How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers

Written by kathy eastwood
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How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers
You can cover your interior radiators behind a custom cover. (white radiator image by Ekaterina Sidorenko from Fotolia.com)

Residential radiators, those cast-iron heating units once ubiquitous about 90 years ago, can be eyesores in homes today. No amount of refurbishing is going to change the way a radiator looks. Instead of chipping away the rust and old paint, hide it behind a custom-made wooden radiator cover you create.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Clamps
  • Circular saw
  • Tin clips
  • Staple gun
  • Scribe
  • Mitre box and saw
  • 3/4-Inch wood or medium-density fiberboard
  • Screen
  • Sheet metal
  • 3/4-Inch moulding
  • 1 5/8-inch coarse drywall screws
  • Wood glue
  • 4d finish nails
  • 1x scrap
  • Feet

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Measure the radiator, including inflow and outflow pipes, and add about 4 inches in width and 2 inches in height. Cut one piece of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), according to the measurements you gathered, for the front part of the cover.

    How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers
    Include the inflow, outflow and regulating hardware in your width and height maesurements. (thermostate image by Ekaterina Sidorenko from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Measure the depth of the radiator and add 1 inch. Cut two pieces of MDF for the sides to this length and use the same measurement as the front piece for the height.

    Cut another piece of wood for the top, 1/2 inch wider than the side pieces and 1 inch longer than the front cover width.

    How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers
    A metal screen adds a decorative touch to a wooden radiator cover. (formed metal image by Warren Millar from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    If you prefer, cut out vents, using a jigsaw or router saw and a template, in the wood or mark for screen openings on both of the side pieces and the front. Measure 3 inches from the top and sides and 4½ inches from the bottom.

    Drill two 1/2 inch openings inside the marks in opposite corners of the cut lines. Cut openings with a jigsaw.

    How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers
    Using a jigsaw will simplify vent cutting for a wooden radiator cover. (fret-saw image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    Cut moulding to fit openings with a mitre box and handsaw at a 45-degree inside mitre. Take the cut end and fit it into one corner of the screen opening. Mark where the moulding reaches the next corner, then cut another 45-degree mitre facing the opposite direction. Mitre at the mark. Cut until there are four pieces that fit the inner edges of the openings.

  5. 5

    Fasten the moulding with glue. Drill ½-inch pilot holes, then nail the moulding with 4d finish nails. Repeat when attaching the trim to the other screen openings.

    How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers
    Moulding adds a decortive touch to almost anything. (Ventana de cortijo image by Phranc from Fotolia.com)
  6. 6

    Measure the screen to fit the openings on the front and side pieces. Cut the screen accordingly. Lay a piece of wood with an opening face down on a workbench or tarp, then place a piece of screen over the opening. Cut the screen with tin snips, ensuring there are 2 inches in overlap all around the openings.

    How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers
    Always measure first and mark your wood or screen as a guide before drilling or cutting. (tape measure image by Kimberly Reinick from Fotolia.com)
  7. 7

    Assemble the cover by holding a long piece of scrap on the edge against the front piece. Use clamps to hold the parts in place.

    Mark along the side as a guide for pilot holes. Place the front piece and one of the sides at a 90 degree angle, then drill four centred pilot holes in the face panel between the mark and the edge.

    How to build custom wooden residential radiator covers
    Clamps hold pieces of wood together, leaving your hands free for drilling or nailing. (clamps image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com)
  8. 8

    Use wood glue on the front edge of the side piece and hold the front piece against the side at a 90 degree angle. Join with four 1 5/8-inch drywall screws. Proceed with the other side in the same way.

  9. 9

    Cut triangle-shape blocks. Measure from the floor to the bottom of the radiator, then measure the height of the radiator's feet. To get to the distance from the bottom of the cover to the bottom of the blocks, subtract the measurement from the floor to the bottom of the radiator from the height of the radiator's feet.

  10. 10

    Place the blocks on the inside corners of the front cover. Drill pilot holes, glue, then screw the blocks via the sides and front covers. Screw the metal feet to the blocks.

  11. 11

    Screw two scraps of wood to the underside of the top so that it fits tightly with the side pieces. Ensure that there is at least a ½-inch overhang around the sides and front.

    Cut sheet metal to fit behind the radiator so that it will reflect heat into the room, then fit the top over the radiator.

Tips and warnings

  • Ensure the radiator valves are outside the cover for easy access, or cut a groove to fit the pipes on the cover.
  • MDF creates fine dust, so make sure to cover the area with a drop cloth or build the cover outside.
  • Avoid breathing dangerous dust by wearing a mask when cutting MDF.

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