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Exposed Ductwork — A Key Interior Design Trend

Ductwork has made quite the turnaround in recent years.


With interior design trending toward more industrial designs, ductwork that was once tucked away above drop ceiling panels has turned into an integral part of both commercial and residential spaces. Rather than trying to hide elements that clearly make homes or buildings function, the industrial look spotlights them.


Large metal support beams and spanning exposed HVAC ductwork are not just tolerated: they’re welcomed as key elements of the space. What was once seen as just a commercial trend has infiltrated the residential space as well.


Exposed ductwork started to grow in popularity early in the 2010s, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. So, how can you jump on the train and spruce up your home or building? Let’s walk through all the common questions with exposed ductwork and where to get it:


How to Make Exposed Ductwork Look Good?

While every space is unique, there are a few ways to adapt your exposed ductwork to fit the space both functionally and stylistically.


For example, a rustic, industrial space packed with distressed wood and original brick could benefit from ductwork that looks a bit more worn down. A bright, shiny stretch of ductwork could look fairly out of place in an environment that is much more natural in tone. Though, you may be looking for a bright spot to draw more attention to it.


Similarly, a more modern space with contemporary features might lend itself well to bright, polished, or even painted ductwork to coincide with the space. It’s all about that idea in your brain that you’re trying to replicate.


How to Paint Exposed Ductwork?

If you’re looking to blend your ductwork in with the ceiling or walls, painting is the way to go. However, due to ductwork being dipped in zinc to make it rust-resistant, you can’t just skip right to painting. The zinc oxidation won’t allow your paint to properly adhere to the surface.


So, the first step is to remove that layer. You can use a rag moistened with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol to remove any greasy or oily spots. Next, use a rag wet with white vinegar. As a mild acid, vinegar will etch that zinc coating to help with the paint adherence.


Now, prime the ducting with an acrylic latex metal primer. You can use a synthetic bristle brush or aerosol spray. Remember, if you are spray painting be sure to wear protective clothing, goggles, and a respirator. Also, be sure to cover anything in the room that you wouldn’t want to get a little paint on. If your ductwork has the potential to get hot, you’ll want to use a primer that has a high-heat resistance.


After the primer dries for two hours, you can move on to using acrylic latex paint. Again, you can use either a brush or spray it, but if you are spray painting, be sure to follow the safety measures we mentioned before.


Whether you want to stay simple with white or black paint, or spice it up with a bright tone, that decision is up to you.


Is Exposed Ductwork More Expensive?

This is a great question. Why? Because the answer is both yes and no.


Generally, exposed ductwork uses spiral ductwork since it’s more visually appealing than its rectangular counterpart. But, the spiral option is more expensive than the rectangular ductwork. So, in that sense, it is more expensive, but that’s before you get to the cost of working on covered ductwork.


Hidden ducts are much harder to reach, which can increase labor costs. You likely won’t be billed for a higher rate when it comes to hidden ducts, but the installation will likely take longer, meaning a higher overall cost.


Where to Buy Exposed Ductwork?

Here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: where do I actually buy this stuff? If you’re a contractor or a property owner looking for ductwork, finding high-quality ducting that actually fits your specific job can be a pain.


Luckily, the Greater Wisconsin Sheet Metal team grinds out custom ductwork solutions daily. Our combination of cutting, forming, and spooling technologies and experienced sheet metal professionals can handle the most complicated requests.


To check out our range of sheet metal technologies, check out our capabilities.


Already sold? Reach out via our Contact Us form to get your project started today!


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