Let your do-it-your­self tal­ents blos­som — build a flower box

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Residences West - Tim Carter

There are sev­eral ways to sup­port a flower box, the most com­mon be­ing metal brack­ets that are screwed to the wall. The chal­lenge when us­ing a bracket is to make sure that the screws go into solid lum­ber. The only prob­lem with this ap­proach is that the place­ment of the brack­ets might not be cen­tered un­der the flower box.

Cen­ter­ing brack­ets on a ma­sonry wall is easy, and it’s easy to an­chor them for solid sup­port. How­ever, many houses have wood or vinyl sid­ing, with the wall studs un­doubt­edly off-cen­ter.

This is why I usu­ally don’t use brack­ets but choose in­stead to use hid­den French cleats. A French cleat is a time-tested method to se­cure pic­tures, mir­rors, man­tles and even win­dow boxes to a wall sur­face.

The French cleat is a two-piece con­nec­tion sys­tem where the piece of wood or metal that’s at­tached to the win­dow box in­ter­locks with the mat­ing piece that’s at­tached to the wall. The best part is that, once in­stalled, the win­dow box will ap­pear to be float­ing in mid-air with no vis­i­ble sup­port.

It’s eas­i­est to use lum­ber to cre­ate a French cleat. I highly rec­om­mend us­ing treated lum­ber in your case, since the wood will be sub­jected to wa­ter. You don’t want the French cleat to rot and then fail, caus­ing the win­dow box to crash to the ground.

The French cleat can be made from three-quar­ter-inch-thick ma­te­rial. You need a piece of lum­ber that’s about 3 inches wide and as long as the win­dow box.

The magic hap­pens when you cut the sin­gle piece of lum­ber into two pieces along its length. You need ei­ther a cir­cu­lar hand saw or, bet­ter yet, a ta­ble saw with the blade set at a 45-de­gree an­gle.

By split­ting the piece of wood down the mid­dle with the saw set at the an­gle, you cre­ate two pieces of lum­ber that look iden­ti­cal— but one ac­tu­ally in­ter­locks with the other when mated to­gether. This is what will hold the win­dow box to the wall.

The piece of lum­ber that at­taches to the win­dow box is screwed to the box so that the an­gled cut points to the ground, and the long tip of the cut is not touch­ing the back of the win­dow box. The flat or square edge of this piece is usu­ally flush with the top of the rear of the win­dow box.

The other piece of lum­ber gets screwed to the wall of the house, with the an­gled cut point­ing up to the sky and the long point not touch­ing the wall

When you bring the win­dow box over to the wall and al­low the two pieces of lum­ber to in­ter­lock, the box will be se­curely at­tached to the wall. The only tricky mea­sur­ing that you have to do is to cal­cu­late how far be­low the bot­tom of the win­dow sill (or win­dow frame) to at­tach the piece to the house.

Typ­i­cally, the top of the win­dow box, once in­stalled, is an inch or so be­low the win­dow sill or the outer frame of the win­dow. It’s easy to do the­math to see where the bot­tom of the house piece needs to be in or­der for the box to be at the right height. If you started with a piece of lum­ber 3 inches wide, the square bot­tom of the house piece needs to be 4 inches be­low the bot­tom of the win­dow sill or win­dow frame.

The pieces of treated lum­ber that are screwed to the house as well as to the win­dow box need to be at­tached us­ing gal­va­nized or stain­less-steel fas­ten­ers. These will not rust.

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When you at­tach the one half of the cleat to the house wall, be sure it’s par­al­lel with the bot­tom of the win­dow sill or the win­dow frame. You’ll be tempted to use a level for this task, but that could be a mis­take. You don’t want the win­dow box level if the bot­to­mof the win­dow it­self is not level (af­ter you’re done, it will look like you made a mis­take).

You might have to in­stall one or two three-quar­ter-inch blocks of wood on the lower rear corners of the win­dow box to en­sure that the box doesn’t tip. The French cleat will hold the back of the win­dow box away from the wall, so the blocks en­sure that the top of the box is level from­front to back. These blocks will not be seen when you look straight on at the box.

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Win­dow boxes full of flow­ers can be used un­der win­dows or to add color to deck rail­ings.

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