How to Build Window Treatments


Windows are often-overlooked opportunities for added interest in and around your home -- especially if you enjoy plants. Adding a windowsill shelf, a whole set of plant shelves, or a windowbox to any window provides plants with perfect access to the sunlight they need, while giving you some additional places to put them.

And if plants aren't your thing, window-based shelves can be an ideal way to display collectables or other items. Light from the window showcases every detail, and using the area around a window maximizes your space.

Don't forget that you can place windowboxes, plant shelves for a window, or a windowsill shelf on the inside or outside of your house. You just need a few tools and some wood to get started.

Continue to the next page for step-by-step instructions on how to replace a regular windowsill with an expanded windowsill shelf.

For more ideas on window-related projects, see:

  • How to Repair Windows: Get the tips and instructions you need to correct common problems and keep your windows in good working order.
  • How to Clean Windows: Dirty windows are a big detraction, so follow these directions to keep your glass panes shiny and clear.
  • Kitchen Window Treatments: The kitchen is often the center of a home, so windows there need a special look. Choose the perfect treatment for a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

How to Build a Windowsill Shelf

Remove the apron under the old windowsill and cut the sill off flush with the wall surface (left). Butt the new shelf, as wide as 12 inches, against the cut edge (right); brace it with wood brackets and a 1 × 4 apron.

A windowsill shelf is a handy place for plants, canisters, jars or any display items you have collected, and it can be placed on the inside or outside of a window. Building a windowsill shelf is an easy way to add interest and additional storage without taking up extra space.

Tools:

  • pry bar
  • hammer
  • measuring rule
  • pencil
  • handsaw or power saw
  • if required, saber saw
  • plane
  • carpenters' square
  • nail set
  • paintbrush

Materials:

  • 1 × 6, 1 × 8, 1 × 10, or 1 × 12 pine stock
  • carpenters' glue
  • 6-penny and 10-penny finishing nails
  • 1 × 4 pine stock
  • matching paint or stain

Time: about 2 hours

The way you'll build your windowsill shelf depends on the window's construction. First, determine how to fit the shelf into the window's trimwork. Some, and possibly most, of the trimwork will likely have to be removed so you can cut it.

With a pry bar, pry off the apron below the windowsill. Remove the windowsill; you'll probably have to remove the side jamb trim and the side casing. Remove all trimwork carefully; make sure you don't damage it.

Measure and mark the sill so you can cut its inside edge -- the edge facing the room -- flush with the surface of the wall; cut the sill as marked and plane the cut edge smooth and square. Replace the sill.

To make the windowsill shelf, use 1 × 6, 1 × 8, 1 × 10, or 1 × 12 pine stock. The shelf can be as wide as 12 inches and as long as the window is wide or longer -- extending beyond the sides of the window. If the shelf extends beyond the sides, make it long enough to span a wall stud on either side, as the shelf braces will be secured to these studs.

You can leave the ends of the shelf square, or round or angle them as desired. Measure, mark, and cut the shelf to the length and configuration desired, using a saber saw to curve the edges, if necessary. Set the edge of the shelf against the sill and the wall to check it for a tight fit. Plane and smooth the edge as necessary.

Measure the side pieces of the window frame to butt tightly against the top of the shelf, and trim them as necessary. Replace the side pieces and the side jambs in the window frame. Apply carpenters' glue to the bottom ends of the side pieces and to the edge of the shelf where it joins the sill and the window framework. Place the shelf into position and drive 6-penny finishing nails up through the shelf and into the ends of the side pieces to secure it. Countersink the nails with a nail set.

Next, install the shelf brackets. Attach the brackets solidly to the wall studs on both sides of the window and to the shelf, using 10-penny finishing nails. Countersink the nails.

Cut a piece of 1 × 4 pine stock for a new apron below the shelf. Fit the piece of 1 × 4 beneath the shelf to serve as additional support and to hide the exposed rough opening of the window. Nail the 1 × 4 in place with 10-penny finishing nails. Countersink the nails.

Finally, finish the shelf and the new trimwork to match the window trim.

After you've built a windowsill shelf, try building a whole set of window shelves for plants. See the next page for details.

For more ideas on window-related projects, see:

  • How to Repair Windows: Get the tips and instructions you need to correct common problems and keep your windows in good working order.
  • How to Clean Windows: Dirty windows are a big detraction, so follow these directions to keep your glass panes shiny and clear.
  • Kitchen Window Treatments: The kitchen is often the center of a home, so windows there need a special look. Choose the perfect treatment for a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

How to Build Plant Shelves for a Window

The frame is designed to fit over the window frame, with shelves set back a few inches from the glass.

Make your plants happy even as you add interest to a window when you build this set of plant shelves. Build these sturdy shelves to fit and you can fill any window with greenery and color.

Tools:

  • measuring rule
  • pencil
  • handsaw or power saw
  • carpenters' square
  • drill
  • screwdriver
  • hammer
  • paintbrush

Materials:

  • 1 × 8, 1 × 6, and 1 × 2 pine stock
  • carpenters' glue
  • #8 flathead wood screws
  • 3-penny finishing nails
  • sandpaper
  • stain or paint
  • shelf brackets with screws
  • angle irons with screws

Time: about 2 to 4 hours, plus finishing timeThese plant shelves are designed to fit a window 36 inches wide and 48 inches long. To fit other window sizes, alter measurements and materials to fit each window. Be sure to take measurements from the outside edge of the window frame so you keep the shelves a few inches from the windowpanes -- direct contact with the glass can damage plants in very cold weather.

To begin the project, cut two 49 1/2-inch pieces of 1 × 8 pine stock for the sides of the shelf frame assembly, and cut two 36-inch pieces of 1 × 8 for the top and bottom. Then cut three 36-inch pieces of 1 × 6 pine for the shelves. To make shelf supports, cut six 5 1/2-inch pieces of 1 × 2 pine. Use a carpenters' square to keep your cuts even.

Lay out the boards for the top, sides, and bottom of the frame on a flat working surface, on edge, with the top and bottom boards butted between the side boards. Apply a bead of carpenters' glue to the board edge at each joint, and join the frame pieces. Then, for each joint, drill three pilot holes for three #8 flathead wood screws. Secure each corner of the frame assembly with three screws.

On the inside face of one side piece, mark the positions for three shelf supports. Measuring from the bottom of the frame, make marks 8 inches, 16 inches, and 32 inches from the bottom. Or, if desired, add shelves or vary the spacing to suit your needs.

Place the shelf supports over the marks, with their ends flush with the edges of the sides. Drive in three 3-penny finishing nails to secure each support. Measure and mark the locations for the shelf supports on the opposite side, and repeat the procedure for fastening them in position.

When the frame is assembled, stain or paint the frame and the shelves as desired, and let the stain or paint dry completely, as directed by the manufacturer.

To install the shelves, locate the wall studs at the sides and center of the window. Position a shelf bracket against each stud, 3/4 inch below the window frame. Mark the locations for bracket screws on the wall. Drill pilot holes for the screws, and then fasten the brackets to the wall studs with the screws provided.

Set the shelf frame on the wall brackets, and mark the locations for bracket screws under the frame. Drill pilot holes into the frame, and fasten the frame to the brackets.

Position three angle irons -- one at each corner and one between them -- on top of the frame. Mark the locations for screw holes in the top of the frame and into the wall studs. Drill pilot holes for the screws, and fasten the angle irons to the frame and wall.

Secure the top of the frame with angle irons at the wall studs; then set shelves across the support brackets.

To complete the windowframe plant shelves, set a shelf on each pair of shelf supports and add plants.

Continue to the next page for instructions on another way to display plants in a window: a windowbox.

For more ideas on window-related projects, see:

  • How to Repair Windows: Get the tips and instructions you need to correct common problems and keep your windows in good working order.
  • How to Clean Windows: Dirty windows are a big detraction, so follow these directions to keep your glass panes shiny and clear.
  • Kitchen Window Treatments: The kitchen is often the center of a home, so windows there need a special look. Choose the perfect treatment for a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

How to Build a Window Box

Use 1 × 8, 1 × 10, or 1 × 12 boards for the depth and width desired; add 1 × 2 reinforcing strips around the top edge of the box. Cut the front and back to the inside width of the window frame.

Window boxes are a cheerful way to add plants to any room -- or to the exterior of your home. This sturdy, simple box is ideal for a wide variety of window-dwelling plants.

Tools:

  • measuring rule
  • pencil
  • carpenters' square
  • handsaw or power saw
  • small mixing dish and stick
  • power drill with 11/64-inch, 1/2-inch, and carbide-tipped bits
  • screwdriver
  • hammer
  • safety goggles

Materials:

  • 1 × 2 and 1 × 8, 1 × 10, or 1 × 12 redwood or cedar stock
  • resorcinol glue
  • #8 × 1 1/4-inch brass or stainless steel flathead wood screws
  • 6-penny brass or stainless steel finishing nails
  • heavy-duty shelf brackets
  • #8 × 2-inch brass or stainless steel flathead screws, or 2-inch lag screws with lead masonry anchors

Time: about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.You should plan to build your window box to the full inside width of the window. Use 1 × 8, 1 × 10, or 1 × 12 redwood or cedar boards for the box width and depth desired. The finished window box will be as wide and as deep as the boards you use.

To make the box, measure across the inside of the window frame. If you work from this measurement, the finished window box will be about 1 1/2 inches wider than the window on each side; adjust this width if you would like to make the box narrower or wider. Using a carpenters' square to keep the ends straight, measure and mark three boards to the desired length of the box; then cut them with a handsaw or a power saw. For each of the two side pieces, measure and cut a piece of board as long as the width of the stock, plus 1 1/2 inches.

Put the pieces together with simple butt joints, with the front and back of the box butted over the bottom and all board edges flush. Set the side pieces directly over the open ends of the box, with the grain of the side pieces running the same way as the grain of the front and back, so that the pattern of the wood wraps around the box.

Next you'll fasten the box together with resorcinol glue and #8 × 1 1/4-inch brass or stainless steel flathead wood screws. First, attach the front and back boards to the bottom board and then secure the side pieces. For each joint, drill 11/64-inch holes through the face of the board being attached -- the front and back boards and the side pieces, but not the bottom board. Drill holes at each end of the board and about every 4 inches all along the joint line, set back about 3/8 inch from the edge of the board. Set the board into place, mark the screw holes on the board edge it's being fastened to, and drill starter holes into the board edge at the marked points.

Mix resorcinol glue as directed by the manufacturer. Apply glue to the edge of the board you're fastening to and set the facing board into place against the glued edge, with all board edges flush. Secure the joint with # 8 × 1 1/4-inch brass or stainless steel flathead wood screws through the predrilled holes and into the edge board.

For a stronger window box, add a reinforcing strip across the front and around the sides, and butt the front strip over the cut ends of the two side strips. Measure and cut strips of 1 × 2 redwood or cedar for this reinforcing band. First attach the side strips and then the front strip, with the top edge of the 1 × 2s flush with the top of the box. To secure each strip, apply resorcinol glue to one face of the 1 × 2; position it on the box and nail it firmly into place with 6-penny brass or stainless steel nails set every 4 inches.

If you plan to use the window box for plants that demand a lot of water, make weep holes in the bottom of the box to prevent water logging. Drill a series of 1/2-inch holes every 4 inches along the center of the bottom board. To further aid in drainage, cover the bottom of the window box with gravel before filling it with soil.

Mount the window box on heavy-duty shelf brackets secured to the house wall. Weep holes provide good drainage.

Use heavy-duty shelf brackets to hang the window box. Position the brackets to rest against wall studs under the window -- straight down from the window edges and usually at the center of the window. For wide windows, studs may be found at 16- or 24-inch intervals between the framing studs. Use two brackets for a short window box and three or more for a box 4 feet or longer.

Turn the completed window box upside down and attach the mounting brackets to the bottom with #8 × 1 1/4-inch brass or stainless steel screws; the vertical bracket legs should lie flush with the back of the box. Prop the box in place and secure the vertical bracket legs to the studs of the house wall with #8 × 2-inch brass or stainless steel flathead screws. To fasten the box to a brick or concrete-block wall, use 2-inch lag screws driven into lead masonry anchors. Wearing safety goggles, drill holes for the anchors with a power drill and a carbide-tipped masonry bit; insert the anchors and then drive the screws in flush with the wall surface.

Now add plants and enjoy.

For more ideas on window-related projects, see:

  • How to Repair Windows: Get the tips and instructions you need to correct common problems and keep your windows in good working order.
  • How to Clean Windows: Dirty windows are a big detraction, so follow these directions to keep your glass panes shiny and clear.
  • Kitchen Window Treatments: The kitchen is often the center of a home, so windows there need a special look. Choose the perfect treatment for a warm and welcoming atmosphere.