DIY Air Return Vent

DIY Air Return Tutorial

I recently added board and batten to one wall in my kitchen however this wall has the air return vent on it, the style of the old air return vent left much to be desired, it did not match with the board and batten. I decided to take a cue from the house I grew up in that had steam radiators, I new the metal sheets used on those would bring in the charm I was looking for, I still had some 1 x 2’s in the basement that I could use to make the frame for this so off to home depot I went to purchase an aluminum sheet of metal.  After spending two hours at hd, (laughing for the majority of it), thanks to Dominic and Joshua who work there, they helped me find everything I needed for this project and for two other projects I’m working on, they both had my neighbor and I crack up laughing the whole time!  Little did I know I would be spending a Friday night at HD this way and giving Dominic a “WooHoo” when we completed my shopping list!

DIY AIr Return Vent

HD had a few different designs for the aluminum sheets, I went with the same style we had in the house I grew up in which is Union Jack. This project was so fast and simple seriously the hardest part was caulking and the longest part was waiting for the paint to dry!

You will need:

wood for your frame (I used 1×2’s), Aluminum sheet, cutters, tape measure, L brackets (or kreg jig) glue, nails (hinges or counter sunk screws, if you use a filter behind this return vent)

air return vent supplies

I began by measuring the old air return vent, length was 25″ height was 14″ or there about, I took 3″ off the height since I did not want to miter my corners, I wanted to keep this in the same style as the board and batten, if I didn’t have board and batten on this wall I would have mitered the corners to look like a picture frame and I would have used wider wood.

air return vent diagram

I did a dry fit after cutting the metal sheet

air return vent how to

I originally was going to leave the sheet silver however I tested it by taping it to the wall and quickly realized I didn’t like it, the reflection of the wood floor caused the metal sheet to look dirty / gold so I decided to paint it white while I painted the pieces of wood.  Then I just had to wait for the paint to dry and the battery for my drill to charge!

HD Didn’t have the mini kreg jig in stock (bummer, I was so looking forward to testing that jig out) so the alternative was to use L brackets to attach the frame pieces together and the metal sheet to the back.

Air Return Vent Diagram

how to air return vent

Once everything was dry I assembled it with glue and the L brackets, since my return vent doesn’t require a filter behind it, I nailed it to the wall, I’ve lived in this house for 7 years and yearly I have removed the old vent to vacuum behind it and every year there is nothing to vacuum so I felt pretty confident in just nailing this new vent to the wall, then I caulked now all that’s left is to put the final coat of white paint on that wall!  I could leave it as is but would feel better with another coat.

Here is the Old Vent Cover, standard in today’s homes, while it may be functional it certainly lacks charm.


This old vent cover takes away from the character of the board and batten right?  YES!

Another before, even if I had replaced this with a new vent cover in this style or painted this current one it just doesn’t fit with this wall or the old school look I love!


Now for the afters!

DIY Air Return Vent

how to air return vent

how to air intake vent

hwo to air vent

air return vents DIY

So if you have an old builder grade air return vent, consider making a new one, air return vents can be pretty too 🙂  Check back to see what I am building to go in front of that return vent 😉 one of the other projects Dominic and Joshua at HD helped me out with!  You can see the complete kitchen renovation here

DIY Air Return Tutorial

Linking to The Dedicated House   DIY Show Off     Keeping It Simple   The Shabby Creek Cottage   Give Me The Goods Monday   Home (Work) Wednesday  Glitter Glue & Paint

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28 comments for “DIY Air Return Vent

  1. January 24, 2018 at 10:21 am

    This is gorgeous! But how do you open it to change the filter? We have to change our filter every 3 months.

    • Dria S
      February 9, 2018 at 8:40 am

      Hi There! My filter is not located in that return so I have mine nailed, but if I had to open it to replace a filter I would attach it on a piano hinge so it could be lifted up!

  2. November 19, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    How much does the patterned material cost avout,to do one of the larger air vents lk you had pictured? We have 2 in a hallway & want to do our floor vents as well,so before I set my husband to do it, I wanted to be able 2 give him a price range,which is hopefully not 2 much,to encourage him it’s worth buying & doing! Thanks!!

    • Dria S
      November 22, 2017 at 1:21 pm

      Hi Brittany, I think I paid $50 for the metal but I used the sheet in multiple projects you could probably buy a smaller sheet! Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Susan
    July 19, 2015 at 9:54 am

    did you replace the original cover, or just put the new one over it?

    • Dria S
      September 17, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      I replaced the original cover.

  4. February 26, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Fantastic idea, Dria! Thanks for sharing at Throwback Thursday.


  5. June 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    this is great! i’m totally gonna copy this! thanks for the tut. I guess i need to look up that kreg jig. What the heck is it and how would you not have needed l brackets if you had used it???

  6. May 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    I’ve been looking for the perfect product to hide the unsightly cords from my desk and never thought to look at the Aluminum Sheets. May I ask, what department at HomeDepot did you find these? I swear I stalked all the home improvement stores. Maybe they were on the bottom shelf.

    Anywho, thanks for posting and inspiring! Looks so much better than the vent that was there!

    • Lisa
      May 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      The metal sheets are actually for radiators covers. At least that is what Lowes knows them as.

      This is great because I have a part of my wall cut out for plumbing issues and would prefer not to close up the rectangular hole in case it is needed in the future.

    • Dria
      May 29, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Hi Trisha! I found them at the end of an isle standing up, I believe it was near the doors and windows where I found them. If you can’t find them just ask for the metal sheets for radiator covers, I had to ask a guy in the plumbing section and he took me over to them!

  7. May 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Hi Dria,

    Those look fab! I love the Union Jack pattern, except I never realized until today that’s what it was called! LOL!

    Nice job!


    • Dria
      May 21, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      😉 Thank you Becky! I didn’t know the name either until I saw them on their website!

  8. May 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

    oh wow I love this! Thanks for sharing…so stylish!

    • Dria
      May 21, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Thank you Colleen! I had fun doing this, now to come up with another idea to use up the rest of the union jack aluminum sheet LOL!

  9. Anna Reinhardt
    May 21, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I need to replace some in my house. I think this looks great.

    • Dria
      May 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Thank you Anna! You should give this a try it was really so easy to do!!

  10. May 19, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    This turned out fabulous!! Looks soooo much better now! Great job!~~Angela

    • Dria
      May 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks so much Angela!!

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