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4 Ways to Hide Ductwork (With Pictures)

While ductwork is important for proper air ventilation, it can be an eyesore in a home if visible. Happily, there are some effective and attractive ways to hide this ductwork.

Hiding ductwork:
  • Install drop ceiling
  • Use a bulkhead
  • Camouflage with TJIs
  • Paint the ducts

1. Install Drop Ceilings

A drop ceiling is essentially a secondary layer of ceiling tiles extending from the main ceiling in a room.

Gray square duct installed in a drop ceiling with ceiling tiles missing.

They can be a great solution for hiding ductwork because their main purpose is to cover things such as wiring, plumbing, and ducts that can interfere with the aesthetic of a room.

There are a wide variety of styles available for drop ceilings, and many different materials, including foam (amazon link) and PVC (amazon link), can be used for the tiles and panels.

Art3d PVC Ceiling Tiles, 2'x2' Plastic Sheet in White (12-Pack)

In addition, a large range of different sizes of ceiling tiles is offered, so unless you have the most exacting taste, you are guaranteed to find a drop ceiling look that appeals to you and suits your aesthetic.

Typically, drop ceilings cover the entire ceiling with gridwork that spans the entire room and the ceiling tiles are placed in this grid.

However, they can also be custom-made into more unique and non-uniform shapes.

It’s important to keep in mind that installing a drop ceiling can be done as a do-it-yourself project. It is fairly simple, and there are several resources and guides online to help you through the process, like the following video.

In addition, there are requirements for how far down a drop ceiling can go. These requirements depend on what room the drop ceiling will be in, as well as if there are any ceiling fans or light fixtures.

If you plan to install drop ceilings, I recommend doing careful research on the building codes in your location to ensure that they will comply with standards.

Pros and Cons of Drop Ceiling Concealment

Drop ceilings can be added to most homesSome materials and styles can be expensive
There are many style options to choose fromDrop ceilings often make the room feel smaller
They can be installed around existing ceiling fixturesThey require careful research and planning
They don’t require a lot of maintenance
Drop ceilings can be installed DIY

2. Hide the Ducts With a Bulkhead

Similar to a drop ceiling, a bulkhead is another type of secondary attachment to the main ceiling in a room. It is an enclosure used to cover wiring, pipes, and other parts of a home’s infrastructure, including ductwork.

Illustration of a modern kitchen with a kitchen island, range hood, oven and a bulkhead to hide the duct

The main difference between a bulkhead and a drop ceiling is the shape. A bulkhead is used more commonly to only cover part of a ceiling, while a drop ceiling will typically conceal the entire thing.

Bulkheads can be made using a large variety of materials. Wood pilings and sheeting, vinyl, steel, aluminum, and composite materials are several of the options available.

There are also a lot of options for bulkhead styles. Here, I will describe several types of styles which bulkheads can be installed in.

First, one of the more common styles of bulkheads is attached along the perimeter of a room. This style looks great with light fixtures added to it.

For ductwork that comes down from the ceiling in the center of a room, a bulkhead can also be built around it. These can be box-shaped, half sphere-shaped, and more.

If you like the look of rafters in a home, bulkheads can even be installed to mimic that style.

Finally, there are many special and unique designs that bulkheads can have to function doubly as decorative pieces. This includes curves, double step styles, light trough fixtures, and more.

Pros and Cons of Bulkhead Concealment

Bulkheads can be added to most homesMore expensive if added to an existing home
There are many style options to choose fromSome bulkhead styles are outdated
Can contain air vents and light fixturesMore easily damaged due to hollow insides
Bulkheads are watertight
Bulkheads can be installed DIY

3. Try TJIs Instead of Bulkheads

TJI is an acronym that stands for trust joist i-joist. Joists are collections of beams that run horizontally across a ceiling.

Illustration of a metal duct hidden using a wooden Truss joist I-Joist (TJI)

While bulkheads enclose ducts to conceal them, TJIs are better for hiding ducts in plain sight. TJIs run perpendicular to ducts, keeping them visible but surrounding them and making them appear more natural.

TJIs are most commonly built using various kinds of lumber. There aren’t a ton of opportunities for variation in style other than the type of wood you use because the structure can’t be changed very much.

While the other options we have discussed are possible to do yourself, installing TJIs is a much more advanced project that should be left to a professional.

There are, however, several things to watch out for when installing TJI joists. Protection from moisture, proper hole cutting, ability to withstand a heavy load, and extensive planning are necessary for a smooth installation process.

Pros and Cons of TJI Concealment

Blends ducts into the existing ceiling structureTJIs are an expensive and time-consuming build
TJIs are highly structured and uniformNot many different style options
TJIs offer a lot of support You will need a professional to install them
Made up of natural lumber Many things can go wrong with installation
Ducts can still be visible

4. Paint the Ducts

If you are looking to hide ductwork, it’s probably located in a living area, like the bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. This means that it’s in the building’s envelope and doesn’t require insulation. And this means that it can be painted.

Illustration of a black painted exposed ducts above a modern kitchen with a marble kitchen island, refrigerator and cupboards

It is recommended to use latex-based paint on ducts made of galvanized steel. The ductwork should also be painted with a latex primer before you begin painting.

You can paint with a paintbrush or a can of spray paint, but keep in mind that it is easier to make mistakes with a paintbrush.

In addition, spray paint typically allows for a smoother finish, although it is harder to protect the surrounding areas, like the ceiling.

When it comes to the aesthetics of painted ductwork, you can choose to either conceal or highlight the ductwork.

A neutral paint color similar to the paint color of your ceiling and walls will work best for helping the ductwork blend in. If your ceiling has rafters, you can paint them to mimic the rafters and blend in better.

On the other hand, you can paint your ducts with a bright pop of color to add to the style of the room, creating an effect similar to that of an accent wall.

Before painting your ductwork, it’s important to clean them with soap, vinegar, a microfiber cloth, or any method that allows you to remove dust to ensure the best-looking paint job.

Pros and Cons of Drop Ceiling Concealment

The overall cost is fairly lowThe finished product may not look good
You can conceal or highlight the ductworkPainting and repainting can be time consuming
Painting ductwork is a very simple processPaint won’t stick if using the wrong type
You can paint over mistakes or repaint Inadequate cleaning can result in bumps in paint


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