Make Your Own Radiator Covers for Extra Shelf Space

Make Your Own Radiator Covers for Extra Shelf Space

Catrin Morris
Jun 2, 2011

As the weather heats up, the radiators in our century-old home are starting to bug me. It's not the noises they occasionally produce, nor is it the way they look; ours are quite pretty and Victorian. And I certainly prefer steam heat to forced air, which I find so dehydrating. The reason my radiators irk me is that they take up valuable square footage in a home where, between all the windows, French pocket doors and fireplaces we have very few places to put furniture.

And the uneven tops of uncovered radiators do not make for practical shelf space to store or display things. Another drag about radiators is that they can get very hot to the touch. With (unbelievably cute!) twin boys at home, safety was one of the main reasons Skip and Rachel decided to build covers for their radiators.

Skip consulted DIY instructions outlined on This Old House and got to work. His DIY radiators look terrific (images 1-3). The radiator cover in the twins' bedroom (image #4) was salvaged when a neighbor threw it out.

I have been interested in getting radiator covers but had heard that they have an unwanted impact on heating efficiency and effectiveness. A bit of research online reveals that this issue is the source for a big debate on the DIY circuit. Some claim that radiator covers result in a 20% to 30% heat loss. Explains one DIYer, "Although with the radiator cover there will be less heat coming into the room there will be less taken from the water and therefore no cash loss - in fact there could be a saving of course but at the expense of a cooler room." But the folks at This Old House disagree, arguing that radiator covers with the proper backing actually distribute heat more efficiently. "Instead of the heat going directly to the ceiling, the back allows it to be pushed into the living space. This can raise temperatures up to four degrees. With the added temperature boost, you can turn your radiators down a bit yet still enjoy the same level of comfort--not a bad investment."

What has been your experience with radiator covers? Are they cost effective? Are they environmentally friendly? Have you ever considered making your own?

1-3: New DIY radiator covers at Skip and Rachel's home.
4: A radiator salvaged from a neighbor's trash
5: The twins prop themselves up against the radiators in the days before Skip's handiwork.

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