Installing and Converting a Hardwired Range Hood to Plug-In

 

Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

Did you guys know that white kitchen cabinets are a controversial design choice? I honestly didn’t. The main argument against them–they show dirt!–is like half the appeal to me. If something doesn’t look dirty there is a 0% chance I’m going to clean it,  and my pre-paint cabinets were total pros at not looking dirty. To all the internet commenters who sent me death threats for painting over my “beautiful antique oak cabinetry,” I have two things to say: first, you might want to reevaluate some of your life choices. Second, although they apparently photographed well, the cabinets were not and never have been beautiful, antique, or oak. They were flaking sludge magnets that never got cleaned because they always looked basically the same, dirty or not.

But now, oh my god. Going over the doors with some spritz and a paper towel is so rewarding. There is now an actual cause and effect relationship that makes cleaning more than just an exercise in Sisyphean futility. Also the paint I used (SW Pro-Classic) is some kind of witchcraft–it’s a semi-matte finish but everything wipes of SO easily.

HOWEVER, in the interest of not spending my entire life wiping grease off kitchen surfaces (the kitchen is so tiny and we do a lot of high-heat stir fries and just ugh) I decided to make a Very Boring purchase and picked up a $50 ductless range hood on Amazon. (Judging by my soffits and some panels on the outside of my building I’m actually pretty sure that there’s the proper ducting behind my drywall, but I figured my security deposit is already in enough peril.) All the range hoods I found were intended to he hardwired, with the option to purchase a cord kit for TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS, which is a lot of money to spend to end up with an ugly cord running across your countertop to the nearest outlet. Super lame, appliance manufacturers. I’d kind of resigned myself to that option, but then my handsome and talented friend George generously offered to see if he couldn’t figure out less-offensive wiring situation for me–ideally, running wiring up from the oven outlet and dropping it down through the upper cabinets.

Phase I:

  1. Turn off power at the breaker. Use a fancy device to verify that the power is indeed off. Discover that your breaker box is labelled wrong and that the outlet is in fact live. Be very glad that George is a Responsible Adult who Does Not Skip Steps. Relabel your breaker box.
  2. Remove the outlet cover and notice that things are all weird and will require you to wire stuff directly into the breaker box.
  3. Experience total emotional devastation for 30 seconds when George tells you he’s worried about silly things like “making permanent structural changes” and follows up with insane suggestions like “maybe you should talk to the landlord first.”
  4. Pull yourself together and go to the hardware store to buy supplies for Phase II Plan B.

Phase II

Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

Items purchased (clockwise from top):

  • lock nuts (we only used one)
  • 6-foot appliance cord ($6 on Amazon)–it’s like a regular extension cord but it has bare wires at one end
  • bolts, washers, and t-nuts. The screw length will depend on what the hood is being mounted to
  • cord grip

We also used a drill and two sizes of hole bits, and 2-ish feet of a 1×3 board I had lying around.

Installing the hood was basically two parts: wiring, and physically mounting the hood to the cabinets. It’s all very simple looking back at it but boy am I glad George was there to walk me through it.

First, since my kitchen is basically 70% particle board and 30% contractor shortcuts, we had to attach some boards to the underside of the upper cabinet to make a level surface to attach the hood to. (If the top of the hood had a smaller footprint, or if the bottom of the cabinets had been properly finished with a flat panel, we could have skipped this step.) (Also, is it still called a footprint when it’s on top?) I happened to have some some 1×3 sitting around that was just the right thickness. Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

They’re attached with a bolt, washer, and this crazy invention called t-nuts. If I’d been doing this on my own I would have used a regular nut and then been annoyed every single time I tried to slide something in the cabinet, but George is a genius and grabbed these instead. They lock onto the bolt from the inside of the hole and leave a flat surface on top, which is pretty key for a situation like this. Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

Life changing! Also, this was the first time I’ve ever really looked inside these upper cabinets and omg EW. There is a lot more cleaning in my future.

Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

Next we used a smallish paddle bit to make a path for the cord. You can skip this if you don’t mind the cord running across your countertop, but that’s crazy and you should definitely mind. (This picture is from the cabinet to the right of the stove and is only halfway through the drilling process.)

Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

This is the final hole through the bottom of the upper cabinet. It needs to match up with wherever the wiring hole in your range hood is. Can you tell we had a little trouble measuring? The hole needs to be the same size as your cord grip, so the cord grip can sit inside and be flush with the bottom of the cabinet.

Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

Cord inside the cord grip (George said to make sure it fits super tight!), then being lowered into the sad franken-hole.

Oh and at some point we labeled the wires with tape. White is neutral (it’s the bigger wire and it attaches to the bigger prong on the plug), black is hot, and the green wire is the ground. I don’t totally understand what those words mean but I assume it’s important to get them right.

Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

This is the wiring all hooked up. The fan and the light have separate wiring so you’ll have three wires of each color twisted together and capped. (Make sure the bare wires aren’t visible and nothing can accidentally get yanked out!) The green wire from the extension cord gets twisted around the green screw, because of safety or something. Reattach the access cover over all the wiring, and make sure nothing is pinched or weird.

Woo everything’s hooked up and nobody died! All that’s left is to screw the hood into the supports. I don’t have any pictures of this, but basically you just hold the hood in place, trace the mounting holes, screw the screws in about halfway, slide the hood on over them, and tighten them down. (I’m a fan of using my electric screwdriver for EVERYTHING, but George said not to for this, so I did it by hand and survived. Barely.)

If you have gaps between the sides of the hood and your cabinets and you want to get SUPER fancy, you can make some little panels out of 1/4″ plywood and square dowelling. Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

Just cut out some rectangles, glue them to a piece of dowelling, and screw the dowelling into the side of the cabinet.

Rental DIY: Convert a hardwired range hood to plug in

Yay you have a range hood!

P.S. Any mistakes or dangerously incorrect advice in here is 100% due to my own incompetence. I took pages of notes while George was telling me about all kinds of neat stuff (do you guys know about the kelvin scale for lightbulbs? It’s bonkers!), but now that I’m looking back in my notebook it just says stuff like “stop being an asshole about your screwdriver” and “bolt thingy?? ++giant wires!” There is very little that resembles any kind of linear thought. Next week I’m going to change a light fixture all by myself so we’ll see how much I managed to internalize.

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