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Granchildren and floor vents, help needed
Old 05-20-2013, 08:32 AM   #1
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Granchildren and floor vents, help needed

DD called this morning, reporting that my grandson had dropped her ipod down the floor vent. That shows a certain initiative on his part, and also an understanding of shapes and sizes. He's going to be an engineer.

Anyway, she can't get the vent out to recover the ipod, then confirmed other things have gone down this (and other) floor vents before this. I suggested she pull out all the vents and put some fine screen beneath, otherwise this will end badly. She says she cannot remove the vent, it is wedged, or firmly attached. For this situation, I have three questions

1) How to remove the floor vent without damaging it
2) How to fish out the ipod, it is not visible, and
3) Does it make sense to put some screen beneath the vent, and if so, is there a specific type, or is there a better way to approach this.

Both DD and I deeply appreciate any advice.

Photo attached

Edit to add: she attempted but was unable to slide a blade around the vent. Unclear if it is just stuck or glued. One corner (lower left) is free
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File Type: jpg floor vent.jpg (828.9 KB, 20 views)
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Old 05-20-2013, 08:49 AM   #2
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If you are unable to pry carefully starting in the lower left corner with a putty knife or small screw driver then you maybe able to use an oscillating saw with a thin kerf blade along the left side to relieve some of the tightness. After it is out then sand/plane/cut an 1/8" off two sides and then reseal the edges to help prevent it swelling. I have also had some luck coating the edges before reinstalling with wax such as "Gulf" canning wax or similar. As far as a screen, window screen may restrict air flow by about 20-40%, I would use 1/4"opening hardware cloth which would be stiff enough not to sag but still catch most items.
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Old 05-20-2013, 08:52 AM   #3
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My biggest concern with the screen would be that it makes the HVAC system work harder because of the reduced ability to move air. I would think this would hurt its efficiency much like running with fouled filters that need replacement. But then, I'm no HVAC expert and I could be wrong. If you only had to do it to 1-2 vents in the whole house, though, it might not be significant.
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Old 05-20-2013, 09:02 AM   #4
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If they shine a light down there, can they tell if they'll have a chance to retrieve the ipod? Usually it should flatten out but if they see that it's slanted such that the iPod likely slid out of reach, they might write it off without doing more damage.

The wood probably swelled such that the vent can't be removed, especially in the warmer damper spring. Maybe they could dry out the wood with a dehumidifier, and maybe turn the A/C on to cool it (A/C would also dry it out). Then they'd need to fashion some kind of hook to pull it up by that center piece.

Or it's been glued in place, which is bad unless they can get something thin like a razor blade in there to break up the glue.

As far as fishing it out, they can either reach it or they can't. The only other idea I have if it's out of reach is whether a vent cleaner has enough suction to pull the iPod through to base unit where they could hopefully retrieve it.

If I were a betting man I'd guess that they won't be able to get the vent out without breaking the wood. The older the house the more likely it's stuck in there good.

A screen worries me a bit in that it'd act like a filter and catch dust and stuff, and eventually block. You'd want larger holes, more like a net than a screen. Or just teach kids not to lose there stuff down there!
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Old 05-20-2013, 09:19 AM   #5
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The only thing I'd add to the good posts above is sooner is probably better than later. If the iPod is still in reach on an incline section of the duct, in time vibration will move it further away from the vent until it reaches a flat spot. And even then it may move even further out of reach if there is even a slight pitch in the "flat" section. So getting the vent open (it shouldn't be glued) and attempting to fish it out right away may be helpful.

A small mirror (some have telescoping mirrors, or do women still have "compacts") and a careful coat hanger or stiff wire may help extend your reach.

The screen under the vent sounds like a good idea to foil your budding engineer (good luck).
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Old 05-20-2013, 09:19 AM   #6
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I would start with a putty knife also ( very thin one ) go all around the edge to loosen it up. It may just be sticky from floor cleaner/wax etc. If it is wedged maybe get one of those multifuntion tools with a flush blade and carefully trim just enough to free it up. Then sand and stain if needed. I got a multifunction tool from harborfrieght ( cheap ) and have used it for all sorts of things especially where a regular saw blade will not fit.

I think you can use something like window screening or maybe even some plastic garden netting, staple it on the back. The mesh should be course enough not to interfere with air flow.

Fishing the ipod, maybe a small drain snake with double sided tape, but the ipod may have gone further down the duct, may have to go under the floor to where the duct run is located. Might be able to suck it out with a shop vac with a long hose.
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Old 05-20-2013, 09:48 AM   #7
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I have nothing to add except that I'm very glad that I have a) ceiling vents and b) no grandkids! Good luck, I'd bust up that vent and just replace it with another one, after you add some large hardware cloth type covering underneath.
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Old 05-20-2013, 09:59 AM   #8
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From the top side, you can also try electrical fish tape, a wood dowel rod or flexible plastic yard stick with a piece of exposed duct tape attached to the end to hopefully snag and drag it back out of the grate.

If you can access the duct from underneath, you can remove the 4 duct connectors to loosen it up enough to get anything out.

To remove the wood grate, I'd check to see if there's any recessed screws holding it in place. If there is one, it was put in diagonally and possibly filled with putty to be less noticeable. Otherwise, you can get a small paint scraper/pry bar that would fit into the gap so you can apply some pressure along the end gap to gently try and pull it up.
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Old 05-20-2013, 10:00 AM   #9
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I'd try cutting along the vent edge with a utility knife. Also, a vacuum cleaner nozzle pushed tight along the junction might pull up some dust/debris that is locking the vent in place. The vacuum hose might also be able to retrieve the phone (might try the brush nozzle).
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Old 05-20-2013, 10:00 AM   #10
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Good luck, I'd bust up that vent and just replace it with another one.
+1.
Vent is less expensive than the IPod.
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Old 05-20-2013, 10:05 AM   #11
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We have similar oak vents set in an oak floor (but just ~ 10 years old, I don't know how old these are). I really doubt they are glued in, they are meant to be removed for this very reason.

So I tried ours, the first one lifted right out, no resistance. The second one (in a higher traffic area, probably more grime getting into the edges) sure acted like it was glued in, it was tight. I started with a thin putty knife around the edge (get the edge of the vent to the trim, not the edge of the trim to the floor). In the process of dong that, at one point I ended up pushing sideways on it, and it 'broke' loose, and then was easy to lift out.

You can use a couple of Allen wrenches or right angle screwdrivers to get into the vent, turn 90 degrees and then lift out if you can't get a grip on it.

I'd also suggest putting a block of wood on it, and giving the wood some gentle raps with a hammer. That can break free any stickiness. But, if it is swollen from humidity, it might be pretty tight.

Good luck. I also second the 'hardware cloth' approach. Fine enough to stop an iPod, coarse enough to not meaningfully affect airflow.

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Old 05-20-2013, 10:08 AM   #12
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I did the same thing when I was a kid, except we didn't have iPods. I used a hamster.
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Old 05-20-2013, 10:49 AM   #13
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I did the same thing when I was a kid, except we didn't have iPods. I used a hamster.
Michael, be sure your DD doesn't let your budding engineer grandson see how she gets the vent cover off! Hamsters will be next, then the cat, then the iPad....
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Old 05-20-2013, 10:51 AM   #14
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I did the same thing when I was a kid, except we didn't have iPods. I used a hamster.


My specialty was car keys. We didn’t have floor vents so I used to throw them behind the dash board in the car.

.......

Lots of good suggestions. Thanks very much for the feedback so far.

Look for screws. If none, a putty knife is the next step. Should she use a bit of mineral oil or something on the blade? Some gentle raps on top, vacuum first. Maybe tap the putty knife when it sticks. If that doesn’t do the job, a utility knife. Sand the edges and apply a bit of wax before returning,

Restricting airflow is a legitimate point. I have that problem with the dryer vent – major clog. Hardware cloth sounds a better option. If the holes are too big, well, that’s another issue.

Not sure where the ipod is – or what else is down there. Also not sure what tools they have available to help. A long vacuum hose may help – would the ipod be too heavy? Unscrew the vent where it attaches in the basement might be needed. At least their basement is not finished, so most connections should still be easily accessable.

Is it safe to say that ducts have inside screens where they meet the furnace, so stuff can’t fall into the furnace?

.......

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
I have nothing to add except that I'm very glad that I have a) ceiling vents and b) no grandkids!
Regretfully, the only options here would be to sell the house and return the kids, and DD wasn’t receptive to either when we last spoke. They just bought the house last year and with the kids, there is some sort of attachment there, despite the vent stuff. Since her firstborn (hurricane Leila) I've often said it is delightful revenge, but she just doesn't see the humor, and can't believe I'm serious (and I am).

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Michael, be sure your DD doesn't let your budding engineer grandson see how she gets the vent cover off! Hamsters will be next, then the cat, then the iPad....
Very good advice!
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Old 05-20-2013, 11:12 AM   #15
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As others said vents are drop in, somtimes forced in to make fit. Ahem.
As noted previously they are cheaper than an Ipod so if it does not come out easily, don't force it.... use a bigger hammer.

No, plenums have no screens where the ducting attaches.

Edit add. The grill should be a separate piece from the sloping trimwork. Nicely done, by the way.
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Old 05-20-2013, 11:17 AM   #16
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Why not go from the bottom up and disconnect the duct work if it a crawl space of basement construction. Most are put in with a register box with a collar for the pipe. Take out the sheet metal screws and unwedge the pipe from the collar. Prof12
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Old 05-20-2013, 11:57 AM   #17
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I'd bend a 1/8" metal rod into an L shape and hook the side and yank up. Maybe two L shaped rods.
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Old 05-20-2013, 12:40 PM   #18
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Put a stocking (or knee-hi) over the end of a shopvac and use it to suck out anything stuck in the duct. (a shopvac is stronger than a regular vacuum)

Use cheese cloth under the vents. It won't tax the HVAC system. It's what's recommended for people with breathing issues and it's cheap and easy to replace occasionally.
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Old 05-20-2013, 12:54 PM   #19
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I don't have floor vents but I found they already have floor vent filters for this, prevents stuff from getting ducts

Web Vent Filters (12-Pack)-WVENT at The Home Depot
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Old 05-20-2013, 08:45 PM   #20
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I don't have floor vents but I found they already have floor vent filters for this, prevents stuff from getting ducts

Web Vent Filters (12-Pack)-WVENT at The Home Depot
Thanks for the tip.

Back in 2000 when we replaced our HVAC system, DW insisted that we install a new floor register by the kitchen range. "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" In hindsight this has proven to be an exceptionally bad idea. Crud from the range is continally falling into the register. I have placed a piece of aluminum screen under the register to catch the crud. My job is to clean/replace the screen regularly. I had not thought to check Home Depot for a specially made screen.

Home Depot and Lowes have a large selection of floor registers that are much cheaper than an Ipod.

Also, if OP floor register is over a crawlspace, you might consider approaching it from the crawlspace.
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