I live in a 2 story townhome. I would like to replace the recirculating above the counter microwave with a more stylish and more effective range hood. There are cabinets above the microwave, standard under cabinet installation.

The kitchen backs up to the next door unit making that wall inaccessible and there appears to be no easy access point to work in the ceiling and and attempt to install ductwork to the unit's back wall.

There are some heat ducts and lights and recessed lights in the ceiling so probably space, just difficult to access for non-rodents. The thought of having to rip open the ceiling is unappealing.

Venting into that crawl space is probably fairly easy but from what I've read a bad idea. The next, least cost-prohibitive option, would be to do a bit of a hack and cut holes in those cabinets and install some ductwork and angle it out over the kitchen and then cut open a hole in the ceiling and fit it with a ceiling or heating vent and attach that to the ductwork. This would not be easily but probably doable.

The range is electric. Venting this way would not be ideal yet certainly no worse that the current microwave vent, and I've noticed that with the microwave lots of air blows past the front of the vent into the room anyhow. The range hoods that inspire me are all 3-6" deeper than the mic.

A second, less cumbersome might be to mount the unit on brackets a couple inches below the cabinets and have it vent into the room that way. Maybe sounds a little strange.

Opinions, feedback, suggestions welcome.

Edited with pictures - The first picture is with the old shelves. The new shelves /cabinets go all the way up to the ceiling. There are no shelves above the refrigerator. Also to note - budget is rather limited. It may be the best solution, but opening the ceiling and running vents to the backside wall is probably not viable at this time.

Picture with old shelves

Overhead diagram of kitchen

Edited by Bob M - added picture of new cabinets

New cabinets

  • 1
    Can you provide rough layout of the kitchen? How far to get to an outside wall?
    – SteveSh
    Nov 21, 2020 at 22:50
  • 1
    There are hoods designed for recirculation, typically using a special (activated charcoal?) filter to absorb grease/smoke/etc. Nov 21, 2020 at 23:23
  • I added an image and diagram. The hood I like, also alternate, offer charcoal filter for if you try to do something other than vent outside. The alternate appears to have vent holes out above the top where switches are. First choice is about 23" deep as opposed to the microwave's 16" or common recirculating's 18 1/2".
    – Bob M
    Nov 21, 2020 at 23:49
  • The main level ceiling height is about 96". The upper level floor is about 15-16" above meaning there is perhaps 12" of space (crawl space) above the kitchen ceiling.
    – Bob M
    Nov 22, 2020 at 0:06
  • 1
    what are yiou trying to achieve by directing the kitchen exhaust back into the kitchen?
    – Jasen
    Nov 22, 2020 at 7:11

2 Answers 2


Here's what I did in a previous kitchen makeover. The original microwave (part of the range, not separate) vented into the wall, down to the basement, then to the outside. For the new microwave I brought the vent up through the cabinet above the microwave, then ran it along the top of the cabinets to the outside wall (left in this picture). This was hidden once the crown molding was installed.

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Here's a close up view of the cabinet and duct work.

enter image description here

EDIT1 - Added picture below

Boxing in the refrigerator with a shallow cabinet over the refrig.

enter image description here

  • Steve, thanks but in this kitchen design there is no gap above the kitchen cabinets, thus no wiggle room to make it similarly work. As well the cabinets end about 3' from the wall where the refrigerator sits so unless the ducts are buried into the wall behind the ceiling it would be exposed. Thanks anyway.
    – Bob M
    Nov 22, 2020 at 1:39
  • easy mistake to make, it looks like there's losts of space above the cabinets in your photo.
    – Jasen
    Nov 22, 2020 at 7:12
  • You're looking at a picture with the old cabinets. The new ones go all the way up to the ceiling. Maybe I should get some new pics.
    – Bob M
    Nov 22, 2020 at 19:32
  • I added a picture of the new cabinets to the original post. I missed your question, Jasen, about what I'm attempting to achieve. 1) Over the range waves extend about 16". They don't effectively push air out and it ends up rising straight up to the cabinets and leaving a film. The range hoods I'm looking at extend 20-23 inches. The microwave shroud is not deep enough (extend far enough) to suck in all cooking steam as well - it all rises to the cabinet surfaces above. This should help. 2) More appealing appearance. I rarely if at all use the microwave, may try to craigslist it.
    – Bob M
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:03

Here are the solutions that I came up with which don't involve getting overly complicated and having to open up the ceiling and running ductwork to the external wall.

  1. Cutting a hole into the top of the cabinets and single ceiling hole and venting into the crawl space - that gets a vote down because it may result in mold and other nasties/residue in the crawl space.

  2. Mounting the unit about 2" below the cabinets and having it vent out the front relying on carbon filters to mostly purify the air. Might or not not look okay.

  3. Enabling the ductless option

  4. Oddly enough, this last idea came to mind before I came back to the post and saw Steve's picture I have been trying to avoid expense unless it has cosmetic value. Cutting into the ceiling just bothers me. This AM I was thinking about creative ways to hide ductwork. It could be as simple as gluing together a couple panels and painting them white and having them cover the ductwork along the rear corner or purchasing some cabinets and laying it out similarly to what Steve has in his picture. The cabinets need to come down anyway and get remounted straight (sloppy contractor) so yes I think I can deal with this. Thx Steve and all.

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    Nov 23, 2020 at 18:34

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