What Is a Wall Grate?

B. Turner
B. Turner
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A wall grate is an architectural element that serves as an air vent or grill in the walls of a building. These grates come in a wide variety of materials, including metal, plastic, and wood. They are also available in a range of sizes, from the oversized models popular in historical structures to the smaller units used today. A wall grate often fills both a functional and aesthetic role within the home, allowing air to enter or exit a room, while also serving as a decorative focal point. These grates also keep pests and debris out of the home, while giving walls a cleaner and more appealing finish.

Functionally, wall grates are an alternative to floor or ceiling grates. They can act as either supply or return vents within the home's heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. Some allow heated or cooled air from ducts to enter the room, while others take in stale air and exhaust it to the outdoors. When used below a porch or in the attic of a home, a wall grate may simply serve as ventilation to the outdoors. Some homeowners hang decorative wall grates on the wall as a form of art, and the grate serves no functional purpose at all.

Older wall grate models consisted of openings cut or stamped into a sheet or metal. Modern units often feature fins or angled openings, which direct airflow. A modern wall grate may also be operational, allowing homeowners to completely shut off airflow at the flick of a switch, while antique models rarely feature this type of operation. The majority of wall grates in used today are made from plastic or aluminum, as older iron or steel models are fairly expensive.

The wall grate can vary in shape and size, depending on the application, and also on when it was constructed. Modern units feature a square or rectangular design, and are relatively small. Older wall grates may be square or rectangular, but many were also arched or even round. Some antique wall grates are also extremely large, and were often half as tall as the wall they were placed in.

Antique wall grates are highly sought after by antique collectors and people involved in historic preservation work. Those trying to restore an old home may spend a great deal of time locating a wall grate that features the correct size and design of the period. Others seek out these old iron or copper grates for their decorative appeal. Many featured elaborate scroll work in patterns like swirls and scales. Others feature decorative banding around a more simple grate.

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