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. Maureen says

    Wow. It’s pretty crazy how much of a difference that frame makes. Can’t wait to see what you do with the half bath. Mine is screaming for a makeover. I have the ol’ 1940’s sears metal medicine cabinet complete with a fluorescent light that takes about 5 minutes to turn on.

  2. Jaclyn says

    Hey guys, I know you have mentioned it before, but I can’t find the post. Where is the lovely soap and lotion with the tray set from?

  3. says

    It looks awesome guys! Oh and I sooooo need to build a frame for my bathroom mirror as well. (It’s one of my Dude get on that already lists as well)

  4. Katie says

    I must admit, I wasn’t convinced that the mirror framing was going to make that much of a difference (it’s not usually something I notice in bathrooms), but it definitely looks more finished and put together than before. Well done!

    • says

      I’m with you! But in person the difference is even crazier! It feels like a completely new mirror/wall – that whole side of the room changed. So I’m now a huge believer!


  5. Fran Siefert says

    You make everything look so easy – the end results are always PERFECT and beautiful. John (and Sherry) your mother’s OLD friend Francie gives her stamp of approval! Bring her to Ft. Lauderdale with you in February!


    • says

      Oh yes, we photoshopped that last week since the brass bugged me like crazy and I called it out there, but stay tuned in the next few days for a hardware makeover post!


  6. Joanna Larson says

    I have always loved you guys…but now after reading that you watch The Talking Dead (and I am assuming therefore you also watch The Walking Dead), my love for you has just grown even more! : )

  7. Julie says

    We are planning on framing our bathroom mirror this weekend, and we were going to caulk/screw the frame to the mirror in a very similar fashion. Now that your frame is glued over the clips, how would you get it off the wall if you wanted to replace it?

    • says

      Our frame is only caulked along the bottom with silicone caulk, so we would unscrew the two screws on the top of the frame that hold it in place and just lean it out so we could cut the caulk with a razor (caulk can be razored clean off a mirror, so it’s removable!)


  8. says

    I think it turned out sooooo good. And I was not ready for it to be over. I loved watching this little bathroom evolve. Swan-like really. And now I am looking for a space to paint that muted plum.

    Have you thought about painting the edges of the fish canvas? You did so many cool frame edging ideas in your book and I feel like the fish canvas would be a perfect candidate to implement some of those ideas. Just a thought. Maybe I really don’t want this room to be finished. Hahaha.

  9. Sarah says

    Love the mirror. Looks great in the bathroom! I am going to do that to the builder mirror in my basement bathroom!

    and Love WALKING DEAD/ Talking Dead!So funny when they did the dead characters this week…not shane!HAHA!

    highlight of talking dead this week though was by far this quote… “Combine merle, the governor and hershel and you get a pirate! BAHAHAHA

    • says

      Oh yeah we were cracking up over Not Shane! I loved Shane and was so sad when he was gone so just seeing him for a second broke my heart all over again. Haha. And the pirate tweet was the most amazing comment ever.


  10. says

    What a fun little makeover. When you have been going through it slowly, it didn’t seem like all that much but when you look at the before and after you see the big impact. Awesome job. The curtain really is the winner in the bathroom though.

  11. Amanda Miller says

    Wow, crazy how 14 dollars can make the room like insanely amazing.

    Do you have a rug that you put out when guests come and stay and will be using the shower? Or is it just not in the shot?

    • says

      We have a white bath mat that we use when we give Clara a bath but otherwise it’s rolled up in the linen closet (we’ve learned that it just gets trampled and looks ratty the rest of the time, so we like storing it so the cute tile can show).


  12. Melissa R says

    Love the color of the walls and the touch of color on the knobs. I think I may have to do this in my guest bathroom. Unfortunately the wall paper has refused to release itself so I’m going to have to replace all the drywall before I get to do any fun stuff. But thankfully the BF used to do that for a living =) Oh and spoiler alert, Judge Doom was the killer (the crazy toon in human costume), love that movie!

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