It's a sad fact that old radiators can be a bit of an eyesore. If you get to the point where you can't stand the sight of them, you might think about covering them up with off-the-shelf paneling.
Of course, those of us with a talent for DIY might consider making their own. But experts advise a little caution.
"If you want the cladding to look good, you are going to need the right tools for the job," says Michael Pommer from Cologne's DIY Academy in Germany.
Wood or metal?
The choice of material is crucial, and right at the start of the planning stage, you'll need to decide whether you want to use wood or metal. Wood does not conduct heat very well but can be worked on more easily by hobby craftsmen and colored relatively easily. Anyone who wants to use wood should opt for multiplex boards. Although this is more expensive than other wood, it won't warp when heated. Another advantage of wood over other materials is that you can have it cut to the dimensions you want at the DIY store.
With metal, this is a little more complicated. "It is not as easy to process as wood," Pommer points out. There are however some DIY stores that will also cut metal for you. If you can't find one in your area, it probably makes sense to buy ready-made metal cladding.
An exact fit
Before you start it's important to measure the depth, width and height of the radiator, and add a few centimeters in all directions to ensure that the cladding sits loosely over the heater.
"Up and down, 15 centimeters more are recommended," explains heating expert Matthias Wagnitz. There should be at least as much distance to the front as between the radiator and the wall.
In addition, space must be left for the pipes and, if possible, also for the temperature controller. This should of course be easy to reach, but you could hide it under the cladding by installing a wireless remote sensor to regulate the heating.
Waste of energy
However, Wagnitz is not a fan of radiator covers because they are not energy efficient. "It is inevitable that the room will not be heated as well as it would be without paneling," he says.
This is because the cladding hinders the rapid and even distribution of the heat into the room. The expert advises to at least consider having new – and therefore nicer – radiators installed as an alternative.
If you do decide to use a covering you should also make sure that the front has many holes so that as much of the heat as possible can escape through it into the room. This can be done with wooden grilles, curtains, or wickerwork, for example.
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