I am ripping my entire house apart and will be making almost an entire wall out of windows and doors,(glass). I will be changing all of the floor plans, (walls), so at the moment I am adding HVAC to the upstairs. I want to install a furnace upstairs, along with an electrical sub-panel. I plan on making a separate "mechanical s" room for the furnace and electrical, which will be placed in the center of the existing chimney. I plan on installing exposed spiral ducting down the center of the upstairs vaulted ceiling. Do I need to run cold air return ducting back to this secondary furnace? Can I have a gap on the bottom of all doors, instead of running ducting? Thank You

  • 1
    Do you have permits for this project? If you did, then you would likely already know the answer to these questions.
    – longneck
    Jun 11, 2016 at 18:34
  • Have you already spoken to an HVAC guy or two? My gut says that they'll be able to answer your question better than us. Jun 11, 2016 at 20:50
  • In my area, if someone is "ripping" their entire house apart, permits are required. One of the reasons permits are required is so that the work performed is completed to meet all codes, mainly for safety. Thus the reason I have asked this question. Building permits in my area are nothing more than a form notifying the city that work will be performed in compliance of codes set. When a homeowner obtains a permit does not mean that they are a professional in all the work being performed. If everyone on this site would hire a professional, I do not see much reason to have this website up?
    – CncTech
    Jun 17, 2016 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


A Manual D load calculation will give you each room's airflow and return air path requirements. Those return air paths can be provided by dedicated return ducts, jump-ducts, or undercut doors. Undercut doors represent the least desirable approach because the amount of airflow that can pass under a door is about 50 CFM per inch, and a one inch undercut is pretty big but 50 CFM may not come close to the airflow going into the room. A one inch undercut also creates privacy concerns and may look just plain ugly.

By far the superior solution if you don't want to use dedicated return air ducting is to use jump ducts that allow air to pass through common walls and into the central hallway, and then you can have your simple central hallway return. The preferred approach is to do the ducts through the wall, not over the ceiling, which would put them in the unconditioned attic.

I am assuming you did a Manual J calculation to size the equipment correctly and determine whether or not a second furnace needed in the first place, right? And that you did the calculation with the assumption that all air sealing and insulation work were done first so when when you eventually do them later, this equipment won't be hugely oversized and create comfort problems, right? And that the results of this calculation convinced you that a second ducted furnace was actually required and cost-effective vs a single unit with zoning, a mini-ducted mini-split heat pump, or a series of ductless mini-split heat pumps? And that you were able to find a furnace with a small enough output that it won't short-cycle all season?

The reason why I ask is that if the answers to most or all these questions are all "No", then it's time to go back to the drawing board, because you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.


You can have a centrally located Return Air grille and raise the bottom of the doors to have 1.5" or so off the finished floor or carpeting.

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