Cold Air Return

I had contacted a licensed well known local HVAC contractor to install several supply registers in the drop ceiling of my basement that already had 2 in the drop ceiling when I bought the house. He did the work while I was at work one day and did not inform me that he had decided to install these in the walls near the ceiling. He also installed a cold air return in the furnace that is located in the laundry room with the hot water heater.

My question is…according to several people I’ve talked with, this is illegal? How so? Also, I had my local gas company test for carbon monoxide and the tech only tested around the furnace area after several minutes of having the heat turned on. Luckily, he said there was no reading of carbon monoxide.

This contractor has sued me for the cost of the work he has done and I am countersuing for the damages he has done to my home. I’m hoping I can find proof that it is illegal to have the return in the same room as the furnace. Any help is much appreciated.


Sherri You should have your attorney Check the IRC (International Residential Code) book. Also find out if the Contractor had a permit with your local City Authority and was his work inspected by your city code officials.

M1602.3 Paragraph 4 are prohibited sources for return air. A closet, bathroom,toilet room, kitchen, garage, mechanical room, furnace room or other dwelling unit.

Paragraph 5 A room or space containing a fuel-burning appliance where such room or space serves as the sole source of return air.

There are some exceptions to these rules.

I’m representing myself in court. I don’t know if he had a permit with city officials or not. And no, his work was not inspected. I actually called the local building inspecter for my town today and they will not inspect my home unless I apply for a permit. ??? I don’t know what I would need to have a permit for.

What exceptions to those rules are there?


Your contractor is the one that should have drawn the permit with the city not your responsibility.

Here’s an image that might help:0796.JPG


Closer than 10 feet from an appliance vent outlet, A vent opening from a plumbing drainage system or the discharge outlet of an exhaust fan, unless the outlet is 3 feet above the outside air inlet

Where there is a presence of flamable vapors.

A room or space, the volume of which is less than 25% of the entire volume served by such system. Where connected by a pernament opening having an area sized in accordance with sections M1602.2 and M1603.1 adjoining rooms or spaces shall be considered as a single room or space for the purpose of determining the volume of such rooms or spaces.

Thanks for the illustration! That’s exactly what he did. The room where this is located is quite small and just barely big enough for the W/D, 65 gallon water heater, and furnace. We keep the door shut to the laundry room (I’ve heard that I should keep it open and then others have said to keep it closed). This is the only air return in the basement, which is fully finished.

I’m not sure if any of the exceptions apply in my situation or not. Thanks so much for posting those.

That is a no no I would not pay him either I would have asked or demanded that he alter the return.

Around here it is the owners responsibility to get the required permits, not the contractors. Sometimes they will offer it as a convenience. The contractor is doing the work but the property does not belong to them.


I stand corrected that is what I deserve for assuming all places are the same.