How To Build A Wood Frame Around A Bathroom Mirror

But first, who framed Roger Rabbit? I dunno. I can’t remember how that movie ended. But as for who framed out our hall bathroom mirror? We did.

Putting a dressed up frame around a plain builder mirror is one of the easiest ways to upgrade a bathroom, especially if you’re working with the tile and not doing a total gut job (which we thankfully are in this room since the classic b&w tile is in great shape). It’s actually kind of crazy that we haven’t really tackled this yet (well, we sorta did it here I guess, but this mirror has been naked for the last two years since we moved in).

There are companies out there, like Mirror Mate, who can make it super easy for you – but like the true DIY addicts that we are, we opted to try our hand at making this guy from scratch. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward task, despite the challenge of not having much space around our mirror to actually attach anything. But we’ll get to that later…

We opted for a super simple frame. After considering some more ornate moldings or window trim, we decided a flat chunky piece of wood would be best (and it’d match the chunky shelf nearby without competing too much with other more interesting items like our patterned window shade or the new vanity knobs). So first we picked up some 1 x 3″ pieces of pine in the lengths that we needed (I believe our total cost was $14). I was too distracted by the cutie in the cart to save my receipt.

I used my miter saw to cut my corners on an angle, but if you are miter-saw-less you can also do a simpler frame that’s kind of like this chalkboard frame that we built instead.

Another challenge of this project was to make the frame rest over the plastic clips that hold the mirror to the wall. No challenge that a little routing couldn’t handle, right? So first I marked where I need to notch out the wood so that the clips would rest inside and the wood could lay flush against the mirror. I decided to be generous with my notches so I’d have some wiggle room when placing the mirror, which is why they’re about twice as tall and twice as wide as the clips themselves.

If you rolled your eyes at the word “router” and said “well great, I don’t own no stinkin’ router” – you’re in luck. My router broke so I didn’t have one at my disposal either. So here’s the really simple (but not quite as pretty) way to get those notches:

  1. I used a Dremel to make small grooves on all sides of my marked notch, just so I’d get a relatively clean edge. This step is TOTALLY OPTIONAL. I only did it because I’m particular. So if you don’t have a router OR a Dremel you’re still ok.
  2. Use a small drill bit to make some not-too-deep pilot holes, fairly close together (see, if all you have is a drill you’re cool).
  3. Follow up by going into each pilot hole with a much bigger bit so the holes begin to run into one another.
  4. Use a flathead screwdriver and hammer to gently chip or pry away any chunks the drill didn’t get.

Again, not the prettiest result. But for a simple shallow notch like this (which won’t be seen by anyone but the plastic clip itself) it does the job. Oh, and this one goes along the bottom of the frame which is why my notch won’t be seen even though it goes all the way to the edge of the wood.

Once all of my notches (four in total) were made, I used my Kreg Jig to make pocket holes and then join my corners together.

And ta-dah, my constructed frame:

Before painting it, we brought it inside to make sure it fit and looked square and everything. This picture below gives you a better sense of how my unpretty notches will fit up against the clips (while still not being visible to anyone once the frame is in place).

It fits!

Fast forward about a day and I primed and painted the frame white (Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore in semi-gloss, using a small foam roller for a smooth result). While we were at it, we also painted the previously-grey-washed shelf in the background so everything would match (which Sherry mentioned in this post).

I’ve seen other folks do this project where they simply use some heavy duty caulk or construction adhesive to straight up stick their frame to the mirror itself. But since my last attempt at gluing something to a mirror made me wary of that trick, I wanted to rely on a few strong & secure screws instead. So when we measured and cut our frame we made sure it overlapped the top edge of the mirror (the only edge without a wall, the counter, or some tile in its way). That meant I could drive a couple of screws through the frame and into the wall without being anywhere near the mirror to make sure the frame wouldn’t come crashing down on us. The whole contraption was pretty light, so it didn’t have to be too heavy duty.

And then just to make sure the bottom of the frame didn’t flap out or anything, we put a couple of dots of silicone caulk between the frame and the mirror just to hold it in place (we taped the frame down along the bottom until the caulk dried so it would hold it firmly for the long haul).

That was a few days ago and we’ve since removed the tape and even given Clara a few baths in there and it’s still holding strong. Whew.

When all was said and done caulked and dried, we just filled those two screw holes with wood putty and painted them so they weren’t obvious. Then it looked a little something like this.

Isn’t it such a cleaner and more finished look than this before-the-frame shot?

Even for a not-very-fancy frame, we’re pretty darn pleased with how it polished off that big unpolished beast in the room. And weirdly enough, in person it makes the room feel taller since it somehow draws your eye up more than the frameless mirror used to. Which is a nice balanced look since we have an extra tall shower curtain on the other side of the room.

So blammo. New mirror frame for a total of $14 and about three hours of time if you count all the building, chipping out notches, priming, and painting.

And since that officially wraps up the last project on this portion of our bathroom upgrade, shall we do a quick budget breakdown? I think we shall.

The total mini-update came in well under our mental budget of $200 (which is mainly just a random low number that we throw out when we don’t feel like calculating a specific budget and we’re not doing anything major like replacing tile).

  • New light fixture: $61 (from Joss & Main)
  • Shelf: $6
  • Paint (a quart of Elephant Gray by Benjamin Moore): $24
  • Fish art: $30 (from Joss & Main)
  • Knobs: $17 (from Hobby Lobby)
  • Window shade: $16 for yard of the fabric we used from Mary Jo’s (although we only used $8 worth, so Sherry has leftovers)
  • Window frosting: $0 (leftover from other project)
  • Mirror frame: $14
  • Shadowbox: Already made
  • Accessories: Already owned
  • TOTAL: $168 

*(if you didn’t already have a shadowbox, window frosting, and some accessories, you might spend an additional $30-40 for a total of 200-ish beans)

If we had to pick the stars of the room, though, it’d totally be the window fabric paired with the fish art. Both just wake things up and made us feel good about going pretty neutral on everything else.

So there you have it. We can officially close the books on this bathroom for now. Although there’s still another untouched bathroom on the to-do list (I’m talking ’bout you, guest bathroom).

And now, much like The Talking Dead takes a fond look back at each zombie who is killed (please tell me you guys watch that), we shall take a fond look back at the bathroom that greeted us when we moved in back in 2010 (sorry about the bad lighting, Sherry grabbed the picture right as we pulled up in the moving truck before we carried in about five million boxes).

I have to say, I think this room’s $168 upgrade is one of my favorite inexpensive room redos that we’ve done here. Doesn’t the after shot almost feel like it could be a completely new bathroom even though we worked with the original 1960’s tile?

What under-$200 upgrades are you guys doing around the house? Is anyone else making mirror frames or floating shelves or other semi-straightforward projects for the loo? Sidenote: I think Sherry’s favorite line in our entire book was “who doesn’t enjoy a gussied loo?.” So there you have it, a window into my quirky wife’s soul and a post about framing our bathroom mirror.


  1. Lindsey says

    SEEEEEEE?! That’s why y’all are the pros. Because now it all makes sense. (Although I’mma be a brat for a second and say I called it on the whitewashed shelf that it would end up painted. Love ya.)

    Here’s a question re: painting ceilings. We have the dreaded popcorn ceilings in our upstairs (downstairs basement we finished ourselves and obviously left the ceilings smooth). We have a hall bathroom that needs some lovin’ and I have been considering a repaint including the ceiling. But does the popcorn nature of the ceiling make it weird if you paint it the same color as the walls?

    • says

      Haha, you called it on the shelf! The middle makes no sense to us, so we wait til the end to tweak ;)

      As for the ceilings, we don’t have popcorn ceilings so I’m not sure but I would guess that painting them the same color as the walls would help them somewhat blend in more than being all stark white. Anyone with popcorn ceilings know?


    • says

      I painted our popcorn ceiling and it’s a HUGE PAIN. It seems to soak up paint, because you have to go over the same area several times in different directions to completely cover it. I can’t tell you how many times I thought we were finished, but stepped back to look at it and see speckled areas that we didn’t paint in the opposite directions. Good luck!

    • says

      When we moved in we had ugly popcorn ceilings in Every. Room. When we scraped all the popcorn off it seriously updated our whole house by 20 years!! It is kind of a mess to do, but soo worth it. Here’s how we did it:

      1. Send a small portion to a lab to test for asbestos (we didn’t, but later I read that we probably should have.)
      2. Get a big spray bottle for water and a ceiling scraper (we got ours from Lowes). The ceiling scraper has a bag-holder that catches a ton of the debris. Totally worth it.
      3. Move everything out of the room and put down plastic
      4. Spray a section of ceiling *liberally* with water, wait a minute, spray again. Then use scraper to remove popcorn.

      Since we didn’t test for asbethos, we were careful to use lots of water to eliminate any dust! But the water also makes the popcorn way easier to get off. Depending on what popcorn solution they used to put it up, it could be really easy or really hard to get it off. If you’re worried about how hard it’s going to be, test in a small section first.

  2. Leigh Anne says

    We have a bathroom with the same tile. But, our white is a little less than white. It has a little beige tint to it. Is yours a true white? We also have a teensy tiny windowless bathroom downstairs, and the 70’s called, apparently they want their brown floor to ceiling tile back. Bathroom remodels intimidate me. Any thoughts on painting tile??

    • says

      It’s definitely not cream, but not super stark white either- maybe warm white (but not cream or eggshell) is a good description? As for painting tile I think if you google it there are some awesome tutorials and you can also get professional reglazing for a few hundred bucks and that is a pro job that can last a decade plus!


  3. says

    It looks fantastic! I actually just bought some crown to do this very upgrade to our master bath, and when I took a peek at the top between the mirror and light fixture I discovered there is a GIANT HOLE in the wall behind the mirror. As in, the entire 3×5 mirror is hiding studs and pipes. Yay for straightfoward projects that aren’t!

  4. Krissy says

    Wow, love it! I missed the post on the window shade, so it was a double dose of fantastic! A whole new room for under $200, awesome.

  5. MJ says

    I’ve been waiting for this post! The mirror frame is fab!! My mom, bless her heart, picked up a miter saw for me at a garage sale because she knows I want to make a frame for my big ‘ol plain mirror. I’ll use your tips to go for it soon, probably after Christmas. Since I’ve never used a saw, say a prayer for my fingers.

  6. Sabrina says

    Love the change. I did something similar with a couple of builder mirrows but learned something from the folks at Home Depot: those little clips are often just used to hold the mirror in place while the glue attaching it to the wall dries. So my husband and I took them off, very carefully, and discovered the mirror was quite solidly glued to the wall. Since those clips were the reason I waited 12 years to put the darn frames on, I was rather annoyed I had never checked them out before…but all’s well that ends well as they say.

  7. Jill says

    That framing really makes the whole room look pulled together. Well done! And for less than $200?!? You guys are awesome! When I read your posts I feel like I can make something cute happen in my own house! Haha

  8. says

    The frame really does take it up a notch. The room looks great and I love that you made your tile work. If only I could figure out how to do that with my green (where your’s is white) and black tile bathroom.

    • LisaOK says

      @Crystal, we have a green and black tile bathroom as well. When we moved in they had a squatty wood stained vanity and super short toilet. We used this picture from for our inspiration. It still isn’t the look I would go with if we were starting from scratch, but I do like that we’re “honoring” the original design and gives our house character.

      It’s the first picture in the gallery (from Tim Barber Architecture)

    • Gabby says

      Ooh, that picture is gorgeous! Very Art Deco and I love Art Deco. If your bathroom turned out like that then I’m very jealous!

      What do you think? I think it would look awesome!

    • says

      Thanks LisaOK! I love that picture. My green is a bit darker but I love the idea of a soft minty green wall color with lots of bright white and natural wood. The tile design in the floor looks really cool too! I’m totally inspired now!

      p.s. I can’t believe I put an apostrophe in “yours” up above. Oops.

  9. says

    Looks soooo good. I love that pic where you can see the knobs, the art and the reflection of the shade in the mirror. Really ties it all together nicely.

    Also, I’m obsessed with that paint color.

    I really need to stop slacking and find a good bathroom light for my half bath. I have a mirror I can put up, and floating shelves. I need to “get on that.”

  10. Stacey T says

    I absolutely love the bathroom redo! The frame around the mirror and the fresh paint on the walls just give it a fresh vibe. Awesome job!

  11. says

    How would you do a frame for oval mirrors? We have one large rectangle mirror flanked by two oval mirrors in our master, and I would love to gussy up that loo!

    • says

      Hmm, honestly I might consider taking down the builder one and hanging a new one in a square or rectangle from HomeGoods or something (they sell them for cheap- even big ones can be scored for under $40 sometimes!). I don’t know how you’d get molding to curve enough to look good around an oval. Hope it helps!


    • Maya says

      If you want to make the oval mirrors work, one option is to cut out oval frames from cardboard and then upholster them (batting, fabric, staples/tape)… I have a mirror like that in my daughter’s nursery, and it looks really cute!

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