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How to remove a radiator to paint a wall

4 Min Read

  • Tips

Re-decorating at home can save a lot of money, but there’s no reason that with a bit of effort to take care of the details, it can’t look like a professional job. One place that is frequently forgotten is the space behind the radiator. It can feel like a bit too much hassle, or maybe you just don’t know where to start, but if you’ve spent time and money painting a room yourself, why leave it nearly complete?

Don’t ignore that old paint, or scraps of 60's wallpaper that have been behind the radiator since you moved in.

For an expert, detailed finish, it’s best to remove the radiator and make sure the job’s done properly.

Removing a radiator can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools it can be done in about 5-10 minutes, without draining your central heating system or making a mess. Our easy-to-follow guide explains how.

Did you know that removing old, curled wallpaper also improves air circulation around the radiator, and therefore its heating efficiency?

Standard UK radiator ready to remove

Before You Start: Safety First

  • Prepare the area and plan your job. You will be releasing air and water from the radiator, this may drip or spray a small amount of dirty water, so it’s best to remove the radiator before you start decorating the room. If you are replacing carpets or flooring, remove the radiator before new flooring is fitted. Refitting the radiator afterwards is a much cleaner job and can be done once the wall is decorated.
  • Make sure the central heating system is switched off and the radiators have cooled down to room temperature.
  • You will require a second person to help remove the radiator from the wall, and you’ll need to pre-determine a location to store the radiator whilst you’re decorating.

This guide is intended to help you safely through the process, if you are in any doubt, or you don’t have somebody to help you remove the radiator, please seek advice from a professional plumber.


After refitting the radiator, you will need to re-pressurise the central heating system; check your boiler manual to understand how to add water into your system. There should be a tap or valve that allows you to do this easily, this is called the filling loop.

As the radiator refills with water, it will need to be bled. This releases the air, allowing the water to completely fill the radiator. This will be explained at the end of this guide.

Tip: Summer is the best time to decorate as the central heating system is rarely used and can be switched off for longer periods.

In this process you will isolate and drain the water only from the radiator you want to remove. Using a wet and dry vacuum cleaner will speed up the job and reduce the water spillage.

Vacuuming water from floor

What you will need:

      • A radiator key
      • Two adjustable spanners
      • Some old towels or sheets
      • A wet and dry vacuum cleaner or bucket
Equipment you need to remove a radiator

    Step 1 – Close the Radiator Valves

    Close the radiator valves. These are the right-angled valves usually attached to the pipes at the bottom, on either side of the radiator. The water in your central heating system flows in one end and out of the other, so both need to be closed for this process. If you have a thermostatic valve on one side of the radiator, this needs to be set to 0 first.

    Rotate the valve screw on the valve body clockwise to close the valve. 

    Turn the radiator thermostatic valve to 0 = Off 

    Step 1 turn the valve screw clockwise

    Step 1 rotate the valve screw thermostatic valve to zero

    Step 2 – Release Pressure and Check the Radiator is Isolated

    Now that the radiator is isolated from the system, the water can be emptied. To release any pressure in the radiator, unscrew the small release valve located on the top of the radiator. This is a square-headed screw, rotating this anticlockwise a full turn will allow any air and water pressure to escape. Use a towel, or your wet and dry vacuum cleaner to catch any water that may leak. If the valves are closed properly, the radiator is isolated and will not continue to leak water or air from the release valve. You'll need to use a radiator key for this.

    Bleed radiator to release pressure

    Step 3 – Get Ready!

    In this next stage you will unscrew the nut connecting one of the radiator valves to the radiator, water will escape as soon as this is loosened. Be ready for this.

    If you are not using a vacuum cleaner, do not fully remove the valve, you should instead drain it slowly by filling small containers which can then be emptied, draining the radiator this way can take 20 to 30 minutes.

    If you have a wet and dry vacuum cleaner, ensure your vacuum cleaner is empty and already set-up for wet suction mode. It’s important to note that once the tank is full of water, the float valve in the vacuum will close and the vacuum cleaner will cease suction until it’s emptied, so for a radiator with a larger volume than your vacuum cleaner tank, you will need to stop draining the radiator and empty the vacuum once it is full, before recommencing

    We recommend using the Vacmaster Power 30 for a task like this, it has a large water capacity of 23 litres and a drainage port to make emptying the water from the tank fast and easy. 

    Plug in and switch on your wet and dry vacuum cleaner; position the hose near the radiator nut.

    Position wet and dry vacuum hose next to valve

    Step 4 – Drain the Radiator and Vacuum the Released Water

    Use an adjustable spanner to grip the valve. To protect the radiator pipework, hold the valve in position while unscrewing the nut on the radiator. The nut on the radiator screws back towards the direction of the radiator, so check the rotation is correct. Once loosened, the water will start to escape.

    If using a vacuum cleaner, use the vacuum to draw all the water away, if you are not using a vacuum cleaner and collecting the drips in a container or bucket, skip forward to stage 7, and do not fully remove the valve.  

    Step 4 undo nut

    Undo nut and vacuum waterStep 5 – Completely Remove the Valve

    Continue to unscrew the nut until the valve can be pulled gently away from the radiator. Slide the valve to the side, opening the radiator connection. Vacuum out any water from the radiator. The water will now be able to flow much faster; the vacuum will be able to collect it as fast as it escapes. After a few minutes the vacuum may be nearly quite full; feel the weight of the vacuum to gauge this.

    Step 5 Completely remove the valve

    Step 6 – Refit the Valve to Empty the Wet & Dry Vacuum Cleaner

    With the vacuum cleaner still operating, reconnect the valve and nip the nut closed to stop the flow of water from the radiator. This gives you the opportunity to switch off the vacuum cleaner to empty it.

    Repeat stages 3 -6 until the radiator is empty

    Step 7 – Remove the Other Valve from the Radiator

    Now the water has emptied from the radiator you can unscrew and remove the other valve from the radiator as described in stage 4.

    The radiator is now empty and disconnected from the system.


    Step 8 - Final Removal of Water

    The bottom of the radiator can often be left with some unpleasant sludgy water in it. Using the vacuum cleaner, vacuum air through the open valves; air will flow through the radiator from one side to the other and clear out the base. Tilt the radiator towards the vacuum cleaner or collection bowl to collect the final residue.


    Step 9 – Remove the Radiator Completely

    Taking care when lifting, with a second person to help and a location prepared for the radiator, lift the radiator up off the wall brackets and carefully place it supported against a wall, or flat on the ground.


    Step 10 - Decorate

    Now that all the preparation is done, you can decorate your room, it’s also the perfect opportunity to clean the radiator and get it ready for refitting.


    Step 11 – Refit the Radiator

    Refitting the radiator back into the system is just a simple reversal of the process. Hang the radiator back onto the wall brackets and reattach the valves to the radiator ensuring they are tightly closed. Slowly open the valves again to allow water to gradually fill the radiator. Check there is no leakage between the radiator and the valve, closing the radiator nut a bit tighter if there is a leak. Allow the radiator to refill with water whilst also allowing air to escape from the release valve; once water reaches the release valve, the radiator is full. Use a towel or the vacuum cleaner to catch any drips or spray that may have escaped from the release valve. Top up the system to ensure it’s  at the correct pressure and air bleed all the radiators in the system.

    Finally, switch the heating back on, and admire your hard work!