Because your girlfriend said it would be easy
When Dom and I built a new home last year, we had this idea of using pre-framed mirrors in our bathrooms. We asked the builder not to put anything on the wall, so of course we spent a month staring at a blank wall while brushing our teeth. The problem, we discovered, was that there were no mirrors available in both small and large (for my sink and hers) with the same style of framing.
The only solution was to buy naked mirrors and build the frames ourselves! At least, that’s what she told me. So we got some mirrors from Lowe’s and some supplies from Home Depot. We looked at some plans online, but that’s not really my style. They don’t call it Bullshit-it-Yourself for nothing.
I drew up a plan.
I know, it’s really complex. But, the plan was only to figure out how much molding we needed for the frame.
Now, I could tell you about the first mirror frame I built (it took a month), but I know your time is valuable, so we’ll skip right to the second mirror, which only took a day.
1. Gather Supplies
Here’s everything you’re going to need and why.
- A mirror (optional — you can choose to print a 30x36 poster of Jeff Goldblum if you wish)
- 1/4" x 2" x 4" sheets of plywood to act as backing
- Crown molding or baseboards, whatever floats your boat
- Liquid Nails
- Sliding Miter Saw (Confession: I only accepted this project because it would allow me to purchase this.)
- Small screws (for securing backing to molding)
- L-brackets (for larger mirrors, as extra stabilization)
- Mounting hardware
- Painting Supplies (paint, brush, tape)
2. Arrange backing
Lay out your plywood to create a base. We’re going to arrange them to make the minimal amount of cuts later.
Do your best to eliminate any gaps between the plywood.
3. Set mirror on backing
Get your girlfriend to help you carefully place the mirror on the backing.
Let’s assume you’ve already messed up a frame or five before tackling this project. Use some scrap molding to carve out the plywood by placing them right at the edge. Use clamps to hold them in place while you push the mirror into the corner.
Use EVEN MORE MOLDING to mark cut-lines on the plywood (left pic). Cut the plywood down to size and use molding to confirm it is close enough (right pic).
4. Cut and glue the molding
Without letting the mirror move, remove all the scrap molding.
If this is your first time using a sliding miter saw, you’re in for some fun! Pick a side to start on and cut the first piece of molding. Use 45-degree angles and eyeball (you can measure if you are one of those DIY weirdos) the placement.
Glue it down with some liquid nails and use clamps to make sure it stays up.
Work your way around the mirror in this manner until you have three sides completed. DO NOT GLUE ALL FOUR SIDES unless you enjoy starting things over.
Note: For whatever reason, I had little luck measuring and cutting. Instead, I carefully made a cut, tested the fit, and repeated until it was perfect. Get it as close to perfect as you can; we’ll fix the tiny gaps with caulk later.
5. Glue the mirror down
If the mirror is sufficiently large, ask a friend, neighbor, or pastor to lift the mirror as you apply liquid nails to the plywood.
You should probably use a lot of glue. Like, a lot. You wouldn’t want this thing falling off the wall onto your sink and then your bathroom floor. That’s seven years bad luck.
6. Complete the frame
Using the skills you learned in Step 4, cut the final piece of molding and glue it to the plywood. Give it some time to set.
7. Add some bracing (optional)
The smaller of our mirrors didn’t seem to need it, but because of the size of the larger one, the entire frame felt kinda flimsy. To ensure a uniform shape, add some L-brackets to the back of the frame.
This keeps the two pieces of molding in each corner steady so you can caulk them.
8. Secure those panels
Use some of those small screws to secure the plywood to the molding. What size screws, you ask? I don’t know, man. Just a small one that won’t poke up through the molding.
At the very least, add screws to the joints between the plywood panels. Add them along the border at regular intervals. I’m sure there’s a scientific method for determining the maximum distance between each screw but we’re gonna leave that to the science nerds.
9. Clean up your mess, you animal
Depending on how the mirror is going to be mounted, you may want to clean up the rough edges of the plywood, since they’ll be visible from the side. Use a file and some sandpaper to smooth those out.
Admittedly, this is the worst part of this BSIY design. It’d be nice if the plywood could somehow be recessed into the molding so that it’s hidden, but I’m not Chip Gaines and neither are you.
10. Fill the seams
Use a caulk gun (or brute strength) to fill in the seams at the joints.
You might as well tape prior to caulking since there is a seam that touches the mirror.
11. Sand, prime, paint, and hang
This part doesn’t involve a single power tool, so I won’t go into much detail. Make the frame look nice. Take frequent breaks to show your girlfriend and make sure she’s pleased.
Do not attempt to craft the frame without the mirror in place. Doing so will inevitably lead to the mirror not fitting in the hole. Then you’ll have to cut the backing, fit the mirror, and redo the backing. It will look horrible. Like this:
This project doesn’t take very long, so don’t worry about being without a mirror. If you start in the morning, it can be on your wall by dinner.
And then, dinner!