What to Do When Water Drips from the Bathroom Fan
The bathroom is a prime spot for water damage to occur due to a leak or overflow involving the sink, toilet, or bathtub. Condensation left over from a hot bath or shower can also contribute to water damage in the bathroom. Bathroom fans can help dry moist bathrooms and prevent water damage, but sometimes it’s the fans themselves that may be the source of water damage.
Exhaust fans in the bathroom are vulnerable to leaks due to a number of factors. When water leaks from a bathroom fan, it can cause damage to the ceiling, insulation, and drywall, and also increase the risk of mold growth. Fortunately, leaks with bathroom fans tend to be easy to fix for professionals or as a DIY project. If you have a leaking fan in your bathroom, it is important to know how to determine what caused the leak and how to fix the problem to stop the leak. While you may be able to fix the source of the leak yourself, you will likely need to call a water damage restoration professional to restore the damage caused by the water.
Causes of Water Dripping from a Bathroom Fan
Bathroom fans remove moisture from the bathroom by pulling in the warm, wet air and distributing the air into your attic. The condensation may accumulate in the attic, ductwork, or bathroom fan vent and it will leak back into the bathroom when it becomes too much or environmental conditions cause the condensation to drip. Dripping condensation can cause several problems including mold growth and structural damage to wood and drywall.
The following are the main causes of dripping from your bathroom fan:
- Duct condensation: The condensation dripping back into your bathroom through the fan could be coming from the air ducts above the bathroom. Winter conditions cause the warm bathroom air to turn cold within the ducts which creates condensation. Summer conditions can also create condensation in the ductwork as the air conditioner cools hot and humid air within the ducts, once again creating condensation.
- Ice accumulation: During the winter, ice can accumulate around your ducts and pipes and create condensation that can leak into your bathroom through the fan. This is most likely to happen if your air ducts and pipes are not insulated.
- Rain: Rain is a common cause of dripping in the bathroom fan as rainwater can get into the bathroom vent if there is a problem with the vent hoods, flashing, or damper.
How to Stop Bathroom Fan Leaks from Rain
If you notice that the bathroom fan only leaks when it rains, then there is a problem somewhere that is causing rainwater to get in and leak out through the fan. Leaking rainwater is likely caused by one of the following issues.
Damaged Vent Hoods
Bathroom fans have a vertical vent that allows the hot air to rise out of the bathroom and escape the home. However, this also means that water can come in from the top of the vent and leak down into the bathroom. Rainwater will leak into the fan if there is any damage to the vent hood including cracks or breaks in the material.
Damage to the vent hood can be caused by several factors including degradation of plastic covers from sun exposure, wind damage, and corrosion from rain and snow. You may be able to fix the problem by replacing the hood or the seal, depending on which one is damaged. To do this, you will first need to remove the shingles around the vent hood and then remove the hood. If the seal is damaged, you can then remove the old seal and install the new one. Make sure to caulk the new seal for extra protection. When replacing the hood, install the new hood exactly as the old one was installed.
If you do not feel comfortable doing this work yourself, you can hire a professional to handle the job.
The flashing is a shield on the roof that prevents water from leaking through the cracks and crevices of the roof. If the flashing near the vent hood is damaged, it could allow water to get into the vent where it can drip down through the bathroom fan. Flashing can become warped due to environmental factors like weather changes and because it is often made of metal, it can rust and crack.
You can either repair or replace damaged flashing depending on the extent of the damage. Small holes in the flashing can be patched up with rooftop cement. If the flashing is severely damaged, it will need to be replaced. It is usually best to have a roofing contractor handle the replacement of damaged roof flashing.
Damaged Backdraft Dampers
The damper channels airflow to help prevent water from getting into your air ducts. A problem with the damper could cause water to get into the bathroom vent. In many cases, the damper may need to be cleaned out or repaired as debris can prevent the flaps from closing or the seal may wear out and need to be replaced or caulked. If the damper needs to be replaced, this is a relatively quick and easy job for a professional.
How to Stop Bathroom Fan Leaks from Condensation
As mentioned above, the creation of condensation within the ductwork is a potential cause of leaks through the bathroom fan. Taking the following steps will help prevent excess condensation that could leak through the fan:
- Insulate the ventilation pipe or attic: When the hot, moist air from the bathroom meets cold air in the ventilation pipe or attic, condensation is formed. You can reduce condensation by insulating the ventilation pipe and your attic to better control the temperature.
- Relocate the bathroom fan: If the bathroom fan is directly above the shower or tub, then the air is entering the fan vent at its warmest. This will cause condensation to form quickly if the ventilation pipe is cold. Moving the fan away from the shower or tub will help prevent condensation buildup as the warm air will pass through an insulated pipe before entering an uninsulated area. It is probably best to call a professional to move the bathroom fan.
- Run the fan longer: When you finish a bath or shower, you should not turn off the fan right away. Let it run for 10 to 15 minutes after you finish to allow as much of the condensation from the bath or shower to dry as possible.
- Replace the fan every 5 to 10 years: Bathroom fans have an average lifespan of between 5 and 10 years. If your bathroom fan is 10 years old or older, it is likely not removing moisture from the bathroom as well as it used to. Try replacing the fan to see if this stops the leak. New bathroom fans can be a DIY project, but it is also a quick and easy job for a professional.
- Run a dehumidifier: You can help reduce the water dripping from the bathroom fan by running a dehumidifier in the bathroom. You can either put a portable dehumidifier in the bathroom when the fan drips or consider investing in a whole-house humidifier if you live in a humid climate.
Should I Check My Ceiling for Water Damage?
If your bathroom fan has been leaking for a considerable amount of time, it may be a good idea to remove the fan and check for water damage in the ceiling cavity. The leaking water may have caused damage to the surrounding insulation, drywall, or wood framing and these areas may also be affected by mold growth.
Before removing the bathroom fan, make sure you unplug the fan first, so you do not get electrocuted. Remove the plastic cover and then unscrew the fan. Use a flashlight if necessary to check the ceiling cavity for water damage.
Call a Professional for Water Damage Restoration
Taking the above-mentioned steps will help you stop the bathroom fan from leaking, but there may be water damage left behind from the leak. If you find water damage or mold growth from your dripping bathroom fan, make sure to call a water damage restoration professional. These technicians can repair the damage caused by the water as well as address any mold growth that may have appeared.