DIY A/C Unit Cage – Part 2


Part 2 of out A/C unit cage build where we build the side protection and paint it.

Finally got to the metal shop and bought some more steel. A 4×8 sheet of 3/4 #9 expanded steel and some 1 1/2″ angle iron should be enough to get it finished.

TIP – in case you were wondering what 3/4 #9 expanded steel is, the number breaks down like this. The 3/4 stands for the hole size, the next step up is 1 1/2 inch hole size. The #9 stands for 9 Gauge. The smaller the number the thicker it is.

After getting the expanded sheet steel home, I set the it up on some 4×4 wood blocks and marked my cuts with my soapstone. I then got out my 4.5 inch grinder with a thin 1/8″ cutting wheel and started cutting. The boards hold the steel up off the ground so I don’t cut my concrete floor.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Set up on boards for marking and cutting.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Cut a strip of the expanded steel to fit the width between the upright posts

Once I got my pieces cut out, I started to fit them in each side of the cage. A little massaging with the grinder is sometimes needed to get the fit just right.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Test fit, then cut to length. I ended up doing 24″ tall pieces so I could get two pieces out of the width of the sheet (48″).

It is probably overkill but I didn’t want to leave the expanded steel loose and floppy at the bottom so, I got out my recently purchased 1 1/2″ angle iron and started cutting it to length with my chop saw.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Cutting the angle iron.

I then welded in the angle iron pieces and fit the expanded steel into each section. Finishing them off by tack welding around the perimeter of the expanded steel.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Ready to weld.

TIP – don’t be afraid to ask or look for good deals at your local metal shop. They often have ‘drops’ which are the odd length ends remaining and not useful to them when they built a project. Good news for us because they sell them at a discount. I was able to get a bout 7 sticks of 1 1/2″ with 1/8″ wall angle iron for $.63 per lb.

At this point it was late at night but before I final welded all this stuff together I wanted to go do one more test fit. I’m sure the neighbors wondered what the hell I was doing. This cage isn’t for my house but happens to be the same model and size as the unit I am building the cage for.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Fits good.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Now having the warm and fuzzies that it will fit, I continued to cut, fit, and MIG weld in the rest of the expanded steel and angle iron.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

DIY A/C Unit Cage

As you can see in the picture below, one side of the cage needed an opening to allow for the hoses and electrical wires from the a/c unit to go through. I measured that I needed to allow for ~8″ but made the opening ~10″ instead to give margin for error when installing.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

DIY A/C Unit Cage

After lots of welding and rolling this heavy thing around the garage floor, Gertrude and I came up with a ratchet strap apparatus to hold the cage so I could paint all sides without having to touch it.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

DIY A/C Unit Cage

First, a coat of primer.

For big painting projects, I like to use clip on spray paint can handles. They are cheap and save your fingers from cramping up. This one is even fancier than mine with a comfort grip.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

My really old paint can handle. Still works though.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

It looks like the newer ones have bigger triggers on them so you can use more fingers at the same time to distribute the squeezing force.

Being totally honest, I feel like the biggest pain of this whole project was painting this thing. While trying to paint the expanded steel, I’m pretty sure I got more on the inside of my garage than I actually did on the metal. As a point of reference, if I was doing this again I think I would try to find some kind of roll on metal paint.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Huge pile of spray paint overspray that I swept up.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Mostly finished product. Painted up.

DIY A/C Unit Cage

Stay tuned for the final part of my DIY AC unit cage build where we will create a clever adjustable anchoring system and install the cage.

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