I’ve turned a blind eye to the baseboard heating systems that live in the kitchen, living room, and dining room. The thing is, I’ve never really liked them. They don’t seem to emit the same warmth as the massive radiators throughout the rest of the house, and they always seem to be the first things that show the age of a room. Unless they’re brand-spankin’ new, and by new, I mean <1 month old, they just look beaten. Furthermore, they attract and retain more dog fur than any carpet, and appear dented and scuffed more than any vintage piece of furniture in the house. Sure, they’re efficient and all, and people seem to continue to install them in their homes, but efficiency, sch-ifficiency.
This one here that straddles the kitchen and dining room is especially rough. Scuffed. Scratched. Not dented, but pretty gross. And it’ll get more gross, just you wait.
Determined to not spend a bajillion dollars on something I didn’t like that much in the first place, I figured out a way to fix it DIY-style for $4.
Updating it instead of replacing it in full was enticing. I had looked into the costs of doing multiple alternatives to learn that finding a new unit could run between $40-100+ depending on the finish and length, and as much as I really would love to replace them entirely or reinstall radiators, it’s not practical from a $$$ standpoint, so I decided to give it an upgrade with enamel spray paint to see how that would work in the short term and the long term. I’ve read that normal spray paint works OK too, that these heaters don’t get quite hot enough to distress the finish, but I went heavy-duty just to be safe, especially because it’s in a higher traffic zone.
I’m not entirely sure about the order of operations when it comes to installing these heating systems, so uninstalling piece-by-piece was an adventure in its own right. Luckily, come to find, if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Easy things first: Those caps on the ends slide right off. Mine slid off with a gentle breeze, which still seems a little too easy. Once the end caps are off, the main front panel will pop off too (on this short unit, it was only held on by 2 sets of clips). The little flapper flap that vents/conceals hot air flow also slides right off of the clips.
The piece on the back that attached to the wall behind the heating unit was a little more challenging, but not impossible to remove without damaging anything. It was only attached to the wall with 4 screws, but it was still a bit wedged in place behind the heating element and between the wooden trim that butted right up to the heater. I’m not a plumber or heating specialist, but I’d be willing to bet that the back panel of the unit is installed before the heating element, for nothing else but ease of install. In any case, I was able to slowly remove it, wedging it away from the wall quite easily to revealing a vomit-inducing amount of dog fur and an inordinate amount of popsicle sticks. Side note: The folks that lived here before me were out-numbered by young boys.
As horrifyingly dirty as it was, it was totally worth having the opportunity to paint completely behind the baseboard where no paint brush had ever reached. Saving the last 1/4″ of paint in the Venetian Gold paint can paid off (although know that what you’re seein’ here is a true “before,” taken just after I had all of the pieces removed).
Once all of the pieces were off, I loaded them onto the driveway onto sawhorses for their overhaul. Not shown, this next picture is definitely another “before” shot, I spray painted the face of each piece with crisp white enamel spray paint in an effort to blend into the rest of the baseboard trim. (Side note: I picked up some normal spray paint in light gray initially with hopes to use the lightest of the shades, but nothing I found was what I was going for, I only found medium grays. Does no one make a super-super-light gray paint?)
Three very light coats of spray paint over the course of a day (and drying outdoors overnight) left me with a very new looking system. I won’t delve into the reinstallation process, it’s exactly the opposite as your uninstallation process, but the end results were exceptional, especially nice against the new kitchen floor, with the gold paint extending behind it cleanly.
And here’s one of those unfortunate moments where the updated piece looks so new that the rest of the previous white trim looks deplorable.
Easy. And markably less expensive that replacing the unit entirely. If yours are looking dingy, I’d say you should give it a try, especially with springtime right around the corner, you won’t be needing to use that heater and you’ll be able to paint outside comfortably. Double whammy.