How to Remove Ductwork

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Things You'll Need

  • Portable, battery-powered screw gun (optional)

  • Sockets and Phillips-head bits

  • Flashlight

  • Carpet, or small pocket knife

  • Work gloves

  • Dust mask

  • 1/4-inch socket wrench with assorted sockets (optional)

  • Small Phillips-head screwdriver (optional)

  • Vacuum cleaner, such as a Shop-Vac (optional)

  • Broom

Removing old duct work is not as hard as it seems.

Removing duct work is a challenging job for the simple fact that most duct work systems are located in hard-to-reach places. Ducts for heating and air conditioning systems are often placed in attics and small crawl spaces underneath the house. Duct work removal may be accomplished solo, but a helper comes in handy, especially when it's time to remove the duct work out of the space, or to remove clutter as the duct work is dismantled. A selection of basic tools and safety items are all that is required to remove most standard duct work.

Step 1

Access the duct work. If the duct work is located in a full basement or attic, the work is a lot simpler than if in a small crawl space. When working in a small space, be sure to bring all the necessary tools, including: drill, knife, flashlight and any other useful items; if you forget something you'll have to crawl back out to get it. Also, be sure to wear a dust mask and leather work gloves, as fiberglass insulation is encountered during the entire removal process and sheet-metal ducts have sharp edges.

Step 2

Begin at the end of the system. Duct work systems consist of two parts, return and output. Output ducts deliver air conditioning and heat into the space, while return ducts deliver air back into the system. The main two ducts attached to most air conditioning/heating units is where the return and output ducts begin. Trace the duct work system to its farthest point from the central unit.

Step 3

Dismantle sheet metal duct work. Ducts are commonly attached to vents with sheet-metal joints and specially-shaped pieces designed to fit the vent securely. Sheet-metal duct work is attached with sheet-metal screws around the duct's circumference. To remove sheet metal duct work, simply unscrew the sheet-metal screws around the duct. Most sheet-metal screws are either Phillips-head, requiring the proper screw bit, or have hex heads, requiring the proper socket, which can be used on the screw gun or ratchet handle.

Step 4

Remove flexible duct work. Flexible duct work is easily removed from sheet metal joints, vents and wyes by cutting it off with a small knife. If working in a tight space, be sure to gradually move the dismantled sections forward as you work your way out. This prevents having to go all the way to the system's end a second time.

Step 5

Dispose the old duct work properly and clean thoroughly clean the work area. Fiberglas pieces and fibers should be removed as completely as possible, either by sweeping or using a vacuum cleaner.


Save sheet-metal duct pieces if new duct work is to be installed. Sheet metal ducts can often be reused, and some of these pieces are specifically sized for the vents used in your particular duct set up.

references & resources

Floyd Drake III

A native of New Haven, Conn., Floyd Drake III began writing in 1984. His work has appeared in the "New Haven Register," Medford's "Mail-Tribune" and the "Ashland Daily Tidings." Drake studied journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. After working as a reporter in Oregon, he is now based back home in New Haven.