How to Install a Bathroom Exhaust Fan on Your Own

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We use our bathroom every day for a variety of things. At times, the bathroom can get pretty smelly (even when you don’t realize it). As we continue to use the bathroom each day, different types of odors can build up until the bathroom becomes an unpleasant place to be in. Luckily, the problem can be addressed effectively and efficiently by installing an exhaust fan in your bathroom.

There are several advantages to having a bathroom exhaust fan in your home. It will neutralize the air in just minutes. More importantly, it will deal with the inherent bathroom moisture, and humidity sensing bathroom fans can prevent harmful mold from forming within the surrounding walls.

Although most newly constructed homes do not require a bathroom exhaust fan, you will regret not having one. Installing a bathroom exhaust fan is easy and will make your bathroom a more pleasant place to be. If you are designing a new home, make sure to include a bathroom exhaust fan in the design.

If you are ready to install a bathroom exhaust fan in a bathroom that doesn’t have one, here are some dos and don’ts before you get started on this project.

Why Install a Bathroom Exhaust Fan?

We use our bathroom many times in a single day. As the day progresses, we may notice some changes in air quality. Bodily waste, shampoos, soaps, and other items linger to create odors. When we clean the bathroom, we add more and different types of odors. The result is rarely pleasant. The cleaning odors merely mask the other odors and create a different type of smell.

But moisture is the real problem. The bathroom can turn into a haven for molds that hide in the walls. Drywall is quite porous and easily absorbs moisture that can result in fungus building up in areas you can’t even see. This can create a serious health hazard, and it is why you need a bathroom exhaust fan. A properly installed fan will contain both odors and moisture and improve the overall air quality.

Materials Needed

Below are some of the basic and important materials that you will need to safely install your bathroom exhaust fan.

  • bathroom exhaust fan
  • six-foot ladder to access the ceiling
  • safety glasses
  • dust mask or respirator
  • reciprocating saw
  • flexible ducting
  • cordless drill
  • ½-inch drill bit
  • pencil
  • drywall jab saw
  • screws
  • stud finder
  • round wall vent or roof vent cap
  • exterior-grade silicone caulk

The Planning Stages

Here are some aspects to consider during the planning stages of installing your bathroom fan.

Do You Need a Permit?

You do not need a permit to install an exhaust fan in your bathroom; however, if you are not familiar with the installation process, call an expert who is familiar and experienced with such an installation. This will be safer and more time-efficient. If you are unfamiliar with the process, you can sustain injuries that can easily be avoided by using a professional.

What is the Correct CFM & Sones Rating for Your Bathroom?

Fans are rated by CFM and sones. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute. Generally, 90 CFM or larger is advised. Small bathrooms typically require about 50 CMFs, while larger bathrooms require 100 CFMs. Sones, on the other hand, determines the sound of the fan. The larger the number, the louder the fan. Two is considered a quiet fan.

Choose a Location for the Fan

When installing a bathroom exhaust fan, it can either be installed on top of the ceiling or in the sidewalls of your bathroom. Before deciding on the location, make sure that the fan will be able to ventilate the entire room.

Choose an Exhaust Route

The air inside the bathroom must be vented out to prevent moisture and unpleasant smells from lingering. In doing so, you must identify the route to be used to vent the air. If you have an attic, the vent can pass through the roof or gable wall. However, if you do not have one, you must vent it through the sidewall of your bathroom.

Choose Electrical Options

Some fans can be switched on with the light at the same time. If it is your first time installing a fan, have the switches work together. If not, go ahead and install new wiring that will connect to an additional switch.

The Installation Process

Before cutting out a hole in the bathroom, measure the inside dimensions of the vent fan to determine the size of the hole that is needed. Use framing squares or layout squares to draw outlines onto the ceiling or wall. Be sure to cut the hole to the correct measurements using a keyhole saw. Also, make sure that the fan can be mounted to at least one ceiling joist. On the sides of the hole, attach a piece of 1-inch lumber to secure the sides for the fan housing.

Attach the Fan

When attaching the fan, attach the duct connector onto the ceiling by using a clamp or HVAC tape. The duct should be vented outside. Use a screw to secure the duct connector so it will line up with the exhaust on the fan housing. Determine where it will be attached and secure it to the ceiling with a screw. Connect the electrical component by removing the wiring cover and the knockout plug. Use a screwdriver and secure a cable clamp to the hole.

Next, pull the house wires through the clamp and tighten the screws. For easy distinction, use quick connectors or wire nuts. Push the wires into the housing and secure the wiring cover to the housing with screws. Insert the fan ceiling hole, lining it up to the exhaust with the duct connector and secure it to the wood supports with screws.

Cut a Hole in the Roof

When cutting a hole in the roof, make sure that it connects to where your exhaust fan is installed. In addition, make sure that there are no obstructions and that the vent passage is straight so the air can be vented out pointing directly to the roof.

Cut Away Shingles

Wear safety goggles for this step. By using a jigsaw or drywall saw, cut through the ceiling on the layout line and when you’re almost done, support the piece with one hand to prevent it from falling.

Install the Roof Vent

Grab the free end of the flexible exhaust duct and carefully stretch it to the outer part. Attach the duct end to the wall cap’s connector with foil duct tape.

Connect the Fan

Attach the duct elbow to the outlet port on the side of the fan housing. Aim the elbow straight up and secure it to the port with a foil duct tape. Remove the knockout hole and attach a cable connector to it. Slide four metal brackets from the sides of the vent fan, and then set the fan into place between the joists. Make sure it is centered on the ceiling hole.

Fully extend the brackets until they come in contact with the sides of the joist and secure each bracket with drywall screws. Take the flexible duct and slip one end over the elbow attached to the vent fan and secure it with foil duct tape. Feed the electrical cable through the connector, then tighten the connector screw to secure the cable.

Vent the Fan

Slide the wall cap into the duct hole and push it tight against the house siding. Fill any spaces by using a foam rubber gasket. Afterward, remove the wall cap and apply a bead of silicone adhesive around the hole, and slide the wall cap into the hole and press it against the siding.

Wire the Fan

Unscrew and remove the blower motor from the vent fan housing, then unscrew the built-in receptacle from inside to expose its wirings.

Pull the house wires through the clamp and tighten the screws. Connect the fan wires to the house wires by using quick connectors or wire nuts. Connect white to white, black to black and green to green or bare copper wire.

Wire the Switch

To wire the switch, pull the electrical cable between the fan. Then, switch and connect the fan to the cable. You have to be careful when you do this. Some have 2-table conductors and some have 3-table conductors, so it is important to be aware of which you are working with. Twist them together from the switch with pliers.

Next, feed a circuit table into the switch box but make sure the power to the circuit is off. Strip it off using a utility knife to expose the wire’s ends. Wire the hot circuit to the brass terminal of the switch, and splice all the wires in the box together, twisting them clockwise with pliers. Screw on a wire connector.

Lastly, twist together all the ground wires and join the end of one to the green-ground terminal of the switch. Screw the switch onto the box and screw on a cover plate to finish the wiring.

Call a Contractor if You Need Assistance

If you are not familiar with the installation process, it is best to seek assistance from a professional contractor and have him or her install the bathroom exhaust fan. Nowadays, there are plenty of videos demonstrating DIY installations. But keep safety in mind at all times.

There is nothing wrong with seeking professional assistance as they are the experts. If you have any suggestions as to where you would like your fan positioned, they will be very glad to listen to you. First, however, listen to what they have to say. As experts, it is their job to analyze the area and provide comments as to whether it is the right area or not.

Lastly, know your contractor. There are many contractors out there. Not all of them, however, are reliable professionals. Make sure your contractor is licensed and bonded. Always check for references because you want your family to feel safe.

Enjoy the Benefits of Your New Bathroom Exhaust Fan

After installing an exhaust fan in your bathroom, make sure to maintain a clean and pleasant environment by using the exhaust fan when it is needed. Keep your bathroom smelling fresh at all times, and prevent unpleasant odors from forming along with the growth of mold.

A bathroom exhaust fan decreases humidity and improves air quality. Just as you clean the tub, sink, and toilet bowl, you want to ensure the air is cleaned, as well. This will keep everyone living in your home healthier and safe from possible contaminants.

Lastly, do not forget to check your exhaust fan regularly. If it needs cleaning, have it cleaned as soon as you can. If you can’t do it or don’t have the time, hire a professional to clean your fan for you. Preventing illness is an important factor in keeping bathroom air hygienic and pure.

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