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Medicine Cabinets

A medicine cabinet is the shallow cabinet found over the sink in most bathrooms. In addition to medicines, it is a convenient place to store out of sight a wide variety of small items we use during our daily routines, items that include deodorants, lotions, combs, extra soap, razors, etc.

The two main styles of medicine cabinets are recessed and surface mounted.

  • Recessed cabinets are built into the wall. Their advantage is they do not extend over the sink and therefore allow more room and a cleaner look. In fact, if you choose a mirrored cabinet, it is possible for the cabinet to blend in with the wall mirrors and thus be hidden. If you are replacing a built in cabinet, rebuilding walls, or planning a new bathroom, then this is probably the better choice. When selecting a recessed cabinet, be sure that the width of the cabinet matches the space between the studs. This is also a good time to determine if you will need an electrical outlet or wiring for cabinet lights.
  • Surface mounted cabinets are usually the better choice if you’re faced with limited access, piping, vent lines, or closely spaced studs in the wall where the cabinet is to be installed. While surface mounted cabinets extend anywhere from 4” to 8” from the wall, they are easier to install, and come in a wide variety of finishes and sizes.
Among the features to consider while comparing medicine cabinet designs are:

  • the material used for the cabinet body and door. A metal body is common but check to make sure the shelves (including the bottom) are stain, scratch, and rust resistant.
  • internal lighting, which can help find the contents at night or in a windowless bathroom.
  • adjustable shelves
  • lockable door or internal safe, an important feature if you have young children and plan to keep prescription medications or dangerous chemicals in the medicine cabinet
  • door design. Here you have a wide selection to choose from, with mirrors and wood louvers being the two most popular choices (mirrors are the best choice if the cabinet is mounted behind the sink). Avoid unfrosted glass -- although it is convenient for spotting what you need, it does not allow you to hide clutter. You can also choose between sliding and hinged doors.

Before making your final decision, consider the mirror layout in your bathroom. Many people like to take advantage of a medicine cabinet's hinged mirror doors to make a "three way" mirror so that they can see themselves from the side.

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