Duct Repair: A Homeowners DIY Guide

Duct Repair A Homeowners DIY Guide

Duct Repair: A Homeowners DIY Guide

When does it make sense to attempt duct repair instead of calling a professional HVAC technician? How much better will air quality be after the duct repair when a professional does it? It’s just a small duct repair, though. Will this be easy? Is it even worth it? Maybe I should just replace that section! These are some questions (and statements) to ask yourself if you’re a homeowner who needs duct repairs.

In previous articles, we’ve discussed duct insulation, air duct maintenance and sealing, and duct installation. Now, we will examine air duct repair and replacement costs.

Key Takeaways

  • Inspect your HVAC ductwork annually to identify leaks, blockages, or insulation issues that could impact system efficiency and air quality.
  • Seal any ductwork leaks with mastic sealant or metal tape to improve system performance and reduce energy costs.
  • Regularly clean ducts to remove dust and debris, prevent potential health hazards, and maintain airflow efficiency.
  • Consider hiring a professional for complex duct repairs or installations to ensure quality workmanship and adherence to safety standards.
  • Incorporate insulation around ducts in unconditioned spaces to prevent energy loss and enhance overall system effectiveness.

⭐ Repair or Replace?

Ductwork installation

You should consider a few things before attempting any air duct repairs on your own.

The first is accessibility. Will I have enough space to reach the affected area physically?

Second, what material are my ducts made from? Typically, they are galvanized sheet metal such as button lock square ducting or snap lock round ducting. Sometimes, however, you may run into either under-insulated ducts, uninsulated round flexible exposed ducts, or thermopan return air ducts.

Third, how many repairs are needed? Is this just one joint that’s become disconnected? Or has the air conditioning drain pan leaked and rusted out a whole section of horizontal square duct in a crawl space or attic?

Although these scenarios are vastly different, they both involve repairing your home’s ductwork.

⭐ When To Repair

Ductwork repair

Duct repair can be done either by a homeowner or a professional, but it is a great benefit for the homeowner to understand why their ducts would need to be repaired.

The most common reason would be when a piece of ducting has become bent or damaged. This is an easy repair as most of the time, and if you take your hands and squeeze on either side of the dent, the affected section should pop back into place.

Another example of a common repair situation would be uneven temperatures throughout new ductwork in your house. This can be caused by loose, exposed air ducts and connections or major dust buildup inside your supply and return duct system.

It is recommended to seal air flow in ducts with paint-on mastic or tin tape, as long as any holes causing air leaks are covered up. Also, your ducts should be cleaned every 3-5 years to avoid dust and debris building up inside them. This will greatly impact energy efficiency and the airflow throughout your home.

⭐ When To Replace

ductwork installation

There are certain situations when replacing all the ducts in your home makes sense. When you have unbalanced airflow, the wrong-sized ducts, or live in an old house. Unbalanced airflow and under/oversized ducting can both contribute to varied temperatures around specific rooms in your house.

When one room is hot, but the next room over is not, you have airflow issues. This could be caused by a loose duct connection at the main trunk, debris that has fallen into the register, such as a child’s toy, or just a poorly sized duct run. If you have an old home, chances are you also have old ducts.

Like anything, ducts can wear out over time, and older ducting is prone to developing air leaks, shifting, twisting, and general wear and tear. The optimal time to do a duct replacement would be during a full renovation. We’re talking a full gut job. No more drywall and interior walls have come down kind of renovation.

When the space is wide open like this, replacing is much easier, planning materials costs simpler, and labor costs are reduced.

Related Reading: Ductwork Installation Guide For Homeowners

⭐ What Am I Even Looking At?

Central HVAC system layout

Many homeowners know what their furnaces and air conditioners look like and how they circulate airflow through existing ducts, but do they know which ducts do what?

Can you, as a homeowner, identify each part of the ventilation system? Although it looks complicated, your HVAC system has two halves. The return side and the supply side, and these will have different-looking air ducts.

Repairing ductwork of this variety can be a simple task if it involves air duct leakage. You can seal air ducts simply by wrapping tin tape or duct mastic around each connection, as this is typically where air escapes.

Rusted-out or disconnected parts of the duct system should be replaced rather than repaired. A professional can easily do air duct repair or replacement, but a homeowner can also do this with the right tools and an extra set of hands.

🔧 Square Duct

Square ducts are used for both return and supply air ducts and are seen as the main arteries for airflow in your home. Both send all the air from the HVAC system to the start of each branch and bring air from the house back to the blower fan for distribution.

🔧 Round Duct

Round ducting is used for the branch runs off the main trunk. They bring air from your HVAC system to the air vents that supply conditioned air to the rooms in your house.

Round ducts always have a smaller cross-sectional area than square ducts, so attaching the round duct to the square duct places them further along the supply air duct system and helps keep air velocity up at each register location.

⭐ Properly Sized Ducts

new ductwork during home construction

In another article, we will discuss duct sizing more in depth; however, we can’t discuss air duct repair or replacement without mentioning sizing. Improperly sized ductwork can have many negative effects on how your house feels.

For example, poorly sized ducts can cause uneven heating or cooling in certain rooms, which can lead to significantly higher utility bills, the need for early repair work, and possibly duct problems throughout the system.

Properly sizing ducts can be done by a professional HVAC or sheet metal technician and takes into account static pressure, CFM, equipment size, and location. A home with properly sized ductwork will have average to lower utility bills, lower average costs associated with energy-efficient equipment, such as repair costs, and less chance of having ductwork replaced.

Related Reading: HVAC Duct Calculator

⭐ I’m Handy; I Can Do This!

Buying tools

If you think of yourself as a handy person and feel like taking on the challenge of repairing or replacing some of the ductwork in your home, here are some pointers you should know about.

🔧 Have the Right Tools

Metal crimpers create a crimp on one end of a round duct to fit into the end of another piece. Left and right tin snips, red and green, are scissor-looking pliers specifically designed for cutting tin. The red pair tends to veer to the left when making a cut, while the green pair tends to veer to the right. Please do not confuse this with holding the red pair in your left hand and the green pair in your right hand.

Hand seamers also look like a pair of pliers; however, instead of a small area where the ends meet, the seamers have two large flat surfaces that squeeze together. These are useful when flattening bends or repairing dents on duct ends.

A folding bar is roughly 18″—24″ long and 4″ wide. Along one edge is a 1″ deep groove to slide over a sheet metal edge, and folding up or down will create a perfect 1″ bend at 90 degrees. All these tools may sound intimidating to use, but a Google or YouTube search will have plenty of examples to draw from.

🔧 Work With a Partner

There’s nothing worse in the HVAC industry than your boss assigning you to a ducting job solo. Each piece of duct typically comes in a 5-foot length, so trying to fit one end while keeping the other end stable is nearly impossible. For that reason, grab a buddy when replacing your home’s ducts.

🔧 Make a Plan

The best course of action when replacing your air duct system is to have a plan. And the plan can not just be ‘replace the air ducts!’ I’m talking about a real plan.

  • What size of ducting do I need?
  • How many lengths of each size?
  • What other materials will I need?

These should all be drawn out or written down before purchasing from the supply store.

⭐ Ductwork Replacement Costs

🔧 Ductwork Material

There are multiple types of ducts, from flat thermopan return air ducts to flexible vinyl ducts to sturdy sheet metal ducts. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and the costs to repair will vary.

🔧 Flexible Ductwork Replacement Price

The average cost for flexible ductwork repairs can vary between $150 and $500, depending on the number of runs that need to be repaired. These are typically the lowest-cost ducts in a house, and labor will typically be the bulk of the repair bill. This duct style is used on dryer vents, humidifiers, or when moving air through tight spaces or around corners.

The disadvantages of this style of duct come from its thin layer, which can include cracks, holes, and air leakage. They are cheaper and weaker than metal alternatives to duct alone.

🔧 Thermopan Duct Replacement Price

Thermopan is a thin, thermally coated piece of cardboard. Typically, it is 48″ long and varies between 16″, 19″, and 24″ wide, depending on the size of the duct material you need. Expect to pay anywhere between $150 to $650 to repair thermopan ducts.

Thermopan sheets are ideal for creating a cold air return for new ducts made from ceiling joists or wall studs. Don’t use it to cover holes in sheet metal, or you risk having leaky ducts. They are simple to install, use a construction stapler to attach to wood joists or beams. Convenient 1″ lines run both horizontally and vertically, providing a handy guide for scoring with a knife.

🔧 Sheet Metal Ductwork Replacement Price

Sheet metal is the most expensive material to install due to its solid construction and the labor required. Starting material costs for sheet metal ducting vary from a couple of dollars per foot for a 5″ round pipe up to over $12 per foot of 16″x 8″ square ducting. Let’s not forget these pieces come in 5-foot lengths, and you must buy whole pieces.

⭐ Duct Cleaning

duct cleaning

As mentioned above, it is a good idea to have your ducts cleaned before attempting duct repair or replacement. Air duct cleaning should be done on average every 2-5 years and has numerous benefits. It improves the air quality inside your house and your HVAC energy efficiency.

Foul odors will also be eliminated, and this is a cost-effective way to help prolong the life of your heating and air conditioning system.

Related Reading: What You Need to Know About Ductwork Cleaning

⭐ Conclusion

Phyxter Approved Logo on Service Truck

Maintaining your HVAC system’s ductwork ensures optimal air quality and system efficiency. Regular inspections, timely repairs, and understanding common issues can prevent costly problems and prolong the lifespan of your system.

Phyxter Home Services brings extensive expertise and experience to the field of HVAC maintenance. Our articles are crafted by knowledgeable professionals who provide high-quality, reliable information to help you keep your HVAC system in shape.

Discover more insightful HVAC articles on our blog and learn how to enhance your home’s comfort and efficiency. If you’re looking for professional and reliable HVAC services, check if Phyxter Home Services is available in your area. Visit us today to ensure your home remains comfortable and energy-efficient year-round.

Jim Dill

Jim is one of Phyxter's local HVAC gurus and is a proud co-owner and the HVAC Manager of Vernon Air Conditioning, Plumbing, and Electrical Services in the Okanagan Valley.

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