What to Consider When Adding a Range Hood

Get to know the types, styles and why you may want to skip a hood altogether

By Yanic Simard / Courtesy of Houzz.com

The majority of homeowners working on kitchen upgrades will add a new range hood, according to a recent Houzz kitchen survey. And as with any decision during a remodel, the number of options can be overwhelming. If you’re looking to install or upgrade your hood, this guide may make things a little easier. Here you’ll find information on the options available, how to work a hood into your decor and why you may want to do without one entirely.

Do I Need a Range Hood?

Technically, range hoods aren’t absolutely required for all kitchens and aren’t usually mandated by building code (though hoods that are installed are sometimes subject to certain rules). 

In fact, I have designed projects that did not include a hood. For example, in this condo kitchen, adding a range with ventilation would have exceeded the budget and eaten into the tight space.

If you think you’d like to skip the hood, check your local building code. Review how well your space is naturally ventilated and consider your realistic cooking behaviors. After all, some people use the microwave for most meals.

Do I Want a Range Hood?

If you don’t cook often with a lot of steam and oil, you can get by without a range hood, but you may actually need one more than you think. 

Even if you can’t see dramatic smoke or steam when you’re cooking (from a burning roast or steamy soup), oil particles often get dispersed through the air, which is a nice way of saying that the grease from your frying pan can coat the room slowly over time if you aren’t suctioning the air away. For serious chefs who cook on the range often, a powerful hood is strongly recommended.

Where Should My Range Hood Go?

Naturally, a range hood should be placed directly over or behind a range to be effective, since the farther it is from the source, the less suction power it will deliver where you need it. However, it’s also important to consider that range hoods must ventilate to somewhere, so it’s usually recommended to place them on or near an exterior wall. The less distance the air has to travel to get outside, the less powerful the system has to be to be effective. To save energy and equipment costs, you should consider locating your range with this in mind.

Types of Range Hoods

Standard over-range hoods. There are two standard forms of over-range hoods: wall-mounted units with no surrounding cabinetry, seen in the previous photo, or undercabinet hoods that are partially enclosed in cabinetry or attached below a cupboard, as shown here. These typically vent back through the wall, though they may run all the way up, venting through the ceiling and roof.

This category includes island range hoods, though they’re much less likely to be attached to cabinetry. Typically, if an island includes a range and range hood, the hood becomes a feature of the room. You can’t really avoid seeing it, so you may as well make it spectacular!

Some modern range hoods come in high-tech-look tilted styles that intrude less into the space and make an interesting futuristic statement. These are still standard over-range hoods, but they generally use more powerful suction to make up for being slightly farther away from the range itself (tucked flatter to the wall). The result is a more airy feel with more headroom open around you as you cook.

Built-in over-range hoods. Built-in over-range hoods are disguised in cabinetry (usually faux cabinetry with no actual storage space inside), so as to be invisible or at least not a focal point. These units typically aren’t finished themselves and must be paneled, or covered with cabinetry fronts, to hide their messy inner workings. This means that you can’t really uncover one later, though you can change the paneling if you change your kitchen style.

Built-in hoods can sometimes be exposed a small amount, which can add a nice visual detail and ease access to controls for speed and integrated lights.

Pop-up vents. Also known as “behind cooktop hoods” or “downdraft vents,” this high-tech option isn’t really a hood at all, but rather a slim vent that applies suction right at the source of the smoke or steam, and pulls it down into ductwork in the floor rather than up into the ceiling. These vents are generally able to pop up into place when needed and tuck back down to be flush with the counter when not in use.

Pop-up vents are useful when the ceiling over a range isn’t able to house appropriate ventilation ducts. The fact that they take up little visual space can give a beautifully open look, especially when used in an island.

However, they tend to be the least powerful option by far, so for serious chefs who often cook with a lot of steam and grease, the pop-up may not be sufficient.

Pop-ups are a fairly modern style in general, but they can still work in more traditional kitchens, especially when combined with stainless steel chef’s-kitchen appliances and a more dramatic range hood to act as a focal point.

A pop-up vent is typically sold as part of a coordinating range, so the price will be included in the range cost.

Microwave combo hoods. Finally, range hoods are often combined with a microwave to handle two functions at once in a small space, which can be a smart choice for compact kitchens. These combination units don’t usually have as much power as a stand-alone hood, but they can be sufficient for typical home cooking or those who rely on the microwave heavily.

Style Ideas

Range hoods can be integrated in your decor a number of ways without being paneled. First, simply choosing a white unit (rather than stainless steel or black to match typical ranges) lets it blend in with white cabinetry for a breezy kitchen atmosphere. It’s OK for the unit to be a somewhat different white from your cabinetry finish as long as the hood isn’t mismatched with any other white appliances or fixtures.

If your kitchen includes a lot of stainless steel, a large and simple stainless hood will continue this material and become part of the decor. You can pick up on this metal in smaller ways too (if, say, you don’t have quite a spectacular fridge) through accents like cabinet handles, faucets or steely pendant lights.

The pendants here go for beautiful contrast, adding warmth to balance the silvery coolness. This can be a good way to keep your kitchen cozy and inviting even with so much exposed steel.

Adding a special backsplash that runs just from your range to your range hood can be a practical way to avoid grease-stained walls and a beautiful detail that integrates the two pieces into one showstopping feature. Repeat a stainless steel finish to continue the industrial kitchen appeal. Or use a coveted feature tile here to get a splashy look without splurging on a full wall.

This range hood is partially obscured by sliding cabinetry doors. The hood is still visible, but being behind glass like this makes it feel a little less “in your face” and softens the crisp metal finish.

This built-in hood gets a little highlight with wood trim at the bottom edge, picking up on other wood finishes in the room. Adding a trim detail like this helps make a hood feel like an integrated part of the space. It also helps make a large unit look less bulky by breaking it up with a visual stripe.

If you can afford to lose some storage space, a huge trend is to skip the upper cabinets and let a sleek range hood be the sole feature on an otherwise underdressed wall. The result is a room that feels vast, with only beautiful jewelry-like details in your sightline and lots of open space (and clean vented air) so you can breathe easy.