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How to Build a Custom Toe-Kick Deflector

An easy way to redirect air from a toe-kick register located under a cabinet

November 09, 2015
ProTradeCraft.com shows step by step how to build a kitchen toe-kick register deflector

HVAC registers are typically placed on outside walls, often under windows. This is problematic in a kitchen, where cabinets frequently occupy all of the exterior wall space. If floor registers are placed in front of cabinets, food and liquids can spill in, decompose, and contaminate air quality. And floor registers are underfoot for people working at the counter.

The most common solution is to bring the metal ductwork into the toe space. With the register mounted on the vertical face of the toekick, you can use a sharp 90-degree bend in the ductwork to direct air flow into the room. But it’s difficult to seal a metal duct to the wood cabinet, so some conditioned air is diverted into the toe space.

Jim Yingling, superintendent for Mark IV Builders, in Cabin John, Md., has come up with a solution: a simple custom-made toekick deflector. Fabricated from plywood scraps, the deflector can be easily sealed to both the subfloor and the cabinet, ensuring that all of the conditioned air from the concealed duct is directed into the kitchen. 

The deflector has three sides and a lid and can be built on site from 1/8 inch or thicker plywood. Two sides are vertical and are cut at a 45-degree angle so they come to a point at the back of the duct opening in the floor. The third side sits on these angled edges and meets the lid. Glue the pieces together so that the box is sealed against air leaks. The inside dimension of the deflector where it meets the toekick should be sized to accept the finish register. 

measure to locate ductwork in floor for toe kick register

1. Measure to locate the ductwork in the floor, then transfer dimensions to the cabinet. Seal the metal duct to the flooring.


outline toe kick register opening on cabinet

2. Draw an outline of the register opening in the face of the toe-kick and use a multi-tool to cut the hole. The hole should be just a little larger than the plywood deflector. This ensures that the front edge of the deflector can be sealed where it butts into the back of the toe-kick. 


mark line to position toe kick register deflector

3. With the cabinet temporarily positioned, reach through the freshly cut register opening and mark a line on the floor along the back edge of the toe-kick. This line will be used to position the deflector. 


position toe kick register deflector over opening

4. Remove the cabinet and position the deflector over the opening by aligning the front edge with the line scribed on the floor. 


seal edges of toe kick register deflector

5. If you choose not to apply construction adhesive or caulk to the edges before fastening the deflector to the floor, seal the edges afterward. When it’s time to set the cabinet, a bead of caulk along the front edges of the deflector will ensure an airtight seal to the toe-kick. 

Adapted from a video at ProTradeCraft.com

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My only fear with this concept is that the inside of the wooden deflector would "sweat" and eventually disintigrate due to the fact that it is made out of wood.  A better plan would be to consider lining the inside with sheet metal to prevent that from happening.

Wood doesn't sweat.

It perspires.

We bought our house but we aren’t the first owners, after purchasing about 6 months now, have noticed that non of the toe ductors are installed for a total of four that are missing. What can we do now???? We can’t take out of move the cabinets. What if any solution can we use?

In some cases, you might be able to remove or cut access in the bottom panel of the cabinet.
If you have an unfinished basement, you might be able to access the duct to block, gate or otherwise modify the installation.
Good luck
Drew R

There are kits available for this type of installation for about $70.
By not having an air-tight installation from duct to register, you lose a lot of efficiency by needlessly heating or cooling the cabinet and contents.
The uncontrolled louvered register is also problematic and can cause discomfort, I get comments from Lady Homeowners about cold toes from the cold AC air whilst standing in front of the sink.
Drew R,

Line it with flashing tape.

Just removed my kitchen cabinet original from 1961. It had a similar set up with wood and the vent worked great with no issues. The wood looked fine when I took it apart, not like there was a moisture problem. I will be making a new one using this method.

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