The ubiquitous butt ugly steel vent.


Are there any uglier, more prominent fixtures in a home than vents?

There are many places selling better floor register covers, but few for the ceiling. Maybe it's a mammal thing, we don't generally look up. Maybe ceiling fixtures just seem out of reach, literally.

Most of the better vents look like the plastic types, only in brass. Some have a fake finish, so they look like plastic.

Plastic and thin metal vents don't hold up. They warp, yellow, crack and rarely get replaced.

Roll Top Desk Vent

The vent in the living room is above the sofa. Not good.

I replaced the vent with the tambour from a roll top desk.

Opening is 3 ½" x 36".

I spray painted the inside flat black. Just what I had. No screen or grill.

Perfectly comfortable, the cold air is nicely dispersed.

The Desk

I purchased the roll top desk new about 20 years ago. I liked it. Well made. Unfortunately I found no use for it at all beyond making the house look like a museum. For a time it was my bill paying center. Kept stamps in pigeon-hole. But I haven't mailed a bill payment in many years, all electronic.

Can't fit even a laptop on a roll top. Can't really sell these for much either. So, moving into a Not So Big House meant it had to turn into something new. Top became the vent. Writing surface became the top of a new mobile desk. Other parts are in the cache.

I was disappointed to see the amount of chip board used in construction. I thought at least plywood. The veneer was paper thin, but no problem when never used. It was well made however given the poor materials. Forunately the top used in the vent was all solid oak.

Craftsman Vent

The vent in the kitchen is just a 8" duct. I made a 12" square vent.

Fire place screen. The wood bottom hangs from the screen. A tricky build.

Just a 2" gap, but 48" long (12" square). So 96 sq. in. of opening. More than the 8" duct needed. The larger opening provides better dispersal, better comfort.


A vent blowing air into a room needs a place to go. A tight room has the same effect as closing the vent. In normal construction they put an over the door vent or a jump duct (jumper, crossover or transfer ducts) for return air. More ugly vents. And sure a jump vent would increase HVAC efficiency as opposed to no air return, but 2 more vents in the ceiling will leak air. And I don't see how the R-6 flexible duct is as good as R-30 ceiling insulation. Makes no sense. I think jump ducts are being used more and more because a vent in the ceiling isn't as noticeable as in the wall. Screw efficiency.

I went with an over the door vent, but a transum instead of an ugly grill. I've always liked the old glass transums I'd see in movies.

Fire place screen used here too. Helps tie elements together.

Bath Exhaust

Bathroom exhaust vents are the kings of ugly vents. Some light combo fans look nice, at least hiding the fan. But a fairly limited array of choices. And again, plasic is the only choice.

I used a standard exhaust fan but made a custom grill. Basically a wood box with a cast iron grill I got off Ebay.

I've always loved the look of finger joints. I prefer them to the ubiquitous dove tail joints.

This little box could about a month as I got distracted into the world of jig making.