Building Wood Baseboard-Radiator Covers
A little easy-to-assemble trim dresses up these homely metal heaters.
Synopsis: This short article shows how a little planning and some time in the shop will yield wood covers that replace the unattractive metal housings on baseboard radiators.
A couple of years ago, I was trimming out a living room in walnut and butternut. The place looked great, except for the metal baseboard radiator covers. They looked obnoxious. I decided that before I wrapped up the job, I would find an attractive way to disguise them.
At home, I thumbed through George Nakashima’s book, The Soul of a Tree, and discovered that Mr. Nakashima felt the same way I do: His baseboard radiators were covered with wood.
So I started researching the subject and experimenting with different ways to assemble radiator covers. I came up with some simple design and joinery solutions to camouflage both short and long radiators.
We don’t want it to catch fire
Safety was my first concern. I got a tech sheet from my plumber that details the spacing needed for air to circulate properly. Basically, you need 1 in. of clearance at both the top and bottom of the front piece.
I keep the clearance between the radiator fins and the wooden cover the same as it is between the fins and the front of the existing metal cover, which I remove before I begin installing the wooden cover.
Baseboard-heating units, my plumber told me, generate between 500 Btu and 600 Btu per lineal foot. This would put the temperature at about 180°F maximum, which is not high enough to combust wood. The same holds true for electric radiators. I leave a gap between the face piece and the floor, giving plenty of room for air circulation and cleaning. The 1-in. to 1½-in. opening at the top is enough for warmed air to escape.