Unsightly pipes can completely ruin the interior of a home. Well, unless you’re opting for that trendy industrial vibe of course!
Pipes covered in layers of thick paint, or pipework that’s messily sprawling across a wall in your home, can all become a bit of an eye-sore. If you want to sort out your pipework so that it’s hidden away, the good news is that you don’t necessarily need to get the plumber in and relocate them.
There’s a solution which is much simpler, and more DIY friendly, and that is to build a 'box’ which will conceal the pipework so that it’s neatly hidden away. When done properly, this boxing should blend into the wall and be barely noticeable.
Whether you have exposed pipework from your boiler, your bath or even your radiators, this guide on how to box in pipes will help you solve your exposed pipework problems.
So, if you want to learn how to box-in your pipework, then keep reading.
There are a couple of different ways in which you can box-in pipework and the method you use will depend on where exactly your pipes are located. We have two tutorials for you, one for pipes located in the centre of a wall, and one for pipes at the corner.
This method is most commonly used for boxing-in pipework in the middle of a wall, or underneath a boiler. The only requirement for this method is that you have room either side of the pipework to fit two single battens. If your pipes are butted into the corner of the room, you’ll need to follow method 2.
The first thing you want to do is measure how far the pipeworks you’re trying to conceal protrudes from the wall as this will determine how ‘chunky’ your boxing will need to be. Hold the end of a tape measure against the wall and measure the distance from the edge of the pipe to the wall. We always recommend taking several measurements throughout the length of the pipework, as it may not be consistent.
The largest measurement is the one you’ll want to work with, and then we also recommend adding on an extra few mm on top. You don’t want your boxing to be touching the pipes as this can cause a rattling or tapping noise when the pipes are in use. With this measurement, you’ll then want to buy some timber battens that are equal to, or greater than this.
Example: If your pipes stick out 5cm from the wall, add on another 5mm for additional room within the boxing and you’ll then have a total measurement of 5.5cm. With this measurement, you now know you want to buy battens 5.5cm or more in width.
The next step is deciding on the length of your boxing. Let’s say you’re looking to box some pipework in from the floor to the ceiling in the centre of a room. Take the whole measurement of this length from the floor to the ceiling. If you’re looking to box in pipes underneath your boiler, over a worktop in the kitchen, measure from the bottom of the boiler to the top of the worktop.
Now you have the right battens and you also know how long they need to be, you can translate this measurement onto the battens and cut them using a wood saw. You will need two identical lengths of battens as these will be fitted either side of the pipework.
You can now affix your battens, which will be installed either side of the pipework. To affix into position, you’ll want to drill several holes through each batten. Then, holding the batten onto the wall in position, re-drill these holes onto the wall. Make sure your batten is spirit-level straight as you do so and try to fit your battens as close to the pipework as possible.
Once you’ve made several holes, you can then add wall plugs into the wall and screws through the front of the batten to secure it.
After you’ve affixed both your battens, the only thing left to do is to install a board over the top, to conceal those pipes. You can use MDF, plywood or even plasterboard for this, just remember the thickness of the board you’re using will affect how much the boxing protrudes. MDF for example, is quite thin, plywood not so much.
To cut your board to size, you’ll need to take the measurements between the two battens you’ve just installed and then cut the board using a suitable saw, ideally a jigsaw or circular saw. You’ll also want to cut the board to the correct height, which will match the length of the battens.
To secure the board in place, you can either nail or screw it straight onto the battens. Whichever you use, make sure you secure it with several fixings across the length of the batten so it’s secured firmly in place. If you’ve used screws, make sure to recess the heads beneath the board and if you’ve used nails, you can use a hole-punch to do the same.
You can add two further boards to either side of the battens for if you wish. This will give a consistent finish each of the three sides of the boxing, however, isn’t entirely necessary if your battens are smooth and you plan on painting it.
Pro Tip: If you want to access the pipework at a later date, use double-sided velcro attached to both the front board and batten, so you can simply remove and replace the board as and when required.
Apply a small bit of filler over the top of your screw heads or nails, and once this has dried, sand back smooth with the rest of the board. Once the boxing is painted, this will ensure your fixings aren’t visible. You can also caulk the edges between the board and the batten, so there is no visible join there either and once painted, it should appear as one whole piece.
And that’s it, your pipes are now fully concealed!
This method is for corner boxings, where the pipework is located within a corner and there isn’t the room to fit two battens either side of it. It can also be used for much larger pipework and larger boxings where more strength is required.
Using a tape measure, measure the whole length of the pipework you wish to box in. This might be from the floor to ceiling, or across the wall, depending on how your pipework runs.
For this method, you need three timber battens. Translate this measurement onto all three lengths of timber battens and cut to size using a suitable saw.
Two of the battens you’ve just cut will need to be secured to each of the walls around the pipework, one either side. Try to install them as close to the pipework as possible, so your boxing isn’t bigger than it needs to be. To affix, first, drill several holes into the battens, then hold the batten against the wall (making sure it’s spirit level straight!) and re-drill these holes onto the wall. Once done, add some wall plugs and then screw the batten into these.
If your pipework runs along the floor, your second batten will need to be installed onto the floor itself. To do this you can screw it straight into the floor without the need for wall plugs, just make sure the batten is fitted parallel to the wall.
To cut the board to size, measure from the inner corner of the wall to the far edge of one of the battens you’ve just installed. Check this measurement is consistent throughout the whole length. If it isn’t, you should take the largest measurement and then scribe the cut afterwards for a perfect fit. This video explains scribing well.
Cut the board to this measurement and to the same length as the batten. This board will become one side of the box.
Pro Tip: If you plan on using your boxing as a ledge or a step, make sure to use thick plywood boards that are strong enough to take the weight.
Now you have one board cut to size, you can attach the third and final batten. It’s much easier to install this batten before you go ahead and fit the board in place, as this batten should be fitted to the back of this board. Position it flush against the edge of the board and then screw or nailed into place.
To install the first board into place, position it along the batten you measured earlier and butt the board up against the wall. Make sure the batten you installed earlier is on the inside of the boxing, near to the pipes. This batten will become the inside corner of the boxing. To attach the board, simply screw or nail it into the batten on the wall in several locations. You’ll only be able to affix the board at this one edge, for the time being, so be careful not to bend the board.
Now you have one board cut to size and secured in place, you can then measure up for the second board. Measure from the edge of the first board to the opposite wall, where the other batten is affixed. Make sure to take multiple measurements again, and if need-be scribe the cut for a perfect fit as before.
Once this board has been cut, you can go ahead and screw it onto both the corner batten and the one on affixed to the wall. Once this board is in place, you’ll have one solid ‘boxing’.
Pro Tip: If you’re boxing-in pipes along the floor at skirting board height, instead of using a board for the front of the boxing, you can use an actual skirting board instead. This will conceal your pipework in a clever boxed-out skirting effect.
Now your boxing is complete you can counter-sink all your screw heads and nails, and fill over with some all-purpose filler. Once this has dried, you can sand it back, add some caulk along the joins where the boards meet and paint the whole boxing. All the joins and screw-heads should now be concealed as well as your pipework too.
For a full video tutorial on boxing-in pipework using this method, please check out the video below from YouTuber, How2D2:
We hope this guide has helped you with all your exposed pipe problems. You certainly don’t need to get the plumber in to conceal them away, just a few bits of timber battens and a couple of boards can make all the difference and you’d never know they were ever there in the first place. If this guide has helped you, please do share it!
Kezzabeth is a blogger and DIY renovator. She bought her first house at 20, realising the only way she would be able to get onto the property ladder was to buy a fixer-upper and learn how to renovate, DIY-style