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We’re talking about grilles, registers, and diffusers (GRDs) or what you might call “vent covers.” Well designed and manufactured GRDs can last for decades. But their appearance can also suffer over time.
Paint can fade or change its hue (from white to yellow or gray, for example). Floor registers and grilles are especially susceptible to scuff marks and scratches.
For any significant damage such as dents, major rust, or broken dampers, replacement is recommended. But for faded paint, minor scratches, and even minor surface rust, repainting is a valid way to breathe new life into old air inlets and outlets.
Scratches, scuff marks, even a little surface rust--but this floor register can be repainted
Broken damper and bent damper box--time to replace.
First, however, let’s distinguish between a dirty GRD and one that needs refinishing. All air inlets and outlets get dirty, clogged with dust, etc. This is especially true for air inlets or those designed for return air use. A return air grille, for example, “sucks” in air from the space and returns it to your HVAC system for reuse (after filtering, of course). Supply air outlets generally are expelling cleaner air than the return air inlets are taking in.
Both can get dirty however and a regular vacuuming will improve their appearance and effectiveness. You might also consider having your air ducts cleaned occasionally. Local HVAC contractors will have the needed equipment and experience to effectively clean your ducts. Such cleaning is not only good for appearance, but essential for indoor air quality and your health.
It once was white. Repainting will serve it well. And, while you're at it, you might consider a new wall covering!
But let’s say you’ve done all of that and still feel your GRDs need a fresh look. Can they be repainted? Yes. Just follow a few simple steps.
Note: Priming before painting is generally not needed. However, if your device is showing surface rust or corrosion, using a primer is recommended to ensure your paint “sticks” well.
After a fresh coat of paint, this grille is ready for the next decade of use.
Successfully completed? Congratulations, you have just extended the life of your air inlets and outlets by several years.