Make Over Ugly Air Vents

Central air conditioning is a luxury, yes, but it does come with one particularly unsightly problem: air vents. Look around any room and your eyes are likely to snag on bright white slats marring otherwise perfectly lovely ceilings, walls, and floors.

  • Conceal it

Out of sight, out of mind. Architect and designer Ernesto Santalla covered the air vents in this home with architectural millwork. With its floating shelf, the installation looks like a piece of furniture.

  • Paint it

Hide an air vent in plain sight with a fresh coat of the same paint color you used on the walls.

  • Switch out the cover

Say goodbye to those sad slats and replace them with a piece of framed, patterned mesh. In illustrator and designer Jacqueline Schmidt’s bathroom, the vent is an artistic detail rather than an eyesore.

Repurposed Door Mat to Cover an Ugly Return Air Vent

Disclaimers before you try it yourself:
1.  When searching for a rubber door mat, try to find one that allows plenty of airflow, meaning that thedoor mat has a large amount of space in between the rubber sections.
2.  I have two air vents, a second one is located about 4 feet above the one shown and I have decided to leave it as is and unobstructed for maximum airflow.
3.  I have consulted with our HVAC Air Technician and he has agreed that the doormat leaves proper airflow for our home based on our own situation, definitely consult with your own Air Technician to ensure that you get proper airflow before using it on yours. Our technician was already on call for our yearly checkup so it was no additional charge to check it out.
4.  Open up your airvents a little by raising up the individual vent panels with pliers to allow even more airflow.

Directions on How to Make a Decorative Air Return Vent Cover:

Since our heating and cooling system has the filter built-in to the air handler, the frame I made only needed to encase the opening and hold the metal screen. I’ll show you in just a second how to make it hold a filter.

To make it easy to remove the frame, I countersunk the screw holes where it’s secured it to the studs and covered the holes with wooden buttons (also called screw hole plugs). If you need a frame that opens, you will need to secure it to the studs with hinges. Your best bet would be a piano hinge at the top of the frame so it lifts from the bottom.

Supplies to make a decorative air return vent cover:

1. 4″ wide boards. I used the same primed finger joint boards that I used for our gallery shelves.

2. Wood glue

3. Decorative metal radiator screen found at Lowes. Here’s the item number to help you find what you need. There were three different types of screens, but I the quatrefoil pattern was my favorite. You can also order it on by clicking this link if you can’t find it in the stores.

4. A Kreg Jig and a face clamp.  The kit comes with an instructional DVD to help you get started. It also includes a screw starter kit.

5. Staple gun

6. Power Drill

7. Miter Saw