If you’re short on bathroom storage space, this built-in cabinet could be just the ticket. It’s large and spacious, yet the shallow depth allows easy viewing and access to all of the contents. No more digging around in drawers or the dark corners of linen closets to find what you need. And since it’s recessed into the wall, you won’t lose any valuable floor space.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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This bath cabinet project is a great introduction to basic cabinet-building skills. It’s a simple box with a face frame attached to the front.You buy the doors in the style that best fits your bathroom décor and mount them to the face frame. We ordered the doors complete with 35mm holes to accept the concealed “euro-style” hinges. These hinges are great for novice cabinetmakers because they allow you to adjust the doors for a perfect fit.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the entire cabinet assembly process. Then we’ll show you how to cut a hole in your wall and safely remove a stud to create a recessed space for the thin bathroom cabinet. Even with little woodworking experience, you should be able to complete the cabinet in a day. Applying the finish and installing the cabinet will take another five or six hours.
You could cut the cabinet sides and face frame parts with a circular saw and saw guide, but you’ll get tighter-fitting joints if you use a power miter saw or a table saw with a miter gauge. We used a pocket hole jig and pocket screws to assemble the face frame pieces and attach it to the box. If you don’t own a pocket hole jig, glue and nail the face frame to the cabinet box with finish nails.
Including the doors, door glass and glass shelves, this cabinet cost us about $400. We faxed an order to the cabinet door company and received the doors in about three weeks. The cherry doors for this cabinet cost us about $160. Similar oak doors would cost about $135. We ordered the patterned glass ($60) and glass shelves ($10 each) from a local glass company. The Blum Compact 33 hinges and mounting plates are available by mail order and online. We’ve listed sources in the Buyer’s Guide in Project PDF’s below.
Choose the Cabinet Location Carefully
Before you order doors or start building the cabinet,make sure you have a good spot to install the cabinet. Exterior walls are out. There’s likely to be insulation in them, and there may be structural issues to deal with as well. Look for a space that’s about 26 in.wide and 68 in. high. After you’ve found a potential location, use a stud finder to locate the studs, then mark them with masking tape. Position the cabinet so that you only have to remove one stud. You can put your cabinet at any height. The top of our cabinet lines up with the door, 80 in. above the floor.
Then make sure the spot you chose doesn’t have any hidden obstructions. The easiest method is to cut two 6-in. square inspection holes in the drywall, one on each side of the stud you’ll be removing. Then look in with a flashlight to make sure there aren’t any electrical wires, plumbing pipes or heat ducts in the way. A less invasive but also less thorough method is to poke a bent clothes hanger through a hole in the wall and probe around. You’ll have to do this in several places, though. If space is tight, you may have to adjust the cabinet dimensions to fit it in. When you’ve found a location, order the doors and hinges. If the door sizes are different from ours, adjust the cabinet sizes to fit them. The doors overlap the face frame 3/4 in. on all sides.
1. Build the Box First
Start by cutting the 1×4 cabinet sides (A, in Figure A in Project PDFs below), and top, center and bottom (B) to length. Then use a square to mark the location of the center divider on the sides (Photo above). Drill 5/32-in. screw-clearance holes through the sides at these marks and at the top and bottom. Complete the side pieces by drilling the shelf pin holes. Make a drilling jig by screwing a 1×2 fence to a strip of pegboard (make sure the pegboard has 1/4-in.holes). Position the edge of the 1×2 fence 3/4 in. from the center of the first row of holes. Use a 1/4-in. brad point bit to drill the holes. Tighten a drill stop collar onto the bit to limit the depth of the holes to the thickness of the pegboard plus 1/2 in. Notice that we skipped every other set of holes to create holes that are 2 in. apart. Be careful to mark the bottom of the jig and align it the same for both sides to ensure that the holes line up.
2. Attach Top and Bottom
Screw the sides to the top and bottom through the predrilled clearance holes. Then line up the middle horizontal divider with the marks and screw it in.
3. Attach the Back
Align one edge of the 1/4-in. plywood back with the side of the cabinet. Pre-drill the screw holes and screw it into place with 1-in. screws. Then square the cabinet and screw the other three edges and center divider.
4. Cut Face Frame
Start with 1x2s that are milled accurately with square edges. Home centers and lumberyards usually stock a few species of hardwood 1x2s, but cherry may be a little harder to find. Check hardwood lumber suppliers or call a local cabinetmaker to find a source. Sight down the boards to make sure they’re perfectly straight. Arrange the face frame parts with the best looking face down and make a pencil mark on the back of each piece. Using a pocket hole jig with a stepped drill bit, drill a pair of holes in both ends of the rails. Cut the face frame parts to length (D and E; Figure A). Drill pocket screw holes on the backside of the rails (E) with a special stepped bit and pocket hole jig.
5. Align and Clamp Face Frame
Align the face frame parts (D and E). Clamp them and join them with 1-1/4 in. pocket screws. If you haven’t used a pocket hole jig before, practice on scrap wood. You’ll quickly get the hang of it.
6. Drill Pocket Screw Holes
Drill pocket holes around the outside of the cabinet box and attach the face frame with pocket screws. The face frame is sized to overlap the interior of the cabinet box by 1/8 in. Make sure this overlap is even all the way around, then clamp it before you attach the face frame. If you don’t own a pocket hole jig, you can nail the face frame to the box with 6d finish nails and fill the holes later with putty in a matching color.
7. Mark Hinge Hole Centers
The hinges fit into the round holes bored in the doors and mount to a separate mounting plate that you’ll screw to the face frame. Positioning them is a bit tricky. The first step is to attach the mounting plates to the edge of the face frame. Start by marking the center of each hole on a piece of masking tape stuck to the door’s edge. Use a square to mark the center of the hinge hole on the edge of the door. Then set one upper and one lower door in place, making sure they overlap the face frame on the top and bottom by 3/4 in. Leave a 1/8-in.gap between them (use a 1/8-in. spacer). Then mark the hinge centers on the face frame. After marking one side, use exact measurements to duplicate the hinge center positions on the other side.
8. Center Hinge Mounting Plates
Next, center the hinge mounting plates on these marks, pre-drill and screw them to the face frame. Center the screws in the slots to allow adjustments up and down.
9. Screw Hinges to the Door
Mount the hinges next. Press the hinges into the holes and use a square to make sure the screw holes are parallel to the edge of the door. Then drive the mounting screws.
10. Mark and Cutout Dimensions on the Wall
In most cases,you’ll have to remove a stud to make a wide enough opening (Photos with steps 10 – 12). Photos with steps 13 and 14 show how to add a header to support the cutoff stud. The metal angle brackets support the new header. The sill and side pieces aren’t structural but provide backing for the drywall and a place to attach the cabinet.
Use a level and pencil to mark the cutout dimensions on the wall. Mark the outline 1/4 in. taller and wider than the cabinet box dimensions. Cut the drywall along the lines with a drywall saw and break it out.
11. Cut the Horizontal Lines
The next step is to cut out the stud to make room for the header. Make a short level line 3-3/4 in. above the top of the cutout opening and centered over the stud. This is where you’ll cut the stud to allow room for the header to fit under it. Make a similar line 1-1/2 in. below the bottom of the cutout. Cut through the stud at each spot. If you’re careful to control the depth of the blade, you may be able to cut through the stud without cutting through the drywall on the opposite side. But don’t worry. If you do cut through, the thin slot will be easy to patch.
12. Remove Drywall Sections
Remove the cutout section of stud by hitting it hard with a hammer on the edge nearest you to twist the nails or screws loose from the drywall on the opposite side.
13. Nail Together the Double Header
Measure the distance between the remaining wall studs and cut two 2x4s 3/16 in. shorter than the measurement.Build the 2×4 header by sandwiching scraps of 1/2-in. plywood or 1/2-in. strips of wood between the 2x4s and nailing them together with 12d nails. Slide the header up against the cutoff stud and hold it temporarily in place with a screw through the drywall. Level the header and support it by screwing metal angle brackets (Simpson No. A-33) to the studs with Simpson Strong-Drive screws.
14. Screw in Metal Angle Bracket
Next, screw the metal angle bracket to the stud. Screw another special angle bracket to the opposite end of the header and to the stud.
15. Nail and Level to Stud
Cut a 2×4 the same length as the header for the sill, level it and attach it to the studs with 2-1/2 in. screws driven at an angle.Complete the framing by cutting 2x4s to fit between the header and sill on each side of the cabinet and securing them with angled 2-1/2 in. screws (Photo 15). Pre-drill to keep the sides from slipping back too far
16. Install Cabinet
It’s easiest to sand and finish the thin bathroom cabinet before mounting it to the wall. Apply stain if you desire and three coats of polyurethane varnish. Then just slip the cabinet into the opening, level it, and screw it into the framing on each side. Secure it with trim screws driven through the sides into the framing. Conceal the screws by driving them into shelf pin holes. Don’t over tighten or you’ll pull the frame out of square.
17. Install Doors
Remount the doors and adjust the hinges so the spaces between the doors are even. Loosen the base plate screws to move a door up and down. Loosen the hinge screw to adjust the doors sideways. We ordered the top doors to accommodate 1/8-in. glass. They came with a clear plastic strip that we slid into a slot to hold the glass in place. Make sure to get recommendations from your door supplier for securing the glass in the door you order.
I’ve cut a lot of holes in walls over the years, and most of the time things have gone smoothly. But not always. I’ve accidentally cut electrical wires and plumbing pipes because I failed to check the wall cavity first. But the worst thing I remember is the thumping and tinkling sound made by dozens of collectible glass kitty cats as they fell off shelves and shattered on the floor in the adjoining room. That’s right. I forgot to check the opposite side of the wall I was beating on. You can’t be too careful when it comes to wall tear-out. — Jeff
Ordering Cabinet Doors
The advantage of building your own thin bathroom cabinet with custom made doors is that you can choose any door style you want and have it made of oak, maple or cherry to match the existing cabinetry or woodwork in your house. The terminology for door styles can be a little confusing, though, so it’s best to choose the style you like from pictures or illustrations provided by the door manufacturer. The manufacturer we used has illustrations on its website to help you choose. We chose cherry frame-and-panel doors with a flat plywood panel on the lower doors, and upper doors machined for glass panels. We ordered door frames with square outside edges and a 1/4-round “bead” on the inside edge. Don’t forget to ask the manufacturer to bore 35mm holes for the hinges. If you plan to use Blum Compact 33 hinges like ours, ask that 2-1/2 to 3mm be left from the edge of the door to the edge of the hole.
We measured the glass recess in the back of the upper cabinet doors after they arrived and deducted 1/8 in. from both the width and the height. Then we used this dimension to order the 1/8-in. thick crossreeded glass from a local glass shop. Glass has to be tempered for safety within 2 ft. of a door or in a shower area. Expect to spend about four times as much for tempered glass.
Click the links below to download the materials list as well as the drawings for this bath cabinet project.