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Common Kitchen Airflow and Ventilation Problems

Part of ensuring the health and safety of your kitchen is making sure it is properly ventilated. By doing so, your kitchen will be able to remove heat and smoke generated while you cook. However, it’s common for homeowners to encounter a few design problems when altering the airflow and ventilation of their kitchen.

At Lamont Bros. Design & Construction, we work with Portland homeowners every day to design and construct their dream kitchens. Throughout our years of kitchen remodeling, we’ve encountered several common airflow and ventilation problems during our projects. Having handled dozens of kitchen airflow systems, we’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be to properly ventilate your kitchen.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common kitchen airflow and ventilation problems and what you can do to solve them. Whether you’re an avid home chef or simply want to ensure a safe and comfortable kitchen environment, this article will equip you with the knowledge to make the right choices for your kitchen’s ventilation systems. The 4 challenges we will cover include:

What is Kitchen Ventilation and Why Does it Matter?

In essence, kitchen ventilation is not just about comfort; it’s an integral component of maintaining a healthy living environment. When planning your kitchen remodel, it’s crucial to consider these aspects and integrate an effective ventilation solution.

The Rise of Heat and Smoke

One of the most fundamental aspects of cooking is the production of heat and smoke. The natural tendency of steam and smoke is to rise upwards. Lack of proper ventilation can lead to heat and smoke accumulation, which can negatively impact the safety of your cooking space.

Heat can make your kitchen uncomfortable, while smoke can cause respiratory issues and create a lingering smell that affects the overall freshness of your home. In fact, long-term exposure to smoke can even stain your cabinets and the paint on your walls.

An effective ventilation system removes hot air and smoke from the kitchen and directs it out of the home so that it does not collect and linger inside the living space.

A proper ventilation system over your cooking space helps remove heat and smoke from the kitchen.

Managing Aromas and Spices

Many cuisines, particularly fragrant ones with strong spices, release potent aromas when cooked. While these scents can be enticing during the cooking process, they can also linger and become overpowering if not effectively vented. A proper ventilation system ensures that your home retains a pleasant and fresh aroma without being overpowered by the meal you’ve just prepared.

Health and Hygiene Considerations

A kitchen hosts multiple water sources including sinks, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Ensuring adequate airflow can help prevent dampness, mold, and mildew, which can pose serious health risks.

Furthermore, proper ventilation helps to expel potential toxins and carbon monoxide that can accumulate from cooking appliances, thereby ensuring a safer kitchen environment.

Section 3: Problems for Effective Kitchen Airflow and Ventilation

Every homeowner dreams of a well-functioning kitchen that not only serves their cooking needs but also ensures the safety and comfort of its occupants. Yet, achieving optimal kitchen ventilation isn’t always straightforward. Here, we’ll discuss the specific ventilation and airflow problems your kitchen might face and how to address them.

Downdraft Systems

Downdraft systems, once a popular choice in the 80s and 90s, have since been deemed ineffective in many modern kitchen settings.

These ventilation systems pull the air downwards, which goes against the natural tendency of smoke and heat to rise. As a result, they often fail to capture all the contaminants, leaving more heat, smoke, and contaminants in the air than an overhead hood.

While they might seem like a sleek solution due to their flush design with the countertop, their practicality in terms of airflow efficiency is questionable at best. When possible, downdraft systems should be replaced with an overhead range hood to ensure complete ventilation.

If you’re looking for a ventilation system with a sleek, inconspicuous appearance, consider a flush-mounted ceiling range hood. These cleverly engineered systems work well to ventilate the kitchen without posing a large visual presence.

Downdraft range vents are known to be less effective than overhead range hoods.

Hood Fan Noise

The sound of a noisy kitchen vent can be frustrating when trying to use your kitchen. Loud vent fans can disrupt conversations in the kitchen, and sometimes the noise can motivate people to stop using their range hood altogether, which is a dangerous practice.

The issue with noisy hood vent fans is that they are often built directly into the hood unit that sits within the kitchen. As a result, the noise it produces is directly within earshot of anyone in the kitchen. However, some hood manufacturers, such as Vent-A-Hood, make vents with their fan built into the duct system rather than the overhead hood. This allows you to embed the noisy fan into the wall, which allows for some sound isolation and reduces the noisiness of the hood.


Having a large cooking range means you’ll probably also want a range hood. However, moving large amounts of air can lead to significant depressurization in the kitchen.

This means that more air is being exhausted than is being replaced, creating a negative-pressure environment. This can lead to a range of issues, including back-drafting from combustion appliances, which can be dangerous.

Legally, a kitchen with a range hood that moves more than 400 cubic feet of air per minute must have a makeup air system. This self-contained unit is calibrated to the range hood and supplies air to the kitchen at the same rate of flow that the hood is venting air from the home. Makeup air systems prevent your kitchen from becoming a negative pressure zone. They’re also climate controlled with heat and air conditioning, so you won’t have to worry about it interfering with your heating or cooling systems.

4. Fixed-Pane Windows

Fixed-pane windows can severely limit natural airflow in a kitchen because they don’t open. Let’s say somebody burns popcorn in the microwave and you want to get rid of the smell. One of the fastest ways to do this is to open a window and allow cross-ventilation to remove the stink of burned popcorn.

A kitchen remodel is a great time to upgrade your windows to ones that can open when you need. This is especially important in a kitchen, where you should be able to easily air out the space at a moment’s notice.

Windows that can open are an important feature to include in your kitchen.

Want to Talk to a Professional About Your Kitchen Remodel?

Now that you understand more about some of the common kitchen ventilation and airflow problems, take the next step in your kitchen remodeling research. To help you prepare for the kitchen remodeling process, download our free Kitchen Remodel Buyer’s Guide. This helpful resource will walk you through everything you need to know about kitchen remodeling before you begin.

Think you’re ready to speak with a professional remodel designer? If so, click the link below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our team. We’ll guide you through the remodeling process so you don’t have to face the challenges alone. Let us help you turn your current kitchen into the kitchen of your dreams.