5 Ideas from HVAC Experts on Painting Ductwork

By Dan Kalman

Exposed ductwork and high ceilings are the new trends for those who love the industrial look. On the other hand, some new homeowners or apartment dwellers find the industry look distasteful.

Whatever brought you to this article, there’s something for anyone who would like to spruce up the exposed ductwork in their home. For those who dislike the raw look, the main options are choosing to hide or highlight the ductwork with paint.

Ductwork, also known as a “duct system,” is a configuration of tubes that carry air to your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. The duct system enables temperature control while simultaneously moving stale air throughout the space, which helps homeowners avoid issues associated with stale air (e.g., respiratory ailments).

Clean Your Ductwork

Showcasing the ducts and pipes as bare, but clean, is the most common approach to dealing with exposed ductwork. Not only does it give your space an industrial look, it’s also the easiest approach.

It creates a raw and natural vibe. Cleaning is also the first step for anyone considering painting the ductwork. It’s important that you clean any surface area before painting so that no particles are caught in the paint job.

Paint Your Ductwork the Color of the Ceiling

If your ceiling is white you should consider painting the ductwork the same color, so that it blends into the surrounding area. This also works if the ductwork overlaps a wall, in which case the ductwork can be painted to replicate the wall.

If your ceiling is made of brick or raw wood consider bringing home some paint chips or swatches to try and match the most dominant shade to make that ductwork visually disappear.

Paint Your Ductwork an Eye-Catching Color

Another option for those who want to highlight their ductwork would be to paint the exposed hardware a bright color. This is the opposite approach to hiding the ductwork, but when done correctly, it can bring an extra flare to the space.

In a way, this camouflages the tubes while also adding something interesting to the room. Painting your ductwork a bright color is pleasing to the eye without being overwhelming, like an accent wall in a small space.

Paint Your Galvanized Ductwork

When painting galvanized ductwork, it’s best to use latex paint. Galvanized steel is created by dipping metal in zinc, which develops a rust-resistant metal. Like any other type of ductwork, it will need to be cleaned thoroughly before any painting occurs.

The zinc is also very reactive, and zinc oxidation creates dust that needs to be removed. Some ductwork can be cleaned with microfiber cloths or soap and water, while others will need something stronger, such as vinegar or even phosphoric acid.

Decide Between Paint Brush, Foam Roller, or Spray Paint

If your ducts are located in an out-of-the-way area, it’s probably okay to use a paintbrush. However, if your ducts are in a prominent area, spray paint will look better on your duct system.

It’s also important to prime the metal with an acrylic latex metal primer when using latex paint. If the ducts get hot, use a heat-resistant primer. For the spray paint look in a tight space, a foam roller can also get the job done.


First, decide whether or not you want your hide or highlight your ductwork. This will help you decide whether you should leave it au natural, camouflaged like a ceiling or wall, or paint it an eye-catching color.

Then, determine what material was used to make your duct system. If you can’t tell on your own, it’s possible to ask your HVAC specialist during your system’s next routine check-up to see if they can help you determine whether or not the duct is galvanized metal

After you figure out what material your system is made from, you can decide if you want the spray paint look or if a paintbrush or roller will do the job.

If you’re experiencing any HVAC issues outside of your duct system’s appearance, consider checking out Lee Company, a Tennessee-based home and facility solutions business, online at www.leecompany.com.

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