How to enlarge the space for a recessed medicine cabinet?

artemis78February 19, 2013

Has anyone done this? I'm trying to figure out the most effective way to retrofit a new, bigger cabinet into an old cabinet space.

My situation:
- Our house originally had a recessed medicine cabinet (long gone and space was drywalled over). Cut the drywall out today to reveal the original box, which is 1.25" shy of the width we need for the new cabinet. The right side of the box is a stud, and the left side is a 2x4 piece that was cut out to form the side (presumably secured to a stud somewhere but I haven't taken the wall off there--the rest of the room has plaster walls so I just took down the drywall patch).

- For reasons I don't entirely understand, the box (and wall sconces and mirror that covered it) are not centered over the sink. I actually didn't notice this for five years till we started this project, so it's not a huge issue, but we're rewiring and replacing the sconces and putting in the medicine cabinet, so it's the time to fix it if it's possible. (We are not planning to do anything to the sink or floor right now, or we'd just move the plumbing--the goal is to someday replace the flooring and we could potentially move the sink then, although it's a tiny space and it's the wrong direction to be moving the sink from a utilization of space perspective.)

- This is a non-load-bearing wall.

I know the simple way to get the 1.25" for the new cabinet is to take out and adjust the 2x4 side, but if I do that, the cabinet will be even further off center over the sink. Can I cut into the stud to pick up the inch there? If so, do I need to brace it or otherwise support it? The stud is an old-school true 2x4 that is actually 2" wide, so I would be taking about half of its width.

I would love to hear how others have done this if you've encountered this problem. I know how to remove an entire stud that's in the way, but that seems like overkill here. If I can't cut out of the stud, is it going to end up being simpler to wait and just move the plumbing? Is there another solution I haven't thought of? Changing out the cabinet isn't an option--took forever to find one and we've had it sitting for a few years now, so it can't be returned at this point.

Thanks!

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fnmroberts

I have done this. Before you begin you need to determine a few things. A) is the wall structural (you say it isn't). B) is there any electricity or plumbing in the way.

You're going to need to rip 2 x 6's down to 4" since you have dimensional lumber in your walls.

Begin by outlining the opening location for the new cabinet. Extend the lines well beyond the actual size for later reference. Then, remove a section of the wall - a square cut extending half-way into studs which will remain. Cut any conflicting studs 1.5" above/below the cabinet outline openings (give yourself a 1/8" additional overall). Install level horizontal 2 x 4's anchored to remaining studs. Then install vertical 2 x 4's for the width (again allow an extra 1/8").

Dry-fit the new cabinet, remove and using one piece, fill the entire opening with new drywall (since your walls are plaster you may need to "skim coat" to final thickness since drywall thickness may not match). When finished, follow your extended lines to locate and cut-out the opening for the medicine cabinet. You may wish to paint before permanently installing the cabinet.

If the wall is structural, it will be necessary to install headers (doubled 2 x 4's) above and below. I actually slid 2 x 4's against remaining studs, anchored them and attached my header atop and below their ends and onto the cut end of the removed stud.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:54AM
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artemis78

Thanks! Yes, wall is open and we know nothing's in the way--just that extra 1.25" of width that we need for the rough opening, since the original cabinet had an 18" rough opening. (We're in good shape vertically.) Is the best way to get this really to cut the entire stud out? I'm a little iffy on this given that the stud on the other side has already been cut out--I know the horizontal 2x4s will brace it, but it just seems like a lot of cut studs, even for a wall that's not load-bearing...

Also, curious--why do you fill the opening with new drywall? This is one step I had not planned to do, but wondering if we should add it, so I want to understand the benefit. Our cabinet has moulding surrounding it, so I wasn't too worried about a clean edge to the hole since it will all be covered with the moulding. Is there another reason we should do this? The depth is perfect for the required rough-in as is. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 12:11PM
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fnmroberts

As I understand you have 16" on center with one stud removed and another you prefer to trim to 1/2" width. I don't know the particulars of your room but I would header it top and bottom. Not doing that is going to leave you wth a 1/2" support across 4 feet. Walls, particularly plaster ones, are heavy. With time gravity will cause sagging and cracks will appear. My goal is to do something once.

My logic for filling with drywall is to obscure the patch. With joints away from your cabinet they can easily be feathered and made to disappear. And, in my opinion, it is just easier and faster to cut out an opening than fit around it. And yes, your cabinet trim will hide the rough cut marks where the opening is sawn.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 1:07PM
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