old manhole cover cobbled street
Calendar 16 October, 2023 (Updated 6 October, 2023)

Manhole Covers & How To Disguise Them

Manhole covers serve an important role and need to be accessible for drainage inspection and maintenance, but when they are on private or commercial property they are often an unwelcome eyesore.

In this blog post, we will consider various ways of reducing their visual impact and helping them to blend more easily into their surroundings.

Masking A Manhole Cover Inside A Building

Manholes are occasionally located inside a building. This often happens when the building is extended, as the manhole might have originally been sited outside.

The best way to conceal a manhole cover inside a home is to use a recessed manhole cover. This will allow you to lay the same flooring material – tile, stone, marble, wood, laminate, vinyl, etc. – used on the surrounding floor across the manhole cover, leaving a relatively unobtrusive edge visible.

In a domestic garage, factory or commercial building, where the floor is concrete and the manhole cover may need to take the weight of vehicles, a heavy-duty recessed manhole cover will be needed.

Camouflaging A Manhole Cover On A Paved Area 

Most manholes are found on paved areas such as footpaths, driveways, patios, courtyards, concourses and piazzas. This is logical, as the location is easily accessible and less likely to be covered or obscured, but it also makes a standard manhole cover highly visible, which can be a problem.

The best way to reduce the visual impact of a manhole cover in a paved area is again to use a recessed cover. Recessed block pavior manhole covers are designed specifically for this application as they have the depth required to hold standard block paviors flush with the surrounding surface. They are also suitable for infilling with a wide range of other paving materials such as stone slabs, concrete paving and resin-bound aggregates.

Hiding A Manhole Cover On A Lawn or Planted Border

If you have ever bought a house with a manhole cover right in the middle of a lawn or planted area, you will know how irritating this can be as there is no easy way to hide it. Once again, the trusty recessed manhole cover comes to your rescue.

While a recessed block pavior manhole cover may sound like overkill for a domestic lawn, the additional tray depth will provide much-needed space for soil and roots. This may also be an option for planted areas, as plants that thrive in shallow soil can be added to the recessed manhole cover and the surrounding earth to very effectively blend the manhole into its background. Shallower recessed manhole covers can also be used in mulched areas between plants, as they will easily contain bark chippings and other mulches. A thin layer of soil under the mulch will prevent the cover being exposed if the mulch is disturbed and help it blend in better with its surroundings.

Two main points to consider if you are installing a recessed manhole cover on a lawn:

  1. Ensure the cover and its frame are seated below the level of the lawn and allow for soil settlement, as you want to avoid damaging lawnmower blades when you cut the grass.
  2. Pay extra attention to watering the grass above the manhole cover in hot or dry weather as it will be unable to draw water from a greater depth of soil.

Concealing An Existing Manhole Cover In A Garden

If you already have a manhole with a standard flush-fitting cover in your garden and replacing this with a recessed lid isn’t an option, there are ways to make it less of an eyesore.

Use plants to hide a manhole cover

If your manhole cover is in a planted area (not on the lawn), you could try growing a larger plant such as a shrub or bush near to the manhole. Choose a species that will provide a low canopy of leaves over the manhole cover. If you brush a little soil over the manhole cover, the shade of the bush will encourage moss to grow, further concealing the manhole cover. A few falling leaves can also be left in place to create a natural mask.

If the manhole is on a patio, driveway or path, a large planter or plant pot could be placed on top of it to distract the eye from the manhole cover, even if it doesn’t completely conceal it. If the planter or pot is too heavy for one person to move, you may need to put it on a base with castors.

A cluster of smaller plant pots can also make an attractive display that hides a manhole cover, yet can be easily moved when access to the manhole is needed.

Use a garden feature to obscure a manhole cover

Depending on where your manhole is located, many garden features can be used to conceal it. 

  • Water features made of resin or fibreglass are relatively lightweight and can be easily moved if access to the manhole is required.
  • A simple birdbath or bird table is easily moved and can be an attractive feature in your garden.
  • If the manhole is in the centre of your patio, the base of a garden parasol with a garden table will easily hide it, while the base of a cantilevered parasol will hide a manhole cover at the edge of a patio.
  • Other pieces of garden art such as statues and artificial rocks or logs are potential candidates for hiding an unsightly manhole cover. Many of these are made from lightweight materials rather than stone or concrete and can be easily moved.

Turn your manhole cover into art

If it isn’t possible to hide your manhole cover, you could consider doing the opposite – turn it into an art object that shouts for attention.

Older cast iron manhole covers often have an attractive industrial vibe that might have been obscured over time. If you’re fortunate enough to have one of these, clean it thoroughly with a stiff brass wire brush (avoid using a steel brush as this will encourage further rusting). A brass wire brush attachment on an electric drill or angle grinder will make short work of this task. 

You can now choose between leaving the manhole cover to naturally acquire an even patina of rust or lichen, and painting it. Choose durable paints that are suitable for metal and outdoor application, and a colour that either blends in or contrasts with the surroundings.

Modern galvanised steel manhole covers can also be painted. You will need to thoroughly clean the cover and then apply a special primer for galvanised surfaces before applying the final paint. If you’re feeling really creative, try painting a picture or pattern onto the cover!

Choosing A Manhole Cover With The Right Load Rating

It’s extremely important that you select the correct load rating when installing a new manhole cover. A manhole situated on a lawn or patio won’t need a very high load rating compared with one located on a driveway. Read our blog post Manhole Covers: Choosing the Right One to learn more about load ratings and which is the right one for your manhole cover.


We hope you have found this information helpful and interesting. If you have any further questions, you are always welcome to call the friendly team of drainage experts at Drainfast on 01420 555600 or email [email protected].

Also, look out for more articles in our ongoing series of blog posts, bringing you useful information, insights, guides and tips on all things drainage!

Mark Chambers Drainfast Team Portrait

Written by
Mark Chambers

Marketing Manager

As Marketing Manager, Mark plays an active role in running strategic projects to increase our brand profile.

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