3 Ways to hide duct work: what are your options?

3 Ways to hide duct work: what are your options?

Oh…hiding duct work is not always an easy task! In doing some research for this blog, I wanted to first clarify what I mean by ductwork vs a soffit.

A soffit is area between the top of the wall cabinets and the ceiling (and can also be known as a bulkhead).

hiding duct work
Working around a soffit | Sheri Bruneau, Designer | Ruth Skiffington, Photographer

A bulkhead, in my renovation world, means we are talking about area where we have to have additional framing around HVAC, plumbing, etc. This typically means it stands out.

hiding duct work
Framing a bulkhead for a basement development | Sheri Bruneau, Designer

3 Ways to Hide Duct Work

While HVAC, plumbing, etc. are all important and needed (duh – of course they are), it can be a real pain in the you-know-what to design around. Typically, when I look at working around them, I think of as many ways as possible to not draw the eye to it. Here are a few options to do this.

1. Design to hide it with an entire wall

In an upcoming basement development, we have significant HVAC and gas lines that I have to work around. Of course, this is going to fall right in the bathroom. I had two choices:

  1. Create a bulkhead that was clearly visible in the bathroom.
  2. Create an entire plumbing wall to hide it all.

I decided to create the plumbing wall in the bathroom, but run a bulkhead in the adjoining room. In the bathroom, as we had the space, I am creating a plumbing wall which will allow us to now have a shower niche on that wall. For the exercise room, we will just have a bulkhead which will give more floor space for their equipment.

Working around hiding duct work | Sheri Bruneau, Designer

Visible duct work in the exercise room and hiding duct work with a plumbing wall in the bathroom. I have made the bathroom wall invisible so you can see that back wall | Sheri Bruneau, Designer

In this particular basement development, we also are working around an existing drop ceiling (in the family room). LOTS to work around to make the magic happen!

2. Paint it – but do it right

When you have to have a bulkhead (like in the exercise room above), there is one, very budget friendly way to try and camouflage it.


I came across this blog by fellow Canadian Krista Salter who does a really great job explaining the best way to handle bulkheads.

Bulk head bottom painted white which will draw attention to it. Don’t do it. | Krista Salter, Blog

hiding duct work
While this is a rendering, see how the magic of paint can conceal the ductwork | Globex Developments

It is in Krista’s blog where she gives really great advice:

Pick the highest ceiling point in the room and that is what is left ceiling colour and the rest is painted wall colour. 

Krista Salter

3. Camouflage the duct work

While this may not be the cheapest option, and it may not work in every situation, it can end up beautiful! Millwork is a great way to hide the drywall!

hiding duct work
Above the sink, we have hid the soffit with a panel and crown moulding in this ongoing renovation | Sheri Bruneau, Designer

This is my Patient Kitchen Project. While we easily could have left the drywall above the sink, there would have been a disconnect. As a result, I suggested we run a cabinet panel and the crown moulding across. This allows the eye to continue to flow.

hiding duct work
Cabinets not able to be taken to the ceiling but camouflaged with millwork | Marcus Design

My last thoughts on hiding duct work

In the end, if your space has to have ductwork or soffits, there are ways to make them become part of your space and blend in well. I believe it’s always a good idea to look at your options, in conjunction with your budget, and make the best decision for your space and budget.


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