You might find you need access to a particular part of a pipe. In that case you should cut out a section of the cladding and fit it with screws to create what is in effect a little trap door.
If you’re boxing in a length of pipe that has a stop-valve on it you should again make a little trap door, but this time fix it on with hinges so that access can be immediate. You can fix a small handle or touch latch on to it to facilitate opening.
If you find pipes exposed in a number of rooms in your home, one method of concealing them, which will provide you with extra storage space as well, is to install built-in furniture. An ideal location for this is that living room alcove. The pipes would be largely unnoticed if you fitted a waist-high cupboard with book shelves on top, for example. The construction of such a cupboard is straightforward.
If the pipes are on the back wall. the shelves can be supported on an adjustable shelving system in which brackets lock into uprights. The uprights should be fitted to vertical battens; that way the shelves will be thrown well clear of the pipes. Alternatively, if you have the pipes running up the side of the chimney breast, you can carefully cut notches out of a corner of each shelf so you won’t disturb any of the pipes.
The bathroom is an obvious place where unsightly plumbing can be concealed behind built-in furniture. A built-in cupboard, beneath the washbasin, for instance, will provide extra storage space as well as acting as a neat disguise. If you live in a flat that has the upstairs neighbour’s soil pipe passing through your bathroom, you can disguise it neatly with shelves at the end of a built-in washbasin unit or with a built-in vanity unit.
Another way of concealing pipes is to construct a false wall. This is especially useful if your plaster is in very poor condition. You simply fix timber cladding, probably match-boarding or veneered plywood, to battens running down edges of the walls. Water pipes will go conveniently behind such cladding providing you never forget their location and try to drive nails into the timber!
A more sophisticated version of this that is especially suited to the kitchen or living room, is done with timber panelling. However, if the pipes are running up and outside the wall, it would be wise to allow for some air holes or a small gap at both the top and the bottom. This will ensure that warm air can circulate.
If you find that for some reason you cannot conceal your pipes then it’s worth thinking about going to the opposite extreme and making a feature out of them. Pipes that have been painted with bright colors, for example, can look extremely attractive in their own right. And copper pipework, polished and lacquered to stop it tarnishing, can be a really eye-catching feature.
You’ll have to make sure that the pipes are in good condition to warrant either painting or polishing up, and that their new color won’t clash with your existing decor. Ideally they should be lightly rubbed down to clean them before being given a coat of special enamel radiator paint. You should also take care not to apply too thick a coat of paint — especially on any vertical pipes, as you could end up with unsightly drips, which would be difficult to get rid of once the paint has dried.