Kitchen upgrade in older condo causes IAQ issues

Oct 7, 2021

Sterling IAQ is asked to investigate a wide array of indoor air quality issues and this often includes strange odour incidents.  Conducting IAQ testing for odour complaints is usually not useful since testing alone would not necessarily point you in the direction of an odour source.  That is why Sterling IAQ and our dedicated team of experts are quite successful at locating sources of odours – even when others cannot.

A contractor finished an interior renovation of a condo suite in an older complex.  This renovation was primarily a kitchen upgrade with new cabinets, flooring, appliances and stove vent hood.  Shortly after the renovations were completed, the owner complained of a variety of odours characterized in many ways – food, chemical, marijuana, etc.

Sterling IAQ attended the site, and using our detailed knowledge of buildings, renovation and IAQ, our senior project manager (Kenny Luong) determined that the kitchen exhaust fan ducting had not been connected well in the hidden ceiling space above the kitchen.  This was determined through the use of investigative efforts and smoke tubes to observe air flow patterns.  We were able to observe smoke emanating out of an access hatch in the cabinets above the hood exhaust – indicating a leak somewhere that expelled air into the void space of the ceiling and walls.

But we were not done there as we also determined that when the new kitchen fan operated, air was actually drawn DOWN the bathroom exhaust fan duct (observed through use of smoke tubes again).  And when an adjacent neighbour smoked marijuana, their smoke would exhaust out their bathroom exhaust duct but get down down into the nearby bathroom exhaust duct of the suite we were investigating.

So essentially, the new kitchen exhaust fan was much more powerful than the original fan and its exhausted volume of air created a strong enough negative pressure in the suite to pull air down the bathroom exhaust fan.  So to alleviate this concern, Sterling IAQ suggested the owner crack a window of the suite when using the exhaust hood – or use a lower fan speed setting.

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