• Home
  • Finding the Right Registers and Vents for Your Home | House of Antique Hardware

How to Choose Registers and Grilles for Your Home

A decorative resin grille makes an attractive cover for an unsightly radiator. 

Located in each and every room, vent covers are an essential element of your home. If you still have the boring beige registers of days gone by, it may be time for an upgrade. Although their function is purely utilitarian, today’s registers can be a thing of beauty. Crafted in an array of elegant styles and materials, they are the finishing touch to a well-designed space.  

Replacing registers and grilles is one of the simplest DIY projects around. Just follow the steps below to find the right solutions for vent covers throughout your home. 


Start by examining the requirements of each vent type and location. A forced air vent for heat or AC needs a louvered register that can be closed off, while a return air vent must always remain open. If the vent is located on the wall or ceiling, the grille should be lightweight and attach with screws. If it is on the floor the material must be sturdy and weight bearing. Read on to help navigate the many options for function, material, and installation of registers and grilles. ​​​​​​​

Floor Mounted Registers

Floor registers have been the go-to choice for most homes over the past hundred years. Designed in the 1930s to accommodate the newly invented forced air furnace, they are equipped with an adjustable louver to regulate the temperature in a room. The louver is a series of steel slats mounted to the back of the grille. It may be opened wide for maximum air flow, angled to direct air towards the center of the room, or closed altogether.  

Since registers may be stepped on, they must be constructed of sturdy materials such as brass, steel, iron, or bronze. Installation is a breeze - simply drop them into place, no tools needed! 

Baseboard Registers

From the 1880s through the 1940s, gravity furnaces were a popular means of heating American homes. Without a blower, the heat simply rose by induction thought the ductwork and seeped into a room via the registers. Typically mounted to the wall at baseboard level, these registers are equipped with a damper rather than a louver to regulate the flow of heat. As one duct often opened into two rooms, the damper also offered a bit of privacy by blocking sound. 

Replacements for worn or missing baseboard registers can be especially hard to find. Our mission style register is a faithful reproduction of an antique original that will suit most older homes.

Return Air Grilles and Non-Louvered Vent Covers

Return air grilles are not louvered so air from a room can be drawn into the furnace, where it is heated and recirculated through the rest of the house. If your return vents are located on the floor, the grille cover must be made of sturdy, walkable materials such as brass, bronze, or iron. Look for grilles that are clearly labeled for floor use.  

If your return vents are on the wall, or your ducts are not easily accessible (e.g., high on the wall or ceiling), then our decorative non-louvered grilles are an ideal solution. Made of lightweight resin, they are easy to attach to vertical or overhead surfaces with screws. These grilles come in several metallic finishes but may be painted to match the surrounding surface.


Registers and vents are ordered by their “boot” size rather than their frontal dimension. The boot is simply the opening in the wall or floor that the item will cover. The rear-projecting louver box (or flange in the case of non-louvered registers and vents) is seated in the boot and the facing side extends an inch or two beyond the opening like a picture frame. 

Remove the existng unit and measure the opening in the floor or wall.  This is known as the "boot" size, which is the dimension needed to order your new register or grille. 


Gone are the days of boring beige registers as your only option. With styles today ranging from Gothic Revival to Mid-Century Modern, you can opt for opulent or understated, old-world or avant-garde - the choice is yours! When selecting a finish there are several ways to go. You can coordinate with other metal finishes in the space, such as hardware, appliances, or lighting. You can blend it with the color of the floor, whether it is wood, carpet, or tile. Or you can choose a stand-alone finish to draw attention to the design. 

Registers come in a wide range of decorative styles and popular metal finishes. 

Find Decorative Floor Registers and More at House of Antique Hardware

If you have questions about choosing the right registers and grilles for your home, our Hardware Specialists are ready to help. Just call 888-223-2545. 

A decorative resin grille is a beautiful alternative to a plain louvered vent cover.