Q: I have a small apartment in my basement that I rent out. The renter cooks with high heat and a lot of oil, and now there is a strong smell coming up from the apartment, and everything is covered with grease. We are cleaning up, and now I want to install a range hood. What is the minimum CFM you would recommend for this, and will it take care of the grease problem?–Diane S.

A: Opinions vary somewhat on how many cubic feet per minute (CFM) is required for spot ventilation devices such as a range hood, but 100 to 150 CFM is the airflow number most commonly used. Don’t go too much larger than that, since getting a unit with an excessive amount of CFM can create drafts around windows and doors, and can cause back drafting problems from combustion appliances. Remember that the hood must be vented outside the building.

A range hood will help with some of the grease problems, but will not solve all of them in the situation you describe. Due to the weight of the grease particles and their tendency to stick to surfaces, a certain amount is always going to escape into the air and onto surrounding surfaces. Commercial ventilation equipment is the only thing that would really help here, but that’s both expensive and impractical for a small apartment.

The other issue here is that your tenant also has responsibilities. It is extremely important that the grease filter on the hood be cleaned regularly, and if he is not doing that, then any size hood will quickly become ineffective. The combination of oil and high heat that you describe is a recipe for disaster, and both you and your tenant need to be aware of the potential health and safety issues involved here, especially in an older building. I would strongly suggest that you have a licensed heating and ventilation contractor install the hood and inspect the premises for other potential ventilation problems.

Finally, please be sure that your basement apartment has the code-required emergency egress, and that you have working smoke detectors in the apartment and in your home. If you have combustion appliances such as those that use natural gas, you should also install carbon monoxide (CO2) detectors. I would also suggest that you contact your local fire department for other safety recommendations.

Q: I just purchased a 1969 house with original everything. I definitely need to replace the old metal windows and the front and back doors, but I’m in a neighborhood of low- to mid-range homes, and I’m not sure what to use or where to start my research. Can you help?–Jan D.

A: Vinyl windows and patio doors would definitely be your best bet. They are quiet, very energy efficient, look good with just about any house style, and are relatively inexpensive, so it would be tough to find a better choice.

There are several price ranges of vinyl windows, depending on the width of the air space between the glass panes (the wider the space, the more energy efficient they are), how the panes operate, whether you utilize a glass coating such as low-E (another energy-saving feature), the type of locking hardware, and other factors. The price also varies by whether you can utilize a stock-size window or whether you have to have one made up to fit an odd-sized opening.

I would contact a couple of different companies for quotes. They will send an estimator out to your house to measure your windows, look at installation options, and show you the different price lines they carry. I would suggest one or two quotes from specialized window shops–they are the best qualified and carry the widest assortment of window lines–and you can try one of the large home centers as well. I would definitely avoid the department stores for this.

For mid-range doors, you have a choice between wood and insulated metal. Your best option would be to, if possible, replace the entire pre-hung door unit, which allows you to upgrade not only the door, but also the frame, weather-stripping, sill, and hinges. If the existing frame would be difficult to get out–for example, if it’s set into brick or stucco — you can also have a new door cut and mortised to fit the existing frame size and hinge locations. Anyone you have come out to look at the windows should be able to help you with the doors as well, or can at least recommend someone.

Whomever you hire for the work needs to be licensed, bonded and insured, and you need to verify this information. Get all agreements in writing, and never pay for the entire job up-front, no matter how great of a deal is promised to you.

Remodeling and repair questions?  E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.


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