Simple home maintenance tip: Bathroom exhaust

Take a minute to check your fan

Are you sure your bathroom fan is doing it’s job? Here’s a simple way to check; Take a short length of toilet paper and hold it up to the grille on the bathroom fan while it’s running. Does it stay there?


Well, almost. Now you know if it draws air, which is good. Are there water stains around the vent? An un-insulated vent can cause condensation stains on the ceiling. So look for stains. Look also for where the air leaves the house. If you don’t see a vent cap either on the roof or side of the house, is the fan venting into the attic? Some contractors skip that important step, and some roofers fail to replace them when re-shingling the roof.

Venting warm, moist air into the attic is really hard on the house! Moist insulation doesn’t insulate, and moisture feeds mold and wood decay. If you can’t see a vent cap, it’s time to check in the attic. The attic can get very hot, so pick a cool day. Wear a dust mask and headlamp. With the fan running, you should be able to find the vent. Look to see if it’s insulated and connected to the roof. Look for dark stains on the wood decking (the wood that the shingles get nailed to). Sometimes the connection gets loose by itself, sometimes when shingles get replaced. Sometimes the damper on the vent cap gets stuck; the sun heats up the damper’s gasket and it gets sticky. Remember the toilet paper test? If the paper doesn’t stay and the fan is working, I’ll bet the damper is stuck. If the damper is stuck, or the vent is missing, someone needs to go on the roof. Not you; God gave us nephews for a reason.

While you’re in the attic, look for dirty insulation. When air gets into the attic, it brings household dust, which gets trapped in the insulation, making it dirty. The air is coming through gaps in the ceiling created for vents and wiring. the fancy term for that condition is “attic bypass”. Sealing bypasses is a very effective way to save energy, but also a very good way to get distracted. remember the bathroom fan?

If the fan hums but doesn’t turn, it’s most likely time to replace the fan and motor. There are wire springs on the grille that you pinch together. It’s easy to understand when you look. Take the grille off and vacuum the motor so you can see the part number. Replacing the motor is super easy when you use the existing housing. Just be sure to turn off the power at the circuit breaker, and stand on something besides the toilet. With the part number, go online and find a replacement.

You can do this.