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How to Install a Ceiling Fan in Your Bathroom

by Glyn Sheridan

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Bathroom with a ceiling bath fan installed

Things You Need:

  • Ceiling fan kit
  • Screwdriver
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Drywall blade
  • Flexible vent tubing
  • Vent cover

Unlike the ceiling fan in your living room that circulates the air with rotating paddles, a bathroom fan features a motorized unit that vents stuffy bathroom air out of the room. A bathroom fan may be an individual unit, or you may purchase a unit that combines bathroom lighting and a fan. If you're installing a new bathroom fan or just replacing the old fan light, here are a few steps to help you get it done right.

Installing a Ceiling Fan:

  1. Check your local building codes. Some communities may require that your bathroom fan vent only to the outside of your home, while others may allow you to vent the fan into your attic or into a joist space.

  2. Measure and cut a hole for the bathroom fan. If you're installing a bathroom fan that has a light, you can remove your existing ceiling light and use or expand that space. Otherwise, locate a space between two ceiling joists. Cut the hole to the exact size indicated by the manufacturer's instructions for your bathroom fan.

  3. Install the bathroom fan's support frame to the joists. Depending upon your specific bathroom fan, you may have to attach the support feature to one or two joists for stability. Position the ceiling fan support feature so the vent outlet faces the direction that you wish to run the vent tubing.

  4. Install the end of the vent tubing to the vent outlet. Run the tubing from the fan outlet through the joists to the nearest exterior wall or to your attic (building codes permitting). If you're running the bathroom fan vent to the outside, you'll need to cut a hole in the outer wall and install an exterior vent cover. Make sure the vent tubing isn't kinked anywhere, which can prevent proper airflow from the bathroom fan to the vent outlet.

  5. Wire the ceiling fan's electrical control box to the wires in the ceiling. Turn off the power to the bathroom at your electrical breaker box before touching any wires. The control box will have metal nuts on one side with a removable protective cap. Use a wire stripper to remove the end of the insulated wire covering. Connect the bathroom fan wires and the light switch control wires as specified in the fan instructions. Typically, you will match wire colors when attaching the control unit, such as blue wire to blue wire and so on.

  6. Slide the fan box into place and plug in the fan's control unit. The bathroom fan plugs into the control unit you've just wired. It helps to have an assistant hold the fan up while you plug the two parts of the control unit together before sliding the fan box into place.

  7. Secure the fan to the support frame with the screws in the fan kit. Some fan boxes have a snap-in-place feature, which allows you to insert the fan box, and it latches safely into the support frame. Install the included fan trim, which covers the hole in the ceiling and the rough edge of the fan box. The trim may snap into place or require a few screws.

  8. Test your new bathroom fan. Restore power to the bathroom and test the new fan. Check the vent tubing and exterior exhaust port to make sure the air is actually venting from the bathroom fan to the outside of the house.

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