DIY Medicine Cabinet to Open Shelving

Medicine Cabinet Replacement Shelf

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Why I Replaced My Medicine Cabinet?

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You could say I was forced to replace it because our house’s main bathroom had the standard medicine cabinet you’d see in any house build in the 70s, and it was next to a fairly large mirror. This mirror next to a mirror didn’t work, and my wife hated it so much that one day she got some tools from the garage and ripped it out.

The problem was that she did this demo with no plan for what to put in its place, and that is where I come in – welcome to my life.

It was summer at the time, and consequently, we left the hole in the wall for a long time because I hate doing indoor projects when it’s sunny and warm outside.

As summer faded, the Pacific North West rains started, providing me the time and motivation to tackle this project to do something with the recessed space left behind by the medicine cabinet. We used this time to do some research and decided that simple built-in open shelves would add a nice minimalist look and it would look even better painted bright white with Benjamin Moore Advance paint. I chose this paint because it is high quality and dries hard, making it very durable.

Here are the steps I followed to make it happen.

How to Convert a Medicine Cabinet to Open Shelves

Time needed: 3 days.

A DIY medicine cabinet solution.

  1. Remove the existing medicine cabinet

    If your wife has not already ripped out the medicine cabinet for you, go ahead and remove it now. You can see there is already a recessed frame in the wall to which the old medicine cabinet was attached. medicine cabinet removed

  2. Build out the box for the open shelves.

    Measure the length and width of this space and use this to build out a rectangular box. I used 1×4 Poplar boards (2 cut long and 2 cut wide) and joined them together using wood glue and screws that I countersunk—no fancy joints. Determine the distance between the two long sides at the center point and cut out a middle shelf. Attach with wood glue and more screws. Tip: I spent a little extra and used Poplar because it is harder than pine. I didn’t want this shelf to be as susceptible to little dings and dents.Box to replace medicine cabinet

  3. Attach the backing to the open shelves.

    Now cut out the back using ¼ inch plywood. I used a jigsaw. It does not have to be perfect as no one will see it. I connected this to the frame using 18 gauge 5/8 inch brad nails. The open shelf box is complete.
    KEY POINT: To make life much easier, I painted each board and the backing before I assembled everything. As I mentioned, I used Benjamin Moore Advanced. This paint dries hard and is very durable, but it does take 16 hours to dry and 30 days to totally cure. I put three coats on this project with at least 16 hours of dry time between each coat.

  4. Install the box in the recessed frame left by the removed Medicine Cabinet.

    Using 4 wood screws ( 2 countersunk on each side of the longboards) I attached the box to the wall. I then filled the screw holes with wood filler, sanded and touched up the paint.

  5. Add the Molding around the open shelving box.

    Finally, I added the molding. I found this molding at Lowes, and it is not actually made of wood (2-in x 8-ft Primed Urethane Chair Rail Moulding). This step is a bit tricky. I got some tips from YOUTUBE, and I used my miter saw to make the cuts. I cut each board and installed it one at a time to make adjustments as I went. I attached the molding using liquid nails and a couple of Brad nails to each board. I used a little spackle to cover the nail holes and added two paint coats to finish.Medicine Cabinet Replacement Shelf

That’s it – pretty easy.


Can this be completed in a day?

Yes, however, it depends on what paint you use. As I mentioned, I went with a hard paint that is normally used for cabinets, Benjamin Moore Advance. This paint takes 16 hours to dry between coats. I used 3 coats.

What will I need?

Mitre saw for the molding.
2-inch self tapping screws.
Jigsaw to cut out the backing.
Wood filler
Wood glue
Nail gun and Brad nails
Liquid Nails
– Paint (use a hardpaint like Benjamin Moore Advance)
Paintbrush to touch up.
4 inch Foam roller
Speed Square
Measuring tape
1 x 4 board (8 feet) Poplar
¼ Plywood.

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