Tips on How to Install a Through the Wall Air Conditioner Sleeve

Josh Miller

Josh is a contributing writer to the site and former HVAC specialist.

Last Updated on January 21, 2022

Installing a through the wall air conditioner sleeve and air conditioning unit is not as complicated as it sounds. As long as you have the basic tools and can measure accurately, getting your wall air conditioner installed is a breeze. 

Every through the wall air conditioner sleeve comes with its own specific instructions that you’ll want to read, but to get an overview of the process, you can read through this general guide which will tell you the basics of how to install a through the wall air conditioner sleeve so you can get an air conditioning unit up and running.

Tips on How to Install a Through the Wall Air Conditioner Sleeve
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Table of Contents

Select the Location

The first step in the installation process is to choose the location of the wall sleeve. You need to know where you want the air conditioner to be located within your home. A through the wall air conditioner sleeve will require you to make a cut-out in the wall, so choose a spot that makes sense. 

Look for a blank wall with no windows nearby, an outlet near the bottom if possible, and an open area in the room. Also, make sure that you choose an outside adjacent wall, meaning that you will literally be able to stick your hand outside when you cut the hole out

Mark the Opening Size

To mark the opening size for your wall air conditioner sleeve, you’ll want to do two things. Start by using a stud finder to locate the studs in your wall. Studs are usually located 16” on center, meaning there are 16” between each one when you measure from the center of the stud—mark these with a pencil. 

Then measure your wall sleeve and use a pencil to outline the opening. Most wall sleeves are about 26” in size. The wall unit will rest across three studs, so mark the wall air conditioner sleeve outline so that it sits between two studs, with a third stud at the center of the measurement. 

Once you’re happy with the placement, use a level to ensure that your pencil lines are straight. If they are, grab a utility knife and cut out the opening

Remove the Insulation

To get a good look at the area, remove the insulation from the cut-out. Ensure that your middle stud is in the center of the cutout. If your wall air conditioner sleeve is 26”, the center stud will be at 13”. This step simply ensures that you get a good look at the inside of the area before proceeding with the installation. 

Build and Install a Header and Footer

When learning how to install a through the wall air conditioner sleeve, building a header and footer is an essential step to a stable and well-done job. Headers and footers provide a sturdy outline for the air conditioner unit to sit inside of, and they are installed above and below the wall sleeve. 

To make a header, cut two 2” x 6” boards to the length of your wall sleeve. Then, cut a piece of ½” plywood so that it fits in between the 2” x 6” boards like a sandwich. Use screws on both sides of the boards to hold the “sandwich” together. This is the header. Repeat the process to make the footer. 

To install the header and footer, go back to your cut out. Measure the thickness of the header, mark the measurement on your wall, and use your utility knife to cut out the additional space. Do the same for the footer. You will need to use a saw to cut the existing middle stud in the area where your wall unit will go. Finally, place the header inside the cut-out at the top and screw it into the surrounding studs. Do the same for the footer at the bottom of the cut-out. 

Put in Cripple Studs

Cripple studs need to be installed to support the header and footer and frame the air conditioner wall sleeve. These will sit inside the cut-out on the right and left sides. To create these cripple studs, cut the 2” x 6” boards to your wall sleeve height. Insert them into the cut-out and screw them into place. Your cut-out should look like a frame. 

Cut Through the Wall

It is now time to cut through the wall to the outside. Use a drill to create four holes at the corners of your cut-out. Then go outside and use a utility knife and level to cut a straight line from these holes. You should now be able to stick your hand through the wall to the inside of the house. 

Install the Sleeve

The last step in learning how to install a through the wall air conditioner sleeve is to install the actual air conditioner sleeve. Once you’ve reached this step, the rest is easy. 

Grab your air conditioner sleeve and place it in the hole. If you’ve measured correctly, it should fit snugly with few gaps between the header, footer, and cripple studs. Make sure a minimum of 1” of the sleeve sticks into the room from the hole, while the rest will protrude to the outside. Once you’ve done this, screw the wall sleeve into the cripple studs on the side. Do not screw the sleeve through the bottom. 

Expect to use foam or another form of padding to close any gaps that exist. It’s normal to have a few small gaps to seal. Also, many air conditioning units require a slight backward tilt for drainage, so check your sleeve and AC unit directions for the exact recommendations. You’ll also want to use a heavy-duty outdoor caulk to seal the wall sleeve to the outside of the house.

You’ve Got the Sleeve

Installing a through the wall air conditioner sleeve is a relatively simple process. Take accurate measurements, secure the sleeve tightly, and you should enjoy a successful installation. All that’s left to do is set your air conditioner in the sleeve, close any gaps with padding, and patch up the sheetrock. Then you’ll be ready to insert the air conditioner unit and relax.  

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