HVAC Baseboard heater

Published on September 16th, 2018 | by Henri

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Drywall missing behind baseboard heaters

Q.  Our ’60s vintage house has baseboard convectors on a hot water system.  They collect a lot of dust in the closely spaced fins. I finally thought of the proper tool to clean between them: Foot-long gaily colored pipe cleaners from a novelty store. Long enough to stick behind the convector, flexible, and fluffy to catch the dust. Cheap and reusable, too.

But, the reason I was cleaning that convector was to take it apart and repaint it. In this system, there is a backing piece of sheet metal that is flush against the wall. When I removed the screws and took it out, I discovered that there was no drywall behind it, just an open space with some scraps of insulation. It’s an exterior wall, of course.

I’ve seen the same thing in one other place in the house.  My immediate reaction was to put in some insulation and a vapor barrier and screw on a piece of drywall.

Was that the right thing to do? Is there some reason to leave a wall open behind a convector?

A.    There should have been drywall behind the convectors, just as on the wall above them. If the sheet metal is bright and shiny, it was probably installed to protect the framing from heat, as is done behind wood stoves. It also acts as a reflector to increase the heat radiation into the room. Any aberration in the insulation should be corrected, as you did. A vapor retarder may not be needed if the drywall repair is properly taped to the existing wall and the metal reflector is put back.

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