Thursday, January 9, 2014

Vintage heat vent grates and DIY air returns

The latest project at Chez Heather & Rich is the installation of new baseboards in the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs.  Included in this project is the upgrade of the existing heat vent grates and air intake grates from the builder basic style to a more vintage/heritage style.

Before: This is the style of heat vent grate and baseboards that were installed in the house when we bought it.
Before: this is the air return (air intake) grate and the baseboards that we inherited with the house when we bought it.  

The first step was to find vintage heat vent grates.  I scoured the city, and searched online and finally found what I wanted on Ebay.  I needed a total of 6 heat grates. The ones I scored ranged in price from $10ea to $20ea + shipping.  All in, I think I spent about $100 to buy and ship all six heat vent grates.  All of the grates are slightly different in design. They came to me coated in years of dirt and dust and a million coats of paint.  

The grates are heavy cast iron and coated in years of paint.  The layers of paint were beginning to fill in some of the beautiful detail on the iron work, so I decided to remove all of the paint and start over again.

Paint removal was a very messy, smelly and tedious process.  I  coated the grate in PolyStripper paint remover and let it sit for a short time.  I then took a wire brush and removed the old paint that was bubbling up.  I repeated this process several times to remove all of the paint.  

Ready for paint

DIY Air return grates
I purchased some 1"x2" MDF trim in the same thickness (11/16") as the baseboard material that I will be using.  This will ensure that the grates sit flush in depth of the baseboards.  I cut the trim using a mitre box to the exact height of the baseboard material, again to ensure that it sits flush height wise in line with the baseboards. I glued the joints and held it to dry with a tension strap with 90' corners.

Next step is to cut the metal grate material.  

Air return grate is now assembled.  It's time for paint.

Painting the inside of the vent duct

The vintage heat vent grates are slightly larger than my opening,  and the grate design itself allowed a sight line through to the inside of the heat duct.  My remedy: use black paint to make the peek-a-boo parts looks like a black abyss.

Blog post by:
Heather Fulcher
Professional Organizer for Hire
Vancouver, BC, Canada