The kitchen is arguably the busiest area in the house, serving many purposes. It’s where you prepare food, eat, read the paper, balance the budget, play games, and so much else. An efficient, carefully detailed lighting system is a must to make the room functional and cozy. Good to know: An average kitchen requires between 200 and 300 watts. Use different light sources for different purposes, and don’t forget eco-energy products.

Task lighting sheds shadowless light directly over the job at hand, and is therefore suitable for workspace and sink areas; fluorescent tubes mounted under cabinets and recessed halogen or xenon bulbs are good for this function. Ambient lighting illuminates the entire kitchen; options include fluorescent tubes mounted above cabinets, pendant fixtures using soft-white incandescent or compact-fluorescent bulbs, and directional track spotlights. A word of advice: don’t skimp on lighting because it’s frustrating to discover, once all the renovations are complete, that some areas are poorly illuminated. And install several switches so you can turn on the light only where needed. Regardless of which lighting options you choose, it’s important to decide ahead of time because the wiring must be finished before walls or cabinets go up.

A vent hood does more that just expel cooking odours and smoke to the outside air, it also gets rid of surplus moisture, preventing mould from forming and damaging walls and ceilings. So adequate ventilation is a must, and don’t forget to factor in both the cooking surface and the length of the exhaust duct. Keep in mind also that a kitchen hood has to move a greater volume of air than a bathroom fan—about 50 to 140 litres/second (100 to 300 cubic feet per minute or CFM). As for the exhaust airflow, the normal rate is between 100 and 200 litres/second (200 to 400 CFM). But don’t be tempted by a unit with too high an airflow: it can cause odours and dangerous exhaust gases—from the fireplace, furnace, or even the water heater (whether oil, natural gas or propane)—to be drawn back into the house.

Choose a unit with a centrifugal fan (it looks like a turbine or a hamster wheel), because it moves air much more effectively than a rotary fan, and is quieter to operate. You’ll get even better results if the unit is combined with a smooth, rigid metal exhaust duct directed to the outside. For your own comfort, choose a unit with a noise level of 4.5 sones or less. Finally, look out for the Energy Star symbol as a guarantee of an eco-energy choice.

The proper hood height will depend on the stove type. For an electric model, the distance between the hood and the cooking surface varies between 51 and 61 cm (20 to 24 inches), but it should never exceed 75 cm (30 inches). As for gas or high-performance stoves, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Kitchen walls are vulnerable to moisture penetration, especially behind the backsplash, stove, dishwasher and sink base cabinet (watch the joints in these spots—they should be properly sealed).

It’s advisable, therefore, to use moisture-resistant materials such as water-repellent gypsum boards, along with fiberglass, rather than paper, joint tape. Also opt for an acrylic-type paint that contains an anti-mould fungicide and ideally no VOCs (volatile organic components), which are harmful to indoor air quality. As a rule, always look for low-emission materials—coverings, stains, adhesives, and so forth. The backsplash—the space between the countertop and wall cabinets—must be water-repellent and easy to clean. A bead of silicone sealant wide enough to cover the entire joint surface will do the trick.

By Jacqueline Simoneau