It turns on and makes noise---it must be working!

Reblogger Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Property Manager with Gibson Management Group, Ltd.

Turning on an OPERATIONAL bath fan, opening shower curtains AND leaving the bath door open are easy ways to remove the potential for MOLD in a bathroom.  Funny how many people do the EXACT opposite and think that is the way to fix mildew.

Original content by Charles Buell


Your bathroom has an exhaust fan.


While not required in every instance, in modern construction I think they are essential.

For this exercise let’s assume you have one.  How do you know it works?  “Well, I can hear it running,” you might say.  OK---let me be a little more precise.  How do you know it is “functional.”  By functional I mean how do you know it is pulling air from the room.  (For now we won’t discuss where it is going after it leaves the room---that will make the post too long.)

Home inspectors will not generally pull out expensive testing equipment to determine if the fan is functional.  A simple test, that is highly unscientific, that does give us “some” indication of function is whether the fan will suck a tissue paper up against the grille.  Another test is to put same tissue paper on the floor right at the bottom of the door to the room and then turn on the fan.  If the fan sucks the tissue across the floor that is a pretty good indication as well that the fan is “functional” to some degree.

So let’s say that the fan does not hold a tissue paper and it does not move away from the door during operation.  Both of these conditions can be caused by either a blocked exhaust on the fan or too tight a seal on the bottom of the door.  We do not want to say replace the fan or figure out if the duct is blocked (perhaps bees have filled the cap with nests and the flap can’t open) if it is a simple matter that air cannot get into the room. One can open the door a little and then see if the fan will hold a tissue.

Another common problem that this simple test can reveal is what is pictured in the following picture.

vent holding tissue paper

The fan is indeed pulling air----but is blowing it right back into the room on the other side of the grille.  Ideally when running this test, the entire grille should be covered with tissue, but with experience the inspector can figure it out with partial coverage.

As you can see, this simple tissue paper test can tell us a lot about the true function of the fan---not simply that it turns on and makes noise.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Diane Daley
Caron's Gateway Real Estate - Northumberland, NH

Good post I like the tissue paper test, have a happy 4th filled with family , friends and fun

Jul 04, 2012 12:35 AM #1
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent
Wallace, good reblog because nobody likes mold or mildew and we all hate to clean it.
Jul 04, 2012 02:03 AM #2
Joe Jackson
Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty - Columbus, OH
Clintonville and Central Ohio Real Estate Expert

Good re- blog have a great 4th of July!

Jul 04, 2012 03:04 AM #3
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566
You are right! The tendency is to do the exact opposite and thus incorrect thing! Good lesson!
Jul 04, 2012 03:35 AM #4
Donna Foerster
HomeSmart Realty Group - Parker, CO
Metro Denver Real Estate Agent

Wallace~ Now I'm worried that my fans aren't working properly.  I'm going to try the toilet paper test!

Jul 04, 2012 09:26 AM #5
Michelle Francis
Tim Francis Realty LLC - Atlanta, GA
Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease


I love Charles simple test for if it works.  Simple basics help keep mold at bay - it's not rocket science.

All the best, Michelle

Jul 04, 2012 10:15 AM #6
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Wallace, thanks for the reblog

Jul 04, 2012 01:54 PM #7
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