Utilities in front of our homes aren’t always the most attractive lawn ornaments we could ask for. When a homeowner’s utility cover was on its last legs, he reached out to Nathan Gilbert for a new solution. Nathan’s plan is to build a new cover from weather-resistant materials and give that old gas meter a clean new look that also meets code.
Steps to Build a Utility Cover
Utility covers are designed to hide items like gas lines and meters from the street. However, they need to be accessible to emergency personnel and the utility company. For that reason, items like gas meters must only be covered on three sides and may not be covered on top. The following steps will explain how to build a utility cover that meets code.
- Start by measuring the gas meter. There should be at least 3 inches of extra space on either side. For this example, we’ll build one with a 30-inch interior space.
- Start by building the base. Use a miter saw or combination square and track saw to cut a 45-degree angle on the end of the pressure-treated 2×6. Measuring from the long side (the point) of the miter, make a mark at 42 inches. Use the combination square to mark a 45-degree angle at this mark and cut it with the miter or track saw. Move this cut piece to the side.
- After the cut piece (with a mitered cut on either end) is removed, cut two side pieces from the scrap of 2×6 that remain. Measuring from the point, mark and cut the board at 24 inches. This cut will be square, so this board will only have one mitered end. Cut another piece to match it.
- Lay the boards out on the workbench and assemble them so the mitered faces are touching each other, and the assembly resembles a square “U”. Fasten the joints to one another using toe nails driven from the outside of the joint. Do so on both corners.
- Measure the height of the meter. Stack the fence boards edge to edge on the work table until they are taller than the meter, spacing them out about ⅛-inch from each other. Take an overall measurement, and then cut the cedar 2x4s into six lengths at this measurement. Create posts by drilling and attaching two 2x4s to each other face-to-face. Do this twice to create two posts.
- Place a cut fence board on the edge of the base and determine whether it looks best flush against the edge of the base or held back slightly. Once determined, trace a line on the inside of the board and then repeat it on each side. This will provide the location of the posts.
- Place the posts on their corners, attach them to the base with toenails, and then nails driven in from the bottom. Install 2×4 pressure-treated braces between the posts.
- Start attaching boards to the sides of the utility cover first. Measure the distance from the open end of the cover to the front of the post, and cut the fence boards to this length. Attach them with stainless steel screws, using a removable ⅛-inch spacer between each course.. Repeat on both sides.
- With the sides attached, measure the front of the utility cover. Cut fence boards to this length and attach them to the front of the utility cover with stainless steel screws. Be sure to use removable ⅛-inch spacers between each course.
- Allowing for a bit of overhang, cut a top rail for the cover from the top-grade cedar 2×6. Miter the corners for the best look, and apply wood glue to the joints before screwing them into one another.
For building materials, Nathan uses 4×4” cedar posts and composite decking. The cedar posts are rot-resistant. Composite decking is great against the elements, and its fixed dimensions make it great to use as dimensional lumber.
To build the cover, Nathan starts by measuring, marking, and cutting the 4×4” posts to the correct height and width. He cuts 4 posts for the sides and 3 posts for the bottom.
To secure the frame together, Nathan uses exterior grade deck screws.
Next, Nathan measures, marks, and cuts the composite decking with a miter saw. For the edges, he miters the decking so it looks more cohesive on the outside.
To secure the decking to the frame, he uses deck screws on the face of the composite. He adds wood glue to the mitered edges for extra strength.
To add the house numbers, Nathan measures and marks the location so it’s perfectly centered on the front of the box. He then secures the house numbers to the front of the box using the provided screws.
After placing the cover around the gas meter, add weights for extra support.
All supplies are available at your local home store. Special assistance is provided by Tulsa Remote.
Special Thanks to Jasmine Teer, Chad Previch, and Oklahoma Natural Gas.
- Pressure treated 2×6
- Cedar fence boards
- Cedar 4x4s
- Pressure treated 2x4s
- Stainless steel screws
- Top-grade cedar 2×6
- Wood glue