How to Build Your Own Medicine Cabinet

how to build a medicine cabinet

Medicine cabinets are surprisingly useful bits of furniture. They offer a great storage space that can easily double as a mirror. They protect your medication from the damages of sun and heat. If you’ve ever gone cabinet shopping, you’ll know that medicine cabinets can be pricey, so why not make your own?

Building your medicine cabinet is a great project for any woodworker, and it is an excellent introduction to the craft for novices. The best thing about making a medicine cabinet is that you can decide how complicated or straightforward it needs to be. From simple open bathroom cabinets to hidden wall fixtures, the only limit is your imagination and the tools you have available to you.

If you’re looking for a relatively simple medicine cabinet that needs a lot of your equipment to build, check out Steve Ramsey’s wood and steel cabinet project, which you can quickly adapt for your individual needs.

If you’re completely brand new to woodworking and do not have a lot of equipment at your disposal, why not stick to a basic open medicine cabinet that’s easy to assemble and make? It’s a great, easy project to get you started and hooked on woodworking.


What You Will Need

Lumber (you can use any lumber, though the tutorial uses pine):

  • 1″ x 8″ x 10ft
  • 1″ x 6″ x 4ft
  • 1″ x 2″ x 2ft
  • A sheet of 24″ x 36″ ¼” plywood

You’ll also need:

  • ½” galvanized pipe
  • ½” galvanized floor flange
  • ½” galvanized elbow
  • ½ galvanized close nipple
  • 2″ finish nails
  • ½” screws
  • Wood glue
  • Miter saw or circular saw
  • Sanding block
  • Polyurethane
  • Saw blades
  • A wood stain of your choice

Step-By-Step Breakdown

1. Measure the lumber.

Measure your lumber to the following specifications:

  • 1″ x 6″: 2 pieces of 22 ½” long
  • 1″ x 8″: 2 pieces of 28 ½” long
  • 1 piece 24″ long
  • 1 piece 25″ long
  • 1″ x 2″: 1 piece 22 ½” long
  • Plywood: 24″ x 30″


2. Cut the lumber.

Use a miter saw to cut the lumber into the desired sizes. If you do not own a miter saw, do not worry you can also use a cordless circular saw. Many places that sell wood are also happy to cut it for you. But if you’re serious about starting woodworking as a hobby, a saw is an essential piece of equipment that you won’t regret buying.


3. Distress the wood.

To give the wood a bit more of an aged look, take your favorite tools, and beat the wood up a bit. Feel free to makes scratches and dents on each piece of lumber. If you do not like the distressed look, feel free to skip this part.


4. Assemble the basic frame.

Start by taking one of the 28 ½” boards and put some wood glue on one end.

Set the 24″ board on top of this end and secure it using the 2″ nails.

Repeat this process with the other 28 ½” board by putting glue on the one end and attaching it to the other side of the 24″ board. You should end up with a U-shaped frame.

Finally, finish off the frame by adding some glue on both ends of the U and laying the 25″ board on top. There should be a ½” overhang at both ends. Secure the board with 2″ nails. This will be the top of your cabinet.


5. Add the shelves.

Start by laying the frame on its side. Place the 22 ½” boards into the frame, evenly spaced. These will be your shelves. Make sure that the shelves are lying flush with the floor and that they are completely parallel to each other. You’ll have time to move them around to your satisfaction before you secure them with nails.

Secure the shelves in place with 2″ nails.


6. Add the plywood backing.

Lay the cabinet down on the floor with the front facing down. Place the plywood over the cabinet, making sure all the edges match up evenly. The backing protects both your wall and your cabinet from damage and gives the piece a finished look.

Secure the plywood backing to the cabinet using 1″ nails. Space the nails evenly apart and secure every edge.


7. Prepare your cabinet for wall mounting.

Start by flipping the cabinet back over. Take the 1″ x 2″ board and put it into the back of the cabinet, on the top, and secure it with 2″ nails.

This provides an additional layer of reinforcement when you want to hang your cabinet. When you hang up your cabinet, use this piece to secure your medicine cabinet to the wall.

By now, you should have something that resembles a beautiful but simple cabinet.


8. Stain the wood.

Once you’ve done some sanding, you can start staining the wood with your chosen stain. Wait for the stain to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. Darker stains will result in a more rustic-looking cabinet, while lighter stains may suit modern bathrooms better. Feel free to play around with different stains on a piece of leftover timber before you commit.

Seal the stain in using polyurethane, which will help protect the cabinet from moisture damage, which is especially crucial if you’re mounting the cabinet in a bathroom.

Again, wait for this to dry completely before continuing.


9. Assemble the towel bar.

The towel bar is an optional step that adds a bit of functionality to the cabinet. The galvanized steel looks excellent when paired with a dark wood stain, giving the entire cabinet a retro feel.

Arrange the piping by attaching the elbows to the pipe, then attach the nipples to the elbows. Finally, attach the floor flanges at the end. Your arrangement should look like this:

Screw everything together so that you end up with something resembling this:


10. Install the towel bar.

Center the towel bar on the bottom of the cabinet and secure it in place by using ½” screws and a cordless hand drill. You can also use a screwdriver, of course, but it will be more effort.

And then you’re done. You now have a rustic medicine cabinet that functions as both storage space and a towel rack. You’re ready to hang the cabinet up in your bathroom. You can be proud of your handiwork.

Once you’re done with the basic frame, you could also consider adding doors by using plywood and hinges. You can even attach a mirror to the front of the cabinet if you so desire.



Making a medicine cabinet is a relatively easy thing to do, and you can easily match up the project to your skill level. From just a simple, rustic cabinet to more pressing projects, there are plans for every type of medicine cabinet you can imagine. And many woodworkers are more than happy to share their ideas for free if you visit their website. So, do not be afraid to ask.

Medicine cabinets are a great way to add extra storage and a bit of charm to your bathroom. No matter what style you’re going for, you’ll be sure to create something that meets your needs. Feel free to try out different types of wood and various stains to see what you end up with. As with so many woodworking projects, you’re only limited by your imagination and the tools at your disposal.

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