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Installing bathroom fan without attic access

Is there a way to install a bathroom exhaust fan without attic access? The electrician who installed mine 20 years ago only screwed the housing to the edge of the ceiling drywall. No, I'm not kidding. I'm afraid to remove it to explore the situation in case I can't get it back in again. I can't imagine how it can be attached to the joists. The house is a split level and the attic area is over the bedroom level and contains blown cellulose insulation. There is no access to it. No, I'm not kidding about that, either. The code may have changed since the house was built 40 years ago, but apparently wasn't in existence back then.

Re: Installing bathroom fan without attic access

I don't want to sound sarcastic, but if you have no access at all, how do you know you have blown-in insulation?

If I were in your shoes, I would put in an attic access ladder somewhere first, and then worry about the fan. Having that easy access is a real bonus just to check things out from time-to-time, if you need access quickly for a repair, and for any contractors you might hire in the future. They will appreciate it and it will save you money by having it. There are ways to insulate above or around them too.


A. Spruce
Re: Installing bathroom fan without attic access

What concerns me more than no attic access or that the fan may be attached to the sheetrock is that it is likely venting directly to the attic rather than to outside air. This is a very bad situation and it should be addressed.

Having said that, I have installed exhaust fans without attic access by way of the fan installation hole itself. This is not always possible, but some situations will allow it if the conditions are right.

I would hire a contractor to come out and assess the original installation to determine if the fan was installed and vented properly, if not have them correct the situation, which may include making an access point to the attic.

Re: Installing bathroom fan without attic access

I know about the blown insulation since I'm the original owner of the house and was involved in the building process. There also is blown insulation in the attic area over the kitchen/living room level, but that can be accessed from the garage. I recently had a home energy audit, figuring on the likelihood of needing more insulation. The auditor said an access panel should be built in the ceiling of one of the closets and I think it's a great idea. He also spoke about venting the fans. (There's also one in another bathroom.) I'm trying to determine if I can replace the most-used fan without going into the attic before the insulation and access panel projects take place.

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