Marolt: Do It Yourself and pay someone else
September 11, 2018
The stove vent in our house has never worked properly. Maybe it is more accurate to say that it did not meet the requirements of my cooking skills. I have tested it for an adequate period of time and it has failed miserably. Every time I cook, our home smells like a country smoke house. Our kids nicknamed the kitchen "Roger's House of Fried Meats." I wear out smoke detectors.
After 23 years of trying to get used to the vent that doesn't suck and adjusting my cooking methods to accommodate it, I have had enough. This weekend I sat down at the kitchen table, wiped the mist of grease from my laptop screen and ordered a new stove vent/microwave oven combo with the most powerful fan legally available. Looks and style be damned, I put into motion what I believe will be a real game changer in this kitchen fog I am tired of playing around in.
About the time my credit card payment was approved and a delivery date arranged, I was informed that the outfit I ordered from did not do installations. No big deal. I figured, how hard can it be to hang a 75-pound, high-voltage kitchen appliance from the bottom of my liquor cabinet over a larger gas-fueled kitchen appliance that produces enough heat to boil artichokes while broiling shrimp at 500 degrees?
My wingman in DIY projects is Bill. He is a professional. I think he has agreed to this second-string role because it is more profitable than actually being hired as a contractor from the get go. Let's just say leveling my learning curve usually results in more hours on the job for him, oftentimes late at night and on weekends or holidays at double the standard rate.
"Get it as far as you can," he told me. "Let me know if you need to borrow any power tools."
He knows that, when power tools are involved, his profit margins increase significantly and quickly. Like almost everyone else, he missed buying Microsoft in 1984, but he has made up for that by generously loaning me his sawzall and hammer drill whenever I "need" them.
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Looking at the installation instructions online weeks before delivery of my kitchen remodel in a box, the first thing I studied was the venting configuration. Examining the vents on the outside of my house, I wondered why they ran the venting from the stove all the way up to the second floor and back around to exit near my deck. As it turns out, they didn't.
When I went back inside and partially dissembled the existing vent, I realized it did not tie into any ductwork at all. It was a recirculating fan. All it does is draw smoke from the stove up through a flimsy charcoal filter and then blow it right back out into the kitchen. In layman's terms, it does nothing!
Can you imagine how stupid I felt? I will give you an example that is sort of similar. Imagine yourself as teenager at a Forest Service campground sitting in front of a raised fire pit roasting hot dogs with smoke from the fire blowing in your eyes. You get up in front of your friends and swivel the grill around 180-degrees to solve the problem. You sit back down to the realization that the wind is still blowing the smoke in your face. This is how I felt — again.
I thought of all the times smoke started accumulating in our kitchen and I would switch the blower fan from "low" to "high," putting up with the horrendous noise, confident I noticed improvement. I thought about the times when, in desperation, I judiciously removed the charcoal filter believing that this would allow the fan to vent more efficiently, albeit at the cost of having grease accumulate in our ductwork. I hired a company to vacuum out this non-existent ductwork. I think about all the money I spent on replacement charcoal filters — actually not that much, when I really think about it.
Oh, what a fool I was!
We don't know what we don't know, but it sure would have been nice to figure this out 20 years ago. It's not that I'm overly worried about what breathing that greasy smoke has done to our health over the course of all those family dinners I lovingly prepared. It's just that now I have all this hands-on experience on DIY projects. I wonder if I can get a tax deduction for putting Bill's daughter through college after I get this thing installed properly.
Roger Marolt knows when he is working for someone else's living. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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