My house was built in the 50s and I believe the baseboard radiators are original. We just bought the house and I went to go clean them. I realized most of them are rusty and painted over making them really hard to open and clean. My intention was going to be to replace them with one of those modern covers however mine open up in a way that I can't seem to find any reference to on the internet. Has anyone ever seen a baseboard radiator like this. How that I'm cutting them all open are there other options I can consider for upgrading.

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When I had it open the inside said Tuttle and Bailey.

As you can see when you open these up the whole thing comes off. There is a groove along the top that you slide it into and then it clamps into the clips screwed into the wall. The ones that I see can be modernized with a cover and usually still have the top attached near the slats while the front cover just comes off. Those also look a lot easier to clean.

Does anybody have any guidance on how I could replace these with more maintainable and aesthetically pleasing options.

  • You can buy new hot water baseboard units. What is your fuel source for the hot water? I would not replace natural gas, for instance, with electric.
    – SteveSh
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 12:00

3 Answers 3


Can't tell from looking at the picture you posted but it looks like a finned tube hot water baseboard unit. Do you heat your house with a hot water boiler and if not can you elaborate. If I am right and that is a hot water unit, the installer recessed the enclosure into the wall and mounted it directly onto the wall studs. I never liked that type of installation and would prefer the unit to be mounted on top of the finished wall.

Finned tube baseboard has aluminum fins, usually 4-5 per inch slid on a copper tube. Looking at the picture it looks like the fins could use a good cleaning with a shop vac and a very soft brush. The fins are very delicate and sharp so be careful. As far as the outer cover you could refinish as you wish. As far as replacing them, that would be a major project probably left to an HVAC company.

  • I think the finned units are just mounted to the surface of the wall, though it's hard to tell for sure without a better picture. At least that's the way they were mounted in my house (mid 50's construction). And I agree that it's probably a hydronic (hot water) system.
    – SteveSh
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 12:50
  • You are probably correct. It is forced hot water. I was opening it up to clean it because it definitely needed a good cleaning. I didn't know that they could install them recessed like that I guess I can talk to some HVAC companies to better understand my options. Thank you for the insight.
    – Nick Nack
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 21:32
  • I'm pretty sure the fuel source for the boiler is gas.
    – Nick Nack
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 21:49

Baseboard heaters are typically pretty cheap for a unit.

A 1000W 48" is less than $50 - is it really worth cleaning and trying to find a new cover for something at that cost?


This almost looks like a cast iron louvered vent assembly covering a forced air duct. You said "baseboard radiator" not "baseboard heater" which is it? Your picture is pretty bad, you should consider taking a closer up one.

If it's an actual electric baseboard heater than replace the entire thing as was said.

But if it's a "water/oil/whatever" fed heater, or the heater isn't simply mounted on the wall but dug into the wall, or something else strange, then BEWARE!!! There be dragons here!!! You won't EVER get a replacement that fits in the hole and matches or links up properly.

Now if it's a forced air cover then back "in the olden days" there were a plethora of different openings for vent covers I have seen many different shapes and sizes of them in recycle/rebuilding supply houses that serve old homes. I've seen vent covers that look like that. They also used to LOVE using square pipe for the laterals and such that connects to NOTHING modern. But you WON'T find a "modern/aesthetically pleasing" (whatever that means) replacement. And if those are cast iron vent covers then you better treat them like glass because if you ever crack one by accident you will be really up the creek. Those old 50's forced air vents often were wrapped with asbestos and attempting to jack around with them to force some modern 3x6 cover and ducting from the big box store on them can cause a whole lot of trouble.

Welcome to the joys of owning an old home. One thing you better learn right now is NEVER to discard or attempt to replace any part of the house until you have secured a replacement. You may also find yourself scanning Ebay for parts for the house.

Please elaborate on what you have in this house. And also check for aluminum wiring it was used for a time in the 50's.

  • It's forces hot water going through the pipes. I apologize if I am using the wrong terms. All new to me..also can you elaborate on how to check if I have aluminum wiring.
    – Nick Nack
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 4:41

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