A couple people asked me to explain what exactly was wrong with the picture of the air return vent and how it was hashed together.
So, some drawings.
This is how you properly frame an opening in a floor. You double the joists on either side, then cut the hole, then put in doubled headers on the opening, and hang the halves of the cut joist on either side with joist hangers or proper nailing (joist hangers being easier). The new lumber should match the old in size.
This is what the idiots at Rising Star Heating & Air did. They just cut the joist and nailed a smaller piece of lumber on the ends, no doubled joists, no double header, not even really attaching the cut ends to anything in any kind of structural way. Fortunately this was one joist in a slightly overbuilt structure and the opening was under the stairs, but I have no idea how any inspector passed that, assuming they had the work inspected.
The dolts also did this: they set up the furnace so the return air vent comes in on the TOP, rather than on the side. The furnace hangs from the bottom of the first floor floor joists in the crawl space part of the attic, and there's not a lot of clearance there. Now, we haven't examined this in detail to find out whether they just used the wrong part, or installed the right part incorrectly, but it takes a special kind of idiot to think this is the right thing to do here. Then again, these were also the nitwits who installed the wrong water heater and argued with us about what they'd installed even when it was printed on the side.
Here's a plan of how we're going to reconfigure the air return (yes, I know what it resembles slightly, I went to middle school too; get your minds out of the gutters, people). We're planning to move the location of the return down into the base of the new closet, so we need more ducting. The old location is dashed in, the new is solid. It's really only about nine feet total from one location to the next, but obviously they didn't install nine extra feet of duct when they installed the air return, especially since they installed it in the most convoluted way possible.
It turns out that 18" flexible duct is not something local places just keep in stock, except in quantities that are a little impractical for us. So I ordered a 12' length from Home Depot for what turned out to be a very reasonable price. Interestingly, they offered me the possibility of free home delivery arriving somewhere around October 29, or free in-store pickup arriving around 10/31. I'm not sure why it would take so much longer to get to a store that is at most five minutes by car from our house, or what kind of sucker would choose that option, but there you have it.
We have some plans for snugging up the heating system in the next week, since it's in a bit of disarray, and we are fast approaching heating season. Technically it's heating season all year round here, but we're fast approaching the season where it goes from mere discomfort to extreme suffering, and also one of the neighbors just gave me a lovely orchid that I don't want to kill with cold.
posted by ayse on 10/20/13