How to Remove a Bathroom Fan: The Ultimate Guide

Josh Miller

Josh is a contributing writer to the site and former HVAC specialist.

Last Updated on January 30, 2022

Many homeowners enjoy the benefits of their bathroom exhaust fan for several years. From removing moisture to eliminating odors and reducing fumes, these fans are a useful bathroom feature necessary for a hygienic, mold-free environment, but they don’t last forever.

There could be many things that you should clean in your bathroom, but if the Exhaust is not working, then it should be the priority fix. Exhaust fans have an average lifespan of roughly ten years before you need to replace your existing one

When the time comes to replace your old model, you’ll need to understand how to remove a bathroom fan correctly to make space for an efficient replacement. With these basic steps, you’ll have a new fan up and running in no time.

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Table of Contents

Proper Way on How to Remove a Bathroom Fan

Step 1: Cut Off the Power

Before you begin the removal process, you must turn off the power. This eliminates any risk of electrocution or other potential hazards. Start by shutting off the breaker located on your electrical panel box. You’ll be able to tell if you’ve switched off the correct breaker if you turn on the wall switch and the fan doesn’t activate. The outlets and lights in your bathroom will also lose power.

To test that your breaker is switched off, invest in a non-contact voltage tester. These devices tell you if there is still power running in the wiring by beeping loudly. All you have to do is position the tester near the electrical wiring without even touching it. The device senses any form of electrical current and alerts you immediately.


Step 2: Remove the Exhaust Fan Cover

Once you’ve switched the power off, you need to remove the bathroom fan cover.

If your fan doesn’t have a light, all you need to do is pull the cover downward. Once it drops down around ½” from the ceiling, you’ll be able to position your fingers underneath the cover and pull it down another 1-2”.

This extra space will reveal two metal spring clips that secure the cover to the fan housing. Squeeze these metal clips together with your fingers. This motion will release them from the slots, allowing you to easily remove the fan’s cover.

If your fan does have a light, removing the fan’s cover is a slightly different process. With some models, you can squeeze the sides of the light cover together, which releases the plastic clips, allowing you to remove the cover. Once you get it off, you’ll notice a single nut that you must detach before removing the entire fan cover.

In other instances, fans with lights will have a single nut on the outside, making it visible from the center of the fan. Whether the nut is placed inside or outside of the fan, once it’s removed, you’ll be able to extract the light lens and the cover as one single unit.

Step 3: Detach the Fan Assembly

In many bathroom fans, the fan assembly is a separate component of the fixture that you must remove before detaching the whole housing.

In most cases, all you need to do is unplug the fan assembly. Other models may require you to undo the electrical wiring by taking out the wire nuts before removing the assembly. 

The majority of fan assemblies will have between one and three screws to remove. There may also be some metal clips to release before you can entirely remove the component.

Step 4: Detach the Metal Housing

Once you remove the fan assembly, detach the metal housing and, if necessary, a bracket. Some fans have a metal bracket secured to the ceiling joists, with the fan housing attached to the bracket. Other fans have the housing secured to the ceiling joists directly, without a bracket.

If you can access your attic, you can perform this step by unfastening the housing from the joists from above. If you remove the metal housing this way, you must wear protective equipment, especially a mask, to ensure you don’t breathe in any fiberglass. There are other risks associated with attempting the removal from the attic, such as creating cracks in the drywall.

If you don’t have attic access, you can just as easily perform the removal from inside the bathroom. An alternative is to use a reciprocating saw to loosen and cut the housing. After removing all the nails securing the housing, you’re ready to tackle the duct.


Step 5: Disconnect the Vent Duct

The easiest way to remove the vent duct from the bathroom is to lift the fan housing up into the ceiling cavity. Once you push it up, angle the housing to gain access to the vent duct. Your duct will either be zip-tied or taped to the housing adaptor. No matter how it’s attached, use the necessary tools and remove the duct accordingly.

Step 6: Disconnect the Electrical Wiring

Once you detach the vent duct, you need to disconnect the electrical wiring. It will most likely be connected to the fan housing with a bushing. The bushing will either be metal or plastic, and you can loosen it by bending it counter-clockwise.

You may also encounter some small wiring cover, which also requires removal. Once the electrical wiring is loosened, simply pull it away from the housing.

Step 7: Remove the Housing

This is the final step in learning how to remove a bathroom fan. Once the duct and wiring have been disconnected, you’ll be able to have access to the fan housing and remove it from the ceiling.

If the fan housing is too large to be removed from the drywall hole, it may require you to cut out 1-2” with either a keyhole saw or drywall saw. You can also adapt how you remove the housing and try to lift it at an angle to ease the component through the hole.

Make Way for a New Bathroom Fan

Performing these removal steps provides you with the space you need to install a new bathroom exhaust fan. Since these fans are crucial to maintaining a sanitary and healthy bathroom environment, don’t delay replacement once your old fan has stopped working. If you are uncomfortable replacing the exhaust fan yourself, you should contact a professional to remove the old fan and replace it with a new model.

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