Medicine cabinets have to pull double, sometimes triple, duty. Not only do they hold a variety of personal grooming and hygiene items, medicine cabinets almost always include a mirror and can also provide lighting.

While shopping for a new medicine cabinet, consider these points before clicking “Add to Cart:”

1. Medicine cabinets can either be surface mounted or recessed into the wall. While most can be installed either way, some cabinets are application specific. Recessed cabinets have a lower profile, and installation requires building a frame inside the wall to support the weight of the cabinet.

2. Measure! To be sure the new cabinet will fit in the allotted space, run a tape measure from the bottom of the lighting fixture over the vanity to the top of it. The width of the vanity should also be measured to make sure the medicine cabinet can be centered with at least two inches on either side of it, more if independent sconces are also being hung.

3. Don’t forget the less obvious spacing issues like making sure doors can swing open freely. More modern designs could include sliding doors – both side-to-side and up-and-down – so taking enough clearance into account is key for successful installation and access.

4. Medicine cabinets can be made of wood, plastic, aluminum or other metal and should be sealed with an enamel top coat. The enamel protects the cabinet for a longer life in the wettest room in the house.

5. While a mirror may be standard, task lighting is optional and can be a nice feature. Not only does the lighting eliminate the need for separate fixtures on either side of the medicine cabinet, using integrated task lighting removes shadows so shaving and makeup application are easier.

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