Hiring the Right Ductwork Contractor for Your Home

Mariel Loveland
Written by Mariel Loveland
Updated December 13, 2021
The interior of a modern living room with new vents above the kitchen
Photo: slavun / Adobe Stock

Don’t be daft about your draft—hiring a qualified ductwork contractor can be a breeze

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Good ductwork leads to great energy savings, so it’s important to hire a qualified contractor when you’re updating or repairing your HVAC system. In most states, ductwork contractors need a specialized license. When you’re hiring an HVAC contractor, look for a contractor that specializes in your specific type of HVAC system, gather quotes from at least three different contractors, and always ask questions.

How to Find a Ductwork Contractor

Many homeowners referrals from neighbors, friends, or family to find a qualified ductwork professional. If you don’t already have a good recommendation, start your search online. Browse local business websites and directories like Angi or HomeAdvisor.

You may even want to ask on local social media groups or neighborhood forums. Search for HVAC contractors with good reviews and look at the quality of reviews. In-depth reviews give you a picture of where an HVAC business succeeds and where it struggles. When in doubt, Angi’s list of top-rated local HVAC contractors is a great place to start.

Before Hiring a Ductwork Contractor

Before you hire a ductwork contractor, you’ll need to get an idea of the type of work you want done, your overall budget, and what you’re looking for in a professional. 

Plan Your Ductwork Project for Accurate Quotes

Some HVAC contractors have varying specialties and may only focus on heating, cooling, or refrigeration. Others may specialize in a niche category like solar technology, air duct cleaning, or ductwork design. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines set by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) and plan your ductwork in advance, which may include items from this list:

  • Replace existing ductwork

  • Install a new heating or cooling system

  • Upgrade your heating or cooling system

  • Seal your ducts

  • Repair damaged ducts

  • Improve your home’s ventilation

  • Add vents to existing ductwork

  • Clean and tune up your vents and ducts

HVAC contractors and duct cleaning services typically provide a free estimate. According to HomeAdvisor, new ductwork usually costs about $10 to $20 per linear foot, and ductwork replacement costs $12 to $25 per linear foot. Shop around and get quotes from multiple contractors.

Check Your Ductwork Contractor’s Qualifications and References

Almost every state requires an HVAC contractor to have some type of liability insurance and a specialized license—but not all licenses are equal. Some states only authorize HVAC repairs, while others allow for installation of different capacity units. Since there’s no standardized licensing board, you'll have to check with your state. In addition to a license, an HVAC professional may have one of the following certifications:

  • North American Trade Excellence (NATE) Certification

  • HVAC Excellence Certification

  • HVAC Quality Installation Standard

  • EPA 606 Certification

  • Air Systems Cleaning Specialist (ASCS) Certification

  • Certified Ventilation Inspector (CVI) Certification

Certifications aren’t always mandatory, but they do help verify expertise. Though most ductwork contractors need a license, most HVAC technicians don’t. If you’re getting an air duct cleaning from an HVAC technician, you’ll have to rely on references, online reviews, and asking questions.

Questions to Ask Your Ductwork Contractor

A contractor examining a house’s ducts
Photo: romaset / Adobe Stock

A good contractor will be transparent about their qualifications and process, starting from their initial estimate to the final payment. Before hiring a contractor, ask the following questions:

  • What is your training and experience?

  • What are your HVAC certifications?

  • Do you have a specialty? 

  • Can I see a copy of your license and liability insurance?

  • Can you provide references?

  • Are you experienced in this type of ductwork?

  • How long will the job take?

  • Do you charge an hourly or fixed rate?

  • What do you expect to be the overall cost, and how do you determine quotes?

  • What are your payment terms, and how do you handle changes to the estimate?

  • Does this work come with a warranty or guarantee?

Tips for Hiring Your Ductwork Contractor

These tips can help you avoid a potential problem during your ductwork job.

Interview Your Pro Ductwork Contractor

Always interview more than one professional. This will help you get a consensus about the job deliverables and how much they should cost. 

Ask for a Background Check

Since HVAC contractors usually need a license, you should ask your contractor for:

  • A copy of their licenses or certificates

  • A copy of their insurance

  • A background check

The background check will help you avoid a potential air duct scam. If your contractor won’t agree to a background check, it’s a red flag.

Get a Contract and Arrange Payments with Your Ductwork Contractor

A contract will lay out the project phases and payment process, so there is no confusion on when to pay or what you're paying for. Your ductwork contract should define:

  • How to contact your ductwork contractor

  • Performance guarantees and installer warranties

  • Insurance coverage

  • Payment terms

  • Work specifications (everything from acquiring permits to duct cleaning equipment to disposal of job site waste)

  • What happens if the job changes

  • What makes your contract void (also known as a termination clause)

  • How you resolve a conflict between parties (also known as indemnification terms)

Keep Records of Your Ductwork Project

It’s important to keep a record of the progress your contractor makes, the hours they work, your payments, and any changes to the initial plan. Use this record to check your invoices.

Look for Red Flags and Prepare to Troubleshoot

Unexpected things might come up during a ductwork job, so you may have to troubleshoot with your contractor. The best way to ensure a smooth process is to hire a qualified HVAC contractor and keep an eye out for potential red flags, which include:

  • A one-person company: Though some contractors work alone, there may be less accountability for solo contractors who don’t work for a larger company

  • No insurance, permits, or certification

  • Bad online reviews 

  • No online reviews: This isn’t necessarily a red flag, but it could signal a new (or inexperienced) contractor or an illegitimate business

  • Will not submit a background check

  • Will not provide references

  • Very low prices: Most of the time, you get what you pay for

  • Long response times: If your contractor isn’t very responsive during the hiring process, they’re unlikely to be responsive if you have a problem down the line

After Your Ductwork Contractor Has Finished

Ductwork lasts 10 to 25 years with proper maintenance. Once your contractor has finished and you've made your final payment, it's essential to keep up with maintaining your HVAC system and existing ductwork. You can use an HVAC maintenance checklist and a dryer and dryer vent inspection checklist to make sure you don’t miss a beat.

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