above head shot of commercial ductwork installation

The True Cost Of Commercial Ductwork Installation | A Breakdown


Buildings across the world need HVAC solutions if they want to maintain a comfortable temperature inside. These systems can also help manage indoor humidity and reduce allergen levels. However, central HVAC systems require ductwork to circulate air throughout larger areas.

Whether you’re installing ductwork for the first time or replacing an older system, it’s important to know what you’re paying for. Purchasing a new HVAC system isn’t cheap, and ductwork installation may prove to be one of the most expensive parts.

Here’s what installing ductwork includes and how to calculate the cost.

The Importance of HVAC Ductwork Installation

Some HVAC systems work on their own. For example, a window AC unit produces cool air through its own vents. You don’t need anything else to make it work other than a wall outlet and an empty window.

Central air conditioning doesn’t work like that. Instead of pushing air out into a single room, it requires an elaborate system of ductwork to disperse air evenly throughout a building. It’s especially important in a commercial building that may be much larger than a residential one. Even when a large commercial building uses multiple AC units, it needs a way to get that air throughout every floor.

What Does Ductwork Installation Include?

The term “ductwork” includes any system of distributing cool or warm air throughout a building. This may take the form of large tubes connecting rooms by the ceiling or floor vents. It also includes those metal shafts a movie protagonist might crawl through.

Commercial ductwork differs from residential in that commercial buildings usually opt for sturdier stuff. The cost of upkeep will also run higher than a home’s ductwork because of the complexity of the system.

Ductwork installation consists of pulling it up into your building’s attic or crawlspace and connecting it to your vents and HVAC system. Installing sturdier ductwork, like stainless steel, is a more complicated process.

Commercial Ductwork Installation Cost Factors

Commercial ductwork installation will usually cost more than residential installation. This is due to many factors such as materials used, the type of work needed, and the size of the building.

Installing ductwork may cost you anywhere between $25 to $42 per linear foot. You could spend as little as $7,500 or as much as $21,000 for the entire job. Your contractor can walk you through the costs and if there are any ways to save money.

Cost of Materials

The first factor in the cost of your new ductwork is the material.

Stainless steel is the most commonly used material in commercial applications. These ducts are either round or rectangular and are installed in large sections. The sections are fitted together tightly to prevent air leaks, though contractors also use rubbery sealant on each joint.

Flexible non-metallic ductwork come in long pieces. They’re made up of metal springs sheathed in a non-metallic substance like plastic. You often see this type of ductwork used in smaller places or where larger ductwork can’t be used.

Fiberglass duct board is another option that has an external foil layer to resist moisture. You see these used in trunk-and-branch duct design where larger lines diverge into smaller branches. Galvanized steel is the most expensive and durable option. Flexible polyester is the most affordable but has the shortest lifespan.

Type of Work

Has there been ductwork installed in your commercial building previously, or is this a completely new installation?

If you’ve had ductwork in the past, then it’s a matter of tearing out the old and replacing it. Since there was previous ductwork, there will likely be vents already installed. As such, the entire process will move much quicker and cost less. Vents cost about $150 each if added to an existing system. There’s also the cost of new insulation to consider.

Building Type

A building that was recently built will get a different type of ductwork depending on its structure. For example, a commercial building with an open ceiling allows for more creativity in terms of placement. However, everything will need to be securely attached to the ceiling. An office building is limited to whatever ceiling space it has. However, it’s much easier to lay out non-metal ductwork on top of your ceiling tiles.

Additional Factors

There are other factors such as the cost of labor to consider. The average ductwork installation project can take a few days, which amounts to about 30 hours of labor. If you’re installing new ductwork into an older building, your contractor may have to deal with asbestos or structural modifications.

An HVAC contractor should discuss these factors in your quote. Although a contractor knows all the building codes, make sure to learn about them yourself. You never know when they’re going to cut corners and get you in trouble later on.

Common Ductwork Issues

After it’s been installed, your new duct system will need regular maintenance to keep it in good condition. You never know when an issue will develop, such as water in your air vents.

Failure to get regular maintenance may require you to call in for avoidable repairs. At best, you’ll need to replace a length of ductwork. At worst, problems related to your ducts cause damage to your HVAC system. One of the things you can do on your own is to inspect and change your air filters. Too much dirt and debris on your filters may result in the excess making its way into your ductwork.

You should also inspect your ducts for mold or debris. If you have a pest problem, they can leave droppings inside of them.

Call an Experienced Contractor

One of the best ways to cut costs on your ductwork installation is to call a dependable contractor. You want someone willing to put in the work and not trick you into paying for more work hours than necessary. It also helps if your contractor offers maintenance plans for your brand-new ductwork.

Industrial Mechanical Contractors has over 50 years of experience working with clients on their commercial HVAC and mechanical construction needs. We currently operate in the Southeastern PA, Central and Southern NJ, and Northern Delaware areas.

Contact us to learn more and request a quote.

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