Thursday, July 22, 2010

[How To] Bathroom Medicine Cabinet

Bathroom Medicine Cabinet Tutorial

How to Install Bathroom Medicine Cabinet?
If you're like most Americans, you spend about an hour each day before that altar of good looks: the bathroom medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, the altar's not always up to the job. So if yours is dowdy, dull or just too small to hold all the lotions and potions you've amassed replace it. Surprisingly, it's a relatively quick and easy project. Your hardest job will be choosing a new medicine cabinet from the hundreds of great styles available. Once you've selected one, even if you need to make or expand an opening in the wall and add some framing, this project is a straightforward affair.

Bathroom Medicine Cabinet Types and Styles
These days, you'll find two basic types of medicine cabinet, surface-mount (easiest to install) and recessed (cleanest looking). Choose hinged- or sliding-door models with as many as three doors. Some manufacturers even provide cabinets that can be linked for maximum storage and mirror area lighting, too. You'll find cabinets with built-in lights, and some with receptacles hidden inside.

A surface-mount cabinet is nearly as easy to hang as a picture: you just attach it to the wall. It can also be as deep as you want, depending on how much you're willing to let it stick out. Recessed cabinets are generally 3 1/2 inches deep, to fit into a cavity framed with 2-by-4s. The area behind them has to be free of pipes and wiring. If a shallow space allows you to recess only part of the cabinet, see if the manufacturer makes a trim kit for trimming out the exposed part. Whichever type you choose, here are key features to look for.

Rust-resistant construction. A bathroom cabinet box made from wood, plastic or aluminum is your best choice, since these materials stand up well to the high humidity in a bathroom. If you buy a steel cabinet, look for one with baked-on enamel paint, which resists rust better than a spray-finished cabinet.

Strong hinges. A hinged cabinet door has to support the weight of a heavy mirror. Some manufacturers use full-length piano hinges, others use scissor-style hinges, and still others use European-style cabinet hinges, like the ones found on frameless kitchen cabinets. All of these provide good support. With European hinges, you can reposition the door if it moves out of alignment.

Spring-loaded hinges. On hinged-door cabinets, spring-loaded, self-closing hinges hold doors closed more firmly than do magnetic catches. European hinges usually include this feature, but piano hinges generally do not.

Adjustable shelving. This feature allows you to change the cabinet's configuration to accommodate your changing collection of stuff.

Distortion-free mirrors. In the absence of mirrors that make us all look like our favorite stars, it's best to live with the truth, and a flawed mirror is a daily irritant.

Step by Step installing bathroom medicine cabinet
The sequence below covers a recessed installation for a typical single-door cabinet. It's easily adapted to most any cabinet/wall combination. For instance, if you're replacing an old cabinet with a newer, larger model, these instructions will work fine: just remove the old cabinet before you measure and mark for the new one. But if you want to minimize the mess and complexity of the job, make the replacement cabinet the same size as the old one. If you can do that, you probably won't have to modify the rough opening the box sits in.

1. Lay out the opening. For a bathroom medicine cabinet above a vanity, the National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends that the bottom edge of the mirror be 40 inches off the floor a good height for most people. Use a tape measure to mark off that height, and then draw a horizontal reference line at that point with a carpenter's pencil and a carpenter's level. Next, measure the width of your vanity, divide it by 2, and then transfer the resulting centerline measurement to the wall. If your medicine cabinet came with a template, tape it to the wall, aligning it with your two reference lines. If you don't have a template, measure the width and height of the back of the bathroom cabinet, add 1/2 inch to each measurement (to give you maneuvering room when you put the cabinet in), and then mark these dimensions on the wall.

2. Explore inside the wall. Before you cut out the entire opening, check behind the wall for studs, water lines and wiring. Use a stud finder to check for studs. If you find one within your layout lines, use a utility knife to cut an 8-inch-square access hole that spans the stud, so you can get a better look at what's inside the wall. If you don't find a stud, just cut the access hole at the center of your layout. Then with your hand or a bent wire coat hanger, feel behind the wall for obstructions. If you find wiring and/or pipes, you'll have to surface-mount the cabinet instead of recessing it, or recess it only partway. Measure the depth from the surface to the obstruction(s). If the depth is too shallow for your cabinet, see if the manufacturer makes a trim kit and recess the cabinet partway, or surface-mount it. If the only obstruction is a stud or two, don't worry: you can cut them and build in blocking to support the wall and the bathroom cabinet.

3. Cut the opening. If the space behind the wall is clear of everything but studs, use a drywall saw or a reciprocating saw to cut out the entire opening. Cut any obstructing studs off 1 1/2 inches above and below this opening to provide clearance for the blocking you'll install next. Measure and mark the cut lines, use a utility knife to cut away the drywall where it overlaps the studs, and then saw through the studs with a reciprocating saw or short handsaw.

4. Frame the opening. Cut 2-by blocking to fit between the studs, and screw that blocking into place, using 3-inch drywall screws driven at an angle with a drill/driver and Phillips head bit. (If you try to toenail this blocking, you'll have to pound so hard you may crack the wall. Besides, the awkward reach for a hammer makes it better to use the angled screws.)

Tips from the pros: (a) Cut the blocking just a hair large, and friction will hold the wood in place while you drive in the screws. (b) Drill pilot holes at a 45-degree angle for the screws, and they'll go in much easier in fact, start the screws before you position the blocking. (c) Waxing the screw threads also eases their entry.

With the horizontal blocking in place, install cripple studs on each side, as shown, again with 3-inch drywall screws. If you previously cut back the drywall to saw out a stud, cut sections of new drywall to patch the cutout areas. Nail the patch pieces in place with 6d drywall nails. Cover the joints with drywall compound and drywall tape. (For tips on how to repair drywall, you may want to check out The Drywaller's Toolkit and Hanging Drywall.)

5. Install the bathroom medicine cabinet. Remove the door(s) and place the cabinet box in the opening. Check that the box is level and plumb in the opening. If it's out of square, shim it with bits of shingles or other scrap. Then screw the cabinet to the cripple studs on each side of the opening. Don't overtighten the screws: you may distort the cabinet box. Reattach the door(s) and, if necessary, adjust for level and fit. Note: Many recessed cabinets have a wide lip that projects over the drywall opening to trim out the wall opening. If the wall surface is uneven, you may have gaps between the edge of the lip and the wall. If so, use a caulking gun and a paintable acrylic caulk to seal all sides of the cabinet. Smooth the bead with your finger, and wipe away any excess.

Now that you know what's involved, if you think you'd like somebody else to handle this job or any part of it check out our Services. Our partners will help you find trustworthy, prescreened professionals in your area.

Bathroom Medicine Cabinet Tips
If you want surprises when it comes to bathroom medicine cabinets, wait until you remove one from an old home and see all of the discarded double-edged razor blades that are waiting for you behind the plaster. Those of us who grew up in older homes can still remember the tiny slit in the back of medicine cabinets where razor blades were placed instead of garbage cans. Razor blades in garbage cans can be very dangerous, so bathroom medicine cabinet manufacturers of old thought it was a great idea to place the dull blades in a wall cavity where no hands could get cut.

I hope you didn't purchase your medicine cabinets yet. If you visited a home center, you only saw a very, very small percentage of the amazing selection of medicine cabinets that are available. As time goes on, I am constantly surprised at how the selection of products gets wider and wider. Years ago, you could maybe pick from 20 or 30 different styles of bathroom medicine cabinets. Now there are well over 100.

Who would think you could find a distinctive wood-framed medicine cabinet that would look perfect in a Victorian home? Not only are they available, the woodwork trim around the cabinet looks like it is 120 years old. Even the surface-mounted hardware door latch looks old!

I agree with you that recessed bathroom medicine cabinets look better than surface-mounted ones. The surface-mounted cabinets serve a market where cutting into a wall is too expensive or not possible. They also provide instant gratification. If you need a functional medicine cabinet in ten minutes or less, screw a surface-mounted medicine cabinet to the wall and be done with it.

Recessed bathroom medicine cabinets are very easy to install if you are building a new home or are involved in a major bathroom remodeling project where the walls will be stripped to the studs and plumbers and electricians are showing up to do other work. If you want to talk about other surprises that await you in bathroom walls, wait until you start to remove the drywall and/or plaster and discover a plumbing vent pipe and/or electric cables feeding bath light fixtures or other rooms right where the recessed opening for the cabinet needs to be.

This is why you never want to cut haphazardly into a bathroom wall thinking you are going to install a recessed medicine cabinet. Always proceed slowly by taking off the drywall and plaster to see what you are up against.

Let's assume there are no pipes, electrical cables or heating ducts in your way. Your challenge will be to create the rough-in opening, or cavity, that the bathroom medicine cabinet will nest into. This is very basic carpentry, but can be challenging if the wall happens to be a supporting wall. If you have any doubts whatsoever, contact a seasoned remodeling contractor for advice. Offer to pay this person for his/her time to consult with you for an hour.

You can purchase a mirrored medicine cabinet with no worries. The weight of the glass is only an issue for you as you carry the cabinet from the store to your car and from your car to the bathroom. The weight of the mirrors can easily be supported by the walls. Be sure to use the screws provided by the manufacturer. Just pay attention to the written installation instructions and you will do fine. You must be sure the screws bite into solid framing material so the heavy medicine cabinet does not tip out of the wall cavity.

Many bathroom medicine cabinets come equipped with lights. All electrical connections must be done according to the National Electric Code. It is vitally important that any metal parts of the medicine cabinet are grounded, because of the electrocution hazard that is enhanced by the presence of water in the vanity sink.

The installation height of the bathroom medicine cabinet is very important. If your family has a mixture of tall and short people, be sure to think about getting a tall mirrored medicine cabinet that all will be able to use without stooping or standing on tip toes as they primp in front of the mirror.

Bathroom medicine cabinets don't have to be relegated to bathrooms. There are lots of other places in a home where you might want recessed storage and a handy mirror. You can purchase very affordable bathroom medicine cabinets that work great in sewing rooms, hobby areas and even workshops. The smaller cabinets are great places to store small items for any number of projects.

How to Replace a Bathroom Medicine Cabinet?

If you're seeking a new look for your bathroom, replacing the bathroom medicine cabinet may be all you need to do. Replacing the cabinet is a simple process if the cabinet is a surface-mount or is the same size built-in as the one you're taking out. If you're upgrading a built-in to a bigger size, then you have some extra work to do. Depending on the installation, the project can take from a half-hour to three hours with just a few household tools.

Instructions to replace a bathroom medicine cabinet.

Step 1 Replacing Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
Remove the old cabinet by unscrewing it from the inside back if it is a surface-mount or the sides if it's a built-in model.

Step 2 Replacing Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
Install the new bathroom medicine cabinet (surface-mount or same-size built-in). If it is a surface-mount, the holes in the wall should be in at least one stud. Use that stud and another if the cabinet reaches to another. If not, use an anchor or a molly bolt for the other side. If the cabinet is built in and is the same size as the one you took out, just screw the new one into the studs on the sides through pre-drilled holes.

Step 3 Replacing Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
If the built-in cabinet is larger than the one you're taking out, you will have to expand the frame inside the wall. Take out the sides of the frame by cutting the top and the bottom with a hacksaw blade to cut through any glue or nails. Wrap the end of the blade in a rag so it doesn't cut your hand. With the sides out, you can see what you need to do to reframe the wall for the bathroom medicine cabinet. There can be many scenarios once you open the wall. If you run into a stud and this is a load bearing wall, don't cut it. Either hire a professional carpenter or use a surface-mount cabinet. Another problem that can stop you is plumbing. In this case, have a plumber move the plumbing or use the surface-mount cabinet. If it is not a load-bearing wall, you can cut it out of the way.

Step 4 Replacing Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
Measure for the new cabinet, and using a laser level, draw the outline on the drywall for cutting. Cut the drywall with a utility knife. Cut out the stud if there is one, otherwise cut 2-by-4 boards for your frame. Cut the horizontal framing to go from stud to stud. The vertical framing should be cut to the height of the cabinet.

Step 5 Replacing Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
Put wood glue on the ends of the horizontal studs and put in the top one. Hold in place until the glue holds it. Repeat with the bottom stud. Reach in and toenail the framing into the existing studs with a pneumatic nailer.

Step 6 Replacing Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
Nail in the vertical framing studs. Place the bathroom medicine cabinet in the wall and screw through the sides into the new framing. Install the door to the cabinet if it didn't come already installed.

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