5 March – Range Hood Saga

Last week I saw an ad in the local newspaper for a sale at an appliance store that I regularly pass on my thrifting route. I became inspired to finally replace our range hood.

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It worked fine, but a plastic piece had broken off a couple years ago, causing it to sag on one side. It annoyed me every time I saw it, for 4 years.

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It was also really tough to clean the filter, requiring unscrewing four tiny screws and wiggling some pieces (that seemed like I shouldn’t have to wiggle) just to remove it. As a result, it was crazy greasy after 12 years of use (I assume it was installed when the house was built).

When I pulled it out (a few more plastic bits falling off in the process, even though I was just unscrewing stuff gently), I expected to find some sort of duct in the wall, but there was nothing.

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Okay, so a recirculating range hood, then. But while researching recirculating range hoods…I found the original installers had never removed the plastic covering the vents on the front. So for 12 years, the fan had been pulling air and grease in, with nowhere for it to vent out. Not good.

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I took precise measurements of the space, wrote them down, and brought them with me to the store a few days later. The salespeople were busy with other customers, but after 20 minutes I really felt like they had dismissed me as someone not worth serving. Finally, I got the attention of a salesperson in another department, and they spoke to one of the kitchen salespeople, who came to help me a few minutes later.

I showed him the measurements, and he just glanced at them and said it was a standard size. We picked out a unit (a better brand than I was initially thinking of buying, but the difference was only $40), I paid $197 (on sale from $289), they brought out the box to me, and I took it home. I unpacked everything and, with my partner’s help, lifted it into place for a dry fit.

It was too big.

Well, it did fit between the shelves, but it was a bit too tall for the spot, so it extended below the cabinets by about a centimetre. I looked at my measurements, then the measurements inside the product manual, and sure enough, the unit was 1 cm taller than my space. Shame on me for not checking beforehand, but also shame on the salesperson for not taking a closer look at my diagram and matching it with the correct product.

I thought about returning it, but the return policy wasn’t on the reciept or the store’s website. I called them up and got the salesperson who’d sold it to me. Awkward. I told him the one I’d bought was too tall, and asked if they had any smaller units. He said sorry, and no, they were all the same size. I thanked him and hung up. I don’t know if what he said about all the ones they sold being the same size is true or not. I looked online at various similar range hoods, but most didn’t give dimension details, so I couldn’t be sure. I think he was just trying to get rid of me.

I’ve only returned something to a store once (a Christmas gift that didn’t fit), and even though I had the reciept and the items were in unaltered condition, the employee who processed my return had a demeanor like I was a bad person, and a possible thief since I didn’t show the doorperson my items when I entered. I didn’t even know that was a thing that should be done.

I wanted to avoid any possible similar unpleasantness now, so was reluctant to pursue a return. I know how annoyed retail people get at customers who don’t do their homework and don’t know the policies before buying. I didn’t want to be one of those people. Even though I was.

I lifted it into place a few more times, trying to decide if I could live with it. Technically, it wasn’t a problem. The unit would work fine if I installed it as-is. But, the old unit worked just fine too (even without proper air flow), and the main reason I’d changed it was so it would look better. Now, this new unit looked even worse. And I expected to have this one for another 10 years plus.

There was one more option. If I couldn’t change the unit, I could change the space.

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If I cut the bottom shelf away, the unit would fit fine. I’ve never altered cabinets before, and was really nervous at the idea. But, we already owned a multi-function power tool that could do it, we hardly use this cabinet at all, and it seemed like a fairly simple alteration, as they go. Any damage that resulted would be hidden behind the range hood and closed cabinet doors.

So, I grabbed the power tool, laid down a towel to catch dust, emptied the cabinet, and got to work. After a tedious hour of carefully pressing a noisy, dull, vibrating blade against the particleboard, I had cut enough to bang my fist a few times on the shelf to break it away from the cabinets (I couldn’t fit the tool to cut properly under the powerpoint). I cut away the remaining fragments of shelf to neaten it up.

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I dry fit the range hood again, and it fit with room to spare! By resting the back of the unit on the tile (as the old one had been) it lined up perfectly with the bottom of the cabinets, as well as the front face.

Now, the next problem: the old unit was mounted with screws into the sides. The new unit needed screws in the top. But, there was no shelf anymore to hang it from.

My easiest solution was to use L brackets to hang it from the sides of the cabinet, while still being able to screw in from the top. I went to the local big diy store, but all the brackets they had (even the make-your-own brackets) didn’t have holes in the right place. I could have drilled a hole, but they were all thick metal (I couldn’t find any plastic ones) or thin metal, but with a existing hole too close to where I’d have to drill the new hole. I could have used spacer wood between the bracket and the cabinet, but that would look even uglier than the brackets themselves.

Once again, I had to go with the harder option: cutting the piece I’d removed so it would fit back in, above its former spot. The best tool we own for this is a hand-held jigsaw, so it wouldn’t be very straight, but I thought if I went slow, it might be passable.

Then, my partner saved the day. He told me one of his wargaming friends is also a woodworker, and could cut the board with his tools if I marked the lines. Score! A couple days later, I got the board back, and only had to sand it down 1 millimetre to get it to fit snugly in place. I cut out a large slot for the power cord plug to fit through (it was in a different position than the old unit), then fiddled around with the best way to find exactly where I had to drill the four holes for hanging the range hood. After a lot of fiddling and dry fitting (the new unit wiggled a bit from side-to-side, and I had to make sure it was really centered) I used blue-tack and paint to find the exact position of the screws (I hoped) and drilled the holes.

I sanded the edges of the cabinet to give the glue a better gripping surface, grabbed our jug of wood glue we’ve had for years, smeared some on the edges of the board with a q-tip, and wiggled it into place (a nice tight fit). I was careful not to use too much wood glue so it wouldn’t smear everywhere, but I think I was too careful, since there was a gap along one side. I squeezed in some super glue gel and left it to cure for a day. I was nervous about it holding the range hood’s weight without any screws or nails into the cabinets, but I pressed and banged it a few times to test its strength, and decided it could easily hold 10 kilos.

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My partner was away wargaming for the day, and I needed him there to hold the range hood in place before I could screw it in, so I tried to be patient until he came home, worrying the entire time that I’d drilled in the wrong spots. The next morning, we got to work.

I’d drilled in the wrong spots, of course. After about seven more tries, lifting the range hood into place, marking new positions with dots of red paint, and drilling new holes and widening old ones, they finally all lined up.

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That’s the old power cord hole on the right.

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I had to fiddle with the doors a bit after I’d replaced them to get them even.

But finally, it was done!

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Now to try to forget this entire frustrating experience.

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