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June 15, 2017

Mike and Sara Rehab a 60s Retro Ranch : Installing Vent Fans with New Old Stock Chrome Covers in the Bathrooms!

By Sara In AZ


Ok, wow! This is a very long, drawn out project…..this project started way before we even moved into the retro ranch! SO K-Razy!!!

Here is the story. None of the bathrooms here at the ranch have a vent fan…not one single one. All of the bathrooms have windows though, so we are not against code in any way.

We do, however, have MOE heat lamps in all of the bathrooms. I thought this was like the funniest thing ever being that we live in Arizona……where it’s pretty much “hot” the entire year!


We pondered those heat lamps but we could not see getting a lot of use out of them. Even though they were neat and original we decided we’d be better off swapping them all out for vent fans. Though, just to let y’all know – I did box and and keep the MOE heat lamps!


Of course I get all these crazy ideas in my head about how a project “has to be” and I am stubborn about things and have a tendency to dig my heels in. So I absolutely INSISTED that we buy these very specific Nu Tone fans with the round covers – you can see one sticking out of the box.

We bought the NuTone 8210 Fans


But, the only reason I wanted those fans was so that I could swap out the white plastic covers for some amazing new old stock chrome covers!

Here is a link to the auction with the chrome fan covers:

Vintage Emerson Pryne 12″ diameter Chrome Grille


they also have a smaller 8” size for sale

Vintage Emerson Pryne 8-1/2″ Diameter Chrome Grille


I thought having the chrome fan covers would be the absolute best way to integrate the fans into the bathrooms…..it would hopefully look like they had always been there since the 60s.

So, we were all set with our 8210 fans and the the project took a turn for the worse. You see, our house is all wood shake shingle…so we can’t just pop the vents out of the roof like you normally would with an asphalt shingle roof. Uggghhhhh. Plans were changed and the electrician told us we’d have to order the 8310 fans ( a side discharge fan) as he was going to vent it through the side of the house. Then plans changed back to the 8210 fans once we figured the side venting was not going to work!

As I said before, we had heat lamps in all of the bathrooms and the heat lamps were getting pulled and the fans were getting installed where the heat lamps were once located. We thought this was a logical choice since electricity was already there! The only problem with installing the fans and using the existing heat lamp locations was that our roof is crazy low and has like a zillion trusses running hither and yon and the fan is BIG, so the electrician told me he pretty much did not think the fans were going to fit up in that space. The picture above is actually of the 8310 fans (the side discharge fans) we wound up using the 8210 fans, but you can see the black part in the picture above….that part has to get installed into the roof.  Yeah, not small. I was worried, but I held firm!

So I went round and round with the electrician about these particular fans. He tried endlessly to get me to install a different fan…he said there were SO many fans I could chooses from that had MUCH smaller bodies to install into the ceiling/roof…..those other fans would be SO much easier to install. But I kept pointing to my chrome fan covers….  “No” I said “It HAD to be the 8210 fans”. I’d never be able to use those chrome covers on an average run of the mill vent fan.

I am sure he wasn’t thrilled with me digging in my heels, but he forged ahead anyway and got to installing my horribly hard to install 8210 Nu Tone vent fans.

Insulation all over the floors from the fan install!


And here you can see, the vent fan has been successfully installed in the ceiling of the master bath! Whoooooo-Hooooooooo!!!!


I am happy to report that the other fans were installed without incident and now all the bathrooms have working vent fans! Yippee!!


So, part two of this project……installing the chrome covers…..I thought this would be the easy-peasy part! Foiled again!

This was the cover the fans came with…a regular, run of the mill, white plastic cover.


The one little problem with using the vintage chrome fan covers was they had no knobs. You can see the center knob in the white fan cover above – you need the knob to lock down the cover. Of course, you could just use a wing nut, but I thought a knob similar to the one that came with the white plastic cover would look SO much better.

We bought three replacement white knobs to experiment with and tried taking them to our metal plating guy to have them chromed….no dice, they do not chrome plastic there. I am sure some places do chrome plastic but I was just having no luck with finding a place here.

So, Plan B. Spray Paint. We tried various different silver/metallic finish spray paints and EVERYTHING came out looking so dull. It was completely disappointing as I wanted something kind of “chrome” like.

Mike hunted around online for something that might work and he stumbled onto this Mirror finish hobby paint. We decided to give it a try!


We bought our paint on eBay, but I am sure they also sell it at hobby shops.

Mike researched the best way to achieve a “chrome” like finish on plastic and found a tutorial online in which the guy sprayed several very light coats of  black glossy spray paint then topped it off with the mirror chrome…so that is exactly what we did!

Mike made a jig that would hold the knobs in place while we sprayed them.




And we sprayed away………………..


We did several light coats just like the instructions said to do, then we let the knobs dry for about a week. Then we sanded them lightly with 1000 grit sandpaper…..a very, very fine grade sandpaper.


Here you can see one knob has yet to be sanded.


And now it was FINALLY time to spray the chrome finish on! Wheeeeeee!!!

We also did several light coats of this per the instructions.


You can see, it is kind of chrome-y!


We let the knobs dry for a couple of days and then brought them all in…we buffed them lightly with an eyeglass cleaning cloth.


Here you can see the difference between the regular silver spray paint and the chrome finish we just did.


I know it’s not as “shiny chrome” as fan cover, but I still think it looks really, really good!


And after what felt like ten thousand  million years of waiting for this project to be done….we finally have our chrome vent fan covers installed!!!


Honestly, I could not be more thrilled!!!

And I am SO glad I dug in my heels on this one! Smile

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14 Responses to Mike and Sara Rehab a 60s Retro Ranch : Installing Vent Fans with New Old Stock Chrome Covers in the Bathrooms!

  1. ElleElle Reply

    June 15, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    The absolute detail you put into everything is amazing (I don’t think I would have the patience), and the results are so worth it. Great job.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 16, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you so, so much for the kind words ElleElle….I appreciate it more than you can know! 🙂

  2. CAT Reply

    June 15, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Did you think of trying silver/chrome nailpolish for the knob???????

    These covers look amazing!!!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 16, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      CAT! Thanks you!!! And no, I had not considered chrome nail polish…that could be an option though!

  3. Stacy Reply

    June 16, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Another great finished result! I am exactly the same way when it comes to projects. It’s all in the details. I think the chrome painted knobs look so good! This post couldn’t have come at a better time as we have the need for a vent fan in our master bathroom. We too have a window, but in the heat and humidity of the summer it’s WORSE when you open the window. Great job, Sara!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 16, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      Stacy – Whew, I am SO glad someone understands my perfectionist ways! 🙂 But you are so right, it is ALL in the details!

      And oh my gosh – I know…..it’s supposed to be freakin’ 120 here next week….who wants to open the bathroom windows to vent in THAT kind of heat!!! Uggghhhhhhhh!!! SO glad we have the vent fans now!

      ps- so nice to see you here, thanks so much for the comment! 🙂

      • Jacki Reply

        June 16, 2017 at 7:54 pm

        Wow, I don’t miss those temperatures! It was 86 here today. :^) That was an incredible amount of work. I could never have imagined an exhaust fan being so involved. Great attention to detail as usual Sara. Kudos!

        • Sara In AZ Reply

          June 17, 2017 at 3:30 pm

          Yeah, pretty much dreading it Jacki. 🙁 And thanks on the fan covers, in the end I was even surprised how much work went into that one little thing! 🙂

  4. Susan from Boston Reply

    June 16, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Nicely done! Good job, both of you. You’re my inspiration!


    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 16, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Awwww, thanks so much Susan….I really appreciate that! 🙂 XO

  5. Beth Reply

    June 16, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    I so admire your attention to detail and commitment to getting things “just right.” You and Mike are a great team.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 17, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      Awwww, thanks so much Beth, I really appreciate the kind words! 🙂

      ps- still keeping my fingers crossed for a HW piece for you!

  6. MrsC Reply

    June 16, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I haven’t had much luck ever getting chrome to look good, and so I always stuck with gold instead.
    Your method is really interesting, and I’m definitely going to try it.

    My ‘process’ for gold though is to let the gold paint dry and then spray the finished product with clear lacquer.
    Typically, I’ll go for at least 2 coats of lacquer. And you have to let the entire project sit for days, but you get a really nice shiny finish.

    Another win for Sara in AZ!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 17, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      Oh my gosh MRS C I KNOW, chrome is horrible isn’t it?! 🙁 That’s a really good idea for the gold…to lacquer it at the end…if I ever need to do gold that’s what I will do!

      I was seriously totally disappointed with ALL of the “silver” sprays we tried…even ones that said they were a “Chrome” finish…..it wasn’t until we did this process that we even came remotely close! And even though the knobs are not as “chrom-y” as the real chrome, you have to start REALLY looking at it before you realize they are a bit different! So, YAY!!! 🙂

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