how to board up abandoned houses News & Opinion

How to Board Up Abandoned Houses


Many reasons exist for you to want to know how to board up abandoned houses. An abandoned house presents a host of challenges for neighbors in a community. While possibly indicative of an area struggling economically, sometimes abandoned houses simply represent a property that would otherwise have upward potential in a slumped economy.

However, an abandoned house—as we’ve discovered numerous times here in Central Florida—often becomes vulnerable to decay, rodents, vandalism, arson, and more. If you want to maintain the potential for homes (some of which may even be historic) to get their shot at renovation, boarding them up ensures they stay intact until someone applies some much-needed loving care.

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To guard against such undesirable outcomes, we’ve worked on behalf of our local city at times to board up a house’s windows and doors with plywood. It’s not a perfect solution because it’s unsightly and leaves no doubt about the building’s abandonment, but it’s a good alternative that might protect whatever value is left of the building while discouraging crime. So unless you’re in a community that no longer allows plywood for the job, here’s how to board up those abandoned houses.

How to Board Up Abandoned Houses: Method 1

The most expeditious way to board up an abandoned home is to nail the plywood directly to the siding, provided that it’s not masonry. It might also be possible to nail into wooden window frames as long as you’re careful not to break the glass while doing so.

best way to board up abandoned house

Of course, the house might be scheduled for demolition at some point, so it might not be of much consequence. In any event, it’s the perfect job for a cordless nailer such as the DeWalt Framing Nailer. You won’t have to run a compressor, air hoses, or electric cords. Often, this helps quite a bit since the abandoned home likely won’t have electrical service.

How to Board Up Abandoned Houses: Method 2

Sometimes the house is built out of some kind of masonry or you’d like to ensure the board can’t be pried off or otherwise removed from the outside. In this case, the brace and bolt—sometimes called the tension method—is the technique to use.

carriage bolting plywood block window

Cut one or even two pieces of 2×4 to the horizontal width of the plywood and drill a hole that will line up through all the pieces. Insert a carriage bolt longer than the window frame’s depth through the first 2×4, then through the plywood, then through the second 2×4, and put the nut on the bolt but don’t tighten it just yet.

From the inside, remove the window and then put the first 2×4 and plywood in place against the outside of the window frame. You do this from the inside of the house by fitting the plywood through the window frame before pulling it back against the frame.

Turn the second 2×4 horizontally so it braces itself against the left and right side of the window frame and tighten the nut. You’ve just braced and bolted a window in an even more secure way than nailing or screwing from the outside.

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The Bottom Line

To prevent an abandoned house from falling victim to vandalism, arson, or other unsavory behavior, board it up using either traditional nailing or the brace and bolt method. You might just prevent a bad situation from getting worse and save a building that could shine again in better times. We hope you’ve found this article about how to board up abandoned houses helpful. If you’re a Pro and you have tips for boarding up houses, add them in the comments below—or contact us with your own Pro tips.

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J T

If you want to save hassles and headaches, do it correctly – check the local city’s code for boarding up before even wasting time and money purchasing materials/hardware and to avoid having the city get involved. Most will have a specific way to go about the boarding up, doors included. Windows for example, our city requires the use of: (Temporary / less than 6mo) 3/4in exterior grade plywood cut to fit as close to window size Fastened with 4 carriage bolts passed through specific sized washers into 2 2×4 finished with washer and double nutted. (Extended time / more than… Read more »