How to build your own radiator cover

A radiators primary function is to provide heat to a room.  However, most domestic radiators were put in place with little or no aesthetic consideration.  They were there to provide a function, not to look pretty and thats exactly what we thought when we moved into our early 70’s property.  Without spending a fortune replacing them or removing them altogether and adding underfloor heating we decided the best option was to cover them.  Victoria (my wife) is however quite fussy with her decor choices and she couldn’t find anything she liked, nor could we find anything the right size for our enormous living room radiator.

If like us you’re looking to hide these ugly devices then why not try building your own cover.  Sure, you can buy ready made covers from most hardware stores but you might not be able to find something the right size or style that suits your decor.  You’ll also save a load of money if you have the right tools and a little bit of patience.

make your own radiator cover

What tools will you need?

  1. Circular saw
  2. Tape measure
  3. Pencil
  4. Jigsaw (optional depending on the design)
  5. Drill driver and drill bits set
  6. Pocket hole jig set
  7. Hand saw
  8. Orbital sander (or just sand paper) with 120 and 240 grit.
  9. Table saw (you can use a circular saw if you don’t have one)
  10. Large set square
  11. Long straight edge
  12. Large drawing compass

What materials will you need?

  1. 18mm MDF board
  2. MDF mesh or screening panel
  3. Brackets (for attaching to the wall)
  4. Screws
  5. Pocket hole screws
  6. Wood glue
  7. White paint
  8. Paint brush

So here we go:

Step 1 – Measuring up

The first job will be to measure your radiator and any pipes you want to enclose within the cover.  Measure the width, height and depth of the radiator.  This will give you the internal dimensions for the enclosure.  At this point you will need to decide if you want to cover the valve or not.  (If you have a thermostatic valve make sure this isn’t covered as this will prevent your radiator from functioning correctly.)  We only have normal valves and wanted to have access to them so I measured up to the side of this.   Take a note of these dimensions in a notebook or piece of paper.

In this example I’m going to say the radiator measures 1500mm wide, 750mm tall and 70mm deep.

Step 2 – Drawing up a plan and cutting list

You will want to leave a 40mm gap around the outside of the radiator to allow sufficient air flow once the cover is attached.

Starting with the width of the radiator, add 40mm to one end, or both ends if you intend to cover the valve. In my example I will cover one side only, leaving access to the valve on one side.

Width example: 1500mm plus 40mm equals – 1540mm.

Height example: 750mm plus 40mm equals 790mm

Now move onto the depth of the radiator.  Add 40mm to the distance that the radiator sticks out from the wall.  Ours were 70mm, so the total was 110mm.  This will also allow some space for the mesh to be attached on the back of the cover.

Depth example: 70mm plus 40mm equals 110mm

The top shelf will overhang by 20mm on each side

Top shelf example: Using the dimensions above the width is 1540mm and the depth is 110mm plus 18mm for the front panel MDF width.

For the width of the cover add two lots of 20mm, (1540 + 20 + 20 = 1580).  For the depth of the cover add 18mm (MDF thickness) and 20mm overhang. (110 + 18 + 20 = 148mm.  So the top shelf needs to be 1580mm X 148mm.

From the above measurements you can work out the rest of the dimensions for each panel you need to cut.

The plan

Radiator cover plans

With all the pieces mapped out and the sizes double checked I was ready to write a cutting list.  This way I could quickly measure, mark up and cut the pieces.  Most of these pieces were straight forward square cuts.  It’s just the arched pieces that were a little tricky as you will see a little later on.

The cutting list

I kept this list simple and ready to refer to as and when required.  I purchased a 2400mm x 1200mm 18mm MDF board and started with the larger pieces first.  I used both my circular saw and Table saw to cut the square pieces.

radiator cover cutting list

Step 3 – Cutting the board

Start of by marking each piece on the board, then cutting it.  Do one at a time.  Use the large marking square to ensure you get perfectly straight lines and 90 degree angles.  If your pieces aren’t accurate then you’ll have trouble when coming to join each piece.

Using the orbital sander, gently smooth over each edge to leave a nice finish.  This will make all the difference when coming to paint the cover.

When you get to the arched piece you’ll need to measure to the centre and add 55mm to each side.  This will show you where the centre piece joins and where the arches will begin.  Now, using a large flat surface, use the drawing compass to find the radius centre point.  I tend to do this by eye, adjusting the pivot point slightly until the line hits each side of the start and end point. Once you have drawn the line you can now cut both pieces out using a jigsaw.  Another way of finding the radius centre point would be to use a large right angled set square and measure equal distances from the centre.

Arch centre point radius

I found my way to be much quicker.

Step 4 – Joining the boards

With all the boards cut to size it’s now time to join them.  To do this I used a pocket hole jig.  These are great little tools for cutting angled holes into wood.  Try cutting 2 holes on the shorter sides and 3 – 5 in the longer sides like I’ve done here.

1948ABC2-7518-4A1D-9E4C-A4FEC40B10D8

Once all the holes had been cut I screwed them together using pocket hole screws and glued along each edge with some wood glue.  This ensured a good strong join between each board.  Using clamps along each join also helps ensure the pieces line up nicely.

One piece I didn’t mention before was a small cut of MDF that sits in the centre to help support the top shelf.  This measures roughly 110mm X 60mm and simply screws on from behind. As seen here.

Radiator cover centre piece

Now you can cut and add the mesh to the back of the cover.  This simply screws in with 15mm screws.  Try and get at least 5 down the sides and 10 along the top to get a secure fit.

Step 5 – Cutting out for valve and skirting

Your cover should be looking near finished now but don’t forget to measure up for the valve and skirting cut outs.  I took mine into the house to measure these up accurately.  If you have a spare piece of skirting you can use to draw out you will find this much neater.  Cut the holes (shapes) using a jigsaw.

Now all thats left is to secure the radiator to the wall and paint.

Step 6 – Fitting and painting

To secure the cover to the wall you’ll need two small right angled brackets which should be screwed into the top shelf and wall.  You’ll need a long screwdriver to reach these through the top gap of the cover.

radiator cover bracket

Finally you’ll want to paint the cover.  I purchased ready painted mesh which saves a load of time but the rest needed a couple of coats of Matt white paint.  You can prime the MDF before you start but I found this wasn’t required.

Radiator cover unpainted

And after a couple of coats

And there we have it.  One lovely looking radiator cover to match the rest of our decor.  You can of course design and make your own styles but the principle is pretty much the same on all designs.  You can even cut out funky shapes on the front for kids rooms and themed rooms around the house.  Just have a look on Pinterest for some inspiration.

All in this cost us about £55 for the materials and there’s even some left over to go towards making another one.  Considering we were quoted £130 to have this custom made I think this is a good deal.

Have a look at some more of my projects around the house:

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How to build your own radiator cover

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