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Old 10-17-2012, 06:12 PM   #1
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DIY Duct work for old house?


My wife and I are buying a 1953 ranch, 1 floor + basement house in NJ and have a whole lot of work ahead of ourselves. We're going to be doing floors, electrical, plumbing, bathroom renovations, kitchen renovations etc... all ourselves. We've done this before in the current house, but I would love to get central air, but we are going to run short of cash to do the big ticket items that I know we can not do ourselves. For example: boiler replacement (original from 1953), roof (needs a little work if not full replacement), and central air.

But I was wondering if we could do at least the duct work (just for a/c) ourselves to save on cost. How feasible it would that be to save money? I know we need to do a manual J calculation and lay out the ductwork for balance etc... I've read a text book on a/c, and done tons of research, so I'm as familiar with a/c as a layman can be, which just means I know what I should not get myself into. But I know the ductwork would be a large portion of the expense, and was hoping we might be able to get it sooner if we could do some of the grunt work ourselves.

My wife is a licensed architect, which usually doesn't mean much for construction, but she's worked as a General Contractor before, so she's not just drawing bunk. I saw a website http://www.ductworks.net/ where they would design and build and ship you the custom duct work and you put it in yourself. The house is very easy to work on with it being an unfinished (mostly) basement, and easy to access attic. I would preferably run all the ductwork in the basement as to save on heat loss, but the attic is perfectly open for that purpose, and would make easy runs. I'll be doing my own blown in insulation and sealing after we're done running electrical and network/phone/cable lines in the attic.

I guess my question is, do you think this is a reasonable project for a couple to tackle if we had the ductwork made for us? Secondly, do you think we would be able to find an a/c tech who would even consider installing a system based on a duct system someone else designed and installed. I'm not trying to take money out of anybody's pockets, but I know this is last in the list of priorities behind the roof and boiler, so I just wanted to get an idea whether people would be offended or even consider working with me if I did this ahead of any conversation with an a/c guy/gal/company. I'd also like to know if as an a/c installer you would be offended if I asked if you would design the ductwork and I installed it to save on money (said company/person would of course get the job for the install of the coil/conderser etc...). I'm happy to pay for design service, but I know I'll have to mastic seal things myself anyways, so I figure why not go a step further?

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Last edited by Ocelaris; 10-17-2012 at 06:14 PM.
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Old 10-17-2012, 06:47 PM   #2
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DIY Duct work for old house?


You can buy all of the duct work off the shelf at any Lowe's, menards, home depot, but if you need something odd, such as a larger size duct, or custom trunk, you are going to have to contact a shop with the equipment.

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Old 10-17-2012, 08:38 PM   #3
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Might want to find out if any tech will work with you. And then proceed from there. Many people have done their own duct work.
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Old 10-17-2012, 09:03 PM   #4
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As long as you are OK with knowing how important a manual J is,you can then do a manual D which will give you the proper duct design.It should be fairly simple in a ranch home and a basement layout.
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:35 PM   #5
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Thanks, that's what I was hoping to hear, at least that it's not insane. I would prefer to work something out with the local contractor that they're comfortable with. We just won't close for another month, so the crazy planning on what to do first fixing up this house which probably hasn't been worked on seriously since the 70s.

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Old 10-17-2012, 10:40 PM   #6
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I would do it as if you are building a house. That means structure, roofing, then plumbing, electrical, insulation and then mechanicals (hvac). My place has been a work in progress for nine years going, on our 75 year old house. Just last week finally put in a new back door. Of course, made the mistake of allowing the wife to help, and ended up having to redo it on Monday when she was at work. Took me two hours to do something that took nine hours when she was helping me on Saturday.
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:44 PM   #7
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Browsing DUCT DESIGN

There's always this!
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:45 PM   #8
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Of course, made the mistake of allowing the wife to help

That's pretty low, blaming the wife!
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:06 PM   #9
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I'm pretty lucky, my wife has seen a lot of home renovations at work (much fancier than our home of course). She has some contacts, but she doesn't know an hvac guy/gal she likes or would serve Northern NJ. So we're going to try and get as much done to the house as we can before starting a family. When we redid the floors, I let her use the big sanders. When we redid the kitchen, she made all the cabinets, drawers etc... I worked for an electrician and cabling crew during college, so we have a lot of relatively cheap but hard work we can do to get the house in shape, but knowing your limits is what makes you a smart home owner.

We have to start with the floors this winter because we won't have moved in and will probably be able to do the whole thing in 2 or 3 days (approx 2000 sq feet), then we can move our stuff out of the basement. Next comes electrical and low voltage because I have to run the wires before we can insulate the attic/walls. Roof comes in the spring or summer (because I thought you had to have warm weather for the underlayment and shingles to seat properly?). Bathrooms need renovation, so plumbing comes next (PEX manifold with homeruns). Then Bathrooms, then insulation because we'll have run the ducts for the attic vents. Boiler could be replaced at any time, but I think we'll get through most of the stuff we can do before deciding whether we replace the boiler, roof, or redo the kitchen. Fundamentals have priority of course when necessary.

I definitely want to pay for a good design service, and hopefully since Audubon serves roughly NJ, they might know a contractor who would work with us. I cringe at people who buy stuff on the internet and try and get someone to install it. I sold home theaters on commission and nothing irked me more than people wanting us to install their equipment they didn't buy from us.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:07 PM   #10
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:12 PM   #11
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That's pretty low, blaming the wife!
It is, when she was told to use the Level and the Square, and she states that both are not needed to hang a door. I have seen a deck that she built, and I can tell you first hand, that it would not have passed code. She means well when she helps, but it is easier to just wait until she is gone for the day, before I attack something.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:30 PM   #12
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DIY Duct work for old house?


I found a third site that offers these similar Manual J and Manual D service. I'm a bit skeptical about a service that has never seen the house, but I imagine for a bit more if we can provide a full autocad drawing of the house, we could get a reasonably good design. The wife has already done a drawing anyways.

http://www.load-calculations.com/Pricing.html
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:32 PM   #13
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You can get the software for individual use for about $50. It sounds like you and your wife would have no problem figuring out you to use it.

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