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Help with Metal Baseboard Heaters

March 10, 2019

We have metal baseboard heaters throughout our house (oil, forced hot water), and they have seen better days. They range in height from 8 - 9.25”. We are planning a remodel of our master bedroom and bathroom and will be moving some of the heaters, so I’m looking for ideas on how to make them look a bit better. My ideas are:

1. Get covers from one of the companies below. Does anyone have any experience (+ or -) with any of these companies? Are they ever sold anywhere in stores or are they all custom order online? Any idea how expensive they are or how they are priced?

2. Paint the ones we have or replace them with new metal covers. If we replace them, could we use shorter ones or do the “guts” dictate size?

3. Should we increase the size of the baseboard molding to match the height of the heaters? If so, could we keep what we have and add a second piece, or does that not work with baseboard moldings?

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Our heaters:

Onine sources I found:

I found this picture online. It looks like they have covers over their heaters (which appear shorter than ours) and have increased the trim size by adding a second strip that lines up with the top of the heater, so some of the baseboard “molding” is actually wall board. Is that correct? How does that look in person? Would that look odd if we did the same thing with our taller heaters?

Comments (18)

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    There are many replacement rads that are slimmer now and probably a good time to start changing the ones that need to done now .

    humbleandkind thanked Patricia Colwell Consulting
  • humbleandkind

    Patricia: Thanks, that’s exactly what I’d like to do assuming what’s under our covers can fit in the slimmer design. I have no idea what’s under there!

  • wannabath

    You have to take into account the sizing for your room. Under that cover is a tube and fin assy that is sized for your room. You cant simply use a smaller size and expect it to heat the room the same. Its not the cover its what is inside of it.

    I know some people hate radiators but I am on the side that baseboard heating looks 10's worse than a simple radiator with a nice wood cover. Radiators vs baseboard heat is a o brainer and radiators do just that they radiate heat for 10's longer saving you on your heating bills. It also gives more of a constant heat vs that on and off with baseboard that simply doesnt radiate the heat unless hot water is being pumped through the tubes.

    They also now make smaller euro style hybrid units that are a mix of the two

    humbleandkind thanked wannabath
  • humbleandkind

    Wannabath: thanks for your comment. That’s what I’m afraid of - that the cover needs to be that size. Otherwise I’m not sure why they would have put such big ones up. Regarding the radiator comment, I have no idea how they compare functionally but do prefer them aesthetically. I’m assuming, however, that you can‘t convert them on a room-by-room basis, and we wouldn’t want to change our entire system at this point.

  • PRO

    Byy the time you cobble something together online? A custom wood worker can build something, and do new trim /base skirting as well.

    Don't knock these these: ) Say what you want, but the heat is usually very even, very consistent, and without some of the annoying ups and down on/off of forced air.

    humbleandkind thanked JAN MOYER
  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors

    Yeah, I'm inclined to agree with Jan. Get a finish carpenter to build out boxes for you, then add some decorative metal grates to dress them up. Some food for thought:

    humbleandkind thanked Sabrina Alfin Interiors
  • humbleandkind

    Jan: Definitely not into cobbling! :) I hadn’t thought of asking our contractor if his carpenter can make them more attractive. I’ll do that! And I agree that they provide even heating around the room, especially since they are everywhere! I agree that’s the most important thing. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Sabrina: Thanks for the visuals - very helpful!

  • Elmer J Fudd

    Keep in mind that radiators are functioning equipment, not a design feature. When putting in new radiators, the heat loss specs of each room needs to be calculated so that the heat emitter (whether a flat panel, a baseboard radiator, or whatever) for the given water temperature is of the correct size in each location to provide enough heat. The amount of heat produced varies by size and type of radiator. Every radiator manufacturer can provide hourly BTU specs for its products, for each model and each size. Make sure that assessment work is done by an HVAC contractor with appropriate experience - depending on the area, those that specialize in interior heating by hot water are not that numerous.

    Is it also time to assess the condition of your boiler, or has that been done recently?

    humbleandkind thanked Elmer J Fudd
  • humbleandkind

    Thanks Elmer. I agree that the main focus should be on function. I’ve since spoken with our contractor and he doesn’t think the cost/benefit analysis warrants us buying or building anything to try to disguise them. He also doesn’t think they are current,y placed in the best locations, which may be why the master bedroom and bathroom are so cold. If I understood him correctly, we would be better off locating the radiators on opposite walls. We just recently had our annual service done and it looks like we will be replacing the furnace and boiler soon. Would the person who does that work generally be qualified to determine the best placement of the radiators?

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    I have hot water baseboard heat and I love it it is even heat no hot and cold spots and IMO cetainly nicer looking than a rad no matter where it is mounted. BTW we installed a new boiler 1/4 of the size of the old one and it now handles the whole main floor and the walk out which had never had heat or been finished.I set the thermastat when it was installed 10 yrs ago and have never touched any of the 3 zones since.

    humbleandkind thanked Patricia Colwell Consulting
  • humbleandkind

    Patricia - I agree that they generally provide even heat but I don’t think our bedroom and bathroom radiators are located properly, which may be why the rooms are so cold. Do your radiators look like mine? I have read that they can be painted to match trim but I’m a bit worried about creating a bigger eyesore with peeling paint, etc.

  • wishiwereintheup

    It's a matter of taste, but I prefer the original, standard, ho-hum baseboard design because it doesn't draw excessive attention. Those colonial style covers shout 'look at me'. Some of the modern style replacement covers are just plain ugly.

    As you remodel room by room, you could have them replaced completely. The material cost is about $10 a foot plus the labor. I actually prefer cast iron base board which is indestructible, easily painted to match walls and has cleaner lines (IMO). I had to forgo it in my remodel in favor of fin tube (like you have). Cast iron is over $50 a foot and costs more to install. (It also has different characteristics, so it's not just a plain swap out of existing fin tube.)

    Your baseboard could also be painted, but you need someone who has the patience and expertise to do it right. Most of the repainted fin tube I've seen has runs and missed spots because of a rush job. Of course, repainting doesn't address dents and bent trim pieces. Trim pieces and covers might be replaceable with original, depending on the brand. For example, Slant/Fin has replacement parts and covers (at about $5 a foot) available online here:

    humbleandkind thanked wishiwereintheup
  • humbleandkind

    Thanks wishiwereintheup! That’s very helpful information. We’re about 6-8 weeks away from our remodel and I’m leaning towards leaving them as is, but there are a few pieces that are bent/dented and replacing those pieces would be a good idea. Thanks for the link!

  • armoured

    @Patricia, if I understand correctly, you're remodelling the rooms that tend to be too cold while also doing work on the boiler? It may be that you simply need a bigger baseboard/radiator, and replacing may be more effective than moving the existing ones - the BTU per hour info is what to look at, as referred to above, but roughly speaking, more surface area provides more heat. There are also lots of different designs now available, including taller/different shapes. You should also see if you can fit thermostatic radiator valves on them - would give you ability to control heat in those rooms (and, all things being equal, put in a bigger radiator/baseboard without worrying about that room getting too much heat). Obviously you also may want to check whether there's some other reason that room is too cold. Note I'm not saying just to put in enormous rads with no regard to the heat load, but if you're doing the work anyway and the room is too cold, a bigger rad/baseboard may be what's needed. (If you can find one with higher heat output for the same size, could also work - ask your specialist).

    humbleandkind thanked armoured
  • Alan McGoldrick

    Hi. I have used WRCC. A++ service and quality products. Every room in my 1903 bungalow has rads. Sales consultant came out to the house, measured each rad individually with laser precision and roughly 6 weeks later they arrived and fit like a glove. No regrets.

    humbleandkind thanked Alan McGoldrick
  • humbleandkind

    Alan - Good to know, thanks! Can you give an idea on how the price compares with metal replacements? I’m guessing pricing isn’t comparable, but is it 1.5x, 2x, etc? Is it priced per foot? Any info would be appreciated!

  • Alan McGoldrick

    Hard to say. I chose the stained dark oak for the downstairs and MDF for baths and bedrooms. I wanted something I could paint if needed. 9 total covers...roughly 3k plus shipping. This was a while ago so I am sure costs have increased. I covered standing rads not baseboards. The website has a calculator available see if that helps with pricing. i am not sure if they work with metal...


    humbleandkind thanked Alan McGoldrick
  • humbleandkind

    Thanks Alan, appreciate the feedback. I’ll check out the calculator.

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