre-drilled hole and transfer that measurement to the wall. For example, if the first pre-drilled hole is three inches down from the top of the cabinet, mark three inches down from the top line you drew on the wall. Repeat this process until you’ve marked the wall for each pre-drilled hole.
Drill a pilot hole at each mark. Have someone help you hold the cabinet in place and double-check that it is level and plumb. If you were able to drill pilot holes into your studs, drive screws into the pre-drilled holes in the cabinet and into the studs to secure the cabinet to the wall.
If you can't drill pilot holes into your studs, put drywall anchors in the pilot holes and then insert the screws. Make sure the drywall anchors are rated for the weight of your cabinet. The drywall anchors will expand when you drive in the screws.
If you can’t find drywall anchors rated for the weight of your cabinet, use toggle bolts. Insert them into the pre-drilled holes in the cabinet. If needed, tap the head of the bolt with a hammer to make the toggle go through the cabinet and the drywall. The wings of the toggle should spring open inside the drywall. Use a screwdriver to tighten the bolt so that the washer and the head of the bolt are secured inside the cabinet.
If the doors on your bathroom cabinet look out of date or worn, you may be able to replace them. Check with your manufacturer, You may also find other manufacturers that sell the size and style you need. Medicine cabinet replacement doors can be a budget-friendly option to replacing an entire cabinet.