Rehab: Cheap Mirror into Medicine Cabinet

Jennifer —  April 11, 2011 — 13 Comments

A few days ago I posted that I would be working on my Master Bath.  Its not a total renovation.  We did that a few years ago.  We just have not liked its function.  So, it’s getting a rehab.  The bathroom is TINY….We had to get a smaller toilet so you could walk by it to get to the shower.  We could have gotten a cabinet/sink for the sink area but we went with a pedestal because it makes the bathroom look bigger.  The negative to the pedestal is that there is not alot of storage….bummer.  We thought the cabinet over the toilet would be enough.  Boy…we were wrong.  We did not have a place for towels or cleaning supplies.  The goal was to simply and make our bathroom highly functional.  The best way to get storage in was a medicine cabinet.

My goal is to not spend a lot.  I think I wanted to do this rehab in $120-$150.00.  So, I began my search for medicine cabinets.  I knew that I could not recess the sink medicine cabinet because the plumbing to the guest bath shower is in the way.  I also had to find a shallow surface mount because I still wanted the lighting to overhang the medicine cabinet.  I know, I could get another light, but I don’t want to.  New lighting would subtract from the budget…and the hubs okayed the budget to get more function…..not another light.  Besides, I like the light that I chose and it matches the faucet. Off to Lowes I go….nothing.  They have great stuff, but I wanted white and it needed to be 20 inches wide and 25 inches tall.  The white ones they had were either too small, too deep (the light wouldn’t overhang), or too big.  (29 inches tall seems to be the standard….I needed less but not 16 inches less, which was my next option)  So…off to Home Depot….same problem.  There was one at Lowes that fit and was silver.  I could have spray painted it white but for 98 bucks (over half the budget and I needed more storage elsewhere…it was a no.)  My rule of thumb is if I am spending 98 bucks on something small I don’t want to have to change it.  So….since I live in a small I go.  Nothing.  Same problem as Lowes and Home Depot.  Then I jumped over to my favorite blog younghouselove and read this post.  I was inspired how they wish that they would have built more stuff in their past renovations.  It inspired me to make my own medicine cabinet.  It was easy!!!!!  (skip down to the very bottom to get the bullet point how to)

I went to TJ Max and immediately found this frame for 14.99.  Its is 20X24….one inch short of perfect…I’ll take it!

I went to Lowes and bought a 10 foot 1X3 for $2.98 and a 24 by 24 piece of plywood for $4.58 that I asked them to take 4 inches off one side.  This was for the back.  I have a miter saw at home so they didn’t cut the rest but I could have asked them too.  I cut two pieces of 23.5 inches and three pieces at 17.5 inches.  Here is the sketch in my head. I made the box a 1/2 inch smaller than the frame so there would be a 1/4 overhang of the mirror.  (That way the hinges would be hidden)

I bought one pack of small hinges that had two hinges for $1.97 and two magnetic door claps mechanisms for $1.59 a piece.  I bought one can of spray paint primer $3.99 and one can of high gloss white spray paint $1.97.  I came home and built my box.  I used wood glue and brad nails.  If you don’t have a nail gun..use screws.  If you countersink them then you can fill the holes with wood filler and they won’t be seen

I taped, primed and spray painted the mirror.  This takes patience.  You must let each coat dry for an hour.  Since this door would be opened and closed alot I wanted to make sure it would stay.  I primed it twice and put 4 coats of spray paint on.

This was not needed but I covered the back of the frame with cork board.  ( Its Shelf liner cork board from Home Depot for 9.97.)  I could put verses to memorize, favorite quotes, reminders, and notes to the hubs  on it.  I attached the hinges and it was ready to hang.  (P.S.  the frame originally had cardboard triangles attached to the corners.  They were stapled on the frame.  To make the frame flush on the cabinet I had to take them off.  I was scared that they cardboard triangles were holding the frame together.  I could tell it was glued but I had this fear of the mirror falling out of the frame.  I took the D hooks that came with the mirror off and used the part that screws in to serve as a flat bracket over each mitered corner to serve as stability.  That is why there are the four flat brackets you see in the corners.  I probably didn’t need to do this but I just wanted to be safe.) I also attached the magnetic door latches. ( I also chose to attach two.  The mirror wasn’t super heavy but I wanted it to have as much stability on both sides when closed.) To hang the cabinet I cut the extra 1 X3 into 1 inch pieces using the table saw.  Now I had three 1 X 1 pieces.  I cut two of them to 17.5 inches and attached them underneath the first shelf and underneath the second shelf via wood glue and a few brad nails.  I found a stud on the wall and then screwed in a screw through each 1 X 1 to the wall.  It is super sturdy!  (You could also hang it with L-Brackets)

Here is the finished product.

I know I stated them above but here is the final cost break down:

  • Mirror: 20X24 framed mirror, TJMax 14.99
  • 10 foot 1 X 3 for 2.98 (Lowes)
  • Hinges:  Home Depot 1.97
  • Door Latches:  Home Depot, $1.59 a piece. $3.18
  • Spray Paint Primer: $3.99 (Lowes)
  • Spray Paint High Gloss, Wal-Mart $1.97
  • Wood Glue and Nails, Free…I had it (wood glue is about 2 bucks though)
  • Cabinet Back:  $4.98 piece of 24 x 24 wood cut down
  • Shelf Liner Cork Board:  Home Depot 9.97
  • Total Cost: $44.08!!!!  (it would be 34.08 if you didn’t do the shelf liner)

Lowes has this small trimmed small medicine cabinet for 29 bucks. They have a 16 inch one with small trim for 38 bucks. ( Both of these were two small for the space.  Those were my only cost worthy options…to be honest, they looked cheap and looked dwarfed in the space.  The next jump in price was $98.00.  All options with big trim and the exact size I needed (like the ones…here and here) I saved tons of money!

Here is a bullet pointed “how to”

  • Buy a framed mirror.  Make sure the back of the frame is flat and something that you could screw hinges into.
  • Prep and spray paint the mirror.  (if needed)  Since you will be opening and closing the mirror I would prime twice and put 2-3 coats of spray paint.  Let each coat of primer or paint for an hour or more.
  • Put a coat of spray paint enamel/gloss for more protection
  • Figure out the size you want your cabinet.  I wanted my cabinet 1/4 inch smaller than the mirror on all sides.  See my pic above for the dimensions I used.
  • Cut the 1X3 wood to the necessary sizes.  (see pic for mine)
  • Wood Glue the pieces together and clamp
  • After an hour of clamping/drying…use a brad nail gun to secure where you have glued.  If you don’t have a nail gun you can use screws and countersink them.  Then fill the holes with wood filler.
  • Sand your cabinet
  • Cut one of your extra 1X3s in half  down the length of the board to make it a 1X1.5.  (if you don’t have a table saw you can buy a small piece of trim that is at least 1 inch thick.
  • Cut your  1X1.5 down to the length of  the shelves of your medicine cabinet.  You need two.
  • Wood glue and nail/screw the 1X1.5 into the bottom/back part of the top side of the cabinet and into the bottom/back part of the medicine cabinet shelf.  When the cabinet is against the wall the pieces should be flush against the wall. (you can see mine in the picture of the clamped cabinet)
  • Paint the cabinet
  • Attach the cabinet to the wall by screwing straight into the 1X1.5 pieces.  (Screw in on a stud or use toggle bolts.  If you have to use toggle bolts ( have someone hold the cabinet in place and use a drill bit to make a hole through the cabinet and into the wall.  Remove the cabinet and place a toggle where the hole is in the wall.  Line up the hole in your cabinet with the toggle whole and screw into it.)
  • Cover the back of your mirror with cork board or contact paper (optional but if you want to you must do it now)
  • Line up and attach hinges to the back of the mirror ( I used small piano hinges)
  • Attach hinges to the door
  • Attach the magnet latch to the cabinet (this keeps the door shut)
  • Attach the plate to the back of the mirror door.
  • You are done!

Thanks for reading,


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13 responses to Rehab: Cheap Mirror into Medicine Cabinet

  1. ashley robbins April 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    you = a girl i would completely be jealous of if you weren’t my best friend. good thing we are or i would hate you for all your skills and talents. haha!

  2. Clever! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Just what I was looking for! You did a fabulous job with your instructions and photos…PERFECT! Your tiny bathroom looks smart and gorgeous. I admire and respect how you and hubs worked to stay on budget.
    Sisters, OR

  4. This project is exactly what I’m looking for. I’m shopping for a recessed medicine cabinet and can’t find anything I like. There is a mirror that I kind of fell in love with and wanted to see if it was possible to make it into a medicine cabinet. Now I have to be on the hunt for a carpenter to try and create this for me.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post!

  5. Hi, since its been more than a year, I’m curious to know how your mirror is holding up (especially on the hinges and the cork backing). I’m looking to do something similar in our bathroom with some modifications. We want to use the existing metal medicine cabinet and only replace the mirror portion with a new wooden mirror in its place. The problem is that the new mirror is heavy, about 10-12 pounds, and wondered what affect the weight of the mirror had/has on your hinges. Thanks a bunch and sorry for bumping up an old thread. Thanks!

    • My mirror was is not light but its not super heavy either. I was worried about that too but My mirror is holding up Perfectly. I can email you a picture when I get home from work. The hinges and cork board are great. Is your metal cabinet study? You can buy hinges sturdy enough, but just make sure the metal in your cabinet is sturdy.
      I will send you pics soon.


      • Thank you for your quick reply. I love your bathroom by the way, especially the tiled floor. Wifey and I live in an apartment building with a miniature bathroom as well, so we are trying desperately to retain our little cabinet space. Your blog was very inspiring.

        • Thanks so much. This reminded me that I didn’t take the picture for you. I will today. My bathroom is sooo small that I laugh when I am in there. Small floor tile can make a small room seem a little bigger. I am so glad it helped.

  6. Hi, thanks for the helpful post and photos! I’m doing a similar thing and some of the unsolicited advice I’ve gotten was to hang the mirror with a piano hinge that is at least 12″ long to keep mirror sturdy and in place for years to come. I was also advised I would have to router a rectangle on one side of the back of the mirror frame so the hinge(s) would be flush to the mirror back. Did you have any problems with non-flush hinges? Thanks!

    • sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. If you look closely to the picture of my medicine cabinet you will see that I made the storage box smaller than the frame. There is a little overlap. Its slight but the small overlap hides the hinges. I did use two small piano hinges and it works great.
      Hope this helps

      • Thanks for the info! I used a 30″ piano hinge (overkill?) on my 30″ mirror and it worked great! Go piano hinges!

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