From antique architectural salvage yards to online auctions, antique vent covers are highly sought after because of their beautiful metalwork and elegant designs. Whether you're trying to restore an older home or want to bring a sense of the past into a new one, these antique vent covers are sure to elevate any space you include them in.
What Are Antique Vent Covers?
Placed in the floor or on the wall, a vent cover is a rectangular or round piece of perforated metal that can allow, or stop, the flow of hot air carried through the duct work from the furnace to enter a room. Given that historic homes and buildings were heated using these antiquated systems, they required specialized mechanisms in each room to control the temperatures. These air flow controls are called louvers or dampers. If the louver is in the open position, the warm air is permitted to flow through unimpeded, but if it's in the closed position, then the air is completely blocked. The most similar modern mechanism are the levers that open and close car vents. Even long after central heating and cooling became widespread and vent covers were standardized, these vent covers were kept within homes because of their aesthetic appeal. Thus, you can find lovely examples of these vent covers in many older homes that haven't been renovated. Interestingly, if you're starting your search for an antique vent cover, you'll want to look under a number of different names including:
- Heat register grate
- Heat register grill
- Floor register
- Heat grate
- Heat grille
- Floor register vent
- Vent covers
Antique Vent Cover Types
Generally, these antique vent covers were crafted to cover the open floor-vents that ran alongside the edges of the rooms within a building. However, there are two major types of these covers that developed to accommodate historic heating systems.
- Floor Vent Covers - These antique floor registers are normally rectangular or rounded and are placed on the edges of the interior spaces within buildings and homes.
- Baseboard Vent Covers - These vent covers are more unique and are located on the baseboards around the rooms, making them more likely to have fewer signs of wear and tear.
Antique Vent Cover Materials
As with a lot of historic pieces of interior design, antique vent covers come in a variety of materials, most of which were metallurgical in some fashion. The most common materials that were used to mold these intricate covers out of are:
- Cast iron
Antique Vent Cover Styles
Fortunately, there're innumerous styles and designs of antique vent covers out there. Whether you prefer soft rolling lines and delicate filigree or you prefer bold geometric cutouts, there's an antique vent cover design tailor-made for you. Unfortunately, it's incredibly difficult to track down any specific style or pattern when you're trying to purchase one on your own, meaning you need to prepare to take a lot of time to search through online listings and auction catalogs to find the right vent cover for yourself.
Authentic vs. Reproduction Antique Vent Covers
Interestingly, there's not as much of a market for authentic antique vent covers as there is for reproduction vent covers. Take a look at the different costs associated with either type.
The easiest way to find authentic antique vent covers is to search through second-party seller websites like ebay and Etsy. Individual sellers on these sites often have one or two unique vent covers for sale, and they generally range between $50-$250 depending on their size and condition. For example, one Etsy listing has a 22x29 inch steel vent cover listed for nearly $200, while another has a quaint, yellow painted iron vent cover listed for nearly $65. Another thing to consider when buying authentic vents is that these pieces show a lot of wear and tear and will need a good cleaning, sanding, and/or repainting before they're ready to be placed in your home.
Reproduction vent covers actually cost about the same as authentic varieties do, and there's an abundance of online retailers who make beautiful reproduction vent covers in the same molds and patterns as authentic ones. For example, House of Antique Hardware currently boasts a cast iron floor grate in a Victorian style for about $30 each. Similarly, Vintage Hardware and Lighting actually lets you customize whether you want a round or rectangular vent and if you'd like one with or without the dampers. If you don't have the time to invest in finding the right antique vent cover or if you're having trouble finding one that fits the unique dimensions of your vents, invest in a quality reproduction.
Pick the Right Vent Covers and Antique Floor Grates
If you're doing a little home remodeling and you're thinking about adding one of these antique vent covers to your space but aren't sure what will look best, try and match up your current aesthetic style to different historic movements. Just remember to regularly dust whichever vent covers you choose as well as to every few months remove them for a better cleaning. Here are a few examples of the aesthetic combinations that work well together.
- Rich, bright colors and furniture with a cottage feeling: Painted vent covers of the early 20th century will probably suit your space best.
- Industrial aesthetic with a focus on minimalism: Simple, cast iron vent covers will engage well with the other metals of your industrial space.
- Lots of feminine decorations: Elaborate, Victorian vents will go perfect with the soft curves and frills of your home.
Cover Your Vents in Style
Even the most modern homes include vent covers, but that doesn't mean you have to reside yourself to keeping the boring standard-issue ones that come equipped in every new home. Rather, personalize your space by adding a piece of history to it; and since these pieces were truly built to last, you'll get way more milage out of one of those antique vent covers than any of the modern ones.