How to update old radiator covers

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Our first DIY project in the new house was to replace some old radiator screen covers. The previous screens were a material similar to cane but were made out of metal and had some damage. We originally intended to use punched metal to replace the screens but found that we couldn’t purchase large enough sheets, so Brian found some decorative MDF that we were able to use to achieve a similar look.

Before and after photos of the radiator covers in the living room and on the landing
Before and after photos of the radiator covers in the living room and on the landing

We started this project in December, but the weather turned too cold before we were able to finish it. Specifically, we couldn’t apply the paint until the weather was above 50 degrees- so the radiators had no covers on them for several months.

The Process

We decided to use the existing frames rather than attempt to create new ones. They were in pretty good shape and needed only a coat of paint. Because of this, we were simply able to trace the size needed and cut out the MDF pieces with a jigsaw. We found that the frames were not square and had to do a bit of trimming. We found it was easiest to use a utility knife to trim down the necessary pieces. Once the MDF was cut to size, we were able to paint and seal each panel using the paint sprayer.

The steps to replacing the radiator covers
Steps to replacing the radiator covers

After doing some research, I determined that I would need to use an oil-based primer on the MDF to prevent it from absorbing water and becoming uneven. Once I had primed the covers, I used a paint designed to tolerate high temperatures that was recommended by my Sherwin Williams store. I had it tinted to match the frames and trim throughout the house. Finally, I covered both sides of the panels in a polyurethane spray to seal and protect them. If you are using spray paint, I highly recommend purchasing a spray paint trigger handle for comfort and ease.

We used the original braces to hold the screens into the frames after I removed the nails, so it was pretty simple to use the nail gun to tack the braces and screens into the frames. I still need to repaint the frames, but I think the screens make a big impact.

What do you think of this DIY project?

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