air return vents in the wall: paint or not?

wearybuilderApril 26, 2008

Our air return vents are in the wall, about a foot or so down from the ceiling. Are they supposed to be painted the same color as the wall, or left white?

Thank you for your input!

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It's personal preference, though most decorator types would argue that cold air returns are not decorative pieces that you would want to highlight so painting them the wall color will help them disappear.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 9:55AM
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I agree with painting them.

Remove them from the wall to paint the wall. Carefully wash the vents and rough them with steel wool or a scotch brite so your paint will adhere. Brush paint the vents after they air dry, when the paint has dried, reinstall. Probably will require 2 coats.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 11:39AM
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Yes, paint them!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 5:11PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

If you have existing vents run 'em thru the dishwasher, spray with a bonding primer, paint them. You can only paint them a couple times before they start to look glompy and ugly. If the vents are odd sized and not easily replaced from HD or Lowe's, be extra careful because you need to make them last or you'll be in for a search project to replace them.

If the vents have been painted a couple times and/or are chipping etc., I recommend just buying new, spray with primer and paint.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 6:40PM
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wearybuilder, yes paint them. As paintguy suggested you really want them to disappear and as funcolors mentioned use a spray primer and spray evenly . Use waterhose/soft brush to clean. You can repaint them as many times as you repaint your walls.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 8:05AM
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Atlanta Supply Company will sell vents online. I've had no experience with them, but it's the only place I've found that lists my odd sized vents in their catalogue.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 7:59PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

OMG! That's an awesome resource. Thanks for the link! There is an older area of homes that I've been working in a lot lately. Lots of 40, 50, 60 year old homes, many were custom and designer back in the day. What an odd collection of vents and returns! Creative HVAC is an understatement. :D

Unfortunately, they've been painted and painted and painted and look awful at this point. I know most of them have lead paint - which homeowners don't think about when they take a piece of sand paper to them for a repaint. Sanding and salvaging is often the chosen option 'cuz it can be hard to find replacements.

Having an on-line resource to order new is like the highlight of my week!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 2:29AM
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If you want an easy way to get paint off old vent covers or anything metal, get an old cooking pot (that you'll never use for cooking), fill it with water, drop in your metal item, and let it boil. Add a tsp or so of baking soda. The heat of the water will soften the paint and it'll peel right off. Ventilate your room while you are doing this. Makes paint removal a piece of cake.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 6:34AM
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I had my wall vents painted to match the wall in my bathrooms but not in my home office. I wish I had all my rooms done with the vents matching the walls. It looks so much nicer not having the wall vents stand out.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 11:33AM
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Several years ago, when Bob Vila was on This Old House, he demonstrated using Oven cleaner and a bucket to remove paint from brass door knobs and fixtures. It is best done outside to avoid the fumes. Line the bucket with an old cloth, spray oven cleaner heavily, and let sit for a while.
The paint will come right off.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 10:05PM
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