Venting bathroom fans is usually done through a side wall or roof, but it is also OK to vent a bathroom fan into a soffit.
For those that do not know, a soffit is an architectural feature that can be interior or exterior. Soffits are usually horizontal and are found at the eaves of your roof.
Most of the time, we never consider venting through a soffit and focusing on more traditional ventilation forms. But venting through a soffit can have many advantages, and in this article, we will cover all the details of venting a bathroom fan through a soffit.
Benefits of Venting a Bathroom Exhaust Fan Through Soffit
Preserving Your Roof
By choosing to vent through a soffit instead of your roof, you do not need to cut a hole in your roof. Cutting into your roof can cause issues, especially if your roofing is old.
This can affect the structure of your roof and allow water to get inside your home. If you are in an area that receives a lot of snow, this snow can accumulate on your roof vent and cause leaks in your attic. Ventilating through a soffit bypasses all these issues.
Shorter Duct Length
Soffits will often be the most efficient route for your duct to travel. The longer your duct must travel and the more bends in the route make the fan work harder and give a greater chance for condensation to flourish.
Though this is not the case in all homes, in many cases, the soffit will provide you with the shortest duct length possible. A shorter duct also means less work and material costs.
The airflow in soffit ventilation usually runs horizontally, as most soffits are horizontal. This allows warm air leaving your bathroom to remain in the duct after you turn your fan off.
This warm air acts as a barrier keeping the cold air outside out of your bathroom. This barrier of warm air, along with the soffits placement, helps to fight against backdrafts. These benefits are especially helpful during the winter season.
Things to Consider When Venting a Bathroom Exhaust Fan Through Soffit
Moist Air Entering Your Attic
One of the significant concerns when ventilating through a soffit is the moist air entering your attic. This moist air can cause structural damage and mold.
This issue is caused by ducts not being properly sealed. The moist air from your bathroom will escape through these weak seals wreaking havoc in your attic. Ensuring that your ducts are properly sealed can eliminate this issue.
Your Choice of Duct
The duct hose that you select is an important decision. The proper duct hose and installation will cut down on possible problems and give your ventilation system a long life.
You must make sure that you are using the proper duct size for the model of your fan. Older fans usually use a 3-inch hose, while modern fans use larger hoses. Using an incorrect duct hose can cause you many issues.
Insulated duct hoses are available, and you should consider whether or not you should use them. In many cases, an un-insulated hose could work just fine.
But in extreme weather conditions, either very cold with high levels of snow or in very hot conditions with a lot of humidity, insulated hoses are ideal. But insulated hoses cost more than their un-insulated brethren.
How to Install a Bathroom Exhaust Fan Through Soffit
Tools & Materials
- Tin Snips
- Duct Hose including elbows and straight hose
- Ventilation Fan
- Cordless Drill
- Layout Square or Framing Square
- Tape Measure
- Aluminum Tape
- PPE (Eye Protection and a Mask)
Step 1. Begin by choosing exactly where you want to create a ventilation hole on your soffit.
Step 2. Choose exactly where you want to place your vent intake in your bathroom.
Step 3. Drill a reference hole in your bathroom where you would like to place your vent.
Step 4. Drill another reference hole in your soffit.
Step 5. Enter your attic and find both of your reference holes, then find the most efficient route for your duct hose to travel from your fan to your soffit.
Step 6. Back in your bathroom measure the dimensions of your fan’s intake port to determine the size of the hole you need to cut.
Step 7. Use your reference hole as the center of your ventilation hole, then use a layout or framing square and pencil to transcribe the intake dimensions onto your ceiling.
Step 8. Equip your protective eyewear and mask.
Step 9. Using your jigsaw (reciprocating or drywall saws will work too), cut your ceiling hole according to the lines you marked.
Step 10. Use your hand to let the cut-out piece come out gently.
Step 11. Head back into your basement and find the newly cut-out hole.
Step 12. Install a 90-degree duct elbow facing straight up into the outlet port of your vent housing.
Step 13. Find the knockout hole and feed the wiring down through it.
Step 14. Use aluminum tape to seal your duct elbow onto your vent housing.
Step 15. Attach the supplied brackets to the side of the vent fan.
Step 16. Lower the fan into the hole and secure the brackets to your ceiling joists using the screws provided with the fan.
Step 17. Attach flexible duct to your elbow using aluminum tape.
Step 18. Head outside and find your soffit reference hole.
Step 19. Some manufacturers supply a template for cutting this hole. If not, transcribe your hole measurements onto the wall.
Step 20. You can use your jigsaw, tin snips, or a hole saw to make the cut into your soffit.
Step 21. Attach a wall cap outside over your soffit hole using a screwdriver or cordless drill.
Step 22. Head back into your attic, gently stretch your flexible duct to your wall cap and attach it using aluminum tape.
Step 23. Head back into your bathroom and remove the electrical covers for your vent fan.
Step 24. Attach these wires to the wires you feed down back in step 13.
Step 25. Make sure you attach wires of the same color together.
Step 26. Replace all electrical covers.
Step 27. Attach the grille.
Step 28. Run and test your new fan!
This will depend on many factors, but it could cost anywhere between 300 to 800 dollars to give you a general figure. If you decide to install it yourself, most ventilation fans range between 200 to 300 dollars, and you’ll likely spend another 100 on materials and tools. If you decide to have a contractor install the fan you can be charged anywhere from 400 to 800 dollars depending on the contractor and the amount of work involved.
This is a project where the wiring is not overly complicated and usually requires only two wires to be connected. But if you are having electrical issues with your exhaust fan, electricians may be able to solve your problems.