All homes have pipes of one sort or another, be it gas, central heating, and water supply; making pipes an integral part of the building. In the main, most of the pipe work that is part of the system is concealed, both in the loft and under the floorboards. However, there will inevitably be pipes that will be visible such as those leading to and from a wall mounted central heating boiler, and radiators. There will also be pipes leading from the mains water supply up to the bathroom and loft, traveling up the walls and through the ceiling, while others travel down the walls from the bedrooms to the ground floor radiators. Though necessary, these pipes are unsightly, and need to be hidden by being boxed-in. If not done correctly, things can end up looking like an obvious cover up job resulting with the end product looking worse than what is being hidden.
Before rushing in to getting the job done some thought must be given to how it is going to be done in respect of how it will be constructed, for example, will the pipes be accessible in the event of a leak or burst without having to demolish the box. In addition to this, where possible the boxing-in should be a feature rather than just a box. With all this in mind, I will show how this can be done in a typical situation, so that the end product will look like part of the room, helped by bringing the skirting board around it, and at the same time allowing accessibility to the pipes of without seeing any joints in the front panel.
In this example, the box will consist of a fixed side panel made of 75mm x 18mm PAR timber, with a front detachable panel made of 6mm plywood or MDF. Both the side and front panel will be fixed to two lengths of 50mm x 25mm timber, which will run from floor to ceiling, and fixed to the wall. The base of the front panel will be hidden behind the skirting board.
The first step is to place the first of the two lengths of 50mm x 25mm timber uprights that will be fixed to the walls, between the floor and ceiling, or as in this example, from the top of the skirting to the ceiling, and close to the pipes, but not so much so that it would be obstructed by any pipe brackets. Mark its outside position, and draw a vertical line up the wall, and fix the timber to the wall to this line using 63mm No 10g screws, (see fig 2). With the vertical timber in place, the side panel can be prepared. But before the side panel is selected, it is recommended that the wall is first checked by placing a long straightedge onto the surface which will show up any lumps and dips. In addition to this, by placing a spirit level onto the edge of the straightedge the wall can be checked for being vertical. By doing this, it can be determined approximately how much (if any) will need to be removed from the panel if scribing is necessary. For information on scribing the panel, see the section on Scribing.
Fitting the Side Panel
Measure from the wall surface to the front of the pipes so as to determine the minimum depth of the panel. If this measurement is close to a standard size of manufactured timber, for example, if the distance to the front of the pipes is in the region of 90mm, then 100mm x 25mm timber can be used for the side panel.
Measure and cut the side panel so that it fits between the floor and ceiling, and place it vertically up to the skirting board. Raise and trap it up to the ceiling, and draw a short horizontal line, level from the top of the skirting on to it. Now the shape of the skirting will need to be scribed and cut out of the panel (Fig 3) so by allowing it to fit over the skirting and tight up to the wall and ceiling, as in Fig 4. While being held against the wall, place the spirit level onto the edge of the side panel, and check it for being vertical. If it is found to be running out of plumb then the panel will need to be scribed and cut until vertical.
When the side panel is correct, it can be fixed to the vertical timber by using 35mm screws, countersunk into the timber, 300mm apart, (best done first on a bench or work surface, where each hole can be drilled out in-line). The next step is to ensure that the side panel is at 90 degrees to the skirting, which can be done by placing a square onto the skirting, and adjusting the panel accordingly as in Fig 5. Mark its position onto the floor with a pencil line, remove the side panel, and position and fix down a short length of 50mm x 25mm timber that is equal in length to the side panel width at the bottom, ensuring that its edge is to the pencil line as shown in Fig 6.
Next measure the distance between the skirting on the adjacent wall and the timber that is fixed to the floor, and cut a second piece at this size, ensuring that this too is 90 degrees to the side panel as shown in Fig 7, and fix it down in this position. From this second length of timber, fix onto the skirting a short vertical length of 50x25mm timber so that reaches to the top of the skirting board. The purpose of these two extra pieces of timber will serve as supports for fixing the plywood base panel andskirting.
Place a spirit level onto the floor, and tight up against this small vertical piece, adjust the level so that it is vertical, and mark from it onto the wall a pencil mark, then extend this mark vertically up to the ceiling. The second vertical timber that extends up to the ceiling can now be cut and placed up to this line as shown in Fig 8, and fix in the same manner as the first.
At this stage, the front cover can be prepared by accurately measuring and cutting it to size both in height and width, preferably from a new sheet of plywood or MDF so to have the advantage of its smooth uncut edge.
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