Hide Your AC Unit: DIY Outdoor Air Conditioner Screen with Lattice
Howdy to all you good-looking Remodelaholics! I’m Dave. My wife Heather and I blog at The Heathered Nest. We’ve contributed a number of outdoor projects here. Maybe you’ve seen our DIY vertical garden project, or our DIY pergola post?
Today we’re back sharing a simpler outdoor project. An outdoor air conditioner screen made with lattice and assembled with nylon cable ties.
We’re going to be adding some windows to the side of the house where our AC condenser is, so we wanted to build a temporary screen that we could eventually move when our window project starts. Many of the air conditioner screens we’ve seen in the past are permanent structures, built with post holes/concrete, etc. And while those structures are very sturdy, if you’re a renter, or you don’t want to delve into a super labor intensive building project, this one may be right up your alley. It’s movable, and you can put it together in no time.
How to Hide Your AC Condenser Unit with a DIY Air Conditioner Screen
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Supplies needed for each square section of screen:
*If you need 2 sections, double the materials list. If you need 3 sections, triple it*
- (2) pressure treated 2×2, 8’ each
- (1) pressure treated or redwood lattice, 8’x4’
- (4) 2.5” screws
- Staples, various sizes
- Cable ties or hinges alternatively
- Air compressor and stapler
- Table Saw
- Miter Saw
- Cordless Screwdriver
- Circular Saw
- Tape Measure
- Safety Glasses
How to build your outdoor air conditioner screen:
1). Determine the size of the “square” that you need, as well as the number of sides. You might be able to get away with a 2-sided screen vs a 3-sided screen. We opted to go with a 3-sided screen, sized at 43”x43”.
Remember that you should leave a minimum of 12” from the screen to your condensing unit (this is the technical name for the outside part of your home air conditioning system). Even though the screen we are building is made of lattice, it is still a good idea to maintain this 12” distance to keep good airflow around the unit.
2). Now we need to route a groove in the 2×2.
The size of the groove is 3/4”x 3/4” for one piece of lattice (if you plan to use 2 layers of lattice, make the groove 1″ x 1″) and we used the table saw to make this groove. Set the depth of the saw at 3/4” and run the 2×2 through the saw a bunch of times to cut this groove. You won’t be able to remove all the material using the table saw, but you will be left with a few thin pieces of wood that you can easily break off. Once we broke off what we could, we used a chisel (make sure it is sharp) to remove the rest of the material. Repeat this for the second 2×2.
3). Cut the 2×2 pieces to length using the miter saw set at a 45-degree angle. You should have four pieces when you are done and they should fit together like a picture frame.
4). Lay the 2×2 pieces out on a flat surface. Don’t screw them together just yet. Once you have the 2×2 laid out and dry fit, measure the distance from groove to groove. Now subtract 1/4” (an 1/8” for each side) and this is the size of the piece of lattice. We subtracted the 1/4” to ensure the lattice fit down into the groove.
5). Now it is time to cut the lattice.
You will cut the lattice like you would a piece of plywood. Once you have marked the size, use the circular saw to make the required cuts. Important tip here, make the first cut where you basically cut the lattice in half, don’t make the long cut on the 8’ side first as you will need this larger piece of lattice for Step 7.
6). Next we are going to assemble the screen. Place the lattice inside the groove of the 2×2’s. Next screw the 2×2’s together using the 2.5” screws, one at each corner (make sure to pre-drill to avoid splitting your wood). We waited to screw it together until the lattice was in the groove to make sure we had a snug fit.
Staple the lattice to the 2×2 frame with your staple gun. The staple size will vary based on if you are going through a single piece of wood or two pieces of wood (lattice is made up of crisscrossing pieces of wood, so you might end up with a single layer or a double layer at the groove, hence the need for different size staples).
7). For some screens, this single layer of lattice would be enough, but when we held one piece of lattice in front of the AC unit, and this is what it looked like…
you could easily see right through it, which was kind of defeating the purpose. So we added a second layer of lattice. Place the screen you just built face down on a flat surface. Take the remaining lattice from Step 5 and place it over the screen. Adjust the lattice so you the have look you want.
Now mark the lattice and cut it to size. Place this second piece of lattice back on top of the screen and use the stapler to attach it to the screen. Again, depending on the layout of the lattice, you will need different size staples to attach it. Note that this second piece of lattice will not be in the groove as the 2×2 material is not large enough to accept the thickness of two pieces of lattice (unless you routed the 1″ deep groove initially).
8). You have one screen complete! Now repeat this two or three times to get each section of your screen built.
9). Once built, place them around your condensing unit (maintaining that 12” clearance). To keep things quick, simple and easily changeable, we attached our screens together using nylon cable ties.
You could also use hinges, or just screw the screens together once you have them in place.
You can finish this project in just 2-3 hours or so. It’s not too difficult to make, and very easy to change around if need be. Just snip those cable ties and adjust. We think it’s a good improvement, how about you?
We would love you to head over to our blog at The Heathered Nest to see the rest of the DIY improvements we’ve made to our outdoor space. Like a painted outdoor rug! It’s cheaper than buying a typical rug, and it won’t ever mildew! Or, check out our DIY outdoor chandelier made from vintage tin cans!
More ways to improve your curb appeal and yard appearance:
hide utility meters and other exterior eyesores with a DIY removable screen
add a pergola
install creative backyard lighting
plus 13 more ways to hide outdoor eyesores
What a great idea of a quick and easy way to cover your AC unit temporarily. I love how easy The Heathered Nest made this project look. We did something similar in our backyard last year with pallets. I shared about the AC cover we created in just 45 minutes here: https://www.makingmanzanita.com/diy-pallet-ac-cover/
I was pretty amazed. I never thought of this idea until I saw this. Easy to make and budget-friendly. Thanks for sharing this very useful DIY.