Why Is Water Dripping From My Bathroom Fan?

Stephanie Shaykin
Updated March 2, 2022
Modern bathroom with fan
Photo: Jason / Adobe Stock

A leaky bathroom fan can be an easy fix—if you know how to detect the issue

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If you’ve noticed water dripping from your bathroom fan lately, don’t fret. When you find unexpected water in your bathroom, we know how tempting it is to jump to “worst-case scenario.”  Luckily, a leaking exhaust fan could be an easy fix for you or a pro to tackle. There are a few reasons why you can have a leaky bathroom fan, and most of them are pretty straightforward fixes. 

What Causes a Dripping Bathroom Vent

Bathroom exhaust fans remove moisture as rapidly as possible so water doesn’t accumulate and cause damage to your home. It’s why everything around you is still dry when you step out of a hot shower.

Usually, the fan pulls warm, wet air from the bathroom and distributes it to the attic. But if this condensation accumulates in your attic, it can cause water leakage. On a chilly day, this moist air will condense on anything below its dew point, such as nails or sheathing made of tar paper.

Dripping condensation is not a good thing. Left unchecked, it can cause mold growth, wood rot, and attract termites and other pests. And we’re willing to guess that inspecting the dark, dingy attic isn’t on your daily list of chores—that is, until you notice the problem at hand—the exhaust fan in your bathroom dripping water. 

Diagnosing Bathroom Vent Drips

Here are some easy tips for determining why your bathroom vent isn’t doing its job correctly.

Duct Condensation

If you notice water dripping from your bathroom exhaust fan after you shower, it may be a sign of condensation in the duct. In winter, the warm bathroom air turns cold from the freezing attic or outdoor temperatures. The air condenses into tiny droplets that fall back down through the standard duct system.

In the summertime, when a hot and humid pipe cools with an A/C unit, your exhaust fan can drip moisture from those extra-humid bathroom vapors as well.

Ice Accumulation

If you live in a perpetually cool or chilly place and don’t have insulation in your ducts or pipes, ice will accumulate, leading to condensation. And more condensation means more water leaks from your fan.

Leaking Vent When It Rains

In some instances, water accumulates in your bathroom fan vent as when it rains. If the fan is not installed correctly—you guessed it—water drops.

How to Stop a Bathroom Exhaust Fan From Leaking

Pretty bathroom, green with gold accents
Photo: PC Photography/ iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Inspect the Damper

The purpose of the damper flap is to channel airflow and prevent any water from moving upwards into your ducts. If you're experiencing issues with drips and leaks, your damper flap likely needs replacing. While this isn't easily accomplished by yourself, a pro can replace this quickly.

Check the Vent Cover

The vent for your roof fan may suffer from wind and other weather-related damage, thanks to its prime, perched position on your roof. So, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that the vent cover for a bathroom's ceiling fan would be similarly susceptible to damages and debris. Water can pass through its cover, and there are some obvious signs that you need a new one.

Take a good look at the roof vent cover to ensure it is not damaged or installed incorrectly. If it appears fine from the outside, water may leak into the duct from somewhere else. Either way, you should contact a professional as soon as possible about fixing this problem. 

Insulate the Ventilation Pipe or Attic

Sometimes water drips from a bathroom fan because it's too cold. Insulate your ventilation pipe to more effectively control the temperature and prevent condensation.

If it’s pretty chilly in your attic and you have condensation problems with your fan, inadequate attic insulation may be part of the problem.

Move the Bathroom Fan

Is the fan from your bathroom exhaust right over your shower or bathtub? This means it’s taking in air at its warmest point, causing the air to condense quickly in chilly ventilation pipes.

To prevent water from dripping, move the fan as far away from the shower or tub as possible. Moving the fan will ensure that the air passes through an insulated pipe before exiting into a cold environment. Always consult with a pro to handle bathroom fan installation

Run the Fan Long Enough and Clean Regularly

To get rid of moisture, turn on the fan while taking a shower or bath and run it for 10 to 15 minutes afterward. That way, condensation doesn't build up and remain in the pipes. And don’t forget to clean your vent to prevent buildup and malfunctioning. 

Replace the Fan Every 5 to 10 Years

Most bathroom fans last somewhere between five and 10 years. Older and slower ventilation fans are less effective at moving moisture out of the bathroom. To make sure your bathroom stays moist-free, replacement is a must. 

Some manufacturers make it easy to install bathroom vents in a few hours. But it’s always best to hire a local pro to install your bathroom exhaust fan to get the job done right.

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