I’m going to share how I did it, but I’m not going to share a complete step-by-step tutorial. It’s unlikely that anyone (except my next door neighbor) has exactly the same layout and needs as we do.
Here’s what we used to make a DIY AC unit screen:
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- 2x4s for the standing pieces
- 1x4s for the slats
- Random orbit sander
- Fine-frit sandpaper to polish by hand
- Saw, finish nailer
- Liquid Nails Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive
- Varathane wood stain in Kona
- Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane in Satin
- Kreg Jig and 2.5″ pocket hole screws
And here’s how we did it.
(Remember to wear a mask and eye protection while sanding and working with wood, and wear an appropriate mask while working with stains and finishes. Follow the directions and warnings from your particular brand. Do not use any tools without proper training, precautions, and supervision. Read my full disclaimer here.)
First we measured how big we wanted the screen to be. We decided to shape it like an L and have it come up high enough to cover other utilities, not just the AC unit. (If you make a project like this, make sure it does not interfere with anything that requires air circulation or regular reading.)
After deciding on measurements, and knowing we wanted each screen slat to be 1 inch apart, we calculated how much 1×4 we’d need. Once we had the final height (14 pieces of 1×4, each an inch apart), we cut the four pieces of 2×4 to height.
(Yes, that’s a diaper and a package of wipes in my purse. Times have changed.)
Next I gave each piece a quick sand using my random orbit sander. Then I wiped the whole lot down and stained everything using the Varathane wood stain in Kona. I also drilled pocket holes in one of my 2x4s to create the main corner support (but didn’t attach them yet).
This, coupled with the next step, was by far the most time consuming. (But was faster using a small roller instead of a paint brush.) I was VERY GLAD at this point that I hadn’t used 1×2 like I’d originally wanted. That would have been painful.
Once I had stained everything and it had dried according to my instructions, I gave each piece a few coats of the Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane in Satin. Oof, talk about a slow process. (See my post on how to stain and finish wood here.) And one that took over my garage for several days. Luckily the urethane dries in about 4 hours, so that helped me get two coats in on one day.
Everything is dry…time to assemble.
We began working on the longer side of our L-shaped screen first. Board by board, we spaced and nailed using a finish nailer. (By we, I mean my dad, who came over with his finish nailer to help me complete this project. Ramona was up, so I held her while she watched from inside. She loves grandpappy.)
We did a 3/4″ overhang on the left side. You’ll see why.
Once the longer side was done, we did the shorter side. For those pieces, we did a 1.5″ overhang on the right side.
After assembling the smaller side, we stood the screen up to make sure everything looked right. Now here’s where the pocket holes came in handy. We attached each side to one another by driving 2.5″ pocket hole screws through the pocket holes.
Since we also built an overhang in on each side, the sides fit together perfectly.
And here it is in place! It fits perfectly over the L shape of pavers we laid and is perfectly level.
I am super pleased with how this one turned out. It may have been time consuming, but it was worth it! And it matches the outdoor table and benches I’ll be sharing soon.
And just to head off any comments about blocking access to utilities, the electrical can be read through the slat spaces (or just by peeking over if you’re average height or higher). Our gas meter is not back here. The only other thing back here is Comcast, and we typically know when they’re coming by, so we can just move the screen in advance.
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