Covering the radiator in the nursery

You might remember the plan for a radiator box I had jotted down in my trusty home journal a few months ago and posted to Flickr. (Can’t remember if I blogged about it here.) I uploaded this photo back in February, though I think I drafted it down a few months before.

Radiator box early sketch

We have 6 radiators in the house and we’re planning to cover all of them — either with standalone boxes, or with boxes that are part of a larger built-in, like a bookshelf.

After making a monstrous run to Home Depot for bulky supplies with a ZipTruck one night last week, including the wood for this project, I finally found the time to start this first one — after finishing the bulk of the work on the first of two closets on the sleeping porch upstairs.

I’m intending to build a few of these boxes for the house, but for my first try for the one we need ASAP for the nursery, I thought I’d keep it simple. So I bought some sanded birch plywood to use for the front, top and sides, cove moulding for the inside of the openings, and used some leftover top-of-baseboard moulding in spots. I thought about going in either direction on the spectrum for the main box, using either MDF or trying to find some solid wood. I opted to go middle of the road with the nicer sanded birch plywood and see how it turns out.

I did a little drywall work on the first closet after work Friday — more to come on that project later this week — and when I got up early Saturday morning, I had a goal of finishing the first closet and trying to knock out the radiator box. By the time I got the doors hung on the first closet, it was about 7 or 8 p.m., but I decided to get started on the box. To make this box, I really only needed my chop saw for the moulding, the jig saw for all other cuts on the plywood, a drill for driving and countersinking the screws, and a brad nailer for attaching the trim/moulding. (I don’t have a table saw.)

It didn’t take me nearly as long as I thought it would. When I stopped for dinner around 9, I had the sides of the box cut and assembled already.

I built this first one almost exactly like my rough draft, with one small change to the moulding: I put the baseboard cap moulding   upside down flush with the top edge of the lid, rather than making the lid a little oversized and tucking the moulding underneath the lid — which you can see in the drawing above. That leaves one less exposed rough cut on the plywood to cover with veneer or something else, like the side joints.

I stayed up late sawing and mitering in the basement — thankfully where the sound doesn’t carry to the neighbors’ houses. After just about 3 hours or so, I had this nearly finished box to put into the nursery.


You can see that I scribed out the sides with the jigsaw to match the baseboard profile, so the whole thing will fit flush against the wall. I put two narrow 1-by braces on the back so that it’s not possible for a kid to pull the radiator box away from the wall and have it topple over on ’em.

I made the top a removable lid, though I hid the seam with the cap moulding.


I countersunk all the screws, so I need to fill those holes before I prime and paint it. As well as filling just a few gaps in the trim here and there.

The last thing to do is to choose the screening we want to use to fill the openings. Then it’ll just be a matter of snipping it to size and then stapling it or screwing it in on the inside of the box. Until then, the box is in the nursery and in business. Turned out pretty good, eh?

Surprisingly simple to make, even for this non-carpenter.


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