DIY Wood Screen to Hide Utility Boxes

Behind that beautiful wooden screen hide ugly utility boxes! Learn to build this and install it (removable) on your home's exterior.

Hello Remodelaholics!  I am Tasha and I blog over at Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body.  You may remember my first contributor post about how to transform an outdated, cultured marble vanity with concrete and my post about how we built our own screen door to get just the look we wanted.  Well, I am back again this month to teach you how to build a DIY screen to hide your ugly utility boxes.Hide those ugly utility boxes on your house with this gorgeous DIY wood screen.  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body for Remodelaholic.com!

My blog focuses on thrifty DIY projects, easy crafts and happy household tips.  And sometimes I tackle a DIY project because I have no other choice.  The project I am sharing with you today is one of those projects.  You see, our home had these unsightly utility boxes and wires at our back door entry, which is the entry that we use the most!  Unfortunately, there is no good solution to hide them that we could find, so we came up with our own and we just love how it turned out.

Our quest to hide the utility boxes was the first of many steps we took to improve the back entry to our house. Frankly, our back door entry could not have been less inviting when we started.  Don’t believe me?  Just take a look for yourself.  This is what we started with.

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Fortunately, it’s not hard to find inspiration for the look we want to achieve. We love the ideas shared in Top 10 Ideas for a Welcoming Porch and Home Sweet Home on a Budget: Porches Patios and Entryways.  So, we decided to get to work and our DIY wood screen to hide our utility boxes was first on our list.

This is a project of intermediate difficulty and requires that you have some basic knowledge of woodworking terms and cuts.  But, if you have some basic DIY projects under your belt already, I am confident you can tackle this one.

How to Build a Wood Screen to Hide Utility Boxes and Eyesores

Before starting this project, be certain you have a clear understanding of your local utility company’s requirements for clearance around and access to meters. The screen is removable, and we haven’t heard any complaints from our company. If you’re concerned about access, you could always hinge the front panel, as well. 

Materials We Used:

  • Plywood {amount varies by project size}
  • 2 x 2s {amount varies by project size}
  • Wood stain
  • Weather proof polyurethane
  • Painter’s tape
  • Wood putty

Tools We Used:

  • Brad nailer
  • Table saw
  • Band saw
  • Circular saw

Steps:

First, take a look at the diagrams below, which will provide a good visual context for the steps outlined below.

Tutorial to make an easy to build wooden screen to cover ugly utility boxes!

Back of screen diagram

1)  Spend some time measuring out and planning your project.  We determined how tall and wide we wanted our screen to be and then figured out what cuts we needed to make.  Pre-planning will save you time in the end, I promise.

2) Once you determine how tall and wide your screen will be, cut horizontal slats for the front of your screen out of plywood.  Bear in mind that you will want to make your front slats long enough to cover the edges of the side panels.  We also had stairs to deal with, so we had to take into account when making our cuts for the bottom of the screen.

diy-wood-screen-1

3) You will be using four 2 x 2s as vertical supports for the your screen, so next cut them to the appropriate length.

4) Finally, cut your side panels from plywood to the appropriate size.

5) Once all of your wood is cut, stain it and then add a weather proof polyurethane.  I’m not gonna lie, this step is time consuming.  Just listen to some good music or an audiobook for this step.

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6) Once your poly top coat has dried, you are ready to assemble.  Begin by attaching the front slats to two vertical 2 x 2s with a brad nailer. Be sure to leave some overhang so that your front slats will cover the edges of your side panels.  We used a scrap piece of wood the same thickness as our side panels to ensure our spacing was correct as we attached the front slats.

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7) Next, attach the side panels with your brad nailer.  Note that we taped the edges of our wood with painter’s tape prior to nailing them.  You’ll see why in step 12 🙂

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8)  Next, attached a 2 x 2 to the back, vertical edge of each side panel.

9) Finally, if your screen is as wide or wider than ours, you may need to cut four corner braces to add strength and stability to your screen.  We cut ours out of the same plywood using our band saw, but you could also use a jig saw or even a circular saw.  We attached two corner braces to the top corners of the screen, and two to the bottom corners {see the diagram at the beginning of the instructions}.

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10) Because stairs interfered with our screen, we had to make our 2 x 2s long enough to anchor into the wood stairs.  So, we had to cut out a square the same size as our 2 x 2s so that the supports of the screen could be placed through them to make it sturdy.  We did this by tracing the 2 x 2 shape on the top and bottom stair.  We then drilled a small hole with a drill bit and then a larger hole with a paddle bit.  We then squared it off by using a hand chisel.  If you are lucky enough to have a flat surface at the bottom of your screen, you should not have to worry about this step.

diy-wood-screen-11

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11) Use 2 x 2s to make a wood cleat for each side of the back of the screen to anchor it to your house.  This will enable you to easily remove it by lifting it off if you ever need to access the utility boxes, but it will prevent the screen from shifting during strong winds or storms.  We have not heard any complaints from our electric company about the ability to read our meter, so they must either remove the screen themselves or peek through the slats!  But again, if we need to remove it, it’s super easy to lift it out of the way!  If you are concerned about this, you could always hinge the front, slatted panel to give you even easier access.

how to build and hang a wood screen to hide utility boxes or other exterior eyesores along the side of your home

12) Finally, mix a bit of your wood stain with wood putty and fill in the holes left by the brad nails.  Then peel the tape off and you have perfectly matched and patched holes without making a mess!  See how that painter’s tape trick comes in handy?

Smart tip for hiding nail holes in stained wood!

We added some address numbers to ours to dress it up a bit.  We absolutely love the finished result.  SUCH an improvement from where we started.  What do you think?

Hide those ugly utility boxes on your house with this gorgeous DIY wood screen.  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body for Remodelaholic.com!

Hide those ugly utility boxes on your house with this gorgeous DIY wood screen.  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body for Remodelaholic.com!

Hide those ugly utility boxes on your house with this gorgeous DIY wood screen.  Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body for Remodelaholic.com!

I would love for you to head over to my blog, Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body, to check out how we made that DIY “home” state wood plaque hanging above the wood screen.  While you are there, be sure to explore some of our other thrifty renovation projects, like how we painted our kitchen cabinets without sanding or priming or how we created a STUNNING laundry room for only $71 out of pocket.  Our laundry room makeover includes painted vinyl floors {yep, you can PAINT vinyl floors!}.  I hope to see you over in my corner of blog land soon!

IMG_2361 low-cost-laundry-room-makeover-featured-on-Remodelaholic Kitchen cabinets after

If you want to save this project to refer back to later, I would love for you to pin it and share it on Facebook!

Hide those ugly utility boxes on your house with this gorgeous DIY wood screen. Full detailed tutorial to help you create this beautiful solution to exterior eyesores.

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More ways to cover the ugly and increase curb appeal:

paint cinder blockPainting a Cinder block fence @Remodelaholic (10 of 23)

update vinyl shutters5-updating-vinyl-shutters-with-gelstain-2_thumb-600x398

paint your front door
Front Door Paint Colors @Remodelaholic

and more curb appeal ideas!
budget friendly curb appeal ideas from thespacebetweenblog.net for Remodelaholic.com curb-appeal-horiz

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27 Comments

  1. I love this idea! I have the same problem with unsightly utility boxes and wires. I wonder, though, how is the meter reader able to get into it to record the usage?

    1. Hi Patty! Our screen does not have to be removed to read the meter–you can actually read the meter right through the slats. But we used a cleat system to hang it, so it can be easily removed if we need to access something behind it for some reason. It certainly could be hinged as well!

  2. Im curious to know how the utility companies read your meters now. Is the screen hinged? I have a similar huge ugly gas meter in my flower bed that I would love to hide but then the meter reader cant get at it. Same for the electricity meter.

    1. Hi Lona! No, we did not hinge ours. Our screen does not have to be removed to read the meter–you can actually read the meter right through the slats. But we used a cleat system to hang it, so it can be easily removed if we need to access something behind it for some reason. It certainly could be hinged as well!

    1. Thanks so much, Gwynne! Our screen does not have to be removed to read the meter–you can actually read the meter right through the slats. It can also be easily removed if we need to access something behind it for some reason.

  3. At least one of my meters is read by a guy driving by in a truck. And the fact that my hydrangeas keep growing over it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve also heard recently that they may soon be read remotely. So, you might contact your local utilities before you give up.

  4. Can you imagine how long it would take if meter readers had to remove something over every meter they read? Even if half the meters had a cover that would take a lot of time over the course of a day.

    1. Hi Gale! Our screen does not have to be removed to read the meter–you can actually read the meter right through the slats. I just noted that it can be easily removed if we need to access something behind it for some reason.

  5. This is a great idea for covering up the biggest eyesore on the outside of my house. I had only one bit of confusion and I see someone else asked the question already. I am going to build a hinged screen for easy access to the electrical meter. Thanks!

    1. We thought about painting it, MJ, but we were going for contrast. It would look great painted as well, though, if you wanted it to blend in.

  6. what happened to the wires that went up the wall? did you move them or did the utility company move them?

    1. Hi Ann! We used a piece of wood to cover them–we just channeled out a slot in the back of the wood to make room for the wires. I hope that helps!

  7. I think it looks great but plywood is a poor choice for an outdoor application, solid lumber would be much more resistant to moisture. After a year or so your plywood will begin separating and you will have layers of the veneers begin peeling away.

  8. Very well done! I’m building a similar solution, but mine will also provide a bit of storage below the utility boxes for cat/dog/bird food, and a flat shelf on top to hold your purse or groceries while you get in the door.
    The only thing that I think would improve your project, is if you used the screen to also allow you to put handrails by the stairs.

  9. This is against most fire code and should not be done in the event of an emergency. Emergency crews and power companies need rapid access to the meter base in the event of a fire or other emergency involving the dwelling. Looks good but when The local FD arrives bye bye pretty cover. I understand the concept but safety foremost.

  10. Too bad this won’t fly with the utility company. I work for the power company, and I am the one who spends my entire day sending obstruction letters to customers who do things like this. Looks cute, sure…but it’s inhibiting our ability to access our equipment. Don’t do it. You’ll only be instructed to tear it down.

    1. Hi Stefanie! I think it must depend on where you live. Our screen has been up for nearly 2 years now and we haven’t had a single complaint from our utility company–the meter can easily be read right through the slats and it’s also easy to remove if needed 🙂

  11. I’m not sure if this was stated in your post or not, but I really like the stain color choice you used. What stain did you use exactly?

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