Should You Install a Commercial Stove in Your Home?

I am not being compensated in any way for this post. It's contents are strictly my opinions, based on research and experience.

Have you ever thought that having a commercial range (perhaps with five or six burners) would be handy? As a from-scratch cook, I certainly have, but ultimately, I always felt such a stove was a luxury item I simply didn't need. I never seriously considered buying a commercial range for my homestead kitchen...until quite recently.

When we began the kitchen remodel on our homestead this year, I knew I couldn't keep the stove that came with our house; it's been in poor shape since we moved here and is only getting worse. So I began to examine modern, consumer-grade ranges closely. In case you haven't had the opportunity to do this yourself, let me tell you: They don't make appliances like they used to. Grandma may have owned one stove in her entire adult life, but today you're lucky if you get three years out of a stove. And since the shutdowns, you can really see - plainly with your eyes - that quality has dropped in the making of major appliances. The metal used is thinner and often shows obvious flaws, any cast iron used is lightweight, electronics are cheap, and so on.

Then I started reading reviews. I've found most "professional reviews" (those in print magazines or on major websites) are clearly paid for - or at least the appliances are not tested for any real length of time. Consumer reviews with the highest ratings tend to be posted by people who say things like, "I just had this range installed and I love the way it looks in my kitchen!" But when you start reading reviews by people who've had the appliance for six months or more, you quickly learn they are experiencing problems with their purchase. I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend a thousand dollars or more on an appliance only to have to replace it in two or three years - or maybe sooner!

So...I started looking at more expensive offerings, like Cafe and Forno. The trouble is, while these ranges look lovely, they are made by the same manufacturers as the common consumer grade stoves. You pay more for a great look, but the quality and longevity of the appliance is still awful, according to consumer reviews.

Now, you might be thinking the best thing to do is just buy a new stove every couple of years, but if you use propane or gas, let me caution you against that. There is a huge push to get gas stoves off the market. Many states and cities no longer allow gas lines to run to new homes, there are campaigns telling consumers gas is poisonous in your home (based on only one study; here's a refuting article; note that the study in question never mentions propane), and the media pushes the idea that electric stoves are more environmentally friendly. And just last night, I saw that the federal government is considering banning all gas ranges. I don't doubt that there will come a time when gas ranges will be very difficult to buy.

I've come to the conclusion that if you need to buy a stove, and you want it to last, you need to purchase a commercial brand.

Photo courtesy of Todd Dailey.

However: Important Points to Consider

If you're considering buying a commercial range for your home kitchen, you'll need to think about some important things before you actually make your purchase:

1. Do you want electric, natural gas, or LP (propane)? There aren't many quality commercial stoves that run on electricity (because it's very difficult to get consistent heat with electric burners; some commercial ranges include gas ovens, however.) And if you want gas or propane, you must buy a stove that is specific to that fuel source.

When I made the tentative decision that I should put a commercial range in my kitchen, my first thought was to buy something used and save a wad of cash. One of the difficulties I had, however, was that I kept finding natural gas ranges, but there is no gas line to our house. I use propane. I also learned that most manufacturers caution against conversion kits (and may not even sell you the parts) because you'll have to completely disassemble to the stove in order to switch it over. Therefore, it's vital to buy a stove that's already configured for either gas or propane - whichever fuel you'll be using.

2. Think about clearances. At one point, I had a lead on a brand new, but older, Royal range; a neighbor was willing to sell it to me for the same price I would have paid for a new consumer grade stove. I was pretty thrilled...until I looked at the installation instructions. This is when I learned that the vast majority of commercial ranges require large clearances. ("Clearance" is the space between the stove and the wall or cabinets.) This is because most commercial ovens aren't insulated and the cooktops tend to extend near the edge of the range. Since commercial burners run considerably hotter than a consumer burners (25,000 to 35,000 BTUs versus 9,000 - 12,000 BTUs), I'm sure you can see where heat - and threat of fire - is a real issue. (Think about how a commercial kitchen is set up: There are no flammable materials, like wood cabinets. Everything is stainless steel.)

To give you an idea of how hot that Royal range runs, it has a clearance of 12 inches from all combustible surfaces, whereas my wood cook stove only has a clearance of 6 inches! 

Yes, it is possible to put up non-combustible surfaces around your range, but their installation certainly requires additional materials and labor - and may damage your cabinets. Plus, an uninsulated oven is going to make your kitchen HOT

In addition, if young kids will be in your kitchen, consider that a quick touch of a commercial range could burn them quite seriously.

3. Consider pilot lights. When I was thinking about buying that Royal range, I learned that one of its features was a pilot light that was on at all times. This is old school, which I like. But I also realized it was going to use more fuel (in my case, propane from a smallish bottle) - and that it would make my kitchen hotter.

4. Check with your insurance company. Did you know that many insurance companies won't cover fires in your home if you install a commercial stove in your kitchen? You can probably guess why: Commercial ranges, due to the intense heat they create and their open flames near the edge of the stove, can more easily cause fires. Some insurance companies will be okay with commercial ranges IF you install a fire suppression system and a commercial range hood - but that's a costly set up.

5. Consider your vent hood. Assuming your insurance company is okay with a commercial range, it's important for you to equip your kitchen with a range hood that can keep up with the smoke and heat a commercial range produces. (This article provides the formula you need to determine how many cubic feet of air - or CFM - you need for your stove.) Depending on the range you select, an appropriate range hood may need to be commercial grade - which is usually costly.

6. Consider the warranty. Many commercial range manufacturers void their warranty if their stoves are installed in a home environment.

Photo courtesy of Paintzen.

Why I Chose a Commercial Range for Our Homestead

After a ton of research and waffling, I still ended up purchasing a commercial range for my homestead kitchen. I wanted a range that would last and I believe that nothing currently produced by consumer grade manufacturers will do that. I also ruled out the vast majority of commercial ranges due to clearances, insurance issues, and excessive heat. But I did find that at least two brands of commercial stoves are actually appropriate for home use: Wolf and Viking.

Both Viking and Wolf are American made and have strong reputations for quality in the restaurant industry. My husband's cousin, who is an accomplished professional chef, says both are very good, but Wolf is hands down her favorite to cook on. Wolf is also built to last a very long time, with a cast iron framework no other brand seems to match.

(Do note that I was looking only at 30 inch ranges. Larger ranges made by these manufacturers may or may not be safe for home installation. I recommend that you download the installation instructions - and talk to your insurance agent - before making a purchase.)

In the end, I bought a Wolf. (Expected delivery isn't until July...but the dealer explained this is because electronics are so difficult to get right now. Wolf had a choice: They could either slow sales while they waited for the quality electronics they prefer, or they could move manufacturing along quickly by switching to Chinese electronics. They stuck with the first choice, which is another reason I went with Wolf.)

Although a Wolf range is not inexpensive (it's a huge investment for me!), in the long run, it will save me money because:

1. It will be the last stove I ever have to buy.

2. It runs efficiently. (The oven is insulated and there are no pilot lights that stay on 24/7.)

3. It has zero clearances, just like consumer grade stoves...therefore, installation is standard.

4. A commercial hood is not required for my 30 inch stove, so I was able to buy a relatively inexpensive vent hood at a home improvement center.

4. The warranty is excellent (even with a residential installation.

In addition, it seems that over time, Wolf products retain more value than other appliances. One source claims a 36 inch Wolf stove depreciates just 7%

Photo courtesy of Stephen Harris.

Buying New or Used

If you've made the decision to buy a commercial stove for your home, the next question you should ask yourself is whether or not you should buy it used. Yes, you may save a lot of money if you buy used, but remember these things:

1. Pay attention to the fuel source. If you need gas or LP (propane), the used equipment should be set up specifically for that fuel. (See #1, above.)

2. Note whether or not the range has been used in a commercial kitchen. A stove that's used commercially runs all day, every day and has a lot more wear and tear.

3. Note how old it is. I saw thirty and forty year ranges being sold on Facebook marketplace. I was concerned, however, that parts might not be all that easy to purchase...and that I might end up throwing a lot of parts at a range this old. (A lot would depend on what setting the stove was used in - commercial or home - and how well the owner took care of it.)

4. Consider shipping. I saw one Wolf range on eBay that seemed perfect. It was the newest model, used in a vacation home (so it was barely used), and the price was right. Shipping, at $700, still made the purchase seem smart. However, I would have had no real recourse if there was shipping damage or if the product was misrepresented.

Now that I'm done wrestling with myself over what range to buy for our kitchen, I can't wait to see my new Wolf installed! I encourage you to explore the possibility of putting a commercial stove in your own home. If you do your homework first, I think you'll be glad to have made a wise investment.

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