Sunday, April 17, 2011

DIY Steps To Build Your Own Radiator Cover

What a day!  Alex finished up building our radiator cover/ bench (minus paint)! Hooray!!!
  Check out the inspiration and Alex's first steps in this post.  I'm really excited to share this DIY project because it is a great way to add something unique and useful to older homes with radiant heat. 

 Again, here is what the space looked like before, it was the perfect spot to build a radiator cover and make a nice window seat.
Here's a picture of Alex's design. Note the 2 shaded rectangles. This is where he will cut openings and place decorative sheet metal to allow heat to transfer into the room.
Just to warn you, this is a pretty long DIY post detailing how Alex built the cover.  Also, we haven't finished painting it so we don't have official 'afters' yet (sorry, it's already been a long day filled with lots of F-bombs courtesy of my hardworking hubby). But don't worry I'll get on that this week!
So let's get to it!

To start, Alex had to pull off the floorboard trim to make room for the cover since it would sit flush to the walls.
Check out the lovely exposed lathe and plaster from 1924.
Alex attached 2x4 sections to the main wall using a strip of MDF board as a height guide, in order to create a frame for the back and sides of the bench.
Here's a look at one of the back and side 2x4's drilled into their level places.
Then Alex measured and cut a section of MDF board for the front facing part of the cover. We spent just $25 for the large sheet of MDF board that we needed for this project.

Also- there are 4 total 2x4 braces to support weight in the back of the bench (you can see 2 of them here). There are additional 2 up front as well.
Once he had the front piece cut to size, it was time to cut out the openings where the decorative sheet metal would be placed.  We spent $30 on one 3x34' piece of sheet metal.
Alex measured where the openings would be to a slightly smaller dimension than the actual pieces of sheet metal. He then used a large drill bit to make pilot holes in the corners for the jigsaw.
Here's a look once he cut out both openings for the cover.
Next he had to cut and measure the decorative sheet metal pieces to fit the openings.
Once he had his guide lines drawn he used tin snips to cut the decorative sheet metal.
Alex used a staple gun to 'pin' the sheet metal in place.
Then used small nails to secure the sheet metal to the MDF board.
The next step was adding trim over the openings.  We spent roughly $10 on the few pieces of trim we needed.  Alex used his miter saw to cut the trim to frame over each opening.
Then he nailed the trim in place around the openings.
After cutting 8 pieces of trim and framing them to the front of the bench/cover here is how it looked!  Awesome right?!?  Sadie was sure excited about it!
Then it was time to install the front cover board.
Alex slid it snugly into place flush with each wall.
He then drilled a pilot hole that would be used to anchor in the front board to the 2x4 sections he had previously secured to the floor to frame in the bottom section.
Here he is slowly screwing in the front board to the 2x4 behind it (He lost his Phillips driver bit so he had to go about it the old fashioned way....)
Next we went outside to cut more MDF for the top part of the bench (sorry I missed the picture of this, but just measuring and sawing).
Then we plopped it on top!
Here is a closer look as Alex slides it into place.
 The top sheet of MDF was then secured to the front and rear framing blocks using just 2 standard wood screws. This allows for access to the radiator should service be necessary and to bleed them in the fall.   
PS- we learned a lot about bleeding radiators through this project thanks to our blog friends- Hammers and High Fives for you guys!!! We're always learning here!
Alex then used a few nails to secure the cover trim to the front board. 
The last piece he had to add was a section of quarter-round at the bottom.  He measured and cut the trim, then used the PowerGrab to secure it in place.
 Yay! Sticking in that last trim section!
 Then he battened the hatches with a couple more finishing nails.
Here is the final product (sans paint) after building!  Total price on this DIY project $65.
I'm so excited, it looks beautiful in place, like it was already meant to be there.
I will get moving on painting this bad boy, and can't wait to break out my blue painters tape!  Then I get to buy and/or make some decorative pillows and cushions for this bench!  Yes! More DIY projects ahead!

Hope everyone had a great weekend, it was pretty cold here in MN (even snow)! But we made the best of it and got a lot done! Hope to see you tomorrow for an inspiring post about decor, you won't believe all the ideas!

*Update 4/23/11: The Radiator Cover is now painted, check it out here!

The Lettered Cottage


  1. Looks nice-- and for a great price, too! I may have missed it, but did you have any supports for the middle of the bench top or will the MDF front itself be strong enough to support the top and whatever you put on it?

  2. It looks great but I have a question. Maybe I looked at the photo wrong but when Alex put the trim under the cover on, will you still be able to open it? you are going to have to be able to open it or you won't be able to tap the radiator in fall. If you don't tap them, they won't heat.

  3. Alex Here- Jo, that's a great point! We too considered the possible need for service, even though we have yet needed to do any seasonal tapping, thanks in large part to our new high efficiency boiler. The top is 100% removable as it is secured in place with just a few of wood screws.

  4. Alex Again- Josh, nice catch....there are indeed a couple added supports along the back and a couple in the front as well. This will allow for both Sadie and Rocco to sit on the bench at the same time :-) Carla updated the main post to call this out.

  5. Nice work, it looks great! I think I have the same miter saw :) I was thinking the same thing as Jo, I go around and bleed our our radiators in the fall so I'm glad you made it easy to get into. I'm hoping to build a radiator cover some day, thanks for the how-to!

  6. Hi Mike! Yea, as Alex said above, we have never had to bleed any of our radiators in the past 3 winters, is that weird? I didn't even know what that meant :) I think it is because of the new boiler and we have a digital thermostat to control them. Maybe we will just take the screws out so it can just pull off. All good feedback though, I just can't wait to paint and decorate it! It does make that little room look so much better!

  7. One more comment/ correction from my last one- Always learning here... Thanks for the email Mike! To make sure our radiators run as best they can they all should be bled in the fall, looks like we will be doing that this fall! Thanks again everybody, yikes, looks like I opened up a can of worms with this post! But at least we learned a lot!

  8. Would you be so kind as to do a post on the radiator care and what type of new boiler you have? I have radiators and a REALLY old boiler and we will need to get a new one soon. We have been in our house for 4 years now and I did not know I was supposed to bleed the radiators. Perhaps that is why we have little to now heat all winter long? ;) If you have links to blogs or websites that I could look that info up myself that would work too. Love your projects.

  9. Hi Shanna,

    That is a great idea to write a post about radiator care!

    This is what Mike (above commenter) from At Home Alterations told me about bleeding radiators in an email today:

    "Radiators get air bubbles in them that are released from the water over time. It's not the end of the world but the radiators don't heat as efficiently as they could. To fix this problem, radiators have a little nozle on the top that lets you bleed the air out. You just open the nozle and hold a cup underneath. You'll hear air release and then eventually water squirts out. When the water comes you know all the air is out and you can close the nozle again. Our inspector recommended bleeding all the radiators in the fall to make sure they run as efficiently as possible. Like I said, it's not the end of the world and you'll still get heat if you don't bleed, but it's a good idea :)"

    Thank you Mike! Be sure to check out their blog, I have a link on my side bar :)

    Mike- have you written a post on radiators and radiator care?

  10. I haven't writen a post about that (*idea*) but here's a youtube video I found about bleeding radiators. She has a fun accent too.

  11. Thanks for the information. I actually have a radiator key that one of my neighbors gave me as there were none that came with the house. I have been told that we may need to have our radiators flushed due to the crap water we have. I guess if/when we ever get a new boiler the whole system will get drained and depending on what comes out in that water may determine if a flush is necessary or not. Thanks again. Love your blog and will check out Mike.

  12. Hello! where did you purchase your sheet metal??? thank you! gail

    1. Hi, I think it was just from Home Depot. Home Depot is close to our house so we end up getting a lot of our materials from there. It think it is by the lumber department?

  13. How were you able to get a clean cut on the skirt boards? Looks like you didn't remove them entirely.


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