Ductwork Install Cost Per Square Foot

Ductwork Install Cost Per Square Foot

Here we analyze the ductwork install cost per square foot. This is a subject that we need to consider always when we want to aggregate cost for air conditioner or gas furnace cost with a complete installation.

Ductwork costs around $0.50 to $3 per square foot to install. However, it’s not usually measured by square feet but instead by linear feet. For every 1,000 square feet of home, you’ll have about 110 linear feet of ducts.

Sq. Ft.Lin. Ft.Average Price Range for Ductwork
1,000 – 2,500110 – 280$1,100 – $6,880
2,000 – 3,500220 – 390$2,200 – $9,630
3,000 – 4,500+330 – 500$3,300 – $12,380

Estimating the linear feet you need depends more on your home’s footprint than the total square footage. A 2,500-square-foot house with one story may require 100 to 150 linear feet of ductwork than a home of the same size with three floors.

Cost per Square Foot to Install New Ductwork in a New Home

In general, installing ductwork in a new home will cost less than the costs of adding ducts to an existing home. This is because the walls are not finished, and the workers are more easily able to run the ducts, lowering the labor cost. Because the walls and home are not finished, there are no added costs for having to cut into a wall or having to make patches or repairs later on.

The home size is tied to the number of linear feet necessary for the job. Therefore, there is not a direct cost per square foot, but rather a cost per linear foot that is tied to the total amount of ducts necessary for a home of that size.

Below are the average costs for ductwork for homes of varying sizes.

House SizeLinear Feet of DuctsAverage Costs (New Home Installed)
1,000 sq.ft.80 – 120$800 – $1,560
2,000 sq.ft.180 – 300$1,900 – $4,000
3,000 sq.ft.280 – 375$2,800 – $4,875
4,000 sq.ft.350 – 500$3,500 – $6,500

Cost to Replace Ductwork per Square Foot

The cost to replace existing ductwork is always going to be more than the cost of ducts in new construction. This is because you will have costs related to the removal and disposal of the existing ducts. Depending on where they are located, your labor costs could be higher or lower as well, simply because the ducts can be easy or difficult to reach, remove, and install. Like in new construction, each home size will have a range of duct lengths, dictating the costs. Below are the average costs for replacing ducts in homes of varying sizes.

House SizeLinear Feet of DuctsAverage Costs (Replacement Installed)
1,000 sq.ft.80 – 120$1,333 – $2,400
2,000 sq.ft.180 – 300$3,000 – $6,000
3,000 sq.ft.280 – 375$4,665 – $7,500
4,000 sq.ft.350 – 500$5,831 – $10,000

Cost per Square Foot to Retrofit a New Home With Ductwork

Retrofitting an existing home with new ductwork is the most expensive method of duct installation. To run ducts in an existing home, you often have to make paths for them through closets, beneath stairs, and through the attic. This can be difficult, requires a lot of careful planning on the part of the installer, and may require opening of existing walls, as well as patching and refinishing at the end. This can lead to a wide range of costs for the project.

Like in other ductwork installations, there can be a range of linear feet of ducts needed for homes of different sizes. Because ducts are installed by the linear foot, the average number of feet used in a home of different sizes is what will impact the total project cost. Below are the average costs to install ducts in homes of varying sizes.

House SizeLinear Feet of DuctsAverage Costs (Retrofit Installed)
1,000 sq.ft.80 – 120$5,332 – $7,200
2,000 sq.ft.180 – 300$12,000 – $18,000
3,000 sq.ft.280 – 375$18,665 – $22,500
4,000 sq.ft.350 – 500$23,331 – $30,000

Cost of New Ductwork by Type

Depending on the home type, your ducts may be visible, hidden, or a combination. It is common for homes to have at least some exposed ducts in the basement or utility room because they move from your HVAC system to the finished rooms of your home. From there, the ducts become concealed in floors, walls, ceilings, closets, and other spaces. In some homes, such as lofts, all the ducts may remain exposed. The cost of installing new ducts fluctuates depending on whether the ducts are exposed or hidden. Hidden ducts are harder to reach, increasing labor costs.

On the other hand, hidden ducts are usually made of thinner, flexible materials, costing less. This may mean that the overlap between the costs can be significant in some cases. You likely will not be billed separately if your home has both exposed and hidden ducts. The entire project will be billed at one averaged rate.

TypeAverage Cost per Square Foot (Installed)
Exposed$6.50 – $17.50
Hidden$6.50 – $19.50

Exposed Ductwork Cost

The cost of exposed ductwork averages $6.50 to $17.50 a square foot. This includes the system trunk and the branches that reach the vents. Exposed systems are easier to reach but often have a nicer finish than hidden systems. More care needs to be taken if the system is exposed throughout the home, rather than just in utility spaces. Depending on how much of your system is exposed, your costs could be on the higher end for the entire project. In case you choose to have your ductwork exposed, Bob Vila recommends inverting in copper ducts, as they create a warm and elegant look. Moreover, since all homes have a section of exposed ductwork, the costs tend to even out when combined with the thinner materials used elsewhere.

Hidden Ductwork Cost

The cost of hidden ductwork ranges from $6.50 to $19.50 a square foot installed. Most single-family homes have some hidden ductwork. While the beginning of the system is exposed, when it leaves your HVAC equipment, it will be hidden as it approaches the various vents. This means there can be a wide range of costs, mostly due to the different material types and how difficult the ducts are to access. Homes with a lot of insulation or ducts fed through tight spaces can be more difficult to work on, driving costs up. Some areas may be easier to reach, reducing costs.


The home size plays a role in how expensive the project is. Larger homes require more linear feet of ductwork to reach all the rooms and areas to be heated or cooled. Smaller homes need less ductwork. The layout also plays a part. Two homes of the same square footage, but with different layouts, may have different amounts of ductwork and costs. The amount of ductwork you need is not necessarily tied to your square footage, and there is no direct conversion. Instead, it is tied to several factors, including climate, airflow, and the size of your ducts and HVAC system. Therefore, one home can have a range of sizes and costs. Below are the average costs for installing ductwork in a new home, replacing ductwork in a home, and retrofitting an existing home with new ducts.

If you have central air conditioning or forced hot air in your home, you likely have ducts running throughout your home. Ducts allow air to flow through your home from your HVAC system to the vents in each room. Without ducts, air could not travel consistently to all areas of your house at once.

Ducts silently move air from your heating and cooling system to the far reaches of your home, keeping the temperature even throughout the house. 

Ductwork facilitates the path air takes to and from your HVAC system and in and out of your house. 

Well-functioning ductwork promotes both home energy efficiency and room-to-room comfort in terms of air quality and temperature.

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Author Peter Schmidt

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