Given how busy I’ve been, I had the grand idea that I would do a couple of easy projects on my bedroom makeover to get things rolling. I started out hanging some shelves – which went according to plan – and then thought I would tackle covering up the gaping holes in the walls where our ducts come in.
This should have been an easy one. Not only is it a pretty intuitive fix (cover it with something), but I already had a solid plan and all the materials purchased.
Sometimes projects go as expected. Sometimes they don’t.
One of the things that makes this project a little more challenging is that when we did our renovation, it included adding much larger baseboards than before. The baseboards now run across the bottom of the ducts, making them a non-standard size.
My initial foray into wall register shopping revealed that it is surprisingly counter-intuitive and confusing. When shopping for registers, you are usually shopping by the interior dimension of the dampers/louvres, looking for something that will pop right into the opening and hold itself there. So my non-standard size turned out to be a big problem.
And, even if I could find the right size, there is also a lip that extends beyond that, and I’m not big on the idea of cutting into my new trim to put these in.
The Second Problem
After much sulking and lamenting the extreme expensiveness of high quality wall grates (seriously, the prices are insane), I came up with a new plan. I figured that I could buy grilles or air returns (which are just for taking air back out of the room, and lay flat against the wall without dampers/louvres on the back) and just stick them over the open holes. The dimensions wouldn’t need to be quite as exact, and I could just set them flush with the top edge of the trim so I wouldn’t need to cut into it.
Further, I thought it would be really fun to go shopping for these at architectural salvage places, collect a bunch in different shapes, strip the old paint down to the cast-iron finish, and have coordinating but mismatched grates all around the house.
On a trip that Sage and I took a few months ago, I even found one that I loved. And, with grate luck, it was the right size for the bedroom!
Okay, it looks bad there, but just imagine it without the ugly old paint, and the shape is really cool. I had really high expectations for how awesome this scheme would turn out.
Of course, the first step in any old paint removal project is to do a lead test to see what you’re dealing with. I followed the package directions, cut a little gouge in the paint, and rubbed it with the test pad.
Of course, clever blog visitor, you can probably tell by the title of this section that the test came out positive.
I’m sure that there are ways to strip it, but that’s not a project that I feel comfortable taking on. Not worth the risk in my opinion. So I had to put this grate aside and come up with a new idea – and fast, since this was supposed to be my fun and easy project to accomplish and I had a blog post to write!
The Third Problem
I gave up on the salvaged grate idea – at least for now – since another trip to the architectural salvage places isn’t in the schedule cards for a while, and headed to the internet to find a more accessible solution. Since I was looking for what might end up being temporary, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. So I was glad enough to find this line of air return grilles at Home Depot which are reasonably attractive for a reasonable amount of money.
Sold. I measured and bought two in different sizes (there is another grate behind the bed that I didn’t bother taking pictures of), waited for them to ship to the store, and then went after work to pick them up.
Project nearly done? Nope.
Apparently I didn’t measure correctly, or didn’t notice that I was buying a floor register with dampers rather than a wall air return grille without them? Whatever the reason, when I went to do my installation I obviously could not. I had to go back online, buy a new (and correctly measured) grille, wait for it to ship to the store, and go back to get it.
I also had to come up with something else to tell the internet about on this blog, since this project was taking a good month longer than planned.
The Final Problem
Once I finally had my grilles in hand, I was excited to lay this issue to rest!
Installing them was super easy. They even came with screws that matched the finish of the grate. The only minor roadblock were some little metal pieces designed to fit into the duct which prevented them from lying flat against the wall.
I took care of these with the nuanced solution of banging them with a hammer.
But did you think that was the final problem that I was referring to? Oh, I wish that it was. The problem is that this is what it looks like now that it is finally installed:
Yes, it sits far enough up that you can totally see the wall behind the top edge of it. It is pretty noticeable. Unfortunately, these only come in size increments of two inches, so there isn’t an easy downgrade in this line (or most grate lines that I’ve seen) that would solve the issue.
For now, I’m leaving it. If not perfect, it does look better, it stops stuff from accidentally falling down into the ducts, and I’m sick and tired of trying to find an alternative. This won’t be our long-term solution, but we’ve been living with the gaping holes for so long that I can hardly consider it beneath my dignity.
Clearly, my expectations were not met with this project, and I’m a bit at a loss for what to do from here. Should I give up and cut into the trim to properly install real wall registers? DIY some grates? Go back to my architectural salvage idea and carry a lead test in my purse? Do you have another idea? Your advice would be appreciated!