Q: My bathroom wall mirror is not installed correctly. There are two problems: It is not attached securely and the mirror lighting is off-center. This is driving me crazy. What will it take to make things right? Is there an easy way to fix these problems now without tearing into the wall?
A: You need to fix that mirror in the bathroom immediately before someone gets hurt. Glass is heavy, and it's possible the mirror could come crashing down on the vanity or the floor at any time. Not only could you get hurt, but the finishes of the top, vanity and floor could also be damaged.
A bathroom vanity mirror is a conundrum when building or remodeling. The problems you're having can be traced to poor planning, poor construction and/or poor supervision.
You can see why it's so important to select all fixtures for a job long before you start. When this is done, and the technical specifications — as well as photos of the products — are on the job site during the framing, plumbing and electric installation, workers can make sure that wood blocking is in place to support the fasteners for the heavy mirror.
The specifications also allow installers to get the bathroom mirror lights perfectly centered with the bathroom vanity mirror.
One method that has worked best for me over the years is to make a cardboard template of the mirror. I cut the cardboard to the precise size of the finished mirror and attach it to the wall in the exact location it will be when the room is finished. I do this just after the wall is framed so the plumber and electrician can see it.
The plumber then knows to keep his vent pipe for the vanity as far away as possible; he should understand that there might be wall sconce lights on either side of the cabinet. If the plans for the job have great interior elevations, they will show the exact location of the bathroom mirror lighting.
Keep in mind that the plumber is usually on the job long before the electrician, so it's important to communicate to the plumber where the electric boxes will be.
The other benefit of creating the mirror template is that it shows you where any wood blocking needs to be installed so the mirror will never pull away from the wall. Hollow-wall anchors are great, but my experience has been that solid-wood blocking is the best thing to screw into when dealing with heavy items. There are heavy-duty anchors for fixtures, but sometimes the hole required for the anchor is so large the trim plate of the fixture will not cover it.
To fix your problems, you may have to take the drywall or plaster down. Your biggest challenge will be relocating the electric boxes for the lights. Since you know the width of the mirror and how far from it you want the light fixtures, you can move the electric boxes to the right locations. However, you may run into a problem if the electric cable that feeds the boxes doesn't have enough slack.
If you don't have much electrical experience, I urge you to work with a professional electrician. I would call the electrician before you do anything to see if he or she has a creative solution that doesn't involve tearing into the wall.
Tim Carter is a licensed contractor. To view previous columns or tap into his archive of information and sources of building materials, go to www.askthebuilder.com. You can write to Tim Carter at P.O. Box 36352, Cincinnati, OH 45236-0352.