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Everything you need to know about bathroom ventilation

Notice how every bathroom in your home has a fan? We know the bathrooms in our house need proper ventilation, but why? Are they functioning the way they’re supposed to and doing its job? The experts at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation inspired some conversation around the subject after the issued some research. Here are the results.

What you need to know

According to Canadian Contractor, research was performed by the CMHC with regards to bathroom exhaust fans. The report suggests the following:

“…many homes have bathroom exhaust fans that are noisy, move very little air and are not energy efficient. Many homeowners are not even aware that their current bathroom fans may be contributing to damage in their homes.”

Wait a second. Isn’t a bathroom fan necessary? Here’s what we know about WHY our homes require a bathroom fan:

  • Removes excess moisture and humidity;
  • Eliminates odours and air pollutants;
  • Removes water vapour accumulating on the walls and mirrors;
  • Improves the quality of the air.

In other words, if your bathroom fan isn’t doing this (or you’re not entirely sure), then it’s time to have your bathroom fan inspected, serviced and/or even upgraded.

They're barely noticeable...when they're not turned on.

They’re barely noticeable…when they’re not turned on.

Buying a new bathroom exhaust fan

Since a fan is a significant part of any bathroom, it’s important to know what to look for when buying one. Canadian Contractor says there are a few factors to consider before you speak to a bathroom renovation specialist:

Air flow

Each bathroom vent has a different air flow capacity, which is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm). As a result, you’ll have to examine the size of your space to determine what cfm requirements your exhaust fan should meet.

A general guideline to follow is a minimum of one cfm per square foot of the bathroom. For an 80 square foot bathroom, aim for an air flow of 80 cfm. For bigger bathrooms, you’ll need to add 50 cfm for the following fixtures:

  • Standard toilet;
  • Bathtub;
  • Shower.

Purchasing an exhaust fan that’s not the right size won’t adequately move the air around and eliminate moisture. That’s why it’s imperative to do your research and ensure your home is retrofitted with the right one.

Not sure where to begin? We’re pretty sure you’re not the only one! That’s why we’re here to help. Our database of bathroom renovation specialists features a long list of experienced contractors located in your neighbourhood. Use our database to ‘interview’ your future contractor: look through customer reviews, portfolios, and even read articles to learn more about the person you could hire to help you with your bathroom.

Large bathrooms require exhaust fans for proper air flow.

Large bathrooms require exhaust fans for proper air flow.


Does the exhaust fan have to make a lot of noise so you know it’s working? Remember, the CMHC has found that lots of exhaust fans make a ton of noise, but they’re not necessarily doing their job.

Alternatively, your exhaust fan doesn’t have to be noisy so you know it’s doing its job. Canadian Contractor says fans have a sone rating (a unit of perceived loudness). Fans shouldn’t have a rating higher than 1.5 sones. Anything higher than that, such as a 4.0, will be noisy.

Using this knowledge, speak with a bathroom renovator to find a fan that’s a suitable size for your home, but doesn’t exhibit a ton of noise!

Fan Controls

Do you have a fan in your bathroom that has a simple on and off switch? What if you leave for work and forget to turn the fan off? That can get costly for your home to have energy wasted. The CMHC recommends having your fan installed on a timer so it runs for a few minutes long after you’ve showered and used your bathroom. This way, it relieves the room of excess moisture and humidity, but energy isn’t going unused long after the fan has done its job.

Some exhaust fans even have lights on them for added functionality.

Some exhaust fans even have lights on them for added functionality.

Aesthetically pleasing fans

The venting is inside the ceiling, so you don’t have to worry about seeing the fan.

A fan is a necessary aspect to a bathroom, but that doesn’t mean it has to look out of place or outdated. Nowadays, fans are mounted into the ceiling and simply covered with a stylish white (and can even be painted to match your home’s decor!).

So, how does it work? The fan is mounted into the ceiling and the covering is a grille that allows for proper air flow when it’s turned on. While the motor is running in the ceiling, it can still be heard from the grille. But upon speaking with a bathroom renovation expert, you may find one that’s suitable and less noisy for your home!

Bathroom renovations can be a fun experience. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of renovating a bathroom? But not all decisions you make are rooted in design and decor. Finding the right bathroom exhaust vent for your space is an essential design aspect. That’s why we recommend you speak with an experienced  bathroom renovator to determine what will work best in your new space.

Happy bathroom renovating!

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