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Thread: Air Return Duct

  1. #1

    Default Air Return Duct

    My first floor air return duct (forced hot air system) has no metal duct work.
    The return vents (3) flow in ceiling thru duct system made of wood. Is this normal?

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    San Diego


    I understand that this practice used to be common, and is not allowed by code anymore. If you do any remodel/rework of the system they may make you bring it up to code.

  3. #3


    Thanks...I'm a little surprised as this is a new home in NJ. The house is very well built, has Trane units, all inspections were done.

  4. #4
    DIY Senior Member Hube's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004


    Seeker; The majority of areas in North America still allow RETURNS to be of wood passages like studs, joists, etc.
    Imo there is nothing wrong with this as it presents no hazard to the air system and if it is installed properly (fairly air tight) then it will work just fine..

  5. #5


    Thanks...I just spoke to the builder and he told me everything was up to code and they do this all the time. It actually allows more air flow which he said was easily handled by the units I have.

  6. #6
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England


    The 'danger' of a wooden return is if there is a fire and it penetrates into that area. If the blower is still running, the induced draft will fan the fire and blow smoke throughout the house as it is circulated. Course, the returns could draw smoke from the rooms around the house and do the same thing, but returns are often at the floor level, and smoke tends to rise, so that is minimized. I think they do make smoke detectors for the air handling system that can shut it down if it senses a fire that would stop that from happening, but not sure how many residential units have them, if any.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014


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