The Bathroom Medicine Cabinet: An Epic Saga

Category: Restore & Repair

A few months ago we purchased a vintage medicine cabinet on eBay. It was notable because it had a distinct design and was surprisingly consistent with the existing built-in furniture original to our bungalow. So we decided to buy it. The box arrived via UPS.

Ack! The box was torn to shreds and, from looking at the exterior, it was pretty clear that the medicine cabinet took a beating as well.

Sure enough, the medicine cabinet had been seriously damaged.

After a few frustrating phone calls to UPS, we realized that there wasn't going to be an easy answer to our problem. UPS is used to handling damage claims of mass produced items and offers free returns for a refund or free shipping for a replacement item. The only option they could suggest for our situation (unique item, no returns) was offering a reimbursement for the repair work up to a certain dollar amount. On a unique item like this, to have someone else do the repairs cost more than the cabinet's value on eBay and would exceed the insurance coverage UPS offers. So, after thinking about it for a bit, we decided to bite the bullet and restore it ourselves!

We started by removing the door, hardware and the moulding around the outer edge, which was damaged beyond repair. (The interesting thing, in hindsight, is that it will actually look more consistent with the existing trim of our house without this moulding.) Next we stripped the old paint off with a combination of chemical paint remover and the Silent Paint Remover.

After that we squared up the box again using two large clamps and fastened it back together using wood glue and nails.

A sanded the edges, especially around the trim corners. These were pretty rough because they'd been covered up by the original edge moulding we disposed of. We went over it with a tack cloth to get rid of all of the dust.

We applied a primer coat of Kilz. This helps the finish coat bond to the wood and should prevent any staining or dark spots from the wood showing through the white paint.

We'll remount the door and latch after the box is installed and squared up in the wall. So, after a second primer coat tonight, the medicine cabinet is pretty much ready to go. Next up tomorrow: put it in here!

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Sorry to here about all the extra work you had to put into the antique medicine cabinet. But, boy it sure looks nice now!

Hey, I caught a peek of tiled bathroom walls. You guys have been holding out on us!!!! Special request: please, post some "work in progress" pics of your bathroom. Pretty please!

Sure, we'll post tile photos really soon. Actually, it hasn't been there that long...there's just been good progress in the last two days. :-)


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