Make an easy DIY AC screen with lattice and zip ties…
There are many AC screen tutorials. A lot of them require posts and concrete, etc. And although that would make for a super sturdy solution, we wanted to build something more temporary, and easier to move.
We are going to be doing some construction near the AC pad outside the house in the near future, so we knew this AC screen may not be a forever installation. And because we were aiming for temporary, moveable, quick, and easy, that seemed to be screaming for none other than ZIP TIES!
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We love a good project that uses nylon cable ties. Instead of hinges, we put this sucker together with zip ties. But if you did want something a bit more permanent or professional-looking, you could easily substitute the cable ties for hinges, L-brackets, or opt to simply screw the sides of your AC screen together.
Materials to build one square section of AC screen:
**If you need 2 squares double the materials list. If you need 3 squares, triple it**
- (2) pressure treated 2×2, 8’ each
- (1) pressure treated lattice, 8’x4’
- (4) 2.5” screws
- Staples, various sizes
- Nylon cable ties (zip ties)
- Air compressor and a pneumatic stapler
- Table Saw
- Miter Saw
- Cordless Screwdriver
- Circular Saw
- Tape Measure
- Safety Glasses
Here’s a video of the construction of our DIY ac screen for you…
How to construct your AC screen:
1). Determine the size of the screen you need.
The screen will be comprised of 2+ (in our case, square) sides. Depending on your setup/situation you may be able to get away with a 2-sided screen vs a 3 or 4-sided screen. We opted to go with a 3-sided screen, with each square measuring 43”x43”.
You should leave a minimum of 12” between 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 smartto maintain this 12” distance to maintain good airflow around the unit.
2). Route a groove in the 2×2’s.
The size of the groove on the frame is 3/4” x 3/4” for each piece of lattice used. If you plan to double up your lattice, then make the groove 1″ x 1″. Use 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 45-degree angles on the 2×2 frames.
To fit together like a frame, cut (4) of the 2×2 pieces to length using the miter saw set at a 45-degree angle. Once cut, they should fit together like a picture frame.
4). Dry fit frame pieces.
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” (a 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). Cut lattice.
You will cut the lattice as 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). Assemble the AC screen.
Place the lattice inside the groove of the 2×2’s. It’s a good idea to pre-drill holes ahead of screwing the frame together to prevent cracking your wood frame.
With the lattice seated in the groove, screw the 2×2’s together using the 2.5” screws, one at each corner. We placed the lattice into the groove before screwing the frame together to ensure we had a snug fit.
Using the staple gun to attach the lattice to the 2×2 frame. 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). Attach additional layer of lattice, if desired.
For some screens, this single layer of lattice would be enough, but when we placed a single layer of lattice in front of our air conditioning condenser, here’s what we saw…
It didn’t seem to be cutting the mustard if the goal was to make a true screen. We decided to add 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 ac 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. It’s best to determine how many layers of lattice you’ll need BEFORE assembling the frame. For more than 1-layer of lattice, the channel routed in your frame needs to be 1″ instead of 3/4″ as we discussed at the beginning of the tutorial.
8). Repeat above for additional sides of the screen.
Great work, you have one square section of your ac screen complete! Now you’ll repeat these steps to get each additional desired section of your screen built.
9). Install ac screen around condensing unit.
Once you have all the screens built, place them around your condensing unit (maintaining that 12” clearance). We attached our screen sections together using nylon cable ties. This allowed for an easy installation and minor adjustments to be made.
You could also use hinges, L-brackets, or just screw the screens together once you have them in place if you prefer.
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