Great form, not so great function
As shown in the two photos below, our 2017 Aspire 44B was delivered with a very elegant and nice looking rear bath, however, it had no medicine cabinet and only 2 short and shallow drawers in the vanity for storing those small, frequently used bathroom items.
Great function, not so great form
In 2018 Entegra made a change to the rear bath design on the 44B which added loads of storage space. But in our opinion misses the mark in the looks area. Adding this design to our existing coach would have been relatively complicated, require demolition of the original mirror assembly and would be more costly to implement.
Great form and function
So our goal for this mod was to create more space for those frequently used small items, while maintaining most of the original appearance. In addition, we wanted the execution of the mods to be as simple as possible with minimal demolition, the use of standard size material stock and no need for professional custom fabrication. The photos below show what we came up with. We think the result looks even better than the original yet our storage space for small items has been quadrupled. As part of this project we also updated the backsplash from Corian to tile.
The 10 minute video below summarizes the primary project details and will give you an overview of what is involved with the project.
The rest of this post is a comprehensive guide for other Entegra owners (or their fabricators) that may have a similar goals. It describes the detailed materials procurement and construction specifics of the project.
This project should be straightforward for an experienced DIY’er. Standard stock sizes mean the only power tools required are a chop saw and a drill. See the Tools and Materials list at the end of the post, the Medicine Cabinet Mod details begin below.
Step 1 – remove the trim around the mirror:
The mirror trim consists of a full rectangular frame that is screwed to the wall and “door stop” trim on three sides to cover the gap between the mirror frame and the column/ceiling assembly. If you are not replacing the backsplash you may not need to remove these pieces although removing the door stop trim will ensure it realigns perfectly when reinstalled against the new cabinet. The door stop removes easily as it is just pin nailed in place. Pin nails are 23 gauge, probably even thinner than a common pin and nearly invisible.
The photo below shows the door stop trim removed but the mirror frame still in place. To remove the mirror frame, in my case there were six screws total, two on either side and two along the bottom. The mirror itself is glued to the wall with some sort of very sticky adhesive strips.
Step 2 – Remove the factory decorative columns:
Discovering how to remove the factory installed “columns” on either side of the mirror was actually the most time consuming part of the project for me, but since I’ll be telling you the deconstruction “secrets”, you can save yourself a half day or more of time consuming sleuthing.
At this point let me just say, unlike some other coach builders where things tend to fall apart on their own (and we have personally witnessed that on multiple occasions), Entegra does a superb job of securely and competently assembling the cabinetry!
From watching the video above you should have a good idea of how the side columns are attached, here are some more text and photos to help with the removal details.
First it’s best to remove the pieces of molding at the top and bottom of the columns. If you are replacing the molding don’t worry about damaging it, but do be very careful not to mar the column. Somehow I managed to not damage either, but be warned the molding is glued and nailed (six nails) and was attached very securely. I used a thin flexible “putty knife” with a handle capable of withstanding being repeatedly whacked with a hammer and patiently worked across the shaped edge a little at a time. I was able to slice thru the top nails and glue and then used a small pry bar to finish the job. I don’t recommend attacking it from the blunt side end which is more likely to inflict cosmetic damage.
Next you need to remove the three screws holding the side of the column to the wall. I suggest starting with the column on the right side of the vanity as the screws are a bit easier to get at. Inside the closet, there is a thin wood grain look panel that needs to be removed to expose the inside of the wall and the screws holding the side of the column.
The panel is just stapled on and can be popped off without too much effort. You could remove the outlet on the bathroom side of this wall and push thru the cutout with a stick to try and pop some of the staples so you can get a grip on the panel. If that doesn’t work drill one or two finger sized holes in the thin panel to use as pulls. Once you get it started it should pull of fairly easily. The staples will mostly pull thru the panel so will require removal from the “studs”. (Note: when I re-installed mine I used small screws instead of staples).
Now that the space inside the wall is exposed you should be able to find two or three screws behind the edge of the column and above the level of the countertop that fasten the column. There will be other screws near the top that hold on the ceiling assembly, don’t remove those. BTW, a screwdriver or drill bit with a #2 Robertson (square drive) bit is your friend for 95% of the fasteners on this coach.
Almost done, but there are two more pocket screws at the top of the column that fasten it to the ceiling assembly. These screws are installed from the backside of the column before the entire assembly is installed. I found the best way to get them out from the front side was to drill two approximately 1″ to 1-1/4″ diameter holes in the approximate location of the screws. These holes are behind where the molding is installed so will be covered when the project is finished.
The photo below shows the backside of the column and the location of the holes. Note there is a hardwood scrap stapled to the back of the column that actually contained the pocket holes (bottom of photo). With the access holes drilled thru the face of the column you should be able to just chisel out the wood behind the pocket holes and the column will be free!
Once the column is free, to maximize the space inside your new cabinets, you will want to carefully remove the backer piece at the top as well as any other “filler” pieces being careful not to mar the face of the column. Those larger filler pieces were tough coming off, so to ensure I didn’t crack or otherwise damage the column itself, I made some pre-cuts with a multi-function oscillating tool which eased their removal.
Now move on to the column on the left side. This one will require drilling holes in the bedroom wall, but it’s a little tricky to find the precise location to drill. As explained in the video above, the walls on an Entegra are 1/2″ plywood (mostly) then covered with a thin (~3/32) plywood skin with a finished surface.
The plywood subwall on the bedroom side has 3″ holes pre-drilled by the factory to provide access to the inside of the wall and the screws that go into the edge of the column. After the bathroom column/ceiling assembly is installed by the factory, the finish layer is installed on the bedroom side which covers up those holes. To remove the finish layer would involve the daunting task of removing most of the trim molding on that wall, and since the finish layer is glued on it could easily be damaged anyway so I elected a different approach.
Instead I suggest drilling holes (1-1/4″ should be big enough) thru the finish layer at the correct locations which will give you access to the column screws. Later you can cover those with seam tape making them nearly invisible (see photo of patched wall here). In the photo below on the left side you can see the 3 holes providing access to the screws. The larger hole was exploratory on my part and shouldn’t be necessary. My thinking was I could reach all of the screws thru that larger hole, but the wall wasn’t thick enough for my arm to fit in far enough to reach all three. It did however enlighten me as to the existence of the 3″ holes in the plywood subwall.
I would imagine those 3″ holes in the subwall are precut on CNC equipment, so their location should be fairly consistent – however, I could be wrong about that. By tapping on the wall you should be able to ascertain their location by the sound difference. The photo below shows the locations of the holes on my coach which were at 5-1/2″, 20″ and 33″ measured from the ceiling. Use it as a guide. If you are not sure you are in the right spot by tapping and listening, drill a small hole with the skinniest drill bit you have, you’ll know right away if there is no plywood behind that area. If you were wrong the tiny hole can be easily hidden.
Once you have found and removed the three column screws inside the wall, do the same process you did previously at the top of the column to remove the pocket screws. Then clean up the inside by removing the filler pieces.
At this point we also suggest carpeting the inside of the columns, it will be much easier to do that now than it will after assembly. If you have never done this before, use the 3M spray adhesive on the back of the carpet and on the inside of the column, let both dry to the touch (3-5 minutes) then apply the carpet, the glue will adhere near permanently on contact. I have found it is best to cut the carpet oversize, then trim with a sharp box cutter blade after installation.
A word about the finish color:
If you are lucky enough to be able to order and pickup pre-finished material from Chase in Indiana (see the Tools and Materials section for contact info), the rest of this project is primarily assembly. But do make sure you have a sharp blade in your saw and know how to make clean cuts with it.
If you will be using unfinished stock you have the additional step of finishing. On the plus side, any assembly boo-boo’s can be hidden by the Caramel Glazed Cherry which is more like a paint than a stain. The light colored paint appears to have a brown “glaze” applied lightly over it creating fine “streaks”. A good paint shop should be able to help duplicating the finish. If you are concerned the match isn’t quite perfect, perhaps consider also re-painting the column itself with your new finish. As long as the color is close, any slight color mismatch against the ceiling assembly won’t be very noticeable due to the 90 degree change in plane, your eye will write it off as a lighting variance.
A word about pocket hole joinery:
Pocket hole joinery is a very strong assembly technique and easy to implement. Entegra (and most all coach builders) use it extensively throughout their products. To make pocket holes you will need a drill, pocket hole jig, some clamps and special pocket hole screws. Kreg has several jig models, this one or it’s newer version is a good compromise between convenience and price. I have had this bench or platform mountable version for a couple of decades and have made thousands of pocket holes with it. The primary difference is that the clamping process is quicker with the bench unit. This project only requires about 72 pocket holes so the Kreg 320 or R3 models are perfectly adequate to get the job done.
If you have never assembled with pocket holes before, do yourself a favor and practice making some pocket holes on scrap material. Then practice assembling the pieces together. During assembly, it is extremely important that the pieces you are assembling are securely clamped together in both planes. If the pieces are only clamped on the face and the joint pushes open as you are driving the screw, the pieces will move out of alignment when the screw is tightened and you may have wasted some expensive material. With prefinished material it is especially critical to get the joints right on the first try, so clamp, clamp,clamp!
Step 3 – Assembling the face frame:
The face frame assembly is pretty straightforward. Keep in mind the size of the door opening is dictated by the size of the door itself. It should be about 3/4″ less than the door dimensions (3/8″ overlap on each edge). The factory drawer front we ordered from Entegra is 5-3/4″ x 29-3/4″ so the door opening needs to be a maximum of 5″ x 29″.
That means the face frame ‘rails’ (horizontal pieces) need to be 5″ long. If you use a different door, adjust your rail length accordingly, we don’t recommend anything less than 5″ for the opening width.
The total height of the column (in my case) is 40-1/2″ so stacking two 3″ wide rails at the top and bottom leaves a vertical opening of 28-1/2″ which is close enough. If you feel the need to eek out the additional 1/2″, the short 5″ rail can be easily “ripped” on a chop saw to make the width a bit less. In either case the seam between the two stacked rails will be hidden by the slightly wider (3-1/4″) molding.
The shelf spacing is totally up to your needs. You can zoom in on the photo above to see the spacing we used.
The ‘stiles’ (vertical pieces) are comprised on one side by the column itself and on the other by 3″ wide face frame material. The protrusion of the assembled cabinet from the wall is the 3″ stile width + 5″ rail width + 2-1/4″ column thickness for a total of 10-1/4 inches. Make the new stile the same height or slightly less than the column, you want to make sure you won’t have any problems sliding the assembled cabinet into place between the countertop and the ceiling assembly. Any slight gap will be covered by the wrap around molding. The photo below shows the backside of the rail and stile assembly before it is attached to the column.
The photos below show a closeup of the pocket hole side and the finished side. The horizontal pocket holes in the rails fasten to the stile on one side and the column on the other. The vertical pocket holes fasten the two stacked rails to each other. The pocket holes in the stile (on the far right) are to screw the assembled cabinet to the wall, although as it turned out, in some cases there was no solid material in the wall at that point.
And below is the assembled column and face frame with 1 shelf installed. The 3/4″ thick pine shelves are also attached with pocket holes which are then covered by the headliner material.
And here is the completely finished cabinet with shelves in place ready to install.
Step 4 – Installing the cabinets:
This is straightforward. Align everything so it is square and plumb, then drive three screws thru the inside edge of the column into the side wall. It greatly helps to predrill these holes in the column edge before installation in the approximate location of the three arrows on the left side of the photo below. To save yourself a bunch of hassle, make these holes large enough so the screw can be pushed thru them without resistance. These screw heads may be a bit difficult to get at with the cabinet in place, so you may need to use a small ratchet tool like this.
I had originally planned to use the pocket holes in the stile that abuts the mirrored wall to attach that side, but found they landed in one of the relatively rare areas that didn’t have plywood backing. So instead I added the scrap block at the top (and screwed up into the ceiling assembly) plus the angle bracket on the back of the lower shelf (see photo above). The installation is very secure.
Step 5 – installing the tile backsplash:
If you are not replacing the backsplash skip to Step 6.
Remove the mirror frame being careful as one or more edges on the mirror itself may be razor sharp. Also ensure that the mirror is firmly attached to the wall by its adhesive, I have heard of cases where the mirror has become detached.
Remove the old backsplash. The solid surface (similar to Corian) backsplash material on my coach is 1/2″ thick and had three spacers that brought it out to be 3/4″ proud of the wall, and about 1/4″ less than the mirror frame. Mine was held on with silicone applied to the spacers and pried off fairly easily. It even left the wall finish behind fully intact.
When choosing tile make sure it is the same height (or very close) as the backsplash and will fit in the gap under the mirror frame. Mine was exactly 6″. We chose 1″ mosaic tile because it was similar to other accents on our coach and because the proportions seemed right for this narrow accent strip. See the Tools and Materials section for the brand and model we used plus all the other tiling supplies needed.
- Cut a strip of 1/4″ thick exterior grade plywood to 48″ x 6″.
- Cut your two 12″ square mosaic tile pieces so you have four 12″ x 6″ strips.
- Follow the mastic directions and adhere the tile to the plywood ensuring it stays square to the plywood and the gaps remain consistent. Also make sure the assembly stays perfectly flat, if needed use some weights so it doesn’t curl while the mastic sets.
- After the mastic has set fully (usually overnight), apply masking or other sturdy tape all the way around the edge of the tile/plywood assembly. This will allow you to evenly fill the grout into the tile spaces near the edges of the assembly.
- Mix and apply the grout. I bought a 1 pound tub of the product in the materials list assuming it would be plenty, it wasn’t! About 1-1/4 pounds will be needed to finish the job. Again, make sure the assembly stays perfectly flat and let it set overnight or as directed.
- Remove the tape and clean off any adhesive or grout residue from the edges of the plywood/tile assembly. Test that it fits as expected, and with it centered, rig up some scraps to clamp it in place while the adhesive sets.
- Using the grout color matched acrylic caulking, apply a bead along the bottom edge of the tile assembly that will rest on the countertop. Quickly apply beads of silicone to the back of the tile assembly and set it in place. Apply the temporary clamps. You can clean up any squeeze out of the color matched acrylic caulk with dampened paper towels.
- Let the adhesive set completely before proceeding.
- Remove the temporary clamps. Measure and cut two end blocks from leftover face frame material. Leave a gap equal to the grout width between the wood block and the edge of the tile. The other end of the block should butt cleanly to the new cabinets. If the assembly is not completely square these pieces may require slightly angled cuts. Glue these pieces in place with silicone and hold in place using the same clamps fabricated to hold the tile assembly.
- Allow the adhesive to set fully before proceeding.
- Fill the gaps between the wood and the tile edges with the grout matching caulking and smooth to match the grout depth (try a damp finger).
Step 6 – install the molding:
First, if it was removed, re-install the rectangular mirror frame. If you replaced the backsplash rest the bottom edge of the frame on the top of the tile. My frame (and/or the wall) was slightly warped near the top so I drilled additional screw holes (hidden by the door stop trim) to bring it into alignment.
Now install the door stop trim. I pinned mine back in place using 3/4″ long pin nails and an air powered pinner. Be sure to mark the locations of the mirror frame screws with pieces of tape so you don’t inadvertently drive pins in those locations. If you don’t have a pinner or air compressor, you can try using silicone glue and taping the pieces in place while it sets, or possibly very thin doubles sided tape would work.
Now you can install the cabinet molding. Nothing magical here but it can be challenging if you haven’t done miters before. In most cases the square butt ends of the molding pieces needed to be angled very slightly where they met the wall, so I cut the pieces slightly long, adjusted the butt end angle to fit properly, then crept up to the right size with the mitered end.
Originally I thought I would glue the miter pieces together before installing them on the cabinets, then nail the the entire assembly in place. However, instead I found I got excellent results by screwing the pieces in place from the inside of the cabinet. For each piece of molding I drilled two oversized holes in the cabinet (slightly larger than the screw threads to allow a little wiggle room), aligned the miter and held both molding pieces in place, then pushed a screw thru the hole from inside so it’s sharp point left a precise mark on the molding backside. Then using those marks, drilled a pilot hole in the backside of the molding. The aforementioned right angle ratchet driver was required to tighten those screws. During assembly I put wood glue on the miter edges, got everything into alignment and tightened up the screws. This resulted is near perfect miters with no nail holes to fill. Any small gaps were filled with the “Biscuit” color acrylic grout caulk which happens to be very close in color to the Caramel Glaze finish.
- Drill, drill bits plus square drive bits in assorted lengths.
- Decent quality, accurate chop saw.
- Blade for chop saw suitable for making clean finish cuts in pre-finished material. I used a good brand 80 tooth thin kerf blade.
- A zero-clearance insert for the chop saw blade throat to prevent tear out. This is the one that fit my Dewalt. You can use scrap material against the fence to minimize tear out on that face of the stock.
- Pocket hole jig.
- If using cup hinges for the doors, a concealed hinge jig.
- Thin blade putty knife that can take being hammered to help remove the molding pieces.
- Close quarters ratcheting screwdriver like this.
- Assorted basic tools (box cutter, screwdriver, etc.)
Door and face frame materials:
- Qty 2 drawer front in a matching finish (ours was Caramel Glazed Cherry). Jayco Part # 0234697 FRONT, DRAWER CARMEL GLAZE CHERRY 5.75X29.75 Called out as E6P in diagram right.
(see note 1)
- Qty 4 cup hinges Jayco Part # 0226939 HINGE,CABINET HIDDEN 6-WAY CUP .5 OVERLAY 110-DEGREE
(see note 1)
- Seam tape to patch the holes in the bedroom wall. It needs to match your existing bedroom wall surface. Mine was Armarillo Fawn, the 3″ width is best for this patch job, but the other width is also handy to have on hand:
- Jayco Part # 0242954 TAPE,FILM 1.50” WIDTH ARMARILLO FAWN
- Jayco Part # 0265398 TAPE,FILM 3″ WIDTH ARMARILLO FAWN
(see note 1)
- Seam tape to patch screw holes on the bathroom wall, such as where the towel holder was located (see note 1). Mine was Bypass Valencia, the narrower widths are fine for this job:
- Jayco Part # 0253556 TAPE,FILM 1″ WIDTH BYPASS VALENCIA
- Jayco Part # 0262713 TAPE,FILM 1.50” WIDTH BYPASS VALENCIA
- Jayco Part # 0253557 TAPE,FILM 3″ WIDTH BYPASS VALENCIA
(see note 1)
- Approximately 12′ of 3″ wide x 3/4″ thick hardwood face frame stock, max piece length ~ 41″ (see note 2).
- Approximately 3′ of 1-1/2″ wide x 3/4″ thick hardwood face frame stock, max piece length 5″ (see note 2).
- Approximately 10′ molding at least 3-1/4″ high. Buy extra as there is a lot of waste generated when making opposing miter cuts, plus errors are more likely (see note 2).
- Approximately 6′ of “1 x 6″ premium shelf material (actual size 5-1/2″ x 3/4”. This is for the shelves so if you will be covering them with headliner like I did, a good grade of square and flat pine is adequate.
- Headliner or trunkliner to line the shelves and inside of the cabinet parts. I used this from Home Depot. It’s thin, and easy to cut and form around corners. In most Home Depot stores it is available in 6′ width as well as 12′, the 6′ is much more convenient.
- Spray adhesive for the above.
- Pocket hole screws for 3/4″ thick hardwood stock, use 1-1/4″ fine thread for 3/4″ hardwood.
- If doing you own finishing, the stain or paint of your choice. You may be able to order the Caramel Glazed Cherry finish from Chase Manufacturing 574-546-4776. Note that it is a two part finish, the Caramel (beige) base color and the brownish wiping glaze, but a good match of the base color might be adequate. A good paint shop may be able to duplicate this for you.
- 2 square feet of the tile of your choice. To eliminate tile cutting, height should be 6″ even. If using the 12″ square mosaic, simply cut the web backing in half with scissors. We used this tile from Lowes.
- Tile adhesive.
- Tile grout, we used this from Lowes – note that for 1″ mosaic you will need about 1.25 pounds to finish the job, so buy TWO of the 1lb tubs.
- Tile caulk that matches grout.
- Tile backer board, 1/4″ exterior plywood recommended. The link is for a 24″ x 48″ piece, cut it to 48″ x 6″. Use exterior grade, you don’t want ot delaminating if it gets wet.
- Notched tool to spread out the mastic. The tile will dictate what size notches are appropriate.
- Grout float or some kind of hard rubbery material that can do the job.
- Grout sponge.
- Two 6″ long pieces of 3″ face frame material to make filler blocks at each end of the tile run.
Note 1: please contact Entegra (firstname.lastname@example.org) to verify part # and availability. Be sure your request includes your VIN, S/N, model and year.
Note 2: to check the availability of prefinished stock contact Chase Manufacturing 574-546-4776. Please note Chase WILL NOT ship material so you will need to pick it up in Nappanee, IN. Also note the Caramel Glazed Cherry finish is no longer in production and if still available will require a setup fee (I paid $50 extra). Suggest ordering extra prefinished material to ensure you have enough in case of mistakes or blemishes. When I picked up my material I was pleased to find that Chase had made extra (in case of blemishes) and that was given to me at no extra charge – that may or may not be common practice so YMMV. If you will be finishing your own stock, using the recommended 3″ and 1.5″ widths will eliminate the need for any ripping and the need for a table saw. The factory hardwood is cherry (American Black I think) but since it will be painted, any readily available species of hardwood will do.