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Build and Install a Medicine Cabinet

It's one of the first things you see every morning, right after you slam the button on the alarm clock. And it's one of the last things you see at night. I'm not talking about your face—facial improvements are beyond our scope. I'm talking about the mirror on your medicine cabinet, and the cabinet itself.

Is your cabinet showing its age? Is it too small, poorly designed, or just plain ugly? You can replace the cabinet by buying a particle-board wonder, but it's rather easy to make a much better cabinet. Building your own takes work, but it also puts you in control of size, materials, and design. It's a great introduction to the art of cabinet-making. And you can admire the fruits of your labor first thing in the morning and last thing at night!

Step 1: Designing the Cabinet

Building Smarts

Because you are the builder, you can make the shelf spacing as you wish. I like short shelves for the little paraphernalia that always accumulates in a medicine cabinet: tubes of medicine, nail clippers, tiny bottles. But feel free to change the spacing if this doesn't appeal to you. Just measure what you want to put in the cabinet and lay out the shelves accordingly. Similarly, if you anticipate storing big bottles in the cabinet, you may want to increase overall depth of the cabinet to 3 12" or so.

Although over-the-sink is the standard location for a medicine cabinet, that's not enshrined in the Constitution—you can place the cabinet wherever it works.

How big to make the cabinet? I prefer a large cabinet, for two reasons. First, the large mirror makes a bathroom seem bigger. Second, well, look inside your medicine cabinet, and you tell me if it's big enough! The sample cabinet shown in this chapter measures 20" wide by 30" high on the outside, with shelves 2 34" deep. Because these cabinets are screwed through the back, as long as it covers two studs you'll find good fastening.

What materials are best? I used melamine-coated particle board, a standard stain-resistant material sold as sheets or shelves at lumber yards, but you could also use 34" veneer plywood. The door frames are hardwood.

The following table lists the parts needed for a medicine cabinet that's 20" wide by 30" high on the outside, with shelves 2 34" deep.

Name Material Dimensions Number Used Notes
Carcase top, bottom, wood shelf 3/4" melamine 3" x 19" 3
Carcase side 3/4" melamine 3" x 30" 2
Glass shelf 1/4" plate glass 2 1/4" x 19" 4 Glass company cuts, round edges. Measure when carcase is finished.
Front edging 1/8" x 3/4" hardwood Cut to length after carcase assembled. 4 Can substitute edge banding.
Back 1/4" plywood 19 1/2" x 29 1/2" 1 Cut after carcase finished.
Door side 3/4" hardwood 2 1/2" x 30" 2
Door top, bottom 3/4" hardwood 2 1/2" x 20" 2
Mirror front 1/8" mirror 19 1/2" x 29 1/2" 1 Glass company cuts; measure when door finished.
Mirror backing 1/4" Masonite Approx. 19" x 29" 1 Measure, cut after door finished.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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