How to Make a Recessed Bathroom Cabinet

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to Make a Recessed Bathroom Cabinet
Wood pegs are used for adjustable shelving in cabinets. (holzdübel2 image by Ewe Degiampietro from

Recessed bathroom cabinets provide a great way to employ unused space inside a small bathroom. While it's more conventional to think about recessing a small medicine cabinet above the sink, consider building and installing a large wall-sized cabinet. This can offer welcome storage as well as a full-length mirror for dressing. By keeping your size within the studs, the design can remain simple and easy to accomplish. Add a nice cabinet door or custom mirror and your new cabinet will be a show stopper.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure
  • Drywall hole saw
  • 1/2-by-2-inch boards
  • 1-by-3-inch boards
  • Table saw
  • Straight edge
  • Pencil
  • Marker
  • Drill
  • Finish nail gun
  • Wood pegs
  • Shelf
  • Plywood
  • Caulk
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Level
  • Shims
  • Wood screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Cabinet hinges
  • Knob

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  1. 1

    Locate wall studs in an open bathroom wall. Move a stud finder along the wall until it beeps or emits a light. Mark the spots. Measure 18 inches from the floor and mark the spot. Measure 60 inches from the floor and mark it. Draw horizontal lines at the 18- and 60-inch marks. Cut the drywall along the lines and along the insides of the studs.

  2. 2

    Cut two, 42-inch-long pieces of 1-by-3-inch board. Measure the inside width between the two studs. Subtract twice the thickness of the 1-by-3-inch board. Cut two pieces of 1-by-3-inch board to this length.

  3. 3

    Cut a 7-inch-long piece of 1-by-3-inch board. Place the wood vertically on your work table. Measure 2 inches and 6 inches from the top, and mark the spots. Measure 1 inch from each side and mark it. Draw horizontal lines through the 2- and 6-inch marks. Draw vertical lines through the 1-inch marks. Draw a dot with a marker where the lines cross.

  4. 4

    Drill pilot holes through the top two dots. Drill 5/32-inch holes through the bottom two dots. Nail through the top two dots so the nails emerge 1/4 inch from the back of the wood. This is a peg jig to drill even peg holes along each inside wall of the cabinet to allow for adjustable shelves.

  5. 5

    Turn the jig with the nails toward the bottom. Align the edges of the wood with the top of one side board. Tap the nails into the wood to make marks. Remove the jig. Place a 1/4-inch bit on the drill and install a stop collar that's half the thickness of the wood. This should allow you to drill halfway through the side wood. Drill at each nail mark. Turn the jig with the nails going into the new holes. Adjust your stop collar to 1 1/2 times the wood thickness and drill through the jig holes. Move your jig down for each new set of aligned holes. Repeat for the other board.

  6. 6

    Drill pilot holes through the side boards (with the holes toward the inside) and into the ends of the top and bottom boards. (The pilot holes keep the wood from splitting.) Apply a bead of carpenter's glue along the ends of the top and bottom boards and nail the sides to the top and bottom through the pilot holes. Measure the length and width of the box you've built. Cut plywood to fit. Apply a bead of glue and nail the plywood to the box with a finish nail every 8 to 10 inches.

  7. 7

    Sand, prime and paint the box. Use a semigloss bathroom paint for moisture control. Insert the cabinet box inside the wall cavity so the frame is flush with the drywall. Check with a level and shim if necessary. Drill pilot holes at the top, bottom and middle, then screw the side boards to the studs on each side using wood screws. Caulk between the cabinet and drywall. Measure, cut, prime and paint shelves to fit.

  8. 8

    Measure the cabinet's height and width. Cut plywood to this size on a table saw. Cut two pieces of 1-by-2-inch board the same length. Apply glue to one side of the 1-by-2-inch board and attach the boards to each long side of the plywood. Measure between the two boards and cut two small 1-by-2-inch board pieces to fit. Glue these at the top and bottom of the plywood to create a frame effect. Clamp the wood until the glue dries. Sand, prime and paint the cabinet door on both sides. Attach the door using cabinet hinges and install a door handle. Insert wood pegs at your shelf locations and rest your new shelves on the pegs.

Tips and warnings

  • If you discover your wall cavity has an electrical socket wire you may be able to install a light at the top of the cabinet and make some of the shelves glass. An electrician can identify the wire for you and help you install the correct type of electrical box for a bathroom wall.

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