Introduction: Clever A/C Unit Storage Window Bench
Do you have a window mounted air conditioning unit that you have to swap in and out of the window throughout the year? Do you find yourself frustrated as it takes up valuable storage space while it sits around uselessly during winter? Have no fear, the perfect solution has arrived...
Introducing the A/C unit storage bench!
This cleverly designed bench will not only provide storage directly under the window it's used in (no more hauling that heavy sucker down to the basement every fall!)...
Not only will it create a great window seat for reading or spying on your neighbors (we all do it, now do it in comfort!)....
But it will also provide the safest way to get a heavy object out of the window without having to reach over a standard storage box or bench.
That's right! This storage bench was designed with your health and comfort in mind.
You see, if one were to simply build any old standard bench or box to hide their A/C they would be forced to reach over the obstacle a minimum of 22 inches! (depending on the size of the A/C). Fact: Air conditioning units are heavy and all the weight is in the back of the unit. Trying to wrestle such a heavy, bulky, and awkward object from a window it's precariously perched on? That's asking for a pulled muscle in your lower back and probably a damaged cooling system. Don't cripple yourself when a better solution is right here!
This bench system is covered in the front with a removable fabric to keep the unsightly A/C hidden without creating an impassible wall that blocks your path to the window. That's not where the ingenuity ends though! The top of the bench is designed with multiple hinged boards to allow it to be folded back, like an accordion, to open up the top of the bench and out of the way. You'll have no trouble getting in close to the window so you can get a good strong bear hug around that cooling system and store it away right at your feet. Now you are a hero of safety and self-care!
If you think hinges sound uncomfortable for a bench then be prepared to be surprised once again as this bench is also designed for comfort. Instead of a traditional hinge that would stick up through the seams, this product uses a heavy fabric that is secured by rivets with such a low profile you'd hardly know they were there!
What do you say? Want to stretch your skills by combining wood, fabric, and rivets to make the best window A/C storage bench you never knew you needed until now? Follow along to pick up a few clever tricks for your own personal bench...
Step 1: Planning Your Project
First things first, lets look at our tools and supplies:
- Pop Rivet Gun
- Drill bits
- Forstner bits or large drill bits
- Exacto knife (hobby knife)
- 2x4" Lumber
- 2x6" Lumber
- Leather or Heavy Fabric
- 3/16" Long pop rivets
- 2 1/2" Screws
- Wood Screw Snap Kit
- Fabric cutting supplies
- Washers (optional)
I have drawn up some very basic blueprints that are meant to be very flexible in their design. That being said, each bench will need to be built according to the size of your A/C unit and your space. Take the time to get your measurements and plan things out. I don't normally go so far as to make blueprints with measurements but it was a very helpful resource to refer to and double check my process. Feel free to print off my blue prints and write in your own measurements to help you follow along with your own project!
The only measurement I was constrained to was the depth created by my four 2x6" boards on the top. I used four boards and that adds up to 22" when they lay side by side. Thus, I made my design have a 22" depth even though I only needed 20" to fit the A/C unit. That might change depending on how many boards you use but consider that during your sizing.
I'll point out that I designed this to fit perfectly in my weird little window room. Since it fits to the walls I was able to skip a lot of stabilizing structure. For a free standing bench you might need an extra board across the back and along the sides to help prevent the legs from splaying apart.
Step 2: The Wood Working Portion - Part One: Cutting and Framing
This part is the most straight forward part of the project: cut down your boards to size and use the 2 1/2" screws to frame out the legs of the bench.
Be sure to leave some space in the back so you can screw down the furthest back 2x6" board. By screwing down the rear board you'll keep the top of the bench stable across the back and it'll act as the home board for all the other boards to stack up onto.
Step 3: The Wood Working Portion - Part Two: Drilling Boards for Riveting!
Now the project gets a little bit trickier...I learned a lot of lessons the hard way so I hope I can pass on some knowledge....
You'll need to drill a wide countersunk hole through the back of the board opposite of where the hinge would be. By doing this you'll, in a sense, make portions of the board thin enough for the rivet to reach through and grab a hold. You can either use a large drill bit or a fostner bit, I liked the fostner bit best because it provided a center mark for the drill for the next step and a clean, flat surface for a washer. If you don't want to use a washer, your hole size can be much smaller, a size or two larger than your rivet diameter.
Measuring, marking, and planning:
- Measure where your holes are going to be drilled, I measured out 1/2" from the edge to get the holes close to the edge while still having enough material around the countersink. Remember, this is going to be the underside of the hinges so use the ugly side of the board.
- I went for 5 rivets per side and it turned out very secure. Feel free to experiment with more or less depending on the size of your bench.
- Refer to the illustrations and blue prints to see where the holes need to go in each board as a few boards are unique. Remember that in order for the boards to fold like an accordion the hinges need to be on alternating sides of the boards.
Drilling prep and holes, holes, holes:
- You'll need to eye up your rivet and your countersinking bit to make sure you go deep enough without going too deep. I found that you need about an extra 1/4" of space for the rivet to expand into.
- Use a piece of tape on your countersink to mark your depth.
- I encourage you to use a straight edge to check your tape line while drilling although there is plenty of room for error so don't sweat it if you end up going a bit too deep
- After you countersink your holes, use a drill that matches the rivet size (in this case 3/16") and drill all the way through the middle of each hole.
Here are some process pictures of my experimental rivet to show how everything work so you have an idea of the next steps.
Step 4: Wood Working Done, Time for Fabric Work
I used a costume "leather" fabric that I had laying around that I liked the look of. It's thick and sturdy and even though it ended up being a little stretchy that hasn't caused me any problems. Leather would also be a very strong choice and give a very rustic look. A heavy canvas would also be a good choice if you want a lighter look. No matter what, your bench will probably end up looking a bit like a treasure chest.
The holes will be 1" apart from each other so I made the strips 2" to give some room on either side of the rivet but still keep both sides of the material held down well.
Using a rotary cutter, fabric ruler, and cutting mat, I made quick work of cutting my material to size. You'll want the strips to be the same length as your top boards.
You'll also need to cut a large section of fabric for the front of your bench that is the same height and length of your bench design. You could even use a different fabric if you are feeling wild and crazy as the front material doesn't need to be as structural as the fabric used for the hinges.
My cat Ramekin was pretty much constantly on top of my fabric doing a great job managing me. Cats do love to be a part of every project!
Step 5: Fabric Ready, Time for Rivets!
I learned the most lessons the hard way during this step. My first row was a complete mess!
- Don't hot glue the fabric down in an effort to hold it into place for you. Just, don't involve hot glue.
- Don't rivet one end and then the other, that'll cause the fabric to buckle by the time you get to the middle.
- Don't rivet in pairs of two across both boards, your material will probably get wonky by the end
- Don't try to pop your rivet. Its satisfying and fun but these are thick rivets (already hard to pop) and our material is soft. You'll need to manually break off your own stems.
What to do instead:
- Measure out 1" from the edge of each board and draw a line across the board so you can keep your fabric even and lined up.
- Use a hobby knife to cut an X through the fabric over the hole.
- Start at one end and work across and do one line of rivets one board at a time. That'll allow you to keep the line straight and allows you to compensate for any error when you do the second side.
- Only use about a pull and a half with the rivet gun through or you'll end up pulling the rivet all the way through the soft wood.
- Use pliers to break the stem off as close to the rivet head as possible.
- File down any jagged rivet stem bits that stick up and could injure someone.
- Rivet 2 boards together at a time and then rivet those together. That way you don't have to flip your boards as often.
I waited until the boards were installed on top of the bench legs before riveting the large front fabric on. This keep it out of my way and the fabric needed a couple of extra steps to be finished anyway.
I'll confess, using washers was effective and probably a lot stronger for it,but I gave up using them. The rivet isn't acting structural and it only need to hold down the fabric which it does well enough just gripping the wood. It was annoying having to wrestle the washers and keep them sitting at bottom of the hole. Maybe if I had used hot glue...
Step 6: Final Assembly!
Now is the part where all your skills come together: wood, fabric, rivets, oh my!
- Screw down the back board with two screws on each end.
- Rivet down the large front fabric the same way you did the hinges.
- Stretch out the fabric and find a good place to apply the screw snaps (I did 1" up from the bottom, 1 1/2" in from the edge)
- Follow the directions provided to apply the snap to the fabric
- Assembly complete!
- Confidently store your A/C unit for the winter.
You can either leave your bench a fancy looking treasure chest type thing or you can spiff it up with some cushions, pillows, etc.
Now you can sit back, staring thoughtfully out the window to a dreary fall day, on your beautiful new window bench, and dream about all the future effort you've saved knowing your air conditioning unit will always be right there when you need it again next summer.
If this specific project doesn't help you (I'm looking at you central air conditioning people!) then maybe you just gained some ideas knowing you can bind fabric and wood with rivets. Or maybe you came up with great use for using fabric hinges.Or maybe you'd didn't know screw snaps were a thing and your future designs can now have fabric snapped to everything! No matter what, I hope this was fun, informative, and educating enough to get your imagination going. Either way get creative!
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