Wednesday, December 03rd, 2008 | Author:

So my 1 year old decided to start playing with the air vents recently… I had never even thought about these vents before she got into them.  Essentially they were just held there by gravity so she could easily just lift them out and then throw stuff down that hole.  I think we lost a tennis ball somewhere into the HVAC system…  So I decided it was time to babyproof them… here are the steps with some pictures to help…

Tools & Supplies:

  1. Drill
  2. Assorted drill bits
  3. Vent Covers
  4. Screws
  5. Hot Glue Gun
  6. Countersink bit
  7. Screen Replacement Material


  1. Purchase some new vent covers (I had to do this step b/c my wife wanted new pretty vent covers… you can skip this one unless your wife also wants new pretty vent covers…)    Make sure that if you’re buying something that you get something sturdy.  I don’t think the all-plastic models would hold up well.  I ended up with the 4″x10″ covers from lowes.  The inside part is plastic but the whole top was solid metal which seemed fine to me.  
  2. Buy some replacement screen material something like this from Lowes works just fine.
  3. Buy the screws you want.  Now I wanted something that looked decent, but I couldn’t find anything at Lowes.  I went to a small hardware store down the road and found some antique black cabinetry screws with a square drive.  PERFECT!
  4. Depending on the screws you get you may also need a countersink bit for your drill (if you got a metal vent in step #1, make sure that the countersink bit you get works for metal too!)
  5. Fit the vent into the hole and decide where you need to drill so that you will hit the floorboard surrounding the vent.  Some of these vent holes look like they were cut with a chainsaw, so make sure that you’re going to be drilling into something.  I reccomend looking at each of the holes individually because the guy cutting them was not only using a chainsaw, but was also hammered.
  6. Decide on the placement and then drill a hole for the screw… pick you drill bit size very carefully.  WIth the screws I chose if I made the hole big enough for the thread then the head of the screw could almost slip through.  *BUT* the metal was too thick on the top of the vent to thread the screw through like you would normally…  The solution?   Countersink both sides of the hole so that it makes an hourglass shaped hole for the screw to easily thread throught but still allow the head to have good purchase.  
  7. Now cut a piece of the screen to fit the bottom part of the register.  You want to make this long enough so that it will loop over the slats when you open the vent.  Once you have this sized properly cut it out and just hot glue it in place.  (3 globs of glue on each side was good enough for me.)
  8. Let the glue set for a bit and then go drill the floor boards and screw them down!
  9. Ta-Da!
Category: Home Projects
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23 Responses

  1. 1

    thank you so much for sharing this! My son was obsessed with taking our vent covers out of the floor. He took one out last year that we hadn’t noticed and he then proceeded to run and tripped in the hole in the floor and then sliced his foot open on the sharp edge of the heating duct.

  2. 2

    Yikes! I hope it helps! It was one of those things I never thought about until having children. I guess I always knew that they were never secured, but I didn’t realize that was an issue until my daughter continually pulled them up and deposited various items down them. 🙂

  3. 3
    Talia Green 

    do you have carpet where any of your vents are located? Our house is mostly carpeted and I’m wondering if this will work, maybe if I get long enough screws…

  4. 4

    Yeah, carpet is under several of them and it is no problem. The screws that I were using were about 1.5″ and that is more than enough to make it down to the subfloor. The only think to pay attention to when doing them on carpet is not to overtighten the screws. You’ll just snug the vent down too far and it will just sit lower than your carpet and look weird. So just snug it up to where it looks good and isn’t crushing the carpet too much and you’ll be good!

  5. 5

    THANK YOU! Googled on this topic and found your post. Nice detailed directions and a great idea! When we moved to the new house my 3 year old understood not to pull them out (after a few weeks of nagging on my part). His little brother (currently 9 months) however, is another story! This is a great solution!

  6. 6

    Glad it could help! 🙂

  7. 7

    Thanks mate, loved the “the guy cutting them was not only using a chainsaw, but was also hammered” line is hilarious, could not stop laughing when I read that, good advice about the vents too!

  8. 8

    I wish I had taken some pictures of the holes, they were terrible. Glad you enjoyed it and hope it helped!

  9. 9

    Thank you for posting this. I can’t believe they don’t have anything for babyproofing vent covers. I have 21 month old triplets that LOVE to lift off the covers and throw things down them…including their limbs! I just emailed your link to my husband…another thing to add to his honey do list! Thanks again!

  10. 10

    I bought an air return vent cover (was $2.50 at Lowe’s) with screw holes. Screwed it in over carpet into the floorboards and it worked perfectly. My 2 year old was also messing with the venting part, so this took care of both problems. You cannot stop the airflow, so if that is a concern, this solution is not for you. Otherwise, a VERY easy cheap solution.

  11. 11

    Hi Cindy, when I was looking I couldn’t find any with screw holes. I was also interested in putting the mesh on the back to stop the kids from depositing treasures into the ducts too. heh…

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that had this issue though. heh

  12. 12

    Thanks SO Much Blain! like most here, my son would take the covers off and actually stand in it!!! Worried me that he might fall through.. thanks so much friends and Merry Christmas! Clint in Colorado

  13. 13

    We have twin 15-month-old toddlers so our son likes to pull up the vent, run away with it, play in the hole and once he threw a ball pit ball in it but I was able to recover it. Your fix would solve that issue I think (tile floors). However, our daughter likes to pee here – we are doing diaper free potty training so we are keeping them to tile floors only for now. We have an open floor plan so not easy to baby gate around. It’d be nice if there was a retractable cover option for these? It’d be easier to deal with the pee.

  14. 14
    Heidi P. 

    THANK you. I am so done with my 2 yr old doing this. He’s been doing it since he was 6 months! If you find any more vents that need it, would you be able to make & post a video of how it all goes? Thanks :).
    Oh, and our vent holes were cut by someone who was hammered and using a chainsaw too. 🙁

  15. 15
    Michelle Myers 

    Youre my hero!

  16. 16

    I’m having a similar issue, except with my kitten. She’s moving the vents and jumping down the hole. My floor is fake hardwood (like the tile stuff people get when they are too cheap for the real) and my landlady put it in, and didn’t make holes for the vents. It’s really tough to drill through, and I can’t seem to get anywhere with it. Any advice? I dont want my cat getting stuck in the air ducts 🙁

  17. 17

    hahaha, that’s great. If you can’t screw into the floor well and you have enough overlap on the vents you could probably just do something like some good velcro to hold it down as well. I’m a big fan of the 3M dual lock velcro. It is great stuff. That would definitely hold it in place securely.

  18. 18

    I just actually moved into a new house so I may need to do this all over again. I’m debating whether it makes more sense to screw it in or just try to fasten it securely with some high strength velcro (something like the 3m double lock I just recommended to someone else : I may have to experiment some more.

  19. Thank you so much for this. We CANNOT keep our two youngest toddlers out of the vents! They constantly throw toys, cups and anything else down into the holes. It’s getting very frustrating, not to mention dangerous because the metal work is so sharp inside. Will be trying this TODAY!

  20. 20
    Trish Nelson 

    Thank you so much! I have a floor vent between my dinning room and family room. It’s an odd place but I think that is because the family room is a add on to the house. My son is only 9 months old now but I’ve been looking at it thinking that one day we’ll have problems. I can see Legos getting dropped in this vent and other small things in the future, plus even more problems once he figures out how to take the vent out. This will fix both problems! Great idea!

  21. 21

    Thank you! Fabulous details, images, and links on this post. Found you through a Google search—great public service here!

  22. 22

    Thank you for this. We have a newly built house and I was surprised how hard it was to find floor registers with screw holes these days. So now my kids are safe, but I have one more Question: anybody added wire mesh underneath the register to keep Legos and other small things out? Any reason I can’t do this? Anyone who has done this — tips?

  23. 23

    Hey Mary, if you look at the pictures I added some material from a screen in a loop under the register to catch all the legos and everything else. That was one of the major goals of doing this!

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