On the right is a picture of a typical pipe casing I built to hide ugly boiler pipes, and below is a birds eye view of how a boxing is made, with three battens.
Boxing in pipes neatly is often necessary in bathrooms, kitchens and other rooms where pipes pass through and need hiding. If you do a neat job and plan it right it won't look out of place. They can be painted and/or tiled if needed.
When installed in bathrooms, kitchens or other potentially humid areas a tight fit is essential as well as them being sealed sufficiently in order to prevent damp getting in and causing mould to grow behind them. I do use it, but generally avoid using MDF to box pipes in bathrooms/kitchens/laundry room etc. unless it is moisture resistant.
When i'm boxing in pipes that need to be accessible (sometimes they have isolator valves or shut off taps) I use brass cups like these to screw the boxing together so that it can easily be removed later.(Once it's painted use decorators caulk or silicone to seal round the outside for a neat finish. It just means you will need to run a knife around the edge when you want to remove it later).
Pipe boxings are generally made with two battens fixed vertically or horizontally to the wall that are then covered with a sheet material like plasterboard, plywood or MDF. A third batten is used to strengthen the corner where the two boards meet. Horizontal Pipe boxings that run along the floor (often for radiator pipes and sink wastes) can be made with skirting board and ply.
The instructions here are for a vertical floor to ceiling pipe boxings like in the picture above, finished with 9mm marine plywood that can either be painted or tiled. The method is the same for a horizontal one made with any other sheet material.
Tools for cutting sheet material will be circular, plunge or hand saw for ply/mdf. Stanley knife, old handsaw and a rasp or surform for cutting plasterboard.
For fixing the battens;
Step 1: Determine size.
The first thing to do is work out how big the boxing needs to be. Using a combination square like in the picture below, find out how far from the wall the pipes protrude. Place the square against one wall and measure from the other wall to the square/ruler. I use the square because otherwise it's easy to get the measurement wrong because the pipe is round and your head might be in the wrong place when you sight the tape through. I take a measurement at the widest point of the pipe too, usually where the knuckle is where it joins the bend.
Get a measurement at the top and bottom as well in case the pipe is out of level (horizontal waste pipes will always have a fall). Repeat for both sides to get the minimum widths for the battens to be fixed. If you want the boxing to be square/have equal sides choose the largest dimension of them all and fix that batten to the wall. For the other batten use the same measurement but subtract the thickness of the ply/sheet material being used. Then, that shorter side will be the one that overlaps the other, making it the same size overall.
Step 2: Cut 3 battens.Measure from the floor to ceiling to find the length the 3 battens will need to be and then cut them (if the walls are already skirted two battens for the wall will need to be shorter than the third that goes all the way).
Step 3: Fix the battens to the wall.
Fix the battens vertically to the wall and at the distances calculated in step 1. 9 times out of 10 when making pipe casings I parallel them from the corner of the wall rather than use a spirit level to scribe them in plumb (perfectly level upright) because when the wall is out of plumb and the boxing is perfectly plumb, it will be a tapered shape and stand out to the eye.
It depends what else is close by though, if the boxing is in a kitchen and is next to cupboards that are level the boxing would look odd if it was out of plumb. It would also make it more difficult to tile. So, I make a judgement based on what will look right to the eye, it may mean choosing the lesser of two evils, or even splitting the difference and going somewhere in between. You'll need wall plugs and screws if fixing to masonry.
Step 4: Cut the ply.
You will need to cut one rip of ply the same width as the distance from the corner of the wall to the outside edge of one batten. Glue and pin it with a nailgun to the batten and screw the third batten to the inside of it. The second rip is the width the other batten was fixed at plus the thickness of the ply/other sheet material being used as it will need to overlap. Once cut, glue and pin in place.If the wall isn't completely flat you will need to scribe it to the shape for a tight fit.
Pipe boxings can also be made with skirting boards. Common areas for these are bathrooms, and when concealing radiator pipes. They are relatively easy to install and look much tidier than fixing the pipes to the face of the skirting, especially if the top is kept flush with the top edge of the skirting board. I usually use 9mm thick ply wood for the top. All you need to do is subtract the thickness of the ply from the overall height of the skirting board. This measurement is the height on the wall up from the floor that the top edge of the batten needs to be fixed to.
Cut the ply the width it needs to be to cover the pipes, not forgetting to allow for batten to fit inside too like the picture below. You can use a combination square like in step 1 above to work out how wide.
Also fix a batten along the floor this same width away from the wall (shown with red arrows). Take care when screwing to the floor in areas where there may be pipes underneath, use screws that are too short to go any further than the thickness of the flooring and use a pipe detector if unsure.
Lastly, fix a batten with wood glue and pins/screws to the back of the skirting board. Not flush with the top but down the same thickness as the ply being used, before assembling it all together.Click here for more skirting board tips
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