Outdoor improvement continues! As you may recall, one item on our list of projects for this summer is to build screening to cover some of the eyesores hanging out in close proximity to our new deck:
My plan has been to build screening around all three of these that matches the style of the trellis I built on the shed:
Finally I got to work! Like for the trellis, my main building materials were 8′ 2″x3″ studs and 6′ pressure-treated fence pickets that I found on sale at Lowes for $1.25 each.
I started with the AC surround. My first task was to build the corner supports at all four corners using 2″x3″ studs. Like with the trellis, I stained them first (Minwax Espresso) as I knew it would be hard to get into all the nooks and crannies once the slats were on. Then I simply cut them to length to be as tall as the AC unit, and attached them in each corner. For the corners along the wall, that meant drilling them into the siding, and adding blocks at the bottom to bridge the gap between the foundation and the support:
I didn’t actually drill the bottoms into the foundation, they’re essentially just resting there because I knew that the slats would provide stability side-to-side. This doesn’t need to be a fortress or withstand a lot of pressure.
The supports on the front corners I drilled right into the deck, but since the deck has a slight overhang, first I added blocks to create a surface flush with the edge and then I drilled the posts in.
With all four posts in place, I was ready to start adding slats. Just like with the trellis, I used my miter saw to cut each one to length, and then placed them piece-by-piece using a scrap piece to space them evenly. On the first side (the side closest to the crawl space), I used screws (rather than nails) to attach them because I wanted to make it easy to remove them if the AC needs to be serviced.
After installing the first side, I stained the backs of the pieces because I knew that once I put up the other two sides it would be basically impossible to get in there. I plan on staining the deck a dark wood tone, and so went with a very dark stain — Minwax’s “Ebony” — to achieve an almost-black tone for the surround that I think will complement nicely. The pickets soak up the stain very quickly, so I just needed one coat with a foam brush to get full coverage.
Next up I tackled the other side. This time I stained the back of each piece before installing it, as this side is a little closer to the AC and I wouldn’t have been able to reach all the way back in once the slats were up.
I worked with them while they were still wet so I did get stain all over me, but I survived. Fun fact: olive oil acts just like paint thinner/turpentine — just slather your hands/arms with olive oil to lift the stain, and then wash up with soap and water.
For this side and the front, I used my nail gun rather than screws — this was much faster, and I don’t plan on needing to be able to remove the whole surround unless we replace the AC unit, in which case we’ll reconsider its placement anyway.
I did have to be careful because even though I was starting from the ground on this side (rather than the top of the deck), I still wanted the boards to line up with those on the front and other side so I needed to consider what spacing off the ground would result in the boards landing in just the right spot relative to the other sides:
Next I did the front of the surround the exact same way, staining the backs before installing.
In the process, I made quite the mess.
Lastly I stained the whole outside.
Success, AC gone!
Next I tackled the screening along the concrete foundation. For this, I used 2″x3″ studs as short posts, which I attached to the deck using brackets.
I made five of them, spaced evenly across the back of the deck. Then it was as simple as cutting the pickets to length and nailing them in place, three high in each section.
And lastly, I built screening to cover the crawl space doors and AC wiring. I plan on building a planter box that will sit in front of the crawlspace in the nook created by the AC surround, which I will to put on wheels to that I can move it if we do need to get in to service the AC. Thus I want to attach the screening behind it to the planter box, because if we’re growing vining plants up the trellis, I don’t want to have to kill them if I need to slide the planter box out of the way — I want the whole thing to move as a unit.
I haven’t quite gotten to building the planter box yet, but I built the screen in the meantime. Basically first I just built a frame out of 2″x3″ studs:
And then nailed on pickets cut to length.
The reason for having the left-most post inset a little (ie not on the very end) is that the AC wiring juts out further from the house in the back corner, so the post would bump into that and the whole thing would need to sit further out from the wall. This way there’s a bit more clearance for the wires and the whole thing can slide further back once it’s mounted to the planter.
Here’s everything in place:
I did get lazy and didn’t finish staining everything — I figured I could do that all at once when I build the planter (hopefully soon). But in the meantime you get the idea! Also I plan to paint the gray power box above the AC tan, so it will blend into the house more. I think once the deck is stained, the whole thing will tie together nicely. It definitely helps hide some of the less attractive elements around our deck.
The one other difference in these photos is the downspout on the left edge of the deck. As you can see from the before photo (where the bottom of the spout is just lying on the ground), it didn’t really work anymore with the deck in place. Rather than just getting a shorter spout and having the gutters drain right onto our deck, I got a flexible spout (which I found on Amazon for $9 — affiliate link – read our policies) that I could then direct off of the deck.
As usual the conclusion isn’t 100% satisfying because there is a ton left to do, but this is what progress looks like. I think.