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Would you like to hide your air conditioner? Those big outdoor AC units don’t exactly look great in your yard or boost your curb appeal. Fortunately, creating an attractive air conditioner cover is an easy DIY project for even a beginner woodworker.
Using cedar planks and a handy outdoor-friendly glue, I created a DIY wooden screen to hide that ugly air conditioning unit! Here’s how to hide an air conditioner with a quick and easy weekend project.
Now, even though the outdoor air conditioning unit cover was easy to make, I’m SO glad to be done with this project (and ready to move on to more DIY backyard updates)! That said, this project turned out great and was easy to do.
Check out my new screen that hides my air conditioning unit on the side of the house:
I’ve used Liquid Nails Fuze*It on several smaller projects in the past, but tackling a big AC unit cover screen seemed like a fun opportunity to really see what the glue could do. I planned to hide the air conditioning unit on the side of the house with an inexpensive, quick building project to pretty up the backyard.
You guys might recall that the whole area used to look like this:
I’ve made quite a lot of progress on sprucing up that area of my backyard, especially with inexpensive egg rock and air conditioner-friendly plants. But that big AC unit kept haunting me. The backyard project I wanted to address the most was how to hide the air conditioner from the road. Nothin’ fancy, but something was needed to camouflage the outdoor AC.
While I was at it, I realized that by extending the screen to the right by a few feet, I could hide the gas meter by the chimney (while still leaving it accessible).
So, would Liquid Nails Fuze*It, really work for this (large) woodworking project? Yes! It bonds to just about anything, dries quickly, and works great in both interior and exterior hot, cold, and wet environments. It had to hold up to the weather and last. For this wooden air conditioner cover, I needed Liquid Nails to live up to all the claims (and it did)!
How to Hide an Air Conditioner with a DIY Wooden Screen
Materials needed for the AC cover:
- Cedar fence pickets
- Pre-treated 2x2s
- Liquid Nails Fuze*It
- Small garden shovel or mattock
- Optional: All-weather fasteners (I went without, but I think the project would set up a lot faster if you use them combined with the Liquid Nails).
UPDATE: I later added all-weather fasteners after a few seasons when the adhesive looked like it wasn’t holding up to the elements anymore.
1. Cut the Dog-Eared Ends Off the Pickets
To start making the screen, I cut the dog-eared ends off the cedar pickets with a saw. But don’t throw these bits away just yet! You’ll need them later in the project.
2. Create the Side Panels
Next, I worked on the panels that would form the sides of my air conditioner cover screen. I measured and cut enough cedar boards to put in five boards per panel—a total of 15 boards. Determine the length to fit your own AC unit measurements, but mine were 50 inches for the front panel, 34 inches for the side panel, and 34 inches for the panel that hides the gas meter.
3. Cut the Posts for the Panels
I also cut the pressure-treated 2x2s to create four posts. I glued and clamped the cedar boards to the posts, with about 12 inches of overhang at the bottom. I used the overhang on the posts to anchor the panels of my air conditioner screen into the ground.
(***Important*** Before digging this into the ground, know where your utility lines are! You can find this out quickly and easily by calling 811 or submitting a request online a few days before you plan to dig.)
4. Begin Gluing the Pieces Using Clamps
Once I’d cut the wood, it was time for gluing! I began with the top piece and carefully glued, then clamped to make it square with the vertical 2×2 posts. I wasn’t very precise when making the pieces square, but since I was careful with my cuts and working on a level surface, things came together nicely.
As you glue, don’t worry if a little bit oozes out. I used the edges of the scrap wood pieces to clean some of the glue up, and it’s hardly noticeable when the project is complete.
5. Use the Trimmed Pieces as Spacers
Next, I added the second board below the first. This step is where the scrap pieces come into play.
Use the scrap wood pieces (provided they are visually straight and not warped) to space out each board evenly.
During fusing, the post and boards began to set in a matter of minutes! Liquid Nails sets quickly, so I had to work fast. I glued and clamped the wood until I had five pieces in a row. I read on the back of the tube that Liquid Nails adheres even better when you dampen the surface before applying, so I grabbed a wet paper towel to move even faster. Little did I realize that the next day, an afternoon rain shower would come through and take care of dampening for me. After that, I went without a paper towel for the remainder of the project.
6. Create a Zig-Zag Layout for the Screen
While the first panel cured (which was the middle panel), I came up with my plan of action on the two side panels for the air conditioner cover. The panel that would go in front of the gas meter was next, but I only cut four posts. I planned to use the middle panel as my base and attach the other panels to it on the left and right sides, creating a “Z” pattern.
The hardest part was figuring out whether to glue the panels in front of or behind the post. I was clamping the boards upside down… and it’s been a long week.
To help you get a full picture of the layout, here’s a simple diagram. This diagram is a vertical view, looking overhead, and the small squares are the support posts.
Once I flipped the full air conditioner cover over, it was starting to come together. You can see panels one and two in the photo below.
7. Add the Third Panel (If Needed)
Depending on the layout of your backyard, two panels may be enough to create a cover screen. I needed three because of the gas meter. With the first two panels cured, I glued on the third and final panel (but this time, working right-side-up).
8. Secure the Posts into the Ground
Finally, with the panels dry, it was time to dig some holes and place the new air conditioner cover screen in the ground!
Getting the posts in the ground took a little sweat, but in the end, the air conditioner screen was magically level. I say “magically” because I popped the posts for the screen into each hole and put my level on top of each panel expecting to adjust, but it was oddly perfect right away—that never happens!
If you need information on spacing items around your outdoor air conditioning unit, please go to this post when I added landscaping to the side of the house. As a rule, it’s essential to keep items a reasonable distance away from the unit for airflow!
Truth be told, I could have buried the posts a little deeper, but I needed to plan for the scalloped edging that will go in front of this area. Still, the corners of the air conditioner screen are nice and secure.
If you’re going to try this air conditioner cover project and are concerned about the posts staying solidly in the ground, you might want to attach some rebar onto the posts and hammer it into the ground. Once again, be sure to contact your utilities, so you don’t accidentally interfere with any lines buried below.
The screen panels only really hide the side that’s visible to the street, but I wanted to leave the unit open in the back. The air conditioner is freely accessible if I need anything serviced (theoretically…I haven’t needed service yet, but it should be fine).
Because I like the fun comparison of the area, here’s the before photo below.
Here’s the progress photo showing the air conditioner-friendly landscaping:
And here’s after with the wooden air conditioner screen in place, hiding that ugly AC unit!
My Next DIY Backyard Projects
I still have a few DIY backyard projects on my radar. My next home projects include:
- Paint remaining house trim on this side
- Dig the scalloped edging in front of the A/C screen down
- Possibly add some additional plants near the chimney area to finish off the whole side
Awesome project with great results Sarah! A total transformation of this entire area with a nice finishing touch of a maintenance free clean look natural Cedar surround for the a/c n meter. I’ve built one for the shop propane tank and thinking about one for the house.
I can’t believe that you did all of this with LN! That’s incredible. Great tip about using the dog-eared pieces for even spacing.
This looks great! We need to do this with our air conditioner unit and our pool pump/
This is an awesome idea I just bought a new house and was trying to figure out a good (easy) way to solve this visual problem. I think I can manage this project. What kind of saw did you use to cut all your wood?
I used my miter saw. This one is pretty similar to what I have been using for most projects these last few years (affiliate): http://amzn.to/28Nuzor
Will you be treating the cedar wood at all? I am impressed with the Liquid Nails project too.
I am, but I’m waiting a few weeks because I used pre-treated lumber for the posts. It needs to dry out a little before staining.
What a beautiful way to hide unsightly A/C units! The before and after photos are great, as well as the step by step instructions. I can’t wait to try this with Liquid Nails.
it looks amazing! thanks for the tutorial with the visuals. the cartoon visual actually helped me the most! the view from above. great job, and now i can add another product to my shopping list.
What a beautiful way to hide that unit! I’ve always wondered about how to get the spacing exactly right. Thanks for the instructions!
I had no idea Liquid Nails was (were?) actually this good. What a great way to bring out the value of a product. Love the screen too. Keeping the dog-ears for spacers was sheeeeeer genius.
Great idea! I would like to see a flowerpot hanging from the screen as well.
Cool product, I am gonna have to check it out. I am curious to see how it holds up.
BTW, if you want a more clean lined look for your edging to match the clean lines of the AC panels, just install the scalloped edging upside down instead. I’ve done that before and it works great.
I’ve considered it before (other readers have done the same as you did), but the problem is that the scalloped edging is EVERYwhere all over my property, so turning over the scalloped edges here would also mean that I’d have to dig up ones that aren’t needing to be messed with to flip them over to match. In my mind, that’s so much extra work, so I just can’t bring myself to change it. I guess it bothers me, but not enough to start changing both the front and back yards in every spot where there’s edging (around all 4 sides of the house, two front gardens, etc… that’s a lot of extra digging!).
Hi, Sarah! I was curious about something, air conditioning units create heat won’t the heat increase by covering up with the wood?
You need to read the manufacturer’s suggestions for how much clearance an A/C unit needs, but there are also general recommendations for spacing online. As long as you give it plenty of room for air circulation, you should be able to add something decorative to hide the unsightly unit from street view.
Oh, wow. Thank you for the idea of hiding air conditioning unit. We have the same problem. At least now I know what can I do to get rid of it
Hi, I love this idea! Did this help reduce the sound of the unit? That is my main issue, it just so loud.
I would guess is has zero impact on sound; this is a decorative screen and not meant to do anything regarding function. In fact, putting a screen too close would reduce performance (and overwork the unit). You would probably need to look into a cover for the unit itself (check with manufacturer?) in order for it to have any impact on sound.
What would you build to hide a rolling huge trash can from the road? We put ours on the side of the house next to the garage and I got the HOA and property mgmt company to comply with us leaving it there for a few more years until another Board is voted in. I don’t want to put it in the garage – too big and smelly. It’s not an eye sore but I guess we could do a little work to hide it and make it look decent. In order to roll it out, we would probably only need a one fence screen to block it from the road and not enclose it anymore than that.
I have actually built exactly this!!! Here is the post on making the concrete slab, and here is the initial post about building the screen. Now that you ask, I never really circled back to share the finished result (I still to this day need to paint it and maybe add house numbers or something fun). But you can see how it looks with the rest of the house in my front lawn reveal post that I shared earlier this month (look to the right of the Jeep in the driveway). You’ve just given me the motivation to finish up the final touches to create a new post, so thank you for that!
I love this project and am going to get to work on it to hide our AC units! What was the thickness of the cedar boards you used?
They are standard cedar fence pickets, so I believe they come in one thickness only!
Make sure you give a minimum of 21″ on the sides and 60″ above for proper air flow to your condenser coil….
You must read the manufacturer’s specific recommendation (may differ from unit to unit). Best to refer to their specific recommendations so you don’t create issues for any warranties & so the machine runs efficiently. Their recommendations are usually pretty easy to look up online.
Do you have any tips for solidifying the posts into the ground? Or how you dug the small holes? How deep were they?
I dug mine down quite a ways (it’s been a number of years since I created this post, so I forget exactly, but I know it was all of the extra wood that you see sticking out below the pictures; maybe 6-8 inches?). I picked a day after it had recently rained, so the dirt was a little softer to dig. I also used a small mallet hammer to help force the ends down into the ground.