No More Ugly Radiators: How To Buy (or DIY!) Your Way Around an Eyesore

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

While you may be grateful for it in the middle of a cold winter, an ugly heater can be an eyesore that you get tired of having to decorate around. Peeling or chipping paint, the wrong color or shape, or an awkward location can all make a radiator your least favorite piece of your home. Even if you don’t have a problem with how it looks, it may just be taking up valuable real estate that could be put to better use. But, don’t despair! We’ve got many ideas and options for improving the situation when you can’t renovate or replace your radiators

Option #1: Camouflage

(Image credit: Light Locations)

I’ll start with what is often the simplest option: add a table over the radiator. In the summer, when the heat is off, you can even put fabric on the table and hide the radiator completely. In the example above, the table in the hallway distracts from the radiator below, which matches the wall behind it, but if your radiator doesn’t match the wall color, a tabletop the same color as the radiator may help camouflage it.

There are some caveats to this solution, though. Using a pre-made table relies on being able to find one that will fit your particular heater, while leaving enough space on the top and sides that the table materials won’t be damaged by the heat. So, while it’s a great fix if you can find the perfect piece, it’s not always easy to make that happen without going custom.

(Image credit: Style At Home)

Another easy way to make the radiator visually recede is to add a shelf above it, as seen in Kate Arends’ home. You may be able to plop a surface right on top of the heater itself, but you’ll want to make sure that it’s made of material that won’t be damaged by the heat. Thick, unpainted chunks of wood, or slabs of stone or tile, are possibilities, or you could paint a metal shelf with high-heat appliance paint. You may even be able to use it to keep your drinks warm.

(Image credit: 79 Ideas)

For more freedom with the shelf materials, attach the shelf to the wall a few inches above the radiator. Art and accessories can help draw the eye up and away from the heater. In Jakob Nylund’s living room, the wall hung shelving in combination with the radiator almost looks like a single large bookshelf.

Option #2: Buy A Cover

(Image credit: HGTV)

If distracting from the radiator isn’t enough for you, consider a cover. Companies like Fichman Furniture sells covers in various sizes and styles, which they can customize to fit your radiator. They look very similar to this entryway model, seen on HGTV.

(Image credit: Etsy)

You can also buy pre-made radiator covers in several sizes and colors from places like the Improvements Catalog and Etsy. Above, a white option from EcoRads for $70.98 (only available in the U.K.)

Option #3: Make a Cover

(Image credit: Country Life)

If you’d rather DIY than buy, there are several sets of plans and instructions available online. Assuming you already have the tools, you should be able to make your own custom radiator cover in a weekend, at significantly less cost than a purchased version.The owners of this Swedish home covered the radiator in their entryway with rustic pallet wood, which adds character and texture in addition to hiding the heating system.

(Image credit: This Old House)

This Old House offers this version, which they say only requires about $30 worth of MDF and molding. The Canadian Home Workshop has a similar tutorial and plans.

(Image credit: eHow)

This DIY version from eHow is a little bit more sleek, but no less functional.

(Image credit: IKEA Hackers)

It should come as no surprise that IKEA Hackers have gotten creative with radiator cover solutions. Though this version requires a squat heater, it’s an awfully handy bench if it works out height-wise.

There is really no shortage of options for disguising your radiator if you get creative. You can adapt one of these ideas shown above yourself or, if you have the budget available, hire a local carpenter to build a custom solution.