Kitchen Ventilation 101: The Basics

Kitchen Ventilation 101: The Basics

As a homeowner I never gave much thought to kitchen ventilation.  I’ll admit that like most people, I thought it was noisy, and so rarely used it.  But as a kitchen designer, I know the importance a beautiful vent hood plays in the kitchen.  It’s necessary not only for how good it looks but also for the health and safety of you and your family.   In a room where the wonderful aroma of delicious food surrounds us, there are also bad odors, grease, and steam that needs to escape.  

Each home we’ve lived in over the years has had some type of kitchen ventilation.  Some were efficient, and others were not.  Some added to the custom design of the kitchen, and others were simply there to do a job, with no exciting design details.  But we always knew that a home needs to have ventilation in the kitchen.

It wasn’t until we were relocating to a new city that I discovered every house doesn’t always have a vent hood, or a downdraft.  They might have a microwave over the cook top or range.  Worse yet, they might have absolutely no ventilation which leads to poor indoor air quality! 

You know the saying, “once you see something you can’t un-see it?”  Well, that is me!  What began as a pet peeve has morphed into a mission to teach homeowners the importance of proper kitchen ventilation, how it impacts the health and safety of your kitchen, and the best type of product for your cooking needs and available space.

Wall Mounted Updraft Hood

wall mounted chimney hood

  • The cooking odors, fumes, and grease exhaust to the outside via ducting
  • This type of hood requires either an external blower or an internal blower.  An internal blower is directly inside your vent hood.  Because it’s close to your filters and cooking space, it will pull more unwanted contaminants from your kitchen.  The downside to this is that it is loud, and often the reason that most homeowners don’t like to use it.
  • An external blower is a box containing the ventilator, filter and motor.  Because it can be placed either on the roof or on an outside wall, it isn’t as noisy.

Telescoping Downdraft Ventilation

telescoping downdraft

  • Telescoping downdraft can be installed behind a cook top that is placed in an island, a peninsula, or against a wall
  • Ducting is installed inside the cook top cabinet and there is usually very little room left for storage
  • Ducting is then either vented through the wall, or below the kitchen, ultimately venting air outside

Downdraft Ventilation

downdraft in cooktop

  • The downdraft is an integral part of the cooktop
  • Ducting is housed inside the base cabinet leaving very little room for storage
  • It is also vented outside but through a crawl space or basement ceiling. 

Under Cabinet Hood

wall mounted under cabinet hood

  • Mounted under a wall cabinet.  The wall cabinet houses the ducting.
  • Ducting either goes straight up, or has an elbow turn to go out the side of the house.
  • The hood should be mounted 30″-36″ above the cooking surface


Re-Circulating Hood

recirculating hood

  • This hood is also mounted to the bottom of a cabinet.
  • There is not ducting, no ventilation to the outside.  The air is simply being filtered and re-circulated into the room
  • It is used primarily in apartments, town homes and condos where there is no way to vent to the outside
  • A charcoal filter is used to purify the air and filter the grease
  • This is not an ideal situation because most odors remain, steam still escapes into the room, and grease will scatter

Over the Cook Top Microwave

over the cook top microwave

  • Last resort “ventilation”
  • The microwave is usually placed too close to the cooking surface.  It should be no lower than 20″ above the cook top.  But even then, it is too high to easily reach inside the microwave to remove a piping hot dish.
  • This is also re-circulating the air and not eliminating much odor, grease or steam
  • A charcoal filter is used

Island Vent Hood

island hood

  • Ducting goes through the ceiling. 
  • Must be no lower than 30″-36″ above the cook top
  • Internal and external blower options are available

The Craziest Hood and Ventilation System I’ve Seen

poor use of hood and ventilation

I have to share this, because it’s so crazy!  A renovation client purchased a home that had a cook top with a downdraft.  Above it was hood with a light that worked, and a wall that could house the ducting.  But the previous homeowner chose to not connect the wiring so that the hood would work.

Sadly, in our search for a new home, I discovered so many houses with this same situation.  A cook top with a downdraft taking up precious kitchen storage space.  And a decorative wood hood that was simply there for as a light source.

The answer to making sure you have the best air quality in your kitchen is to provide adequate ventilation.

  • Take into consideration the size of your cook top, and install a hood that is at least 3″ wider so that it has more area to capture the steam. 
  • Know how many BTU’s your cook top provides because this determines the amount of CFM’s are needed for the best ventilation
  • Vent hoods can be found at many different price points.  Don’t let cost determine what type of hood you buy.
  • Choose your ventilation system based on your needs, your cooking patterns, and where your cook top or range will be placed in your kitchen
  • Turn on the ventilation at least 5 minutes before you begin cooking to give the air in the room time to circulate.


The most important take-away is to understand that a home ventilation system, involves two related functions: removing unhealthy vapors and fumes from the home and also to introduce fresh air to replace what has been removed.

If you’re thinking about a home renovation or building a new home, please contact me, Randi@RandiDestefano.com, with any questions you might have.


5 Remodeling Fears That Keep Your Dreams on Hold

remodeling fears

Do you ever find yourself dreaming of what life would be like when you finally have that new kitchen or bathroom?   You see visions of the perfect dinner party with everyone laughing and happy in your organized kitchen.   Or maybe you dream of how relaxed you’ll feel when you soak in your new bathtub after a long day at work. 

And then…..the remodeling fears set in, you’re stopped dead in your tracks, and your dreams are placed on hold.

So many of my clients have heard horror stories about remodels gone bad.  Once you hear one bad story, they seem to pop up everywhere.   Has that ever happened to you?   After listening to these stories over and over, I’ve discovered that there are 5 remodeling fears that keep your dreams on hold.   But I know it doesn’t have to be that way.   There’s a way to avoid the nightmare and send you down the path to your dream kitchen or bath.

Fear #1 – Making Costly Mistakes
We’re all afraid of making a mistake, especially when it costs us money. And because of this we often second guess our decisions.  The solution to this is to begin with a plan and stick to the plan.  Do your research on all the products you’ll need in your new space.  Check the dimensions so you know that things will fit.   And consult with an interior designer to guide you through the process and give you professional advice.

Fear #2 – Having it take longer than expected
When you’re interviewing a contractor, be sure to get an approximate finish date that matches your expectations.  One way to avoid construction delays is to have all of your products ordered and stored before your room is demolished.  Then, if items are back ordered, you won’t be left hanging until it arrives.

Fear #3 – That it will cost more than was budgeted
Keeping a budget spreadsheet that you continually update is one way to avoid this fear.  It also lets you see where you can blow it to buy that “gotta have” item.  And where you can save on something that isn’t as important to you.  But things happen, and you need to be prepared for it. So I always recommend having a cushion of 5-10% for those unexpected issues.

Fear #4 – Unexpected surprises behind the walls
This fear always goes hand in hand with remodeling fear #2 and 3, because surprises behind the wall can affect the budget and the construction time. Unfortunately, as much as your designer and contractor plan for the perfect project, without tearing a wall open to peek inside, there’s no way to plan for it.   It’s always a good idea to have a Discovery meeting just before starting. Then the contractor can cut open the soffit to look for venting or other obstacles.

Fear #5 – Hiring the right people
When you do your homework by asking your friends, neighbors, and family for referrals, you’ll be headed in the right direction.  Hiring a contractor, builder, or interior designer should be more than just a cost comparison of fees and mark-ups.  What is the experience they bring to the table?  Be sure that whoever you hire is someone whose personality works with yours.  Since you’ll be working closely with them for an extended period of time you need to like and respect each other.

By following these guidelines, you should be ready to take your dreams off hold, set aside your remodeling fears, and finally have the kitchen or bathroom that you’ve always wanted.