Was it ever acceptable by code to vent a bathroom fan to an attic? I
was helping my cousin over the weekend with some minor renovations to
her condo - she wanted to replace the fan in one of the bathrooms, and
when I went up into the attic to unhook it I found that both it and
the one in the master bathroom were not vented to the outside, but had
a maybe 4' piece of dryer duct just tied to the trusses and venting
into the attic.
Originally I thought that this might have been a shortcut taken by the
roofers that replaced her roof just before she moved in, but either
they replaced none of the sheathing or all of it as it all looked
consistent. Also I took a look at other similar units as I was
walking down the street and I didn't see any vent caps in the likely
locations on any of the roofs.
The way she explained it to me was that anything done to the outside
of any of the condos was taken care of by the association, not her
(e.g. roofs, siding etc.) so knowing exactly who to yell at would be
Worst case, I guess, would be that this was a shortcut taken by the
original builder some 15-20 years ago, and it's not going to be
not to any code, it was a cost cutter.
excess attic moisture is bad news and can lead to the roof deck
you might be able to run a flexible line to a existing soffit vent so
it would exhaust there and no one would know:) not requiring condo
association approvals etc
You can get grilled vents designed to be installed in the soffit. I'd
go that route and it will be fairly easy to do. Venting to the attic
is not a good idea but also not the end of the world. I've run into
it as well. Sometimes cheapass builder sometimes diy'er that didn't
know any better.
You can reduce the risk of problems if you just run the fan when it's
warmer outside. When you start to see your breath outside in colder
weather, you can leave the fan off, and rely on forced air heating (if
you have it) to dehumidify the bathroom and humidify the rest of the
house which probably needs the humidity in colder weather anyway.
So, one could take a shower in the morning as the furnace is running
I'm not seeing the advantage of not using the exhaust fan during the
Hot air rises, taking the humidity with it, thus the reason the fans
are placed on the ceiling.
Forced air returns are normally placed near the floor to help
circulate the air, and if I'm not mistaken, you don't use cold air
returns in a bathroom due to various odors that might be circulated
throughout the house.
So, what you are suggesting would require that the returns in the
other rooms would need to pull the humidity from the upper portion of
the bathroom, which would require that all doors remain open for this
to even be possible. Even with the doors open, it's going to take a
lot of suction to exhaust the bathroom ceiling area with returns in
That doesn't even discuss the problems with the moisture condensing on
the walls and ceilings of the bathrooms before the returns in the
other rooms have had a chance to remove it.
Besides, why do you say the furnace is running "continuously" in the
morning? That would depend on how much heat was needed bring the house
up to temp, even after a substantial set-back.
Timing a family full of showers with the heating cycle in the hope
that the cold air returns will circulate the moisture throughout the
house seems like a heat or miss attempt, even if every door was left
On Wed, 6 Apr 2011 11:37:36 -0700 (PDT), DerbyDad03
The humidity will disperse throughout the house whether there are
vents or suction or not. It's airborne and the humidity is higher
in the bathroom but eventually it will reach equilibrium.
If there are such problems. Not everyone has them, especially in
houses with low humidity, especially in the winter when indoor
humidity is lower, especially if there is no humidifier. And a
little condensation does no damage. It evaporates again when the
bathrooom humidity is lower, an dit gets lower when the humidity in
the bathroom leaves through the bathroom door.
The OP needs to evaluate his particular situation.
Perhaps that is the way it was "taken care of" by the Condo
Without knowing how your unit boundaries are described in
the applicable condo documents, can't say where those
boundaries are for your purposes here...
I would read the condo documents (not the "homeowner's
rules" as passed by the board, but the actual legal docs
which are filed with your local AHJ which establish the
property as a condo development and the association itself)
to see what they indicate...
You would then notify the board of directors for the association
of a non-code compliant condition which exist in parts of the
development for which the board is solely responsible...
What you describe seeing in the attic area is a serious
condition, besides prematurely rotting the roof deck which
could cause leaks affecting the units, a serious mold problem
could develop as well affecting the health of the occupants
of the building...
Definitely better to bring it up to the association and see
how they handle it, if they drag their feet too long call
in the local building inspector and the inspector can
send notices of violation and make things happen...
It's perfectly possible that it's not a problem. Depends on whether
the attic is well ventilated and what sorts of weather you experience.
If the vent drips in cold weather, maybe just put some plastic sheeting
below it to catch the drips.
Also, as to removing humidity by running furnace. Bathroom fans don't
just remove humidity; they remove stink.
On 4/6/2011 7:02 AM, N8N wrote:
Why did she want to do that? Too loud, not removing the vapor fast
enough, not removing the smell of cleaning products....?
Maybe that's just a firgure of speech, but you're not going to get
anywhere by yelling. The current directors of the condo assoc. didn't
build the buildings and the original boardt probably had no input
What are you looking for, permission to put a hole in the roof? I can
see them giving you permission, but unwilling to pay for what they
will see as in improvement to the inside, which the owner is
responsible for. Or maybe they'll decide that everyone needs better
vents, and they should match, and they'll hire a contractor to do all
of them, and each owner will pay the furll price for his share.
I have two bathrooms upstairs back to back and each has a sheet-metal
pipe going up to 1 or 2 inches below the ventilated ridge rail. They
didn't get in the way of the roofer, who replaced the plastic ridge
I rarely use the fans and I must admit when I'm naked and drying off,
it's the least likely time for me to go into the attic, but I think
this proximity to the roof, one or two inches, is enough to disperse
the exhaust outside. If the roof has any output vents running the
exhaust to one of them seems like the easisst and cheapest.
All of those, and more importantly, she didn't like the look of the
original fan anyway which was some builder-grade thing that didn't fit
her sense of style. She got one of those fan/light combos which just
look like a light fixture and have a quieter fan than your typical
builder thing, which I installed for her. I left it with a sheetmetal
90 and maybe 3' of hard duct sticking up and strapped to the trusses
(roughly equivalent to what was there before, but using proper duct
instead of dryer hose) so that she could use the bathroom, but I don't
consider it a complete job yet.
In real life I'm a PM so "yelling at someone" is the standard figure
of speech for contacting them and asking them to do something :)
(unfortunately, some of my customers take it too literally...)
AFAICT if something needs to be done to the roof or siding, the
association will hire the contractor to do the work, not the condo
owner. So if she just called someone in (or we did it ourselves) she
could get her wrist slapped, and she's trying to stay on their good
side, as apparently there was already an issue with a storage
container staying in her driveway too long when she moved in because
the moving people didn't come pick it up quickly enough.
You know, I didn't even notice if she had a ridge vent or not. I know
that she has soffit vents because you can see light near the edge of
the roof when up there with the light off. I'm starting to like the
idea of using a soffit vent, I didn't think of that while I was up
there (honestly, I was just thinking that there would be proper
venting in place and that at worst I'd have to run to the store and
get a transition, if the existing vent was a different size, so I
wasn't thinking of all the options.) No gable vents (not possible,
units built side by side, although hers is at the end of her block of
units, so she does have one end wall.)
No, there are no existing vents that I can see. She has 2.5 baths,
and the two full ones are the ones that are definitely not vented
correctly. The half bath is on the 2nd floor (of three) and I didn't
look for that vent (it would have to be on the back of the building,
and I don't think I was ever in the back yard) but that's less of a
concern because there's no shower in there.
We also replaced the vanity sink in the half bath and I'll have to
take a closer look at that when I am next over there, I'm not sure
that that is vented properly with a real vacuum break, it looks just
like a regular PVC cap with some holes drilled in it. So definitely
there have been some corners cut :(
Portable Minister? Public Muffin? Prime Minister?
Plastic Masticator? Private Marine? Presumptive Manipulator?
I was counting the ridge vent, if it has one.
I have a fan in my half bath downstairs, and after 28 years here, I
still don't know where the air goes. I've got at least 100 hours in
the attic, much of it around the stack, I think it's called. I know
there's a chimney in it, but don't remember any vent for the powder
room. I have two of the small vents on the roof -- I know because I
bought replacements when I thought I woudl do the roof myself. And
then I gave them to the roofer. If I had, at the other side of my
townhouse a similar pipe to the ones from the other two baths, I'm
sure I'd remmeber it. So where does the air go?
Dunno about code, but it was the common method for several decades in
upper midwest. Remember, that until post WWII, bathroom fans were rare.
Nobody had AC, and central heat was crude at best. Cracking a window was
common year round. At least OP's were hung up high- when I upgraded
attic insulation and wiring, along with the roof here, I found the ducts
just laying in the insulation. Damn roofer didn't get proper exhaust
ports that I had ordered, just tied the ducts off to standard-size vents
he added. But, it seems to work okay.
No windows in bathrooms... this condo is way newer than the houses
you're thinking of. AFAIK code does require either a window *or* fan
in any bathroom, but I don't remember the specifics of fan
I wish I'd had a fan in the last house in which I lived because the
window wasn't enough to keep the bathroom from getting tons of
condensation after a hot shower.
I'd take the suggestion to bring it to the attention of the condo
You could also go over to the local building dept and ask them what
was or wasn't required when they were built. I'd bet that in the
referenced timeframe of 15 years ago code required that they be
vented outside. How the board reacts depends on whether they
have some smarts or not.
I've seen plenty of cases where they have been vented just by running
flex vent pipe over to the existing soffit vents and just shoving it
area of the soffit. Not ideal, but I haven't seen any cases where
caused problems either. So, that might be a quick and easy solution.
But, since the potential problems with the existing situation could
extend to the entire condo complex, fixing the one you're involved
with won't mean much if the moisture eventually causes mold, or
sheathing rot in the rest of the place. That will still need to be
by the association, with you unit owner on the hook for her share.
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