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?

Old Vents vs. New Vents

When we first moved into our house back in late October, one of the first things we did was to give everything a new coat of paint. To do this, we removed all the old HVAC vent registers. The old vents we pulled off the walls were packed with dirt & grime – I’m pretty sure no are at all was getting through a few of them.

Initially, we were so grossed out by the old vents that they went straight into garbage bags, and we just planned on buying new ones. We’ve had gaping holes in our walls ever since.

Empty vents without covers.

Well we did buy new ones from out big box store. But as it turns out, they are just a little bit underwhelming. Compared to the heftiness of the old ones, the new ones just feel cheap and flimsy. Plus, they are slightly different dimensions, so installing them will be a chore (we’d have to cut into the original wood baseboards in some places, and I’d rather not have to do that).

So all of a sudden, figuring out a way to clean up the old vents is suddenly sounding a lot more attractive. That will be a lot of work, too. They’ve been painted a few times, and I’m sure trying to scrape all the paint off of each one of those little fins could drive a person batty.

Old Vents? or New Vents?

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about soaking door hinges and such in a crock pot, and then the paint comes off pretty easily. I think these vents, though, are too big to fit in a crock pot. How could I get the same effect? Could I find a big pan and bake them in the oven for a few hours to get the same effect? Or should I just submerge them in a five-gallon bucket full of paint thinner for a while?

What do you think? Old vents or new vents? If you like the old ones, what’s the best way to go about stripping the many layers of paint off all those tiny fins?