DIY “Cast Iron” Heat Registers

We live in a 100 year old home, and we have plastic heat registers. Hey, I am no historian, but I feel pretty confident in saying that that they aren’t original… Not only are they plastic, but they are different colours and patterns. We’ve got white slatted ones, plastic stainless steel look swirly ones, brown ones that are trying to blend in with the hardwood (but clearly don’t) and we have one pretty black metal one.

Fed up with our ghetto registers, I looked into replacing the whole house with reproduction Edwardian ones. As El Granto and I wanted to keep eating for the next year, that was not an option…

We were left with two viable options, live with them or paint em. Of course, I choose to paint. We headed to the hardware store and picked up some Rustoleum Universal All Surface in Oil Rubbed Bronze. Have you painted with this spray paint? It’s freakin awesome. You can spray any direction, on any surface (even plastic!), with no prep other than making sure the surface is clean. The cleaning is the most time consuming part. When our house was reno’d most outside walls and all the ceilings were torn down and re-drywalled. If any of you have ever drywalled anything you will know that drywall dust is the son of Satan. That shit gets everywhere. When we moved back into the house we spent two weeks cleaning up drywall dust and I still find it in strange hard to reach places (tops of kitchen cabinets, under bathroom vanity, caked onto light fixtures). Drywall dust really is my nemesis.

The heat registers were hiding a dark secret; a plethora of drywall dust stuck in all their nooks and crannies. I painstaking cleaned out every groove with my pinky fingers and a damp rag. After that was done and I had a few recuperating drinks, I headed out to the alleyway behind our house and gave 2-3 thin coats of the oil rubbed bronze spray paint. I let it dry overnight and the difference is incredible! They all match…and don’t look like cheap plastic! A $9 can of spray paint gave new life to 7 regular heat register covers and 4 cold air returns. Got mis-matched registers? Paint em!
Oh, and a bit of advice. I googled painting heat registers before starting out and someone suggested removing the flappy thingies. That is a shitty idea. They do NOT come out easily, and they all fall apart, and you have to bend things and it sucks. So don’t worry about it, just open them slightly and make sure you paint them good. I think my mantra should be “if it sucks, don’t do it”. There, words to live by. Now go paint your ugly heat registers.

basic heat register
Before (UGLY)
After (PRETTY)
Before – Ugly Mis-Matched Registers
After – All the same colour!


RustOleum Universal in Oil Rubbed Bronze: Home Depot

Tools Used:
Hands, Scrap paper

Difficulty Level (on a scale of 1-5):

One out of five

Total Cost: $9