[This is the 2nd part of a kitchen renovation series. Read Part 1 here or keep going if you only care about my opinions on stoves & vent hoods]
The very first thing that my husband and I did in our kitchen, was to install a new stove and vent hood. We did this back in March, 2018, nearly a year before we did the bulk of our kitchen renovation.
The Vent Hood
The biggest issue with the original vent hood was that…there wasn’t one. Without a vent hood, smoke, steam, and gunk from the stuff that you cook just shoots up at the ceiling. This creates grease on the ceiling, and that’s icky. It also causes smoke alarms to go off whenever you do something that creates a lot of smoke, like searing a steak or roasting veggies at high temperatures. I actually disconnected my smoke alarm shortly after moving into the house which is not safe. You shouldn’t disconnect your smoke alarm.
Obviously, I wanted to get a vent hood installed as soon as I could, so as soon as we had finalized a layout for our kitchen design, I started researching.
Purchasing a Vent Hood – My Criteria
Size: It’s best for a vent hood overhang your range by at least 3″ on either side, to fully capture all the steam and gunk that comes off of the range. Since a standard range is 30″, that put me in the market for a 36″ range hood.
Venting: I ABSOLUTELY wanted a vented (or ducted) range hood. This means that the hood has a duct in it that goes to the outside, shooting the vapors and gunk outdoors. You can also buy a recirculating vent hood, which cleans the air and releases it back into the house, but a vented hood is more effective and improving indoor air quality. I would recommend spending the extra money and effort on a vented range hood, if you can.
Style: We wanted a chimney style, wall-mounted range hoods. These hoods look like a giant chimney above your stove. They are a bit more expensive than a hood that mounts under a cabinet, but since we were not anywhere close to purchasing our cabinets, the chimney-style seemed like an obvious choice. Besides, we just liked the look of the chimney style vent hood!
Simple: They make all kinds of fancy vent hoods these days with WiFi, automatic shut-off, and auto-adjusting fan speeds. We didn’t want any of that nonsense. Things with more features tend to cost more, and the return on those features is usually not worth it (in my opinion). Our vent hood has 3 speeds that you can adjust manually, and a light with a ‘bright’ setting and ‘dim’ setting. And that’s really all you need for a vent hood.
The Winner: We ended up purchasing a Valore 36″ Lateral Range Hood from Costco. The exact product is no longer available, but you can find the updated model here.
Installing the Vent Hood – What We Learned
This was our first big DIY project, and Matt and I were both apprehensive and clueless. Matt’s dad came over to walk us through the installation process and to loan us tools, because you need more than a hammer and a screwdriver to install a vent hood.
Nevertheless, it was a good “first” DIY experience, because it was pretty easy – you just follow the installation directions. In our case, we followed Matt’s dad’s interpretation of the directions.
If you’re a novice DIYer, I’d strongly recommend getting a family member, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance to help you out. Having the oversight of somebody who knows that they are doing is invaluable. Just make sure that the person helping you is teaching you – you want to be able to do this job again, by yourself. Many community classes also offer basic classes on home improvement stuff, as do big box stores such as Home Depot. It is ABSOLUTELY worth learning how to do stuff yourself in any way that you can, because you will save loads of money on “labor costs”.
In the process of installing our first vent hood, we learned a few things about our house, and about construction in general:
- Unconventional Stud Spacing. The studs in our house do NOT follow conventional spacing! On top of that, we have plaster walls, so the only way to find a stud is to drill a hole in the wall. No stud-finder for us!
- Our House Doesn’t Have Insulation. When we knocked a hole in the wall in search of studs, we found out that the outer walls of house don’t have insulation. None. Zip. Nada. This explains why it’s drafty and our heating bill is relatively high. Oh goody.
- Making a Hole In a Roof is Not Scary. When we
were told that we would need to cut a hole in our roof in order to vent out the duct for the vent hood, I was very concerned. I didn’t want to make a hole in the roof! WHAT IF IT LEAKED?! WHAT IF EVERYTHING FELL APART?! Actually, it was NOT difficult. Matt cut the actual hole, we fed the duct up to him, and then he put a vent on top and sealed it up. No big deal. I now feel much less concerned about cutting holes in things.
- Everything Takes Longer Than You Think. Everything always takes longer than you think it will, especially when you have to go to the hardware store.
Although I wanted a vent hood for practical reasons, like “I need to reconnect my smoke alarm” and “there’s grease on the ceiling,” I wanted the stove a bazillion times more. The original stove that came with the house was an electric stove with a glass cook-top, and I hated it.
I realize that glass cook-tops are visually appealing. They’re shiny and you don’t have to clean burner grates. But you also need special cleaners to make them look shiny, and if you drop something heavy on them, they break. Heavy things also make them scratch. I use all glass containers and primarily cast iron cookware, so that was a real concern.
And then there’s the fact that the stove was electric. The burners took AGES to heat up, and wouldn’t even heat up ENOUGH to sear things properly unless you waited a good 15 minutes. The burners also stayed hot for ages after you stopped cooking, so you couldn’t leave empty pots and pans on them, much less anything else. Electric stoves just suck in comparison to gas, and this was a particularly crummy and old electric stove.
Purchasing a Stove – My Criteria
Gas: The stove needed to be gas powered. Gas stoves have instantaneous temperature control, they get hot quickly, and they cook food better. Also, gas is significantly cheaper than electricity where I live, so I got bonus cost-saving-ness. Gas stoves are more expensive than electric stoves, but I’m going to choose to ignore that and say that I’m saving money. Shhhh.
Storage Drawer & In-Oven Broiler: A lot of stoves have a broiler drawer at the bottom of the oven. Other stoves have the broiler directly above the top rack of the oven, and the drawer is a storage drawer. The problem with broiler drawers is that they are often small, which limits what you can do with them. With an in-oven broiler, you can adjust the oven rack height to accommodate different pans and food heights, and you have the entire top rack of the oven that can act as a broiler. You can also switch the oven to ‘broil’ toward the end of the cooking process to brown the top of your potatoes or shepard’s pie. Besides, having a drawer for storage (instead of broiling) is nice for weirdly shaped items like baking sheets.
Self-Cleaning Oven: A self-cleaning oven is really nice, but in hindsight I don’t think I would consider it a must-have. Periodically, you can select “self-clean” and let the oven heat up insanely hot and incinerate any burnt on junk inside of it. I thought I really needed this, since I used to have trouble getting the ovens in my apartments and rental homes fully clean. When an oven is brand-new though, it’s perfectly clean. And if you maintain it and wipe up spills as they happen, the self-clean seems more unnecessary. I clean my oven by hand fairly frequently – it’s not hard – and I don’t like to waste the time and energy to let it self-clean. It is still a nice feature to have just-in-case though.
Continuous Grates: A small detail that was actually super important to me, was the stove grates. My mom and my father-in-law both have continuous grates that cover the whole stove top, and I love them. I like being able to simply slide pots and pans out of the way on the stove top without having to lift things or set them on trivets. This may seem trivial, but it’s pretty great when you cook primarily with heavy cast iron and frequently have a lot of pots on the stove.
Style: I wanted a standard stove, with 4 or 5 burners and an oven. They make all kinds of cool things – over-sized ranges, double ovens, bridge burners, and more. Cool things cost money, and again…it’s just not worth it to me. Even if I had an unlimited budget, I’d probably just go with a standard stove. My stove does have a 5th center burner with a griddle, but I removed the griddle and haven’t actually used the center burner, ever. I just have to clean it, and cleaning it is a pain.
Other Features: Stoves these days have a myriad of features – proofing, dehydrating, auto shut-off, delay-start, and more. I didn’t really care about any of these, but pretty much all mid-line stoves have approximately the same features, so I ended up with some of them. As it turns out, I really like the bread proofing feature for making bread. I don’t use anything else though – just “bake,” “broil,” and the timer! I don’t recommend paying EXTRA for any other features, just take what comes with your stove.
The Winner: We purchased a Samsung stove from Home Depot. The updated model can be found here.
Installing the Stove – What We Learned
- Gas Lines: Gas lines aren’t scary; they’re just like any other kind of pipe. We got a bit lucky with this – the house originally had a gas stove, so there was already a gas line that ran fairly close to the location we wanted to put our stove. We simply had to re-route it to the new location and remove some of the old pipe.
- Drop Ceilings Are Annoying: When I bought my house, I thought the drop ceiling in the basement was cool – it made the basement look more finished and nice! But when we started searching for gas and electrical lines, it got super annoying, super fast. We pretty much tore down the drop ceiling in the entire laundry room (which is located under the kitchen), and several pieces broke in the process (those things are flimsy…), and now we will have to either replace them or tear down the entire drop ceiling structure in the laundry room before selling the house.
- Find Out Where Your Shutoffs Are: We spent more time than I wanted searching for shut off valves for the gas. Later in the renovation process, we did the same thing for water shut off valves. My Advice to You: Go down to your basement. Take off the drop ceiling tiles, if you have any. Try not to break them. Find all the shut-offs that you have, figure out what they do, and write down where they are. You’ll thank yourself the next time you need to fix anything. Even if you move before you need to shut stuff off…give the paper to the new owners, and they’ll thank you.
- Delivery: Getting things delivered is super irritating. The Home Depot delivery service is excellent – in hindsight, they are the best delivery service I’ve ever had – but it is still extremely irritating to have to be at home in a 4 hour window, especially when you both work full-time! Thankfully, Home Depot delivers on Saturdays.
Installing our new stove and vent hood was a wonderful way to start our kitchen renovation. We got to enjoy the new appliances for almost a year before we were ready to do the bulk of the work, and it was a good introductory DIYer experience. The biggest thing we learned is that it’s okay to bust up your house. You can fix it. If you need to put a hole in a wall or in a roof…ok. If you need to tear off some pipe and put on new pipe…ok. If you need to move an electrical outlet…ok. If you need to tear up a drop ceiling to access stuff…ok. It’s all fine, as long as you do it correctly, and as long as you fix what you break.
Obviously that doesn’t mean you should run around your house wantonly hitting things with a sledgehammer.
You don’t WANT to break stuff.
But if that’s what you need to do the job, you do it, you fix it, and it’s fine.
Best lesson ever.
[Part 3 of the Kitchen Renovation coming soon].