Easy DIY: Installing a Medicine Cabinet

A medicine cabinet is a low-cost option to create extra space in your bathroom. Modern medicine cabinets come in a large selection of types and styles sure to complement your home décor.

Always use the hardware included with your new medicine cabinet. Also, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before installing your new cabinet. If your medicine cabinet has lights, you may wish to consult a licensed electrician. All electrical connections must meet local and national electric codes. In addition, it is critical that any metal on the cabinet is grounded to prevent electrocution.

Surface-Mounted Medicine Cabinets

At its simplest, a surface-mounted medicine cabinet is no more difficult than hanging a mirror, provided you anchor it properly.

  • Locate and mark the wall stud locations. A piece of tape or a pencil mark will work. Typically, the studs run every 16 inches along the width of the wall. Use a stud finder and verify the location by driving a small finish nail through the wall finish. Once you find the first stud, the others will be much easier.
  • Hold the cabinet against the wall and position it as desired, making sure it runs over two wall studs for proper anchoring. Use a carpenter’s level to ensure it is level at top and bottom as well as plumb – straight up and down – on the sides. Having a helper hold the cabinet while you verify the bottom and one side makes the job much easier.
  • Drive screws through the back of the medicine cabinet into the studs to secure the cabinet. Open and close the cabinet door and pull on the cabinet lightly to ensure it’s stable.

Flush-Mounted Medicine Cabinets

Measure and mark your wall stud locations before shopping for your flush-mounted cabinet. To avoid removing more than one wall stud, select a cabinet that’s less than 30 inches in width. (If you select a wider cabinet, plan to increase the cutting and framing described below.)

Note: Check to make sure heating ducts, plumbing lines and wiring do not run through the wall at the cabinet height before beginning. If you have any doubt, carefully cut a very small hole in the wall and use a flashlight and mirror to look around. It’s much easier to patch a hole than to repair the potential damage.

Verify that the wall is not load-bearing before proceeding. If you have any doubts, consult a building contractor or other professional. Load-bearing walls carry the weight of the entire structure, and cutting into them without special precautions is extremely dangerous. Most interior walls are not load-bearing, however.

  • Position the cabinet as desired, ensuring it is level and plumb using a carpenter’s level. Allow the cabinet to line up with the edge of a stud for the easiest installation.
  • Score the drywall or other wall covering with a utility knife, along the stud edge, then follow with a reciprocating saw to cut through the wall. Cut back as necessary to use the exact stud edge for one side of the cabinet.
  • Draw an outline around the cabinet to mark the remaining edges. Cut and remove the drywall. Cut out the exposed stud level with the top and bottom of the cabinet recess.
  • Frame the opening with 2-by-4 lumber cut to fit between the two remaining studs. Toenail one board at the top of the opening, and another at bottom, between the studs, and nail through the board into the cut stud at the top and bottom. Framing the opening allows the medicine cabinet to rest on the bottom board and provides an anchor for attachment.
  • Run wiring for lighting as desired. Follow the product instructions or consult an electrician.
  • Slide the cabinet in place and secure it to the framing with screws after verifying the cabinet is still level and plumb. If it isn’t, cut and shim to adjust it as needed.
  • Trim around the cabinet as necessary to cover rough edges. Use molding or trim pieces and attach with finishing nails.

Don’t stop with just a medicine cabinet. Consider upgrading your bathroom with other simple changes. Adding a large mirror or creating an accent wall with a different color of paint or wallpaper, for instance, will give your bathroom a new look.


Anne - May 20, 2014 at 3:35 pm

This is a good step by step explanation on how to install a medicine cabinet. For the most part would the same hold true if you were installing a wood shelf? A modern look these days is to have wood boards as shelves on walls. I don’t like the look of them being held up from underneath but I like when you can’t tell how they are held up. Are there other tips for this? Thank you

Jithin C - May 16, 2014 at 12:11 am

Nice concepts shared. But its bit difficult to keep these cabinets neat and clean. Since its a place that always get wet. Having the cabinet drilled inside the wall at the time of construction also is a good idea. Doing so saves space and avoid the cabinet being uncomfortably projected outside your toilet door