Let’s Build a Medicine Cabinet Part 1

Posted by John on January 28th, 2015

In this post you’ll learn:

- The first steps to build a medicine cabinet

For a few years now I’ve been itching to build a medicine cabinet.  I’m not really sure why.  I guess I never liked the idea of paying a couple hundred bucks for a small painted box.  They’re pretty simple after all.  I had thought about building one for my first house, but I never got around to it.  So when I noticed my sister and her husband were making some upgrades around their house I offered to build them one, especially since they had already ripped their old one out.  They have a 1950’s bathroom with most of the original features and it’s in pretty good condition.  When I was over for the holidays they were using the space where the old medicine cabinet had been.

medicine cabinet hole

For this project, I pitched a few different designs to them.  They settled on a variation of a Restoration Hardware cabinet, more specifically, the Cartwright model.  We’re going to keep the overall scale and hardware, but skip the crown molding.  It’ll be a little more plain, but should blend in better with the existing decor.

cartwright medicine cabinet

(via Restoration Hardware)

This is how this project is going to work.  In this post we’re going to discuss the design, dimensioning, material and some of the other critical elements.  Then in our next medicine cabinet post, we’ll show a video on how to actually build the cabinet.  I would like to keep this series down to two or three posts at most.  If you’d like to read a more in-depth cabinet building series, you can check out our work on the TV stand we did a while ago.

Allright?  Ready to get started?  Let’s build a medicine cabinet!

Let’s start with the existing space.  There’s obviously a hole in the wall.  The medicine cabinet we’re going to build will recess into that hole.  A recessed cabinet will be a big space saver and they won’t need to patch the walls.  All I need to get started dimensioning the cabinet now are the dimensions of the hole in the wall.  I marked up the photo of the room and emailed it to my sister for her to take some measurements.

Here’s what I emailed her:


I asked her to provide me a dimension for each one of those letters.  For the opening width and height, which are letters A and B, I asked her to take measurements at three locations: the left, right and middle (or top, middle and bottom).  I want the smallest of those three dimensions.  If I asked her for just the width and it turns out that the hole is slightly wider at the top than the bottom, then I could end up building the cabinet too large.  I want to make sure it will fit so we’ll build to the smallest width and the smallest height.

Since the wall is plaster and has some left over markings from the previous cabinet, I’d like the new cabinet to hide those markings.  So by asking for dimensions E and F, I can figure out how big the frame needs to be to cover that stuff.  The measurement at point D is the distance to the top of the wall tile.  I want to make sure the cabinet doesn’t touch it.

My sister took all those measurements and emailed them back to me.

At this point, I can start figuring out what the design will look like, how it will be built and how big each piece should be.  If you’re comfortable drawing this out on paper, you could use that approach.  Personally, I’m a big fan of SketchUp, so I prefer to draw my cabinets in that program.  While it’s fairly easy to use, it also has the added advantage of allowing me to show you nice rendered images of the design.

I started the drawing by sketching out a plain wall with a hole in it.  Then I gave the wall some thickness.  With that part out of the way, I drew a basic four sided box, which will be the insides of the medicine cabinet.


You can see I left some space around all four sides of the box; about a 1/4″.  The depth of the box is also 1/4″ shorter than the depth of the hole.  Too small is probably OK.  Too big is going to be a problem.  You can see from the illustration that the box bottom and top will be assembled together using grooves in the box sides.  I didn’t draw a back piece, but you can just figure out its dimensions from these four pieces.  SketchUp has a tape measure tool, so after I had all four pieces drawn I could measure the dimensions of each one and write them down.

After the box parts were drawn and dimensioned, I turned my attention to the face frame.  The face frame will be attached to the box and will cover the open area around the box and also part of the wall.  Here’s what that frame looks like attached to the box.


The frame consists of a top and bottom rail board and two stile (aka side) boards.  The face frame will be assembled using pocket screws and it’ll be probably be attached to the box using pocket screws as well.  Pretty straight forward construction.

Now onto the door.  The door will be inset into the frame of the door, just like in the Restoration Hardware design.  Inset screams custom and it’s pretty much the only doors I like to build!!  They’re also pretty easy to make.  I’m going to draw the doors with a 1/8″ gap all the way around, just for the sake of the image, but in reality, I’ll make them the same size as the opening and then gently trim them down to their final size.

For the sake of clarity, I’ve dressed up the SketchUp drawing with a tile lip and some pink walls to match the photo.  I didn’t draw any hardware or a beveled mirror, although I’m sure you could do that if you wanted to.


With the door drawn, I’ll write down the dimensions.  I’ll need to order a mirror and glass shelves as well, but I’ll get more into that in the next video post.  It’s also important to think about what sort of hinges or latch hardware will be required and to order it all in advance.  The box material will be birch plywood and the frame and door will be made from poplar.  While there are a lot of material options to choose from, I happen to have a lot of poplar and birch plywood laying around my shop.  Should be able to build most of it with scrap wood!

That’s it for this post. Hopefully you have a solid understanding of how I sized the cabinet and where we’re going from here.

Thanks and stay tuned.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and please share this post if you enjoyed it.

Posted in Carpentry,Design,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Fix a Door That Won’t Shut

Posted by John on January 25th, 2015

Since we just wrapped up the biggest home improvement project we’ve had in years, we decided to keep the next few jobs more low key.  There’s a laundry list of little things I need to fix around the house.  The most annoying one by far involves a couple of our interior doors.

**But if you like our furniture builds, you’ll be happy to hear we’re starting another smaller build later this week.**

But let’s get back to the doors.  We have two interior doors that have a problem.  They don’t stay shut.  One of them is our first floor powder room door.  So when we have company, somebody invariably gets a door opened on them by accident.  No fun.

To get the door to close you have to lift the door by the handle to get the lock to engage the strike plate.  It’s gotten pretty annoying.

Now if you’ve been a reader for a while, you may remember we fixed this problem before on one of our closet doors.  I’ll reuse one of the images from that post to explain how this works.  We’re going to fix it differently this time around though.

door sag

Basically, the weight of the door over time can cause a gap at the top hinge to open up and will also close the gap at the bottom most hinge.  When this shift happens, the lock no longer lines up with the strike plate.  So to fix it, you need to lift the door back up.

So how do we fix it?

Well, the first time we wrote about this we used a piece of cardboard and stuffed it behind the hinge.  That worked for a little while, but over time the door sag returned.

Here’s how we fixed it this time and for good.

How to Fix a Door that Won’t Shut

We’ll start by taking a quick look at our bathroom door jamb.  You can see the gap between the door and the jamb is pretty tight at the bottom.  It’s pretty much touching at the bottom of the door.

door jamb bottom

The gap at the top is pretty wide open.

jamb top

Alright.  So, the goal is to open up the gap at the bottom and close the gap at the top.  We can do that by taking off the bottom hinge from the door jamb and shimming it out.

Here’s the bottom hinge.

door hinge before

We’ll remove the three screws on the jamb side.

hinge removed

Then I’m going to take some stainless steel washers and set one over each of the screw holes.  If they won’t stay put for you, you’ll have to rest them on the screws.

washers behind hinge

Now I’m going to use some 1″ long stainless steel screws that I bought separately and I’ll reattach the hinge to the jamb.  I’m not reusing the original screws since now they’re probably not long enough anymore.

longer hinge screws

With the hinge back in place, I’m all done.  The door closes and latches normally.  Success!

door jamb fixed


You can even see the bottom gap has opened up, which is why the door lock has lifted.  We actually had to use two washers behind each hinge screw for our upstairs closet door.

I hope this post will help you fix any sagging door issues in your home!  If you think this post is helpful, please share it!


Posted in Repairs. Tagged in ,,

Shoe Organizer Projects on Hometalk

Posted by John on January 23rd, 2015

Happy Friday!

In today’s post I wanted to share with you a collection of shoe organizer projects I’ve curated on Hometalk.com.  Each of these projects are available for viewing on my Shoe Organizer Clipboard on Hometalk.

If you don’t already have a free user account at Hometalk, I’d recommend you sign up for one.  You’ll be able to post your own projects or questions and comments to other user’s work.  It’s a great resource for DIYers.

Here’s the shoe organizer project collection:

shoe organizer projects


Have a great weekend and we’ll be back next weekend with more shop work!!


Posted in Closets,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , ,

A Post About Me

Posted by John on January 21st, 2015

If anyone asked me what the biggest perk of running a blog is I’d have to tell them that interacting with readers and other blog writers is tremendously satisfying.  You end up networking with those folks and it’s a lot of fun.  Just recently one of my blog-friends, John from AZ DIY Guy, included me on a chain post where you are given a bunch of questions and you are asked to write a post explaining your answers.  The questions are all personal, which is a fun change of pace.

I’d really like to hear YOUR responses to some of these questions so pick one or two of them and answer them yourself.

So thank you to John and here are my answers.

A Post about me

A Post About Me

Why do you blog?

I started blogging back in 2011 because I believed that I had a voice and a perspective different than what I was reading online.  Back when I was working on my first house and years before I started blogging, there were a lot of projects that I had started and finished and I’d regularly consult Google or YouTube for help with questions that I had.  I noticed that there were large knowledge gaps or instructional gaps in the home improvement niche that I had to learn on my own.  For example, I had no idea where I was supposed to find a window sill for the bay window in my first house.  Was that something you just goto the store and buy?  I spent some time online and couldn’t find anything.  I went to Home Depot one day and was chatting with the cashier who was an older retired fellow and he thought I was crazy that I was trying to buy a window sill.  He said “Just buy a piece of wood and route an edge on it and that’s your window sill” (tutorial here!) OHHH.  Duh.  Today, that’s supremely obvious to me, but when I was first starting out, I had all these questions of that sort.  So, I started blogging and I envisioned my audience as being people like me, but ten years ago.  People who want to do the work themselves, but they really want to see the whole process laid out for them.  So I’m here to write about the whole process of all my projects.

What advice to you have for new bloggers?

You either have to write about something you really, really enjoy or you have to have a passion for writing in general.  I’d also recommend new bloggers take the time and learn HTML and CSS.  If you can control the code on your site even in small ways, it helps tremendously.  Start an email newsletter.  Always think about what value your writing gives your readers.  Respect your readers and they’ll respect you back.

What is your favorite social media to support your blog and why?

I like Facebook for chatting and discussions.  I like Instagram for sharing sneak peeks of projects.  I like Twitter for sharing posts and tutorials.  I probably spend most of blog related social media time on Twitter although I read more than I post.  I always respond to tweets though.

outfeed table

What are your favorite tools?

My favorite tool is the table saw.  I wasn’t a huge fan of it until I upgraded the table around it.  Now it’s much easier to cut larger sheet goods and the Biesemeyer fence is just great.  I recommend anyone using a contractor grade saw upgrade their setup to include a large out feed table and an expanded side table.

What is the oldest tool you still use?

The oldest tools I own are my grandfather’s radial arm saw and drill press from the 1950s.  I’m in the middle of cleaning up and reorganizing my basement workshop so I’m hoping to get those two tools running again.  At the moment they’re still disassembled.

What was your biggest DIY success?

This BIGGEST DIY success to date for me has to be the kitchen cabinets in my first house.  I was able to build a custom looking set of cabinets with inset doors (similar to most of my current projects).  The project probably only cost around $2000 for what a carpenter or cabinet shop would’ve probably charged closer to $15,000.  I’m convinced that those cabinets really helped sell that house quickly.

What was your biggest DIY failure?

Right now my biggest failure is my concrete planters.  I tried making these a couple of times, but I had trouble with the molds.  We actually have the first planter sitting in the front of the house.  It has our last name’s initial in it and it looks pretty cool, but it didn’t come out as nicely as I would’ve liked.

What are my favorite books?

I don’t read too many books nowadays unless I have a long work trip.  Life is just too busy with the kids, work and the blog stuff.  I recently read the $100 Startup by Chris Guillbeau, which I’d recommend to anyone interested in earning money online or rethinking their career.

Although I tend to prefer non-fiction books, I’d like to read more Hemingway when I get the opportunity.  I enjoy his writing style.

Light Sabers, Hobbits, Defense Against the Dark Arts or the fortune and glory of beating the Nazis to supernatural antiquities?

I’m not a big Star Wars fan so light sabers don’t interest me.  Star Trek is WAY better, in my opinion.  Lord of the Rings was a great trilogy and it’s actually my wife’s favorite movie series, but I’m not a giant Tolkien fan.  That leaves Harry Potter or beating Nazi’s.  I choose beating Nazi’s.

What are your three favorite movie quotes?

This is a tough one.

1.  “We don’t need no stinking badgers” – UHF

2.  “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – Jaws

3.  “You’re killing me Smalls.” – The Sandlot



Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,

Video: What’s a Jointer ?

Posted by John on January 11th, 2015

In this post, you’ll learn:

- About jointers
– How to use a jointer for tighter seams in your projects


If you’re just getting started with some basic woodworking projects, you may have heard about or seen a jointer. While it’s not terribly common for DIYers to own one, it’s a pretty useful tool to have in your shop.  You can pick one up used fairly inexpensively or opt for a bench top model.  You can see the models I recommend on our Tools Page.

Here’s a quick video I put together that demonstrates how a jointer works.

(Direct link to the video)

I’ve personally used my jointer sparingly, but it was vital on a few projects.  If you ever want to use rough cut wood from a lumber yard instead of the local hardware store, then you’ll definitely need one.

Here are some larger shots of the reclaimed pine boards I jointed.   In the first photo, you can see the joint between the two boards is fairly visible.


After a few passes through the jointer, that edge gets cleaned up enough that it’s virtually invisible.  The only way you can tell where one board meets the next is by the grain pattern.


I hope this post and video helps you get a better idea of how to use this tool.

Any jointer questions?

Posted in Garage and Tools,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

New Year, New Look

Posted by John on January 7th, 2015

Happy 2015!


Welcome to our new digs! Over the Christmas and New Years break, I hired a coder to transform our old site to the current theme you are now using. There were a couple of reasons for this transition, but the biggest two reasons were to improve the look on tablet and mobile devices. The other was to make it absolutely obvious what this site was about to new visitors. Thus, the main page is now a sort of landing page and the blog section has been moved.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making some tweaks to improve your user experience.  So I have a favor to ask of you. If you find any problems or issues with the current site, please email me and let me know.  I’d particularly like to know how the site looks on your mobile device.  Feel free to email me a screenshot.  I know it looks a bit wonky on the iPhone and I’m working on getting that corrected.

The site was actually redesigned by a designer on 99Designs.com and I’d highly recommend that site if you’re in the market for ANY kind of design work.

So before we dive back into the DIY game with our next project, I thought I’d take a few minutes and talk about what we’re planning for 2015.

1.  A Webinar.  Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to host a Google Hangout session.  If you’ve never been online for a webinar or hangout, it’s basically a video chat where you can watch, listen and interact with me.  It’ll be a great opportunity to get any of your DIY questions answered.  I was planning on discussing some cabinet projects, but I thought I’d let you guys decide what you’d like to talk about.  Shoot me an email with your suggestions.

2.  Smaller Projects.  In 2014, it was the year of the never ending office project.  Great experience, but since it took so long, we have a stack of smaller projects building up that I need to finish.  We’re going to make some shadow boxes for the vestibule, start planning to finish our basement, setup the shop and make some big improvements to our landscape.

3.  A Podcast.  Looking to launch our very own podcast sometime in the next couple of months.  I’m fairly new to the concept myself having just started to listen to a few on my daily commute last year.  The platform will allow me to talk about projects, skills and techniques in a way that a written post can’t.  Videos are great and you’ll see more of those, but I think the podcast will help grow our discussions.

4.  eBook.  I’m in the middle of writing my first ebook on kitchen remodeling and expect to self-publish it sometime before spring.  It’s hard making time to write both the blog posts and the book, so it’s been slow going.   I think the book will give you a more cohesive look at how I approach projects, even if you aren’t planning on remodeling your kitchen.  It should give you a leg up on any major home improvement effort.

5.  Coaching.  I’m planning on offering some DIY and home improvement coaching via Skype or FaceTime.  If you’re planning on a major project or remodel and you’d like to chat with me for 30-60 minutes about your upcoming housework, this will now be a way to do it.  You can still email me your questions and the forum is now available, but if you just need to have a conversation with someone face-to-face you’ll have that option available.  I’m working on the promo video soon.  It won’t be free, but I’ll make it worth it.

Thanks for reading!  We’ll be back next week with our first project of the new year.

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,


Posted by John on January 7th, 2015

Posted in Banner Images,home. Tagged in

Office Cable Management

Posted by John on December 16th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn:

- How to organize your office cables with inexpensive hardware
– Tips for using a hole saw for large diameter holes

Now that we’ve actually been using our new home office for a few weeks, we’re starting to really enjoy the space.  On top of that, we’ve noticed a few areas that aren’t quite as functional as we’d like them and in this post, you’ll see how we fixed those issues.

Office Cable Management

Let’s start with the biggest issue so far: cable clutter.

office cable management before

There’s a simple reason for this mess:  the closest outlet for the computer, printer and paper shredder is inside the cabinets.  There’s an outlet in each one, so we have to run the cables into the cabinets from the front.

cabinet outlet

The outlet locations were intentional.  I wanted to make sure they were inside the cabinet and not under the desk.  If they were under the desk, then I’d have cables more visible from the room entrance and I didn’t think that would be very attractive.  I also didn’t want to loop the cables from under the desk onto the top of it.

So here’s what we did.

I pulled out my 2-1/8″ hole saw and drilled some holes.

hole saw

If you’ve never used a hole saw, I recommend the ones where there’s a longer center drill bit in the middle.  It allows you to locate your hole more accurately without the bit wandering around as these bits tend to do.

When you use a hole saw bit, it helps if you try to wobble the drill a little as you push down.

drilling large hole

Once the hole is drilled, I’ll pop in one of these desktop cable organizers (affiliate link).  Actually called a grommet.

desk cable organizer

The grommet gets held in place with a little adhesive caulk, but if I used a 2″ sized hole saw like I should have, it wouldn’t need the glue.  It would fit snuggly without it.

After the hole is drilled, the hole saw will look like this:

wood plug

You’ll have a wood plug in the drill that you’ll need to remove.  The hole saw actually has these small slits in the side where you can stick a flat head screw driver and pop the plug out from behind.  You can also run the drill in reverse and tap on the side of the bit.  Either works.

In addition to the grommet in the desktop, I added one to the side of each built-in cabinet.

white cable cover

These side grommets will allow me to run my desktop cable into the cabinet.  It’s also perfect for our paper shredder.

under desk after

Inside the cabinet, I mounted a power strip with a built-in surge protector.

power strip

So now our office cable situation is under control.

office cable organized

Much, much better.

Thanks for reading.  If you like our office remodel series, including this post, please share on social media.  Later this week I’m going to give you the details for what we have in store for 2015.

Posted in DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,

RIDGID Drill and Driver Combo Giveaway

Posted by John on December 4th, 2014

Happy Holidays!

This time of the year is gift buying season and boy do I have a gift for you.

RIDGID Drill and Driver Combo Giveaway

Cordless Drill & Driver Giveaway facebook

The folks from RIDGID have hooked us up with their newest drill and driver combo and I’m giving away one set to one of our newsletter subscribers.

Here are the contest details.

Giving away one R9000K ($99 at Home Depot) which consists of:

- 12 Volt Drill/Driver
– High-Torque Impact Driver
– 4 ah Lithium-Ion Battery
– 2 ah Lithium-Ion battery
– LEDs on both drivers
– Carry bag
– Charger

What impresses me most about this RIDGID product is the free lifetime service.  Once you register your product online, any future repairs or part replacement is 100% free.  Can’t beat that!

RIDGID provided me with my own set to review.  Here are my un-biased thoughts.  My main drill/driver is a 12 year old DeWalt and as much as I love it, it’s nearing the end of its useful life.  The RIDGID drill is lightweight, supremely comfortable to hold and well balanced. It’s going to make a great addition to my tool set.  The impact driver has a crazy amount of torque.  When you squeeze the trigger, it practically turns your hand over.  Loads of power.

While I don’t want to get ahead of myself regarding our upcoming project schedule, there is a good chance I’m going to start framing out our basement sometime during the next calendar year and both the impact driver and the drill/driver are going to get a ton of use.  Really excited about these tools.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway.

1.  You need to be a subscriber to our free newsletter.

2.  Newsletter subscribers must leave a comment in this post telling me what project you’ll be working with these drills.  I’d love to hear what you are planning or currently building.

The contest winner will be chosen at random.  I’m not picking a winner based on the content of your comments.  I will check to see if your email address is on my newsletter list.  The contest will close on 11:59pm 15 December 2014, which gives me enough time to ship the drill set to the winner before Christmas.  Only US postal addresses are eligible.  


Not a newsletter subscriber?

How to sign-up for the newsletter:  Enter your name and email address into any of the opt-in boxes on our site.

Why sign-up: You’ll get free access to our woodworking plans/tutorials.  You’ll be part of our growing DIY and home improvement community.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Even if you already have a perfectly fine set of cordless drills, these RIDGID models will make a perfect holiday gift for the DIYer in your life.


Posted in Giveaways,Holiday,Tools. Tagged in ,, , ,

Media Center Plans Now Available

Posted by John on December 2nd, 2014

tv stand plans

Well it’s been a while, but our latest set of woodworking are now available.  If you are a newsletter subscriber, you can download this tutorial from our plans page.

Get the FREE plans for this project
Join our newsletter and be part of a community of DIYers and Home Improvement enthusiasts.

The media center plans includes:

- A complete shopping list
– Cut sheets for all the plywood components
– Cut list for all the hardwood parts
– Illustrated instructions

The plans are based on our Custom Media Cabinet series.


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , ,

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