As long-time readers well know, for the last five years my grate situation has not been great.
I’ve had great expectations for solving this situation over the years, but
I hadn’t used up all the grate-related jokes I could think of nothing seemed to work, so I am forced to write another post.
Fortunately, I think I have finally solved this problem.
To quickly recap for the new kids: When we first bought our house and did a partial renovation, we removed all the old, ugly wall grates which had been painted onto the walls.
Replacing wall grates shouldn’t be a big deal. However, we also added new, much more substantive baseboards throughout much of the house, which ran up to or in some cases over the bottom of the duct. That meant that standard grates, which are sized to the duct and then have a lip out over the wall, wouldn’t fit on, and I certainly didn’t want to cut into the baseboard to make them fit.
This has been driving me crazy, and not just because stuff can get dropped down them and lost forever (which fortunately only happened once). The open holes make even mostly-finished rooms look like construction zones, and I’ve tried and given up on fixing this several times.
The most recent attempt involved buying a return air grille and slapping it over the hole, which seemed like a reasonable idea. However, the various standard sizes and the fact that it needs to sit over the baseboard and not centered over the hole left patches of wall showing like this:
The solution I’ve found certainly isn’t what I’d call riveting blog content. However, this was a big enough issue for me that I have to imagine there is someone out there who will benefit from this solution. You all have also heard me complain about this for long enough that it may be a relief to know it is fixed!
How to Put a Wall Register Over a Non-Standard Vent
The breakthrough happened when I decided I was willing to spend a little more money on full-on wall grates (as opposed to grilles – I’ve found they come in a wider variety of sizes) AND when I decided I would just jump in and stick the darn things on the walls via whatever means necessary.
I shopped around for a style that I liked that had dimensions that would correctly cover the holes in my wall. Unlike conventional register shopping where you buy based on the inside dimensions of your duct, I looked at the overall dimensions and just made sure I had enough overhang to attach it to the wall but not so much that the wall would show through the open area. Some places had these dimensions clearly spelled out, but in some places I had to look for the overhang measurement and add it on, or just guess.
I finally picked out a bunch that I was hopeful would work from Signature Hardware. They were a little more expensive than the ones at places like Home Depot, but I liked the style and they match another that I already have.
While they were the right size to cover the hole, they wouldn’t fit on with the louvers on the back. It felt a little silly to immediately disassemble and discard half of the product I’d just bought, but I did what I had to do.
This left me with a “correctly” sized grate, but one that had inconvenient metal bits sticking out of the back (that used to hold the louvres on) which interfered with it laying flat against the wall.
They were too tough to flatten with a hammer, so I used my dremel with a metal cutting attachment to cut them off:
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only challenge to overcome with this project. The grates are made to be held up by pressing against the inside of the duct, which I could no longer do since I had removed the entire back part of the product.
I first thought I could get the wall grate to stay up using sticky tack – yes, that stuff that held posters to the wall of your college dorm. I could not. It held it up for a little while, and then would fall off the wall randomly, creating a loud clang that makes you think someone just broke a window to rob you in the middle of the night.
I was left with no choice but to make holes in my new expensive grates.
Using a small bit suitable for cutting metal, I drilled small holes in the top two corners of each grate, and then attached them to the wall using small nails.
I then used ORB spray paint (sprayed onto a disposable lid, and then dabbed on with a craft brush) to cover over the silver of the nail so it would blend in with the grate.
From a distance, you really can’t tell!
I can’t even describe what a big difference this makes in my house. Not only are we no longer scared of losing cherished items into our walls, but each room looks a lot more finished and polished.
Almost like a place that adults live!
It’s hard to believe this small issue threw me for so long, but I’m thrilled to have it done. And I’m even more proud to have made it all the way through this post without once bringing up cheese graters!