Floor & Wall Heat Registers

Parent Q&A

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  • Air Return Cover

    Jan 7, 2024

    Hello BPN!

    My wife, 3month old, and I just moved to Albany. In the hallway next to his room is a large Air Return (metal grate with a huge hole). Does anyone have recommendations on how to cover this grate so that my future crawling son will not have to worry about it. The The concern is that the grate is sharp and also that he might try and pick it up. Thank you. 

    The air return is an integral part of your home's heating and cooling system. If it is obstructed that will create a problem.

    If you're not satisfied with the existing cover, you can get new ones. This is the company I used, they will make them to your size and color specifications:


    If that's not sufficient, depending on the orientation it may be possible to build a permanent column / box above the return, and then having the grate be in the side of that.  That is a job for an HVAC specialist. https://fittes.com/blogs/blog/air-return-floor-to-the-wall-placement

    We replaced the metal grate with a wooden one. As far as picking it up, our was really too heavy and unwieldy for our little ones to pick it up. You could put some adhesive on it that's strong enough to deter little fingers but easy enough for adult fingers to pry it up.

    When we moved into our house, we had a grate that is screwed into the floor installed where the old one had been. The only downside is you have to unscrew it to change the filter. Small toys can be dropped into it but the filter protects the heater's air intake.

    I ended up ordering a replacement grate through Etsy that fit the opening better than the existing one and didn't have sharp edges (if it's a standard size opening you could probably find something online or at Home Depot; mine was a funky size). Then I bought some Velcro to secure the grate to the floor--takes a good chunk of force to pull it up, so my kiddo can't move it but I can also still open it to replace the filters underneath. Alternatively, you could place something like a table over it. You want something that still allows air to flow into the return, so I'd recommend against fully covering it.

    Um, just in case no one gives you a "real" answer...we bought sassy duct tape (with a bacon print!) and taped it down. (Yeah, I'll go ahead and hide my user name. :) )

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Replace painted-over heater vent covers?

March 2013

To our dismay, when we moved into our 40s era house, we discovered that nearly all the heater vents and our cold air return vent had been painted over (so therefore stuck to the walls). We would like to remove them and replace, but not only is nearly every vent cover a different size, they are all odd-sized. I have looked online at companies that sell covers, and have never seen the sizes I need. Surely I am not the only one in this predicament? Seems silly to have them custom made when we are not looking for anything fancy, just something without 70 years of paint build up on them... Vent Detective

We had the same problem and ended up having them 'stripped and dipped'--basically, having the metal stripped down and then having them repainted with an enamel finish. It worked very well in that they look (and work) much better, though we didn't pick the paint color well (went with an oil-rubbed bronze color that came out looking more like brown--I would either do an actual metal finish or a true black). We had mixed experiences with the people who did ours so I won't recommend them, but I believe many local auto body shops will do it. It was a couple hundred dollars to do all of the vent covers in our small house--not cheap, but far less than getting custom vent covers made. Ours had also been painted in lead paint that flaked off whenever we tried to open and close the vents, so the cost was well worth it for us. To get them off, you can scrape the paint from the screws and unscrew them. Then score the edge with a razor blade and then (gently) use a chisel to free the vent cover. I never did find any replica covers that were the right size, and got tired of stalking Ohmega Salvage for something that might work. No longer covered in paint

Try Van Dyke Restorers: www.vandykes.com

The heater vent covers in our old house were rusty and unsightly, and our contractor had them chromed. They look amazing!

Directional vent/cover for floor heater

May 2006

I have heat registers in my floor and I thought I could put a piece of furniture that was on open legs over it, but someone said the heat may dry out the furniture. When we first bought the house, there were these clear plastic things on top of the vent that fit over it that would direct the air outward rather than upward. For some reason, that plastic piece disappeared when we moved in. Where can I buy something like this and would it solve my problem? It's annoying that the vents really limit where you can place furniture (they are centered under windows).

The piece you are looking for should be at most hardware places (including Home Depot)... it has been many years since I've bought one, but they were fairly cheap and were made of two sliding plastic pieces (so you could adjust the width) and also had small magnets on the bottom, so they would stick to the heat register. Basically, their purpose was to divert the heat in a certain direction, 90 degrees across the floor, instead of straight up. I'm not positive that this will protect your furniture, since hot air will still be fanning out underneath, even though it's going sideways, instead of straight-up.

You have one other alternative-- a thin magnetic sheet that will completely cover the register, which means essentially 99% of the heat is blocked and forced to exit through the next nearest registers. This should also be relatively cheap and found in most hardware stores. Just ask the staff, and they should know what you're talking about. Don't do this to too many registers in your house-- I'm told that the increased resistance causes stress on your furnace fan. Jim