Heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts and plumbing pipes play a vital role in keeping your home running smoothly, but these elements can put a serious damper on your style when they're left exposed. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to hide HVAC ducts and pipes from view, and many can be installed by handy homeowners over the course of a single weekend.
Soffits and Tray Ceilings
If your pipes run along one of the walls near the ceiling line, you may be able to enclose them with a simple soffit, which resembles a box built around the duct or pipe. They are framed just like walls using two-by-fours and enclosed with drywall or plywood. If you have pipes or ducts running along multiple ceiling areas, consider a tray ceiling, which drops down around the edges of the room to hide pipes and ducts but remains high in the center for height and openness. Use crown or other molding to help dress up the tray ceiling and improve the appearance of transitions. Multilevel ceilings and soffits not only serve a functional purpose by hiding unwanted elements, but they also play a role in interior design by creating depth and texture, adding intimacy and helping to define areas or zones within a room.
A wall chase works just like a soffit but conceals pipes and ducts running down a wall rather than across a ceiling. Frame these simple boxes using two-by-fours, attach it to the existing wall, then cover it with drywall and apply paint so the structure blends into the surrounding wall surface.
Suspended or drop ceilings sit below the floor framing above, concealing pipes, ducts and other elements. These ceilings consist of a metal grid suspended using thin metal wires. Acoustic ceiling tiles sit within the grid to hide HVAC ducts, along with plumbing equipment. The tiles can easily be removed for future access to this equipment for maintenance, repairs and replacement.
Exposed wooden beams and timbers add classic charm to the home. Many companies make faux wood beams from heavy plastics for homes without exposed framing. Because these faux beams are hollow, they can be placed directly over pipes or a duct line to hide it from view while adding style to your space.
If you don't want to lose ceiling height by adding soffits or drop ceilings, or you don't like the look of faux beams, consider painting ducts and pipes to help them blend in to your ceiling. The National Association of Realtors recommends using dark-colored, flat paints on HVAC and plumbing equipment, as well as the ceiling itself, to keep the eye from being drawn to these exposed elements. If you have an industrial or modern-style decor, you may wish to simply incorporate pipes and ductwork into your design. Paint pipes black or the color of your choice and consider switching rectangular ducts for more attractive spiral or round units.