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DIY Recessed Toilet Paper Holder

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The moment I decided I was taking on a DIY overhaul on our main floor powder room my husband said to me we HAVE to get one of those toilet paper stands to sit in the corner.. The toilet paper gets knocked off the holder constantly.

My immediate thought was no, no, please no!  I hate those toilet paper stand things. So I said well, how about a recessed, inset into the wall husband agreed!

Of course I immediately went and searched for recessed toilet paper holders.  I was shocked by the price tags. Seeing these thing were costing +$100, I started to reconsider!  But as I kept scrolling through I thought I can make that, I can do that!  So I decided to take it on!  All in, this DIY cost me a sum total of $28.33! 

recessed toiler paper holders

I used on-hand scrap board but even if you had to buy that this would still cost significantly less than the price tags of recessed toilet paper holders elsewhere!

You can buy a 2 ft x 4 ft MDF board from Home Depot for about $28 which would leave you with plenty of scrap for several other projects! (House key holdersCenterpieces, etc!)

So, Here's how I did it!

Step 1: Find your Wall Stud

recessed toiler paper holders

Find the wall studs in the space you’d like to place your recessed toilet paper holder. 

Once you have found your studs, use a utility knife to cut through the drywall. Hopefully, unlike me, you find nothing behind the drywall.  For me there was a pipe, which meant I needed to shift my planning just a bit.

Standard wall studs are 16” on center from one another so I simply measured over from the 2×4 I had planned to use as my brace and found the next 2×4.  I cut a small section out and confirmed this was an open space that I could use! I measured from the 2×4 to the pipe to find my overall width.

Step 2: Layout your design

Laying out a designs for me means drawing out my plan and planning all my cuts. 

As a result of the pipe, my way my overall width could only be 8 1/2″ wide.  For the height, I planned to make a section for the toilet paper roll and then have a small shelf section for some smell goods!  

My exact measurements are shown the picture, however, if there wasn’t a pipe in my wall I would have made the overall width 10” wide.  This would have allowed me more flexibility in the type of toilet paper holder I choose to use and would have allowed for more ease in putting the roll on and off.  So if you have the space in your wall I would recommend making your frame slightly larger than I made mine. 

diy sketch

Step 3: Cut your Framing Boards to Size

I used a miter saw for this part but you could also use a circular saw.  I had some MDF board on hand from a previous project; so I started by cutting the MDF board down to the correct depth for the wall.  The total depth was 4 1/2″.  

Once I had the depth cut down, I then cut the two short boards at 8 1/2″ and then the two long boards at 15″.  Then, I set the board together and double check the measurement for the shelf.  Once confirmed, I cut my shelf board down to 7″.  

diy recessed

Step 4: Nail your Frame Together

brad nailer

For this step you will need a square tool and your nail gun.  Use the square tool to ensure you hold and nail your corners perfectly square. 

While lining up your corners, then nail together from the top and the bottom boards. 

Once you have the outer four boards nailed together then set your shelf board in at the correct height and nail from the outer side. 

I first just used a few nails in each side to hold it together and then I went back and add additional nails to ensure a strong hold. 

Step 5: Cut out the Drywall and Dry Fit your Recessed Toilet Paper Holder Frame

recessed toiler paper holders

Using your frame measurement and a level, mark on the drywall where you need to cut out for your frame.  Use your utility knife to cut the drywall where you marked it.  Cut out any insulation in the wall space. 

Once the space is clear, set your frame to ensure a good fit.  It is important to make sure you have a good fit now so that you can sand or make adjustment prior to painting.

recessed toiler paper holders

Step 6: Paint the Frame

Start by giving the whole frame a light sand with a sanding block and then wipe down with denatured alcohol

I used a primer and then a spray paint in a semi-gloss finish.   Using a primer on all sides of the frame will protect the boards over time.  I did two coats of primer.  Allowing to dry about 30 minutes between coats.

I then sprayed with spray paint, also allowing two coats with 30 minutes dry time in between the coats.

Spray painting with a paint is optional.  I choose to do this because initially we had planned to leave the frame white but after installing and painting the paneling we had added to our bathroom we felt painting it to match the paneling gave it a true built-in look that we wanted. 

Step 7: Install your Frame

For me this part came with a bit of frustration and having to remind myself to be patient! 

Just take your time. Have your utility knife on hand to make additional cuts in the drywall where needed and have your level on hand to ensure you have the frame level within the wall.

Use a drill and dril bit to make two piolt holes through the frame and into the 2×4 stud.  I used 2 1/2″ screws to attached the frame to the stud.  I made sure to countersink the screws into the MDF board. 

recessed toiler paper holders

Step 8: Install the Trim & Fill the holes

You could use an trim design you like, as long as the trim width is at least 1″ wide.  I choose to use a simple square trim piece and I cut it at a 45 degree angle to make all the corners fit together nicely.  To make these cuts, you should measure to the inner corner of the unit and then set your miter saw to the 45 degree and make sure you are cutting from your mark out.  

Once you have all the piece cut then use your nail gun with small brad nails to attach to the front of the recessed frame. 

Then use a paintable wood filler to fill all the nail holes and the screw holes where you attached the frame to the 2X4 stud. Allow the filler to dry and then lightly sand til flush with the frame. 

Step 9: Touch up Paint (or Repaint if your Me)

recessed toiler paper holders

In this step, had I not changed my mind about my color choice , this would have just been to add some touch up paint to cover where the nails and screws were.  Ultimately, I decided to paint the entire recessed frame in the same blue color we choose for our paneling.  For me, I felt it made it look truly built in!

Step 10: Cut the Swing Toilet Paper Holder

This step came as a bit of a surprise, but also I was working with the space that I had and was forced to use due to the pipe I discovered sitting exactly where I was hoping to install my recessed unit.  

After the unit was fully built I was left with about a 7″ space, this was plenty of space for the swing toilet paper holder; however, with the holder that I choose the hard right angle did not make sliding a new roll of toilet paper on easy at all!  Since this is the bathroom all of our guest would use I was not okay with this awkward set up.  

So, I devised a plan to cut the bracket just a bit to allow for ease in replacing rolls of toilet paper.  I used my Ryobi Jig Saw with a metal saw blade.  Then I used my orbital sander to make the cut a bit smoother.  Lastly, I then used a matte black paint and small paint brush to touch up the black finish.  

It [surprisingly] turned out great!  Anyone who doesn’t know to look for it, would never know it was cut off!

After all said and done, you can make it work but I again I would recommend making the unit a total of 10″ wide if your wall space allows! 

Step 11: Install the Swing Toilet Paper Holder

For this step, you will follow the directions that come with the holder you choose.  However, instead of installing the swing holder to the back, or at a right angle you will install the holder to your shelf!  Be sure to grab some shorter screws for install, you don’t want screws that will go completely through your shelf!

This will allow the holder to move better withing the recessed unit and make it easier to put the toilet paper rolls on and off. 

Step back and Finally Enjoy your Hard Work!

Overall, I am so pleased with how this turned out!  I enjoyed the time it took to build it and the time it took to work through some of the issues I ran into given the space I had to work with and of course I was very happy to save myself about $200 in cost!  That could have significantly eaten into my overall budget for this bathroom flip!

*Disclosure: We only recommend products that we regularly use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own.  This post contains affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, we make earn a small commission

Recessed Toilet Paper Holders Links

Home Depot: HandPrint 3/4 in. x 2 ft. x 4 ft. Medium Density Fiberboard
Home Depot: Royal Mouldings 5/32 in. x 1-1/8 in. x 8 ft. PVC White Lattice Moulding
diy recessed

DIY Recessed Toilet Paper Holders

Prep Time 1 hour
Build Time 5 hours
Dry Time 1 day


  • Miter Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Sanding Block
  • Drill
  • L-Ruler/Square
  • Utility Knife
  • Level
  • Jig Saw


  • 3/4" MDF Board
  • 1" Wide Trim
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Spray Primer
  • Semi-Gloss Spray Paint
  • 2 1/2" Screws
  • Wood Filler
  • Swing Toilet Paper Holder


  • Find the Wall Stud
  • Layout the Design
  • Cut the Framing Boards to Size
  • Nail the Frame Together
  • Cut out the Drywall and Dry Fit the Recessed Toilet Paper Holder Frame
  • Paint the Frame
  • Install the Frame
  • Install the Trim & Fill the Holes
  • Touch up Paint
  • Install the Swing Toilet Paper Holder
  • Cut the Swing Toilet Paper Holder
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