Air Vent Makeover

Happy 2016! I have decided as part of my New Years resolutions to learn how to do DIY home projects. I’m going to write blog posts about these projects in addition to my garden posts. You will have to bear with me for these projects because I’m not particularly handy. But that’s why I want to learn! This will definitely be a learning process and some of the projects will take longer than the average handy person because of that. However, I want to do these projects well and I want them done to the best of my ability.

First up, revamping a couple of air vents on our stairwell. I saw a page on Pinterest that caught my interest (no pun intended) – see the website at the end of this blog post.

The photos below show the air returns before (left) and after (right):

Enormous difference right?! The updated air returns look amazing and it was actually suprisingly easy to do. Of course, it helped that my father-in-law, Rich, who is our go-to handyman, was here to help with the finishing touches of adding the trim this past weekend.

We first removed the air vents with the hope that we could run by our local Lowe’s store and buy new ones. I’m quickly learning that these older homes have materials that are no longer made today. The store didn’t have the size vent return that we needed. But, I had one trick up my sleeve since I remembered seeing this website on how to make a better looking air grille. We were able to get all the materials we needed at Lowe’s.


  • Sheet metal (any design; we found this pattern at the store and I really liked the look of it. Coincidentally, it’s the same one that the website shows too)
  • Tin snippers (to cut the sheet metal)
  • White paint (I bought a primer/paint duo that covers metal and wood)
  • Trim (2 7-ft simple trim pieces)
  • Miter saw (we did not have one, but I look at it as an investment for future projects; helps to cut the trim and make nice angles)
  • Finishing nails
  • Wood filler (I already had this from a previous project)
  • Sandpaper

Since the original vents were just so darn ugly – I had to show them again close-up to demonstrate exactly what we were working with. The vents have probably been there since the house was built (40 + years ago) and do not look like they have been taken care of. The grill is bent in places and just in general disrepair. I also realized how gross our stairwell was and decided to do a major cleaning once the new air vents were up.

You can see Nate removing one of the vents in the photos above. Behind them was a fine mesh material that was not even properly put up. Once removed, Nate was able to measure the dimensions of the hole and cut appropriately sized pieces of sheet metal. Unfortunately, I do not have any photographs of the metal sheet being cut using the tin snippers.

Update – Nate did have photos of him cutting and painting the sheet metal 🙂

The sheet metal was then painted with the white paint and screwed into the stairwell until we had some extra guidance on how to proceed to make the trim.

Already a huge difference, right? The photo on the right (above) is simply sheet metal painted with white paint and screwed into the stairwell. I think we would have been happy without adding the trim, but adding the trim is a huge eye-pleaser and creates just the right finishing touch we were looking for.

Rich and Cissy (my in-laws, Nate’s parents) came to visit this weekend and helped with adding the trim to the vent. Using the miter saw the 7-ft trim pieces were cut at angles so that each vent had two long pieces for the horizontal sections and two short pieces for the vertical sections. You can see in the photos below the cut pieces and the painting of the pieces with the same white paint used on the sheet metal. The bottom photograph shows the supplies prior to putting up the trim. I apologize for the dirty stairwell, but don’t worry it is now cleaned up.

The pieces of trim were placed around the sheet metal and Rich used a drill bit to place a hole where the finishing nails were to be hammered. For those of you who do not know (which I didn’t), finishing nails do not have a head on the end of the nail so when they are hammered in they can go all the way into the trim so that it is flush (or made to be flush) with the material. The photos below show Rich putting the trim up and hammering in the finishing nails.

There were a couple of false spots, by which I mean the nails had to be moved around but that was easily fixed by adding wood filler and sanding it down. Once the filler dried, I sanded it down and painted the trim and sheet metal with one last coat of white paint.

And, because the vent makeover looks just so darn good, one last photograph of the finished product. Voila!

File_000 (17)

As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, I want to give credit to the website where the idea sprouted from. See the website below.

Online Website:


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