Dress Up Your Builder Basic Mirror… Renter Style

A while ago I read how John and Sherry from Young House Love built a frame around their builder basic mirror. How sweet is this?


You would never know that they didn’t just replace it with a brand new mirror. The project clearly stuck with me over the last few months, because as soon as I saw our bathroom mirror, I knew I wanted to tackle it!

Bathroom mirror before

Mirror Before full shot

(Yup, that’s me hanging out in my yoga gear on the weekend. Clearly a Vancouverite.)

Of course, I had to tweak it a bit because:

a) I clearly don’t have any of those fancy saws they used to make it happen. And more importantly…

b) We don’t own our bathroom, so I wanted something that was easy to remove!

Here’s what I did:

First off, Shaun came across some extra chair rail (I’ve since learned that this is similar to crown moulding, except it doesn’t have the angle like moulding does.) We measured out our mirror, and he cut four pieces down to size on a 45 degree angle.

Upainted chair rail

If ever you don’t have a saw to cut them on an angle like this at your place, you could borrow like we did (we certainly don’t have space to house a saw in our bitty apartment!) or you could probably have them cut it to size for you when you buy it.

I started off by spraying the chair rail in a high gloss black. I wanted matte, but painters tell me it’s much more durable to go with a gloss in a bathroom.

First coat

Not a fan. It looked like cheap plastic.


I decided to spray over it in a matte anyway. I’m such a rebel. (I’ll keep you posted over how well the paint holds up.) To do so, I sanded it down with 120 grit sandpaper (since matte won’t stick to gloss very well) and sprayed it out again.

To get rid of the remaining grooves from my first sanding, I sanded it again with a much finer grit, 220, so that I could spray it all again. Long story short, it would have been much faster to go with the paint I originally wanted. Oh well… Live and learn.

From there, we needed to fasten the frame together.

Second coat

I bought corner brackets for a couple bucks from our local hardware store. I wasn’t sure if the screws would damage the chair rail, so we opted for some E6000 super glue (you can buy it at Michael’s) that I had from a previous project to fasten it together.


Once the glue had some time to set, we flipped it over and caulked the corners. This would probably be the hardest section of this DIY simply because not everyone has the means to caulk something… If you don’t, there are other options! One I’ve heard of is called “caulk singles” which basically allows you to caulk something without the gun. For all you bakers out there, I’ve even heard of cutting the tip off a zip lock bag like you would when using icing… If you’ve tried either of these, I’d love to hear how well it worked out!

We squeezed out a line of caulking on the corners, (in this photo you can see some of my remaining sanding marks)Caulking step one

 and smoothed it out each one with a damp rag.

Caulking step two

I let the caulking dry for a couple hours and sprayed it out (remember, I needed to spray it again after sanding it again anyway) to cover the caulking in black. I also needed to spray the back side of the frame because the reflection in the mirror allows us peak at the back of the frame.

Curious to see how it works in a rental? All we did was attach the frame to the mirror with large black command strips!

Once the glue had fully set (I left it overnight) I attached the command strips, one on each board. As a tip, the box says to let paint sit 28 DAYS before using the strips. I’m way too impatient for that, so I just sanded down the areas where the command strips would go. Now, when we want to remove it, we just need to unstick it and pull off the velcro!

So, again, the Before:

Mirror Before full shot

And After!

Mirror After with me in it

How great is that? It makes the bathroom look so much more high end. Way better than the cheapest possible options the builder (or building manager?) chose for this place.

Mirror after horizontal

Mirror After Vertical

Final costs:

Chair rail: free! That being said, I doubt using so little would really be very expensive.

Spray paint and glue: $0, as they were leftovers from previous projects.

Velcro command strips: I got the biggest kind, so they were about $6.

Brackets to attach the boards together: $2.

Total: $8. Awesome.

Mirror After

Our bathroom is coming along… But there is still a lot to do. I want to replace the hardware, hang some shelves and artwork (hence the black wall you can see in some of those reflections)… Seeing this change has definitely inspired me to keep going though! Have any cheap ideas to dress up your bathroom? Any projects you have been proud of on such a small budget? I’d love to hear from you!

I’m linking up with:

TDC Before and After

Not Just A Housewife