Painting the HVAC Vents

Hey folks. Remember way back when I posted that we were trying to figure out whether to try and rehab the old HVAC vents or replace with new ones?

Old Vents? or New Vents?

Well, we decided we’d try and rehab the old ones. Unfortunately, we didn’t make this decision until after we’d already thrown out a couple of the old vents (dumb, dumb, dumb!). But we’ll make do with the ones we’ve got.

Stripping the paint and grime off the old ones turned out to (mostly) be a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was still terrible, but not too terrible. I filled a baking sheet with about 1/2 inch of paint stripper and just set the vent in it face-down and let it set for 10 minutes.

Face down, like fallen toast on the kitchen floor.

When I would just lift the vent out of the stripper, 90% of the paint would just fall right off.

Paint stripper, working it's magic.

At this point, we figured out that the best next step was to use a high-powered spray attachment on a hose (nothing fancy, just a garden nozzle set to deliver a blazing laser of water) to blast off all the stuff the stripper had loosened up.

After that, there was usually one or two more rounds of  spot-applying the stripper to a few remaining areas, using a utility knife to scrape in a few problem areas, and just a tad bit more general scrubbing to get them clean. But the key was always going back to the water laser.

Here’s what the vents looked like before we spray painted them the first time (more on that later). One mistake we made was that after spraying them with the water, I guess we didn’t dry them quickly enough, and we started getting a bit of rust.

All clean, but a bit rusty.

I am an excellent photographer, lol.

OK, this is where I started getting mad and stopped taking pictures. We applied a coat of primer to all the vents, and everything was looking great. Then we added the first coat of spray paint, and it looked terrible. The paint was bubbling all over the place. I’m not sure why. The bubbling paint looked just like the old paint did after we had applied the paint stripper, so my best guess is that there was some lingering stripper residue on all the vents that was sabotaging our efforts to spruce them up.

Long story short, after all that paint dried (and looked terrible), I ended up using a palm sander to sand all the paint off all the smooth surfaces. This turned out to be relatively easy, actually, and it sanded the rust off too, so ultimately I guess it was a blessing in disguise.

Anyway, after all the hard work and scrubbing (and cursing), here’s what we finally ended up with.

Cold air return.

Wall register.

Overall, I think they turned out pretty well. What do you think?

9 comments to Painting the HVAC Vents

  • Ashley

    Woohoo! I think they turned out great.

  • Katie

    Very nice!! What does KP think??

  • They look great- way better than the plastic versions! Cool you were able to get them so neat & clean looking!

  • They turned out really well! It’s always nicer being able to re-use what you’ve got. 🙂

    One thing I might consider next time — my brother found a place to sandblast his vents that had a lot of decorative scrollwork. It only cost $10 and was so easy for him to spraypaint over.

  • Nice. Lloks great.
    I have sometimes +used bronze colored spraypaint for these types of projects, including light fixtures and door hardware to produce a consistent look throughout a room or whole house.

  • kim

    Looks like the vents (& everything else) in my house. Great idea & they look brand new. I believe I will try this! Thanks

  • Kelly

    what brand of paint stripper did you use? I’ve been using eco-friendly Smart Strip on my old wood trim but its going painfully slow and not getting many layers off. Would like to try whatever you used when I do my vents also.

  • Hey- just found out you guys have a blog! (This is Brooke Bundy from church 🙂 I’m always thinking about what I’d do with this house if it was ours so reading about what you guys have done to your place has been really fun because we’d probably have to do some of the same things here. Anyways I’m excited to keep reading and see all your house progress! It’s looking great!