The T.O.'s Apartment Wall

I live in a small, cruddy (but very conveniently located) apartment. As a renter, I am not allowed to make permanent changes to the building. So, in order to mount my computer monitor, speakers and sundry other associated devices to walls, I devised to make my own wall.

The apartment has an over-supply of badly-placed floor-to-ceiling windows which leak out heat in the winter and suck it in all summer. All for great views of the road out front and the neighbour's brick wall to the side (the ocean views are on the side with the pokey kitchen window and even smaller -- and frosted -- bathroom window; go figure!). In an effort to improve thermal efficiency, I have previously covered the pointless lower panes of these large windows with panels made from old bubble-wrap envelopes glued between stiff cardboard sheets (old office wall-calendars from work) and silver roofing-foil. I now took this opportunity to (almost) completely board up the most unwanted front window. Without making any holes or other marks in the apartment structure.

Stage 1: All in all you're just a ... plywood board in the wall.

All a-board

While my brother-in-law was in town with his truck, I got his assistance to get a ply-form board home from the hardware shop. I used ply-form mainly because it is thick and stiff, and already painted black. I actually lucked out and the ply-form boards they had were coated with some sort of thin melamine layer rather than just paint so I didn't have to give the board a final coat for a decent finish -- just wipe the dust and footprints off with a damp rag.

Formwork plywood, roof-foil and adhesive.

I had the board, originally 2.4m x 1.2m, cut down to 2.0m long at the shop. I also already have a roll of roofing foil from the above-mentioned earlier window-boarding efforts. I also bought some KwikGrip adhesive to join them together with.

Tracing around the board

Laying the board on the foil, I cut the appropriate length off and traced around the board with a felt marker so I had a guide for where to put the glue. No need for a drop sheet as I wouldn't be gluing to the edges of the foil.

Adhesive on board an foil-back

Using the included applicator, I spread the adhesive over the board and the back of the foil. As contact-adhesive, you let this stuff go touch-dry before you put the two parts together (you have about 40 minutes to do this, which was plenty of time -- probably up to 60 minutes here as it was a 7°C early morning and I had the front door and a back window wide open so the toxic fumes off the adhesive were properly ventilated as I worked).

Board flipped onto foil

I then flipped the board over and let it down onto the foil sheet. The adhesive gripped immediately.

Board flipped with foil-side on top

Flipping the board over so the foil was on top, I used a pin to puncture any large air-bubbles and generally flattened down the foil. I am not to concerned with making it really flat, as this side is facing out where I won't have to look at it. It is just there to reflect some of the summer-afternoon sun that hits that window hard.

Batten down the hatch

Nailing battons around the edges

I had also prepared some wooden battens to go around the edges. I had taken the thickness of these into account when choosing the height (2.0m) to have the board cut. they were painted black on the inward-facing sides and silver on the outward-facing side, to match the colours of the adjacent board-side.

Battons around the edges

The battons were glued and nailed over the cut-and-folded-over edges of the foil. Nice and neat.

How much for that ply-wood in the window?

The board placed in the window

Fully assembled, I propped the board in the window. Perfectly. Well... as perfectly as the shoddy make of the building allowed -- the window is off-square by 5mm.

Existing metal plate holds the board in place

I had origionally intended to hold the board in place with rubber stops mounted on spring-clamps, but there is an overhanging curtain-rail support that will hold it all in place just fine. Just wedged a bit of rubber under it to make it a tight fit. Note the weight here (even after mounting the computer monitor, et.al. will be almost strait down, so this should be plenty strong enough).

The 'wall' is up

The 'wall' is now up and secure. The edges where the window is wider than the board are covered by the existing curtains. Initially I have just set up the monitor on a small table backed against the 'wall'. Even this is an improvement to the room, giving me an extra 20cm depth from monitor to the wall opposite.

 

I am not yet ready to be a home-owner, but now I am a wall-owner!

 

Stage 2: Wall-mounted everything!!! (ongoing project)

Wired for sound

I have some old speakers salvaged from a broken boombox on a roadside rubbish pile. Despite this, they sound quite good -- certainly adequate to fill my small living room. I also considered just buying some new speakers but the only ones local shops had were unsuitable (which is usually the case - I am happy to spend money, but shops seldom have what I want to buy!). Next monitor upgrade (likely not for a good-few years yet) will likely be to a TV with built-in speakers anyway, so I don't want to put too much resources into this part!

Initial mounting attempt, I drilled and filed screw slots in the back of the speakers.

Holes for slotting over screws

They mounted on the wall securely enough, but really looked like they were hanging there (which they were!). They stick out too far to be aesthetically pleasing.

Speakers hanging on the wall

Next, I took off the back box of the speakers and used some bits of scrap material to fashion angle brackets that could hold the front faces on the wall. In the below image, you can see:

  1. a bent paperclip slotted in to a cavity in the top of the speaker face. Filled the slot with suitable glue as well as heated one end of the paper clip and pressed it into the plastic. There was no way to conceal the top screw, other than use a black one and let it blend in.
  2. a stack of cut popsicle sticks PVA-glued into the correct size and pushed into a cavity -- a very firm fit, which is good. This cavity is accessible from the front, so the screw will be out of the way.

Note that both the paper clip and the wood block are placed to create a 2mm gap between the speaker face and the wall. This allows air in, as I just blocked up the (now useless for this anyway) front vent with item 2.

New mounting system

Now the speakers stick out about 3 inches from the wall and it looks much better! What I have lost acoustically from discarding the 'box' I seem to have made back by the speakers being screwed to a big sheet of wood.

A speaker mounted nicely on the wall

Being monitored

Yet again, the retail sector doesn't stock what I need, so off to build it myself. This time I need a VESA monitor mounting plate that will sit the monitor right on the wall. All the commercial ones I could find left a couple of inches gap between the monitor and the wall (no it isn't needed for ventilation - the vents are on the top and sides of the monitor).

Using one of the VESA mounts we use at work, I marked up a piece of scrap metal (small rectangle of 1.2mm sheet steel). I then used a piece of wood with a hole drilled in it and a bolt as a punch-and-socket to recess the screw holes. These holes are for the screws that hold the plate to the monitor.

Punched and drilled bracket

Next, I drilled and filed 3 screw slots to mount the plate on screws in the wall. I used the plate to mark out and place the screws in the wall that it will slot over.

Plate fixed to wall without screen

The plate is removed from the wall and screwed to the back of the monitor. It sits about 2mm above the back of the monitor, so there is space for the wall screws to slide in to their notches.

Plate fixed to back of screen

Finally, the monitor and plate are slotted over the screws in the wall.

Screen secured to wall by plate

The monitor is actually lower resolution than you might expect for its size -- I deliberately got one with a below-standard DPI (ie: the pixels are bigger) as I always intended sitting further back from it than I would in an office/home-study situation. I would have got a (non-full) HD TV, but back when I finally needed to replace my dying 10yo CRT, LCD TVs sucked for displaying computer output -- they insisted taking a 1024x768 input and stretching to 1280x720 instead of just letting the computer send out a signal at the screen's native resolution! Idiots! I didn't need a tuner anyway, but it would have gotten me an even physically-bigger screen. Oh well, next upgrade....

Being monitored ... again.

Rubbish-pile rescue - a 1280x1024 monitor that has the same unusually low dot-pitch as my main 1920x1200 one. Big scratch at the top of the screen but otherwise perfectly serviceable as a secondary monitor. Being a Sony, it lacked a standard VESA mounting point, or any way to mount it in vertical orientation! I had to hack-saw off the built-in stand and manufacture a mounting bracket from some scrap angle aluminium. The sawn-off ends of the built-in desk stand did provide a good mounting angle and two well-placed holes to bolt the bracket onto, so it worked out well.

Drilled bracket bolted to monitor base

So now I have a second monitor to put "side-band" information on while working (and playing) on my main monitor. Not a feature I would have paid for, but a nice freebie.

Second monitor fixed to wall

Note I had to move the speakers so the left unit didn't end up behind the sideband monitor.

Also note the phone and fire extinguisher now to the right.

Next!

The next steps will be to mount even more stuff on the wall:

The power routed across the panel will be predominantly 12V, 240V to the monitor (which has its own 12V out line for devices - like the audio amp - which can switch with it). 5V also if/where absolutely necessary.

Ultimately, I am going for something a bit sci-fi-ish looking (of course!).

 

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