Ever stare at that horrible grate over your register and just cringe? I had a large grate that was staring at me every time I walked in the door. If I see it, then I know that everyone else coming in notices it too. How embarrassing. So I decided to finally do something so I could be proud of it when I came home. I did my register grate update simply and cheaply. I’ll show you how.
Ugly Cold Air Return
Ok, if we want to be technical, the grate that I updated here is a cold air return. But really they all look alike. And ugly is as ugly does. This same update has worked in multiple places throughout our farmhouse. I know it will work for you also.
First Things First….
The first step in this entire thing is to remove your grate. Most just lift out of the floor without the need for any tools. Just place even pressure under both sides and pull up. My cold air return grate is mounted in the wall horizontally, so I had to remove 2 screws in order to take it off. It was actually simpler than I expected.
Here is also where it gets kinda icky. At least for me it always does. With animals in the house, the amount of hair and dust inside the vent is rather disgusting.
Get out your vacuum with the longest attachment and the brush on the end and just go to town. Vacuum until you see nothing left in there. I had dust and hair and even cobwebs in mine.
Next, get out a handy dandy microfiber cloth and your spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner. (I make my own using the recipe from Clean Mama and my awesome essential oils.) Spray the cloth to saturate, and then reach in and wipe out any remaining dirt or dust. Only reach in far enough to not hurt yourself OR drop the cloth into the vent.
My hubby was is so worried when I do this that I am going to drop the cloth down into the vent and he’s going to have to rip apart ducts in order to retrieve it. I am more careful than he gives me credit for but honestly, I could see where this could actually happen. Leave it to me to be the optimist and he is the pessimist.
Clean the Register Grate Itself
This is absolutely neccessary to get the results you want. Take the grate and either soak it in your sink or the bathtub if it is on the larger side of things. I soaked mine in vinegar and baking soda the first time, and then more all purpose cleaner after the initial soak and rinse.
After soaking, use a long-handled scrub brush to clean all the surfaces exposed. If there are nooks and crannies that the brush won’t reach, grab a toothbrush for these areas. Scrub and rinse VERY well.
Now, lay it aside to dry completely. You do not want any water or dampness left on the metal to interfere with the next step.
Choose Your Finish
Here is where it gets fun! You know your own style and the look of the room you are working in. Get crazy if you want! I stand by and strongly recommend Rust-Oleum Metallic Paint and Primer in One for this project. It is one step to primer and paint your register grate instead of having to worry about primer separately.
Rust-Oleum has over 20 different metallic options for you to choose from to make sure that you find the perfect color for your home. I went with the Oil-Rubbed Bronze in my project.
Set Up & Paint
I set up a little paint station in the garage for this step. I laid out a large cardboard box on the floor. Keeping at least 3 sides intact makes a little “paint booth” without having to actually set one up.
Spray painting is just not my forte. I never seem to “swoop” right and end up with runs and heavy spots. It looks bad when I do it. So I set everything up and then asked my wonderful hubby to actually paint it for me.
We did the backside first so that any imperfections in the flip would not show on the face. He painted it with two light coats, allowing to dry completely between each coat.
Then we flipped it face side up and repeated the two-coat process. I allowed it to dry a full 24-hours before bringing it inside to place back into the wall.
The Little Details in the Register Grate Update
Once I replaced the grate cover and screwed it back into the wall, my OCD kicked in and I realized that the screw heads stood out like sore thumbs. They were still the light color.
We had paint left in the spray can, so I ran outside with a paper plate. I sprayed directly onto the plate to create a small puddle there. Then using an artists brush, I dabbed some paint on the heads of the screws to blend them with the updated register cover.
Voila! Updated Register Grate on the Cheap!!
My can of Rust-Oleum spray paint cost me a whopping $7. And it could easily do a couple more vent covers before I run out. Even though it was a little more time consuming than I originally thought it would be, I love how well my register grate update turned out.
The only issue I ran into was with the cover off, I had cats thinking that it was a new place to explore. It was not fun trying to keep them out of there! When I do the ones in the floor, I will simply lay a piece of scrap wood over it to keep them out. I learned my lesson on this project. Don’t forget how crazy cats are.