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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