What are my next steps on this house?
May 30, 2015 5:17 AM   Subscribe

There's a house we're interested in. It doesn't have any ductwork for the kitchen and there's no hood vent over the island cooktop. What do we do next? Can we retrofit the ducting? How do we arrange our thinking on this problem?

We're looking for the kind of place to live that, although it exists, it's somewhat rare in our area. We found a house that has everything we want. We like it, we're willing to take on the little things that the current owners let go, and in addition to being a rare house for the area, the backyard is almost lined up with the backyard of very good friends of the family and the neighborhood is full of kids our daughter's age.

There's no ductwork for a hood vent in the kitchen. There are signs in the house that this kitchen should be vented.

The cooktop is on an island in the middle of the kitchen in the middle of the house. There are two ovens - one is under the cooktop in the middle of the island, the other is on an internal wall. My understanding is that I don't need to worry about venting ovens, just venting on ranges, and so I can ignore the oven that's on the internal wall for the purposes of this problem. Is that true?

The kitchen ceiling already somewhat low and also coffered, so building a box around a six inch vent is untenable. It's got to go through joists. We can't go straight up to the roof because the kitchen is under a second story.

I estimate that venting from the cooktop, it's a 20 foot run with two elbows to vent if the joists run the favorable way. This plan would require taking down the coffering beams and bashing a trench across the ceiling.

If the joists ran the unfavorable direction, it would be perhaps 20 feet to get to the side of the house but we'd have to bash out the ceiling in two rooms and I don't know what happens when we get to walls. Then the cooking odors would vent just by the windows to the living room. It'd have to be more like 35 feet to get past the edge of the living room windows. This plan still requires one elbow, if I have to count the elbow at the ceiling over the hood.

If I managed to figure out how to vent this kitchen, then I'd have to find a way to do make up air venting, right?

I went to Lowes hardware store and talked to the kitchen guy about what fixes were. He said, at length, that there's no way to fix it. I asked hypothetically, what if I were willing to rip the counters and cabinets in this kitchen out and immediately drop a new ones in and oh, by the way, move the cooktop while we're at it? He said ballpark 50K and I'll still have the ducting problem. He said walk away, there will be other houses.

So we walked. But we keep thinking about it, because although there are other houses, they're not likely to be so walkable close to our friends, and we're talking about suburban wastelands where most of the houses aren't walkable to anywhere.

If this really is a common 80's kitchen problem, how is everyone else dealing with this? Do people just... not cook? Is this situation truly unfixable?

Bonus question - the porch is clearly an after-build add-on and so the hot water and heater exhaust vent pipes are running straight across about 15 feet with little white elbow pipes on the end that look like macaroni pointing down. Does that indicate that these might not be venting properly either and would it give me a clue that the entire house is broken?
posted by arabelladragon to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If there's a basement then you could get a cooktop with a downdraft vent. They have the reputation of being less effective than overhead hoods, but better than the nothing that's there now.

If the house has a gable roof then there's a pretty good chance that the joists run parallel to the ridge line, so that a vent through the ceiling will exit on a gable end.

It sounds like a few corners were cut by previous owners, but I wouldn't let these ducting issues turn me away if the rest of the situation (including the price) were attractive.
posted by jon1270 at 5:31 AM on May 30, 2015

Best answer: In my area, most homes just have a recirculating hood that doesn't even vent outside. It's not ideal, but it's very common. Why do you think this home needs venting so badly?

If you brought a real contractor in, it's likely this problem could be solved quite easily. Don't rely on the people at the hardware store that have never seen it and aren't contractors.

You haven't brought up a downdraft range. You might be able to vent through the crawl space or basement instead.

Those white pipes coming out the side of the house are a good thing.
The entire house is not broken

Get someone with real knowledge over there. And hurry up and buy the house before you lose out to someone else.
posted by littlewater at 5:32 AM on May 30, 2015 [10 favorites]

Also, make-up air systems are rarely needed for residential kitchen hoods. Most houses are somewhat leaky already, and few non-commercial hoods move enough air to be a problem.

Finally, don't imagine that the Lowe's $50K ballpark is anything like your only option. That sounds like a number you'd get from someone who doesn't feel like thinking too hard.
posted by jon1270 at 5:34 AM on May 30, 2015

I have a 100 year old house with a vintage gas range and no vent hood. Yes, it is a little bit messier than if we had a vent hood (cooking grease). You don't REALLY need one.
posted by sarajane at 5:46 AM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Why we need a hood: There are signs of paint damage over the range. Also, given how low the ceiling is (7 foot 2 with the coffer beams), we're concerned about fires. I have asthma. Finally, I have too much training in related fields to blithely ignore this. (My training is not, however, in the types of construction and repair to know how to fix it.) I believe that in some houses, people don't need hoods, but for our experience, we need one.

Lowes guy said that in order to do a downdraft, I'd have to get a new granite counter top because no one would be willing to cut holes in what's there and then the island wouldn't match the rest. Also, there's an oven under the cooktop and he said downdrafts just aren't worth it and don't work, especially in terms of capturing steam and heat and vapors from tall pots. I'm not sure where in the finished basement it falls, and we're still looking at a 20 foot run with an elbow. If downdrafts already have a poor draw, it seems that putting a poor draw on a long run isn't much of a solution. On the other hand, the basement is finished with drop tiles and there's already room built in for the mechanics of the house.

One reason for posting this question is to figure out if I actually asked the right guy. He did take 20 minutes to go over all the details with me.

Littlewater, what is someone with real knowledge called? How do I look them up on Angie's List and is it done to bring them on a walk-through? What would the cost look like?
posted by arabelladragon at 6:02 AM on May 30, 2015

Best answer: You want a general contractor, but find someone who notes on Angie's list that they do kitchen remodels regularly. Ask your friends and neighbors for referrals. You absolutely can bring them along with you to take a look and give you their thoughts, but note that it will take some coordination and hustling on your part.

Cost is hard to determine without pictures and not actually being there, as it depends on the hood you're installing and the relative difficulty of the install and ducting.

I should add that it seems like there's a lot of other good things about the house that it's not worth letting it go over this issue. These problems usually can be solved, it just depends on arrangement of the kitchen, the relative distance from the stove to an outside wall and whether there's space to run some sort of vent in between the two. If you see yourself doing a full kitchen remodel in the future you may relocate the stove to a better position as well.
posted by Karaage at 6:17 AM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

If this were my house, I would be fine with no/minimal venting, as would most people, and it's probably fine by your local code, but for you, venting is something you want. Which is perfectly fine.

The person with real knowledge is a contractor. Most will come to the house to give you a free bid. If you don't know anyone, the certification we like in my area is NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association). You can find a member on their website.

Mismatched countertop materials and cabinet styles and colors are very trendy now, so you might be able to just reconfigure the island.

I don't know what area you are in, but you can get a whole new kitchen, venting and all, for $50k in lots of parts of the U.S.

But if you want industrial level venting, which is what it kind of seems, the equipment alone (the hood itself) is probably around $10k and may require special install with electrical, etc.

Just to prepare you, these contractors are going to tell you your venting wishes are overkill and the hood is a mismatch with the power of your range. You may end up with decreased power on your burners if you have an overpowered hood/vent running.

You might be a person that just wants commercial equipment for both your hood and range which is very expensive and will require a full kitchen remodel.

What is the setup at your current house? Are there residential setups that are satisfactory to you?
posted by littlewater at 6:26 AM on May 30, 2015

You want a general contractor, but find someone who notes on Angie's list that they do kitchen remodels regularly. Ask your friends and neighbors for referrals. You absolutely can bring them along with you to take a look and give you their thoughts, but note that it will take some coordination and hustling on your part.

This. Don't go off of what a random person at a big box store says. Get an experienced contractor who does a lot of kitchen work, or get an HVAC contractor with a lot of retrofit experience, onsite to look at venting options. (I would go with the general, unless what you are sure that you just want to add the upward venting, in which case the HVAC person might bring more focused experience and not suggest an expensive full kitchen redo.)

I definitely wouldn't reject a house based on this -- it's a fairly straightforward technical problem that can be solved by a pro, either by venting upwards or downwards. Longer vent runs and additional elbows just mean needing a more powerful fan and/or larger ductwork, and makeup air may or may not be an issue depending on how the house is constructed -- none of this can be answered in the abstract, but can be easily solved by an experienced professional who is there in person.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:30 AM on May 30, 2015

Best answer: Let me disagree slightly with littlewater's contention that the hood itself will cost 10k. Unless you insist on luxury kitchen name brands (i.e. viking - which are not connected with quality), how big of a hood you need and the number of CFMs it pulls is generally calculated on the basis of two rules of thumb:

* Width of your stove - Ideal (not absolutely necessary) is something 3-6" wider than your stove. Some also like deeper hoods to catch the smoke coming off the front burners.

* Total BTU output of your stove - Add all BTUs (total output of your stove together) then divide by 10 and that will tell you what you generally need in terms of CFM.

From there, after you've picked out what you want in terms of a range hood (sounds like you either want a downdraft or an island hood), read the manual to see what they recommend in terms of ducting, specifically the diameter and type, as well as mounting distance from your stove. Generally they'll want something between 5-6" rigid metal duct for the vent, and minimal turns for best venting power.

I got a very nice unit (Kobe Range Hood) that pulls a lot of CFMs for $900. This was for a 36" wide bluestar stove with 22k btu output. Most standard home stoves will not have this sort of output, so I suspect the cost for your island hood should be in this range, if not less.

Mounting the unit and installing the ducting (about 8') required pulling off the ceiling, mounting the ducting into the joists, then turning a corner and going another 4', breaking through a brick and venting outside, and also required building a bulkhead to cover up the duct at the turn. This was done as part of a bigger renovation, but I can't imagine my contractor charging me more than $3k for the work.

I generally agree that a brand new renovation can be had around 50k; I recently completed my own kitchen renovation where I also replaced a recirculating hood with a new hood, complete with ducting - largely because I cook a LOT and also got a strong output stove for wok cooking, and I didn't like filling the house up with smoke.
posted by Karaage at 7:01 AM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agreed, Karaage.
I see the OP is a scientist that has previous questions about science safety, and if she wants the kind of hood that is rigorously tested and comparable to those used in science labs, it's a commercial version not usually sold to the general public, just restaurants (beyond the residential Wolf, etc). So, that would be $10k.
A normal residential hood is very cheap.

I think the consensus of this thread is that the kitchen can be solved. Don't lose the great neighborhood over this!
posted by littlewater at 7:16 AM on May 30, 2015

I had an apartment with no vent over the stove. It was annoying at times.

Move the cooktop to a better location (outside wall?). Yes, you'll have to redo some countertop but so what. Budget $10k or whatever and you're good to go. Find a kitchen contractor.

By "doesn't have any ductwork for the kitchen" do you mean there are no HVAC vents? That's another issue. Ductwork can be added by a competent HVAC contractor assuming there's a crawlspace or basement under the kitchen.
posted by LoveHam at 7:34 AM on May 30, 2015

I don't think you can get a CO in my area without a vent. Also, your insurance company might either raise the rates or not cover with no hood. Check all that too.

I don't know the configuration of the kitchen, but I would concur with LoveHam that the best solution is likely moving the cooktop to a new location.
posted by AugustWest at 8:44 AM on May 30, 2015

Response by poster: Is CO a certificate of occupancy? I've been surprised this is up to code, myself. I hadn't even thought of the insurance issue.

To clarify - I'm not looking for anything fancy - I'm just looking to run six inch ductwork from an island hood to the outside. The difficulty was in the length of the run and the number of elbows it'll take combined with the amount of saws-all-ing it looks like it'll take. I'm so glad that I asked the green for a second opinion.

By no ductwork - the kitchen is vented for heating/AC. I meant that there's no existing ductwork to vent a range to the outside. If it were as simple as swapping out an existing hood onto existing ducts, that's an easy fix and something we've done ourselves in our current house.

Thank you so much, everyone! We're in the process of finding a contractor to look at the problem. Kaaraage, what you did sounds like the kind of thing we'd have to do. It's reassuring to hear that it can be done. Even if this house deal falls through, most of the houses in our price range / desired neighborhood lack proper kitchen venting and so just knowing what kind of a professional to call will be a huge help in our hunt.
posted by arabelladragon at 9:04 AM on May 30, 2015

Yes, a CO is a Certificate of Occupancy. What is right above the kitchen island? Could you run duct work through the closet of the room above or along a wall and sheetrock it in?
posted by AugustWest at 2:46 PM on May 31, 2015

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