bathroom exhaust fan dripping water: Quick Fix Today

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Written by: Mohammad Sameer

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If you’ve noticed water dripping from your bathroom fan, all is not lost! Tackling the issue of water dripping from bathroom fan is a common but frustrating problem that most homeowners will encounter eventually.

Bathroom fan leaking water often results in unsightly stains on ceilings, provides an ideal environment for mold growth, and can cause moisture damage or even wood rot over time if not promptly addressed.

What Causes Water to Drip from a Bathroom Fan?

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Finding water dripping from your bathroom fan Discovering how to fix water dripping from a bathroom fan can be alarming, but as a seasoned home repair blogger with over a decade of DIY expertise, I assure you that the problem is usually straightforward to diagnose and remedy.

The dripping is often a result of bathroom fan condensation, where excess moisture from the humid air solidifies as it moves through the fan and ventilation ducts, leading to condensation in bathroom fan and duct condensation.

Common culprits for the pesky water droplets plaguing your ceiling include:

Condensation Buildup

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This was the issue for me when I first noticed a damp spot forming on my bathroom ceiling.

When warm, humid air from steamy showers hits cold ductwork snaking through uninsulated attic spaces, it rapidly condenses into liquid water that then drips back down.

This type of condensation buildup is most likely to occur during winter months in temperate climates that experience a wide range of seasonal temperatures.

Ice Dams

If you live in colder northern climes prone to heavy winter snowfall, melted snow on the roof can refreeze the eaves and gutters to form destructive ice dams.

The water from these troublesome ice dams can work its way under roof shingles before finding gaps that allow it to drip into soffit overhangs on its way into your bathroom ceiling.

This was the culprit behind my mom’s dripping ceiling fan woes last winter in Minnesota.

Faulty Damper

That finned flap you see covering the exterior bathroom fan vent is supposed to use gravity to close off the ducts when the fan shuts off.

This prevents unconditioned outdoor air from entering the ducts to cause condensation.

If the damper flap fails to fully seal due to age or damage, drips can form along the duct pathways due to airflow issues.

Old, Weak Fan

After a decade or more of service, bathroom fan units inevitably lose spinning efficiency and the ability to quickly move high volumes of humid air.

This stagnant air has a much longer contact time with cold duct surfaces, giving moisture more opportunity to shed out as troublesome liquid water.

So if you’ve started to notice new dark stains forming around ceiling light fixtures or wet spots near your bathroom fan, it’s likely that bathroom fan dripping water is the culprit behind those pesky drips.

how to fix water dripping from bathroom fan? myself

The good news for DIYers facing leaky ceiling fans is that most dripping issues can be resolved with a few straightforward repairs you can tackle without professional help:

1. Insulate Any Exposed Ductwork

Wrapping duct insulation around cold metallic ventilation ducts running through attics, walls, and crawlspaces helps moderate the temperature differential between humid bathroom exhaust and attic conditions.

This limits the rapid condensation that forms on cold duct surfaces to be reborn as ceiling rain.

Luckily adding insulation is a simple weekend DIY project only requiring basic hand tools and the right specialty insulation materials readily available at your local hardware store or home center.

For small bathroom exhaust vents, simple duct wrap insulation that seals around the duct with adhesive backing is easy to cut to size and install.

Use metal duct tape to fully seal the outer vapour barrier jacket around all duct seams to prevent moisture penetration or gaps.

In my 1912-row home renovation project last year, I opted to go the rigid insulation route for the 6-inch main bathroom ventilation ducts due to the complex maze of HVAC trunks and pipes traversing my tight attic spaces.

The 2-inch thick multi-layer rigid fiberglass duct panels provide an insulating R-6 rating against temperature transfer and condensation with less potential for compression or gaps compared to wraps.

Just take care when crawling through tight attic spaces to avoid damaging this more vulnerable rigid insulation.

2. Replace Old Bathroom Ventilation Fans

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If insulating ductwork fails to fully eliminate drips, it’s likely time to replace an ageing, inefficient bathroom fan struggling to keep pace with humidity levels.

Upgrading to a model rated for higher CFM airflow ensures humid air is rapidly vented outside through ducts before hitting dewpoints.

Avoid bottom-dollar fans with CFM ratings below 80 – 100 for smaller bathrooms.

Installing new ceiling ventilation fans is a straightforward weekend upgrade most DIYers can tackle in just a few hours.

Just be sure to shut off the circuit breaker to the existing bathroom fan before removing old units to prevent getting shocked!

I learned this lesson the hard way…Getting zapped by live wires in a hot, cramped attic while trying to wrestle out an old fan is no fun at all.

Not that I would know from personal experience or anything…😑

If you aren’t comfortable working with live wiring, consider hiring an experienced electrician to handle the new ceiling fan installation.

They can also ensure ducting, ventilation patterns, and airflow meet all current codes in your area.

3. Reposition the Problematic Fan

Moving the bathroom ventilation unit to another ceiling location away from the shower or bathtub enclosure often helps resolve condensation by allowing steam direct access to rise to the fan inlet.

Humid air can dissipate some moisture and moderate temperature during the short journey across ceiling space.

Depending on existing duct routes, relocating the fan may require extending or rerouting vent ducts through attic spaces and patching drywall once the wiring is transitioned over.

While determined DIYers can certainly take on these more advanced renovations, consider hiring an experienced handyman given the complexity and Sheetrock finishing skills involved.

In my 1920s Hoboken brownstone, I hired my long-time handyman Carlos to shift the second-floor hall bath fan away from the combination tub/shower unit over to the toilet area.

He extended the duct run to maintain optimal airflow, then patched and refinished the ceiling to hide any signs of the previous fan location.

This small improvement brought drips from that leaky Hall bath ceiling fan to an end.

4. Run Fans Longer After Showers

Even if your exhausted bathroom fan seems to be running just fine, when it runs also plays a key role.

To fully clear humid air from bathrooms before condensate forms, let the fan run for at least 10-15 minutes after finishing showers or baths.

This gives the remaining moisture lingering in room air and surfaces time to evaporate and vent out fully.

Ideally, use an inexpensive countdown timer switch in the 30-60 minute range. Let it keep running the fan well beyond your shower rather than trusting yourself to remember to do so manually.

My wife prefers the voice-controlled smart home route. She has our bathroom Alexa unit programmed to automatically shut down the vent fan 30 minutes after hearing the shower turn on.

Either way, just don’t forget to have timers resume normal operating mode when done. No one wants to realize hours later they’ve been running up the electricity bill with fans pointlessly spinning away!

What Preventative Steps Should I Take?

Along with the above active repairs, some simple preventative measures in your bathroom maintenance routine can help reduce the chances of pesky ceiling drips popping up again:

1. Clean Fan Covers and Housing 4 Times Yearly

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All bathroom fans inevitably get coated in dust, lint and worse over months of daily use. A dirty degraded fan works far less efficiently at pulling moist air out rapidly. So 4x yearly (I aim for once per season), pop off the cover and vacuum out built-up gunk around fan blades and housing. For deeper cleaning, wipe down all surfaces with an antimicrobial wipe or wet towel with a few drops of mild cleaner.

2. Annual Inspection of All Seals, Insulation, and Caulking

Mark your calendars to set aside an hour each spring for attic inspection around bathroom ventilation. Repair any gaps, holes or damaged materials that could allow conditioned air out or unconditioned air in to cause drips. I also take thermal images with my attached IR camera to ensure insulation coverage has no cold spots.

3. Monitor Attic and Roof During Winter

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If you live in an area prone to heavy winter precipitation and freezing, pay special attention to protecting roof and attic spaces. Inspect for leaks, ice dams or signs of critter/pest entry. Check that bathroom duct insulation remains correctly positioned despite compression from foot traffic. Thermal imaging also helps detect dangerously cold duct sections prone to excessive condensation.

4. Use Dehumidifiers to Control Moisture Levels

Particularly during humid summer months, even an optimized bathroom fan can struggle to keep pace removing all that moisture from steamy, tropical showers and baths. Run a dehumidifier for basements and lower levels, plus smaller units in upstairs hallways. Keep the relative humidity below 50 per cent to avoid hitting the dewpoints that generate problematic condensation.

When Should I Call In A Professional?

While many dripping ceiling woes can be resolved with DIY elbow grease, certain scenarios warrant calling in the pros:

  • Major structural issues like roof damage or leaky plumbing pipes require professional assessment and repairs.
  • If you’ve worked through the common fixes outlined here but still can’t determine the moisture source, an experienced contractor can trouble


I hope this overview gives you the confidence to tackle annoying bathroom fan drips using both active fixes and preventative maintenance.

While hiring a professional contractor is sometimes the best option, many common scenarios causing moisture to plague ceilings can be resolved with some clever DIY solutions.

FAQs For Bathroom Exhaust Fan Dripping Water

Do Exhaust Fans Leak?

exhaust fans themselves do not usually leak. however, if there is improper installation or ventilation, water can seep through and cause leakage.

Who To Call If The Bathroom Fan Is Leaking?

if your bathroom fan is leaking and the diy solutions haven’t resolved the issue, it’s best to contact a qualified hvac technician. they have the expertise to diagnose the problem and offer effective solutions.

Do Bathroom Exhaust Fans Need To Be Cleaned?

yes, regular cleaning of bathroom exhaust fans is essential to maintain their efficiency and prevent issues like dripping water. cleaning removes dust, debris, and buildup that can obstruct airflow and contribute to condensation.

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About Mohammad Sameer

My name is Mohammad Sameer, the founder of SoundproofGears. My hypersensitive hearing turned me into a lifelong seeker of silence. After years of research, I've become an expert on soundproofing techniques and materials. In November 2022 I launched this site to share my knowledge and help others find acoustic sanctuary. About More