Tips on How to Replace Medicine Cabinet with Shelves

Do you want to replace your medicine cabinet with shelves? Installing new shelves as a replacement for the medicine cabinet is one way to keep the bathroom looking fresh and updated without spending a lot of money. If you have a recessed medicine cabinet, it will leave a huge hole in the wall after the cabinet removal. If you do not want to cover the hole, you can install shelves into it for additional storage and organization.

How to replace medicine cabinet with shelves? How to replace the medicine cabinet with shelves will depend on the type of medicine cabinet removed from the wall. If you have a surface-mounted cabinet, you can add shelves on the surface of the wall after repairing the holes from screws and nails. On the other hand, if you have a recessed cabinet medicine, you can put shelves within the hole left on the wall for a recessed cabinet upgrade.

How much does it cost to replace a medicine cabinet? Is it easy to replace a medicine cabinet? How do you replace a recessed cabinet with shelves? These are some of the questions that we will discuss in this article. If you are planning to remove your medicine cabinet and replace it with shelves, we have shared tips and ideas that you can follow.

How to replace medicine cabinet with shelves
Image by Brad Carpenter from Pixabay

How to Replace Recessed Cabinets with Shelves

A recessed medicine cabinet sits in a recessed portion of the wall. Once the medicine cabinet is removed, you can use the hole on the wall left by the medicine cabinet to install open shelves. This is a good solution if you do not want to install a new medicine cabinet. Below is the step-by-step process on how to replace recessed cabinets with shelves.

Step 1: Remove the Medicine Cabinet

Remove screws from the medicine cabinet. With the use of a screwdriver, remove the mounting screws on the inside of the medicine cabinet by turning them counterclockwise. After removing the screws, slide the medicine cabinet off the wall.

Step 2: Mark the Recessed Wall

With a pencil, mark the inside of the wall cavity where you want to place the shelves. Next, draw straight and level lines where you marked the position of each shelf with the use of a ruler. You also need to measure the length and depth of the wall cavity.

Step 3: Cut the Shelves and Wood Blocks

After measuring the dimensions of the wall cavity, cut two wood blocks in the same dimensions for each shelf that you want to install. Next, cut one woodblock that measures the width of the wall cavity minus the thickness of two of the woodblocks.

Step 4: Install the Wood Blocks

Install the shorter wood blocks on the sides of the wall cavity. Make sure that they line up the top of the wood blocks with the lines you drew. Next, install the longer wood blocks onto the back of the wall cavity making sure that it lines up the top of the wood blocks with the line you drew.

Step 5: Install the Shelves

Trim the wood shelves so that they have the same width and depth as the wall cavity. Insert the shelves into the cavity and rest the shelves on the woodblocks for support. Install the shelves into place with a screw or a nail.

✅ Video – DIY Modern Medicine Cabinet Makeover | Recessed Wall Cabinet Shelves

Maker Gray shared the video below on YouTube. It demonstrates how to replace a recessed medicine cabinet with shelves. The steps on how to replace a plastic in-wall medicine cabinet with modern custom shelving are shown in the video. You can check out the video for more tips and ideas.

How to Replace Surface-Mounted Medicine Cabinets with Shelves

As compared to a recessed medicine cabinet, it is easier to replace a surface-mounted medicine cabinet with shelves. There is no wall cavity after the removal of the cabinet, so you can work with a flat and smooth surface. Check out how to replace a surface-mounted medicine cabinet below.

Step 1: Remove the Cabinet

Empty the medicine cabinet and use a knife or any type of blade to work with any caulked seams between the cabinets and molding. Next, remove any decorative molding attached to the cabinet. If there is any lighting or other electrical fixtures attached to the cabinet, shut off the power through the circuit breaker and remove the fixtures, and cap off any wires with the use of the right electrical caps. With the use of a drill or screwdriver, remove any screws that hold the cabinet to the wall.

Step 2: Fix the Wall

After removing the medicine cabinet, fill the holes from the cabinet screws with the use of a putty knife and spackle or joint compound. Usually, spackle would do when dealing with small holes. On the other hand, if the wall is in a bad shape, you can use a joint compound and a wall patch kit or fiberglass tape to fix it. Once the spackle or joint compound completely dries, you can sand it and paint the wall.

Step 3: Measuring and Cutting Shelves

The next step is to measure and cut the shelves. Find out the length of the shelves with the use of a tape measure. Measure and mark the boards and cut the shelves to length with the use of a sliding miter saw or a circular saw. Next, sand any rough edges on the shelves. You can also choose to paint or stain the shelves. Let them dry.

Step 4: Find the Studs and Mark Bracket Holes

With the use of a stud finder, find the studs in the walls. The studs are where the shelf bracket would be attached. To have sturdy shelving, there should be one bracket per stud. Mark the studs according to the height of the shelving that you want. Place the brackets to the wall where the stud marks are located and mark the holes for the screws. Take note that the number, as well as the placement of screw holes, will depend on the bracket that you are using.

Step 5: Drilling Screw Holes

Using a drill bit, pre-drill screw holes into the wall. When drilling, see to it that you have drilled into a stud. If the bit easily goes in the wall produces only drywall dust, recheck the location of the stud and drill. Cover incorrect holes by applying spackle and paint over them.

Step 6: Mounting Brackets and Installing Shelves

Mount the brackets into the wall with the use of construction screws and a drill. Once you have installed a row of brackets, use a level to check the horizontal alignment. Install the prepared boards on the brackets and secure the shelves with wood screws.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Medicine Cabinet?

The cost of replacing a medicine cabinet usually depends on the product that you choose. Usually, the average cost is more affordable for surface-mounted medicine cabinets and wherein no structural changes are needed. On the other hand, the price may be a bit expensive if there is a need to cut through the drywall and move pipes or electrical wires. Moreover, medicine cabinets that feature integrated light fixtures may cost more especially if you need assistance from an electrician to install the fixture.

Is it Easy to Replace a Medicine Cabinet?

How easy to replace a medicine cabinet will depend on your DIY skills and the type of cabinet that needs replacement. Recessed medicine cabinets require more skills and effort as compared to replacing surface-mounted cabinets. We have also written this article titled, what can I replace my medicine cabinet with? You can check out the article for ideas on the best alternative for medicine cabinets.

How Do I Remove an Old Recessed Medicine Cabinet?

To remove an old recessed medicine cabinet, you need to remove everything inside before you start unscrewing it from the wall. Next loosen the screws that attached the door to the hinges to remove doors from the cabinet. For medicine cabinets that have built-in lighting, turn off the circuit breaker that is connected to the bathroom to make sure that the power is off. Next, loosen the screws that hold the cabinet to the wall.

When working with a surface-mounted cabinet, loosen the screws one at a time so that the cabinet will not drop. You can ask someone to hold up the cabinet while you pull it from the wall. Moreover, you may need to use a putty knife to loosen the caulk around the cabinet. If you do not want to wire another light source to the new medicine cabinet, determine where the wires connect to the power source and remove them. We have also shared this article titled, what to do with medicine cabinet hole? You can check out the article for tips and ideas on what you can do to cover a medicine cabinet hole.

Can You Put a Recessed Medicine Cabinet in a Load Bearing Wall?

You can install a medicine cabinet into a load-bearing. On the other hand, make sure that it is properly done or it can lead to a sagging ceiling or floor. It is best to hire the services of a professional for the installation. If you have a narrow cabinet that can fit between two studs, load-bearing should not be an issue at all.

How Do You Remove a Surface Mount Medicine Cabinet?

To remove a surface-mounted medicine cabinet, the first step is to remove the shelves. With the use of a screwdriver, remove the screws that attach the medicine cabinet to the wall. Hold the cabinet so that it will not fall forward when you remove the last screw. Pull the medicine cabinet away from the wall. You can also check out this article that we have shared that discusses if bathroom mirrors need medicine cabinets. We have shared the pros and cons of having a medicine cabinet in your bathroom.


In this article, we have discussed how to replace a medicine cabinet with shelves. How hard it is to replace the medicine cabinet with shelving will have to depend on your skills as well as the type of cabinet that is removed. We have shared tips on how to remove both surface-mounted and recessed medicine cabinets from the wall. You can always hire the services of a professional if you are not confident with your DIY skills. Thank you for reading!

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