Utility screens are a great way to hide away clunky household staples like trash bins and air conditioners or to add some privacy to your living areas.
Today, we’re using a privacy screen to hide a gas meter. This meter is at the front and center of the house, so we wanted to mask it from view without restricting access for maintenance or taking a reading*.
Our 2’ by 4’ panel provides beauty and screening but swings open to allow easy access. We made our screen using a Cabo privacy screen from Modinex, on a frame of cedar lumber. For an easy, low-maintenance way to keep your screen protected, we suggest treating the lumber with Lifetime Wood Treatment before assembly, but this could be done afterward instead. Follow the steps below to create your own privacy panel.
*It’s always a good idea to check with your utility provider if you’re going to build (or plant) near your meter. They may have requirements to allow them easy access during emergencies or maintenance.
Step 1: Create utility screen frame
Using one-by-two cedar lumber and a mitre box, cut two pieces of the wood to be 24” and two to be 48”. First, use a pencil to mark the proper measurements on the lumber. Then, position the wood inside the mitre box so that when you place your saw in the 45˚ angle niche, it crosses your pencil mark. Clamp your wood to make sure it stays in place as you cut your angles.
Using a mitre box is easy, but you have to make sure your angles are cut correctly—the four sides need to fit together like a picture frame. Cut each end of each piece of lumber at a 45˚ angle, but make the cuts in opposite directions and so that the long side of the cut board remains 24" or 48" long.
Lay out your frame and glue the ends together using a rapid-set exterior glue. Then, fasten each corner together with flat corner braces for extra rigidity. You can attach the braces using a power drill or a manual screwdriver. I like to hold the brace against the wood and mark the spots for the screws with an awl before installing them. The braces will mount to the back side of the frame, and we’ll mount the Modinex panel to the front side in a later step.
Step 2: Create back frame
Now, we’ll create a sturdy frame to mount the privacy screen door onto using two-by-two cedar lumber. Just like with the privacy panel frame, first use a pencil to mark your measurements on each piece of wood: 24” for the top, 46 1/2” for the two sides, and 21” for the bottom. This will create a 24” by 48” frame with the top piece full width and the bottom piece inset between the sides. When you have your measurements marked, use the mitre box to make a straight cut in the wood (no mitred corners for this rectangle).
Using a tri-square to make sure the corners are 90-degrees, glue the back frame together. Then, fasten the sides together by placing a 2 5/8” screw in each corner. For extra strength, secure each joint with a corner brace.
Step 3: Attach utility screen frame to back frame
Join your privacy screen frame and the back frame to each other by laying them side by side and joining them together with two hinges. Make sure the screen frame is facedown so you attach the hinges to the side with the corner braces. On the back frame, use a pencil to mark where you will place the hinges. If you have one, you can use an awl to mark the screw positions. We mounted our hinges 4” down from the top and 8” up from the bottom. Open the hinges so they align properly, and screw them into place on the base frame.
With the hinges open, lay your screen panel frame next to your base frame and mark the holes for the other side of the hinges. Make sure to leave a gap between the frames that is the same width as the hinge pin.
It’s a good idea to start with only one screw per hinge to test the alignment of the two panels when closed. Make adjustments as necessary before installing the rest of the screws.
Step 4: Mount magnets
Use a quick-dry epoxy to mount two disc magnets to face of the base frame on the non-hinge side. These will line up with the flat corner braces of the privacy panel frame and keep the panel door closed, so make sure to check their alignment.
Step 5: Attach utility screen to frame
Close the panel door, and, with your two frames connected, attach the Modinex panel to the front of the one-by-two frame using 1” screws. Pre-drill holes in the Modinex panel that are the same diameter as the shank of the screws to ensure only the head of the screws are holding the panel in place.
Carefully screw the panel in place without running the screws completely tight against the panel. This, along with the pre-drilled holes, will allow the panel to expand and contract as the weather changes.
Step 6: Attach handle
Attach a handle to the side of the panel opposite the hinges so the door can be pulled open with ease. We mounted ours 36” from the bottom. Before securing the screws, you might find it helpful to mark their placement with an awl.
Step 7: Anchor base frame
The best thing about this privacy panel is that there are a multitude of ways to mount your hinged frame to meet your specific needs. We attached feet to ours so we could set it on the ground, and we tied it back to the house with two-by-two lumber and an easy release.
Another option is to mount the privacy panel using stakes, but make sure to call 811 and clear your location before you start digging or driving stakes. You can also mount the screen to a wall or have it sit on a treated piece of lumber attached under the frame. Choose the mounting method that works best for your space.
Note: If your mounting method involves screws into the wooden frame, make sure you place them so that they don’t interfere with any of the screws from the metal brackets on the corners.