Recessed medicine cabinet

What you need to know when going with a recessed medicine cabinet

Unexpected limitations and mitigating factors

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Early on in the bathroom remodeling process you start collecting bids, and you talk with each contractor about the options you envision for your project. If you've already started this process and mentioned a recessed medicine cabinet, there's no telling what kind of reaction you got.

A contractor might have tried to talk you out of it, or they might not object at all. Somewhere in between is the response a contractor should have - at least depending on how houses were built in your area. In you're area it might not be an issue at all but many homes have various bits of infrastructure built into the wall directly behind the vanity cabinet - where recessed medicine cabinet would need to go.

Naturally, most homes are built with 2x4 studs which can factor into the decision to use a recessed medicine cabinet. But there can also be electrical wiring and plumbing back there too.

In the case of electrical, there's rarely enough extra wire left behind to move out of the way and will most certainly become an expense to re-route in the wall. In our case, electrical was not an issue, but more local ordinances required expensive wiring anyway - our city officials required a dedicated circuit to the outlet located near the cabinet.

The electrical box in the wall that accepts the light fixture is above the vanity and cabinet - this is an issue since it limits the height of the cabinet that can be used. Moving that box is not such a good idea because there are probably building codes that dictate everything about it's location.

Another obstruction here is plumbing related. Venting pipes run through the walls, usually right where your recessed medicine cabinet will go. We got lucky, as you can see in today's pictures, the vent pipe comes up at an angle such that a recessed medicine cabinet is possible - it's just that it's size is severely limited.

Since the medicine cabinet must be centered over the vanity cabinet to look good, and the location of the vanity cabinet is affected some ways by local codes - clearance from the toilet etc, all these things severely restrict the width and height of the medicine cabinet.

Don't forget also, that a recessed medicine cabinet must be framed into the wall. You can't expect the wall studs to be in the perfect locations so your contractor must build a box or frame for the medicine cabinet to fit into and be secured on all four sides. This framing eats into the amount of space available too and you could even decide that a custom cabinet is the best way to maximize the space you have available.

The best part of all this - you never know what's inside the wall until you cut a hole big enough to look into and see. But if you decide not to go recessed, it's an easy patch for a contractor, and then you just put a surface mounted medicine cabinet over the hole patch.

Custom build medicine cabinet you can get a recessed medicine cabinet made to fit any size, but the mirrored parts can be expensive unless you go with plain mirror glass without a tapered edge. You can also other options like lighted door, and internal power outlets behind the door, which you might use for charging a shaver or similar.

One thing is for sure, after all the trouble of recessing a medicine cabinet, it sure does look a lot better than a plain old type that mounts against the wall.

Look how much cleaner a recessed medicine cabinet looks over a regular medicine cabinet that mounts directly to the wall

Picture 1: A hole in the wall
Picture 2: Picture of vent pipe
Picture 3: Medicine cabinet frame
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Common typos: medicen, medisin, cabine, cabnet, medican, medcine, medcin, cabint, medisen, cabniet

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