DIY: Making an Opaque Fire Screen to Hide An Ugly Heat Register

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The heat register/fireplace before the screen.

 

In many ways, our apartment gives me warm and fuzzy feelings. It has a lot of late 1920’s charm still, and it feels more like a home than any of my other apartments. And in some ways, I wish we owned the place so I could make some big changes (like adding a second bathroom someday). But the one thing that routinely made me cringe when I walked in the door was our fireplace. I was determined to find a way to make it sing instead.

Our fireplace was converted long ago, and the person doing the conversion chose to put in a gas heat register. I’m sure there were very good reasons for this, including air quality restrictions in Los Angeles and the availability of ventilation for the unit. It’s also a great unit for heating the front rooms of this very long apartment. Alas, not only has the unit not been useful for us, but the huge cover made it a pretty ugly focal point. Every time I saw it, I wished I was more artistic because I was convinced there was an artsy/creative way to make it all better.

Finally, we figured out that if we could just find a fireplace screen that was opaque and tall/wide enough, we could at least make it more attractive, even if we couldn’t necessarily afford to make it a show-stopping piece of artistic expression.

We started by getting this screen from Wayfair.com.

 

fireplace screen
What the screen looked like without the alterations.

 

The screen came in at around $79. It was tall enough, and the middle panel was just wide enough that we could easily make it hug the unit. The problem? It wasn’t opaque. In fact, that was the problem with even the Tiffany ones we tried. So, we had more work to do to truly cover the heating the unit.

We decided the best plan was to add a heavy canvas covering to the back of the fireplace screen. Please note that this is a heating unit that is not working – never add fabric to anything that touches elements that get very hot.

We marched off to our nearby JoAnn’s and began the process of choosing a piece of fabric that wasn’t a fortune, that would blend with the palette already presented on the screen, and that would be fully opaque. Andy found our winner! It’s an olive tan duck cloth that doesn’t wrinkle easily (important for transport) and was sturdy enough that it could handle the industrial glue we would need to attach it to the screen. It also worked well with the patina on parts of the screen.

 

Canvass from JoAnn’s

 

Once we got it home, we began the assembly phase. I’ve broken this down into materials and the processes that we tried, should you want to hide a non-functioning fireplace/heating unit, too.

Materials:

  1. Fireplace screen that covers the decommissioned fireplace hole or heating unit.
  2. 2 yards of duck cloth/canvas fabric (or however much you need to cover the back of your screen).
  3. E6000 industrial strength adhesive (transparent) or other glue that will bind fabric and metal
  4. Sharp scissors
  5. Binder clips, books or other weights
  6. Rubber gloves

 

Process:

  1. Lay the screen flat on the floor with the back side facing up.
  2. Cut the fabric to fit the solid frame of the screen. *The first time I did this, I had extra fabric so that the clips would grip the edges tightly and the fabric would be taut. This ended up being a mistake because the glue spread, and it made trimming the fabric very difficult. Lesson learned! My fabric cuts for the middle panel were much more precise with no trimming necessary after the glue had hardened.
  3. Lay down the glue along the edges of the frame and then carefully roll the fabric down along the glue. Rolling makes it easier to get out the wrinkles and to make sure the fabric is on straight.
  4. Either add binder clips to the edges to tightly pull and hold the fabric in place as it dries, or grab some very heavy books and lay them down on top of the edges. If you use books, be sure to pull the fabric tightly as you put them down, and try to avoid putting the covers close the edges, just in case the glue spreads and leaks (you don’t want to damage your books).
    Adding binder clips to hold the fabric tight (books and a tighter cut worked better on the middle panel).

     

  5. Allow several hours for drying time before checking to see if the fabric is holding. We left ours overnight, folded in on itself, before removing any of the weights/clips. You can do all the panels at once, or you can test out a panel at a time to see which methods will work best for you.

 

And voila! The next day, we had a screen that was opaque and transformed our once very ugly fireplace into a focal point we would enjoy having. Now, we can start sprucing up the mantel!

 

Final fireplace screen. Now we just need to spruce up our mantel!

 

If you try this approach or have come up with other creative solutions, I would love to see them!

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