How To Remove Bathroom Exhaust Fans (8 Step Guide)

Do you want to learn how to remove a bathroom exhaust fan?

Removing a bathroom exhaust fan isn't that difficult, and it can be done in an afternoon if you have the right tools.

In this guide, I will go over...

  • Removing the grille or cover
  • Disassembly the fan assembly
  • And uninstalling the metal housing

Let's get started with this guide!

how to remove bathroom exhaust fans

1. Turn Off Power

The first step in removing a bathroom is to cut off the power. The last thing anyone wants to do is get electrocuted for a bathroom exhaust fan.

I recommend that you shutoff the associated breaker at your electrical panel box. If you flipped the correct breaker, then the bathroom fan shouldn't be able to turn on when you turn on the wall switch.  The bathroom lights and outlets likely won't have power as well.

how to remove bathroom exhaust fan non-contact voltage tester

Non-Contact Voltage Tester

An additional safeguard to verify power is off is to use a non-contact voltage tester (around $12) to verify that the power is off. If you just get near the electrical wiring (even without touching it), a non-contact voltage tester will beep loudly if there is still power.

Read Also: What Are The Best Bathroom Fan Switches? (Review)

2. Remove Cover

After the power is off, the next step is to remove the exhaust fan cover.

If the bath fan doesn't have a light, then with almost all fans, you simply pull down on the cover or grille. Once the grille drops down about a 1/2-inch from the ceiling, you should be able to get your fingers underneath it. You should be able to pull it down another inch or two.

There will be two metal spring clips holding the grille to the housing. All homeowners have to do is squeeze together these metal clips with your fingers. Once the clips are squeezed, they will be released from their slots, and you should be able to remove the grille.

Read Also: How Do Bathroom Fans Work?

how to remove bathroom exhaust fan

3. Remove Light Lens

If your bathroom fan has light lens, them removing the grille may be a little different.

With some fans, you can squeeze together the center light lens, which unclips it, and then you can remove it.

After removing the light lens cover, there may be a single nut that needs to be removed before you can remove the rest of the grille. On other types of bath fans with lights, the single nut is actually on the outside, and is visible at the center of the fan. After the nut is removed, then you can remove the entire grille and light lens as one unit.

Read Also: What Are The Best Bathroom Fan Timers? (Review)

4. Remove The Fan Assembly

With many bathroom exhaust fans, the fan assembly is a separate part of the bathroom fan, and it needs to be removed first prior to removing the housing.

Most of the time, you will simply have to unplug the fan assembly from a single outlet that is part of the housing. With other bathroom fans, you may have to undo the electrical wiring (wire nuts are widely used) and then take out the fan assembly.

how to oil a bathroom exhaust fan (unplug fan assembly)

Also, if you don't want to change the entire bathroom fan, you may want to just try to replace the fan assembly. There should be a model # on the fan assembly which you can match with a replacement unit.

If it is a hassle to undo the electrical wiring, you may want to just cut it, especially if you are going to redo the wire nuts anyways. Just be careful that there is enough slack in the electrical wiring to make the new connections if you plan on cutting it.

The fan assembly will likely have 1-3 screws that must be undone, and there also may be a few metal clips that need to be released in order to fully remove the fan assembly.

Read Also: Did You Bathroom Fan Stop Working?

5. Unfasten The Metal Housing

After the fan assembly has been removed, you will be left with removing the metal housing and possibly a bracket.

Some fan manufacturers secure a metal bracket to the ceiling joists, and then the fan housing is secured to the bracket. Other times, the fan housing is secured directly to the ceiling joists, and a bracket is not used. However the housing is secured, it will need to be removed.

If you have attic access, it may be easier to go into the attic and unfasten the housing from the joists. If homeowners go into the attic, it's important to take precautions because it can be a dangerous working environment. I highly recommend that a mask is worn so fiberglass isn't breathed into your lungs. It's also important that homeowners don't step on or disturb the insulation.

There are definitely some risks of going into an attic such as falling through the ceiling or causing hairline drywall ceiling cracks (from walking on the joists).

But many times homeowners can remove the housing from the bathroom itself. If it appears that you can't remove the housing from the bathroom, and if you don't have attic access or don't want to go into the attic, you may be able to just use a reciprocating saw to cut the housing loose. Either way, after you have removed the nails or screws that secured the housing to the joists (or bracket), you will now have to remove the duct.

Read Also: What Are The Best Ducts For Bathroom Exhaust Fans? (Review)

6. Disconnect The Duct

If you are in the bathroom, the easiest way to remove the duct is to lift up the fan housing into the ceiling cavity.

Once you have pushed it up, you should be able to tilt the housing so you have access to the duct.

The vent duct will likely either be taped to the housing adapter, or it may be zip tied. Either way, simply remove the tape or zip tie, and then you can remove the duct from the housing.

7. Disconnect The Wiring

After you have removed the duct, the last thing you will have to remove is the wiring.

The electrical wiring will likely be connected to the fan housing with a bushing. This metal or plastic bushing can be loosened by turning it counter-clockwise. There also may be a small wiring cover that needs to be removed.

After you have unsecured the electrical wiring, you will have to pull the wiring away from the fan housing.

Read Also: How To Remove A NuTone Bathroom Fan Light Cover?

8. Remove The Fan Housing

After the wiring and duct have been disconnected, you can now remove the fan housing out of the ceiling.

If the housing is too large for the drywall hole, you may need to take a keyhole saw (drywall saw) and cut out 1-2 inches.

Try lifting the housing at an angle in order to make it easier to fit through the drywall hole.

Final Thoughts

Removing a bathroom fan isn't that difficult,  but there are a few key steps to removing them safely and quickly.

The most difficult part will likely be disconnecting the fan housing from the ceiling joists. Sometimes the housing is nailed into the ceiling joists through metal tabs, and you will need to go into the attic to remove it. But if you have a reciprocating saw, it may be easier to just cut the housing loose from the joists rather than messing with the attic.

If you want to remove the housing from the bathroom, it also may be required to cut away at the drywall an inch or two in order to remove the housing.

Read Also: What Are The Best Panasonic Bathroom Fans? (Review)

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Arie Van Tuijl

Arie Van Tuijl

I am a licensed home inspector in two U.S. states and the founder of Home Inspector Secrets. After performing hundreds of inspections, and seeing thousands of house defects, I realized people would love to have an online resource dedicated to home maintenance. I write detailed home guides and product reviews sprinkled with inspection tips. You can read my bio here.

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