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[9 Easy Ways] How to Fix a Noisy Bathroom Fan

Do you remember back when your bathroom fan removed the moisture and smells from the room without making the commotion it does today? If your bathroom fan noise has ever woken up your family members, you need to know how to fix a noisy bathroom fan.

A loud bathroom fan can be caused by many things. In this article, we will go over the main culprits of the exhaust fan noise that is plaguing your life. Then we will discuss 9 different ways to stop bathroom exhaust fan noise.

How to Fix a Noisy Bathroom Fan

What Bathroom Fan Parts Can Make Noise

The fan blades are the moving part of the fan. Through normal operation, they will create some sound as they spin. This will be louder or quieter depending on the quality of components used in constructing it.

If the fan is worn out or damaged at all, it may begin to make more noise as it spins. If your fan is making noise now and it didn’t before, you should check for wear or damage on the fan and motor.

Make sure to keep the fan blades clean and clear. Dirt buildup over time can cause the fan to become excessively loud.

The sound of air moving that the fan is pushing also creates noise. Anytime air is moving, it will create some noise, which is unavoidable.

The motor is what does all the work. It is responsible for turning the fan blades that move the air.

If your fan is older, it may have a louder and less efficient fan motor.

Cheap fans also tend to use loud motors that spin fast with small fans. This creates noticeable excess noise.

If your fan has only recently started making noise, it’s possible that it could be from the motor going bad. Eventually, the motor will wear out. This can make the motor noisy and weak as it reaches the end of its lifespan.

Check the motor for any wear or damage after removing the fan cover. If you see any obvious signs of damage, then it may be time for a replacement.

After allowing the fan to run for a while, check for excessive heat buildup. This could be a sign that your motor is on its last legs.

One of the main sources of noise from your bathroom exhaust fan is the ductwork it hooks into. When your fan removes the air from your bathroom, it has to then transport it outside of your house through a vent. The air is carried through the ductwork.

No matter what you do, moving air will always create some level of noise. That being said, there are several ways to minimize the amount of noise that is made from the air moving through the ducts.

The first thing to understand is that higher air pressure means more noise from the air moving. Smaller diameter ducts will create more air pressure, and therefore, more noise.

The quietest bathroom fans on the market are usually built for use with 6” ducts. However, you likely have 4” or even 3” duct currently residing in your ceiling. It could be a major headache and expense to switch to the larger 6” duct.

If your fan is meant to be used with 6” but you have 4” duct currently, you can still hook it up by using a reducer. The problem is that by doing so, you will increase the air pressure and the noise your fan makes. This means you will not achieve the low sone rating that your fan is advertising.

Another important thing to remember with ductwork is that it should be as straight as possible. Hard turns or multiple turns will all increase the air pressure and the noise that the fan makes.

If your duct requires taking a turn or several, try to lessen the impact by lengthening the turn. For example, instead of using a 90-degree corner, you can achieve the same angle by using 45-degree connectors instead.

Hangers/Mounting Brackets
A lot of noise that your fan may be making could be caused by poor mounting. This may be the result of shoddy initial installation, or it may be from the screws and mounting hardware loosening up over time. Either way, the result is the same.

When the fan is loose, the vibration created by the motor and the fan will not be contained. The entire fan assembly will be allowed to move, which will create excess noise.

To make matters worse, this vibration will be transferred into the ceiling and walls, multiplying the amount of noise it makes.

Take off the fan cover. Gently push on the fan assembly and see if you get any visible movement. If the unit is noticeably loose, you’ll have to determine how your fan is mounted.

It’s possible your fan is mounted with screws from underneath that go into the joist. These would be accessible from the ground.

Often, bathroom exhaust fans are mounted to the joists by hangers above the drywall on the ceiling. To access these hangers, you may need to get into the attic and locate the bathroom.

Types of Bathroom Fan Noises

Knocking noise – If the fan blades are misaligned or obstructed, you will hear a repetitive knocking noise as blades spin.

Humming – Older fans or cheaper fans with inefficient motors can make a humming noise as they run. You may also experience this sound as a motor begins to die out.

Vibration- Vibration noise will be caused if the fan is not securely mounted. As mounting screws and brackets loosen up over time, it can lead to vibration noise.

Grinding – If you have an excessive buildup of dirt, dust, and grime on the fan, it can cause some grinding sounds as the fan spins and grinds all the hard matter up. This will create extra wear on your fan and shorten its lifespan.

You may also hear grinding from the motor as an older unit starts to die out. In this case, the grinding will be accompanied by a slowing of the fan, which you should be able to hear.

Rattling – If your fan unit gets loose enough, it may be able to move inside of the hole it’s mounted in. When this happens, you’ll hear the fan assembly ratting around as it operates.

Bathroom exhaust fan knocking noise- If your fan is way out of alignment, it may be hitting the side of the fan housing as it spins, creating a loud knocking noise. This would also happen if there was a sizable piece of debris stuck inside the fan housing.

Squealing – If the moving parts of your fan get too dry, they may start to squeal as they move and create friction from the dry parts rubbing together at high speeds.

Buzzing when off – If you live in a multi-unit building, it is possible to experience buzzing from your fan, even when it is off. This is due to the duct being connected to other people’s fan ducts.

If someone else’s fan is running, the vibration may be carried from their fan, through their duct, and into your duct. The final product is buzzing, which seems to come from your bathroom fan.

Crackling – If your fan blades are loose, you can hear a fast clicking that sounds like crackling. This is from the blade holders coming into contact with the motor housing.

High pitched noise – Often, as a bathroom fan motor reaches the end of its lifecycle, it will start to release a high-pitched whining noise. This is a sign that the motor is no longer good and needs replacing.

How to Fix a Noisy Bathroom Fan

1. Thoroughly Clean Fan and All Moving Parts

If your fan is starting to make, noise doesn’t run out and purchase a new fan until you’ve tried cleaning the one you have now! As dirt and grime build up over the years, they can cause problems for the fan blades.

First, remove the fan cover so that you can access the fan blades and housing.

Using a rag and warm soapy water, clean down the fan blades, the entire fan housing, the motor assembly, and anything else that looks dirty. While you’re cleaning, be sure to keep an eye out for any damage or wear. If there’s damage present, you may need to replace the fan, the motor, or the whole unit.

Once everything is dry, replace your fan cover. Test the fan to see if this has alleviated your noise problems. If so, excellent! Your job is done. If not, then proceed down the list.

2. Absorb the Sound With Sorbothane Rubber

If cleaning your fan down thoroughly didn’t do the trick, you may try absorbing the vibration and sound by using Sorbothane rubber.

Sorbothane is a very soft rubber that is available in easy to work with sheets. It can be purchased with an adhesive backing that makes it simple to apply to your bathroom fan.

Cut the Sorbothane into strips. These can be 1+½” to 2” wide.

Adhere a strip around your fan in line with where the ceiling or wall will be against the unit when installed. This will effectively decouple the fan from the wall, reducing the amount of vibration and sound transferred.

You can also add some of the Sorbothane to the electrical access plate and the fan motor assembly to help dampen some more of the vibrations.

3. Use Larger Duct

The larger the size duct you use, the less air pressure is created by the air that the fan is expelling. This equates to less air noise.

Newer fans that are designed to be ultra-quiet usually use 6” duct to help achieve this goal.

If you’re upgrading to a larger duct because you’re upgrading to a quieter fan that requires 6” duct, then all you need to do is replace the existing duct.

If you’re keeping your old fan but upgrading to a larger diameter duct, you will need to get an enlarger coupling that will allow you to use the larger duct with your smaller fan outlet.

Head up into your attic and locate where your bathroom fan is.

If installing a new duct on an existing fan, unhook the duct from the outlet on the fan. Install your enlarger coupling on your fan’s outlet.

Remove the existing duct from your fan to the vent in the roof or wall.

You will need to enlarge the vent opening for a new 6” vent. Call a professional if necessary.

Run a new 6” duct from your vent to your fan, being sure to keep it as straight as possible.

4. Straighten Out the Duct

If your ductwork has many kinks or hard turns on its way to the exterior vent, then the extra pressure this causes could be making your fan unnecessarily loud.

Straightening out your ductwork is less surgery than replacing it all with a larger diameter duct. It may not have the same effect, but it will help reduce the air pressure and eliminate some of the air movement noise.

Go into the attic and locate the ductwork for your bathroom fan.

Follow the duct from the fan to the exterior vent. Take note of how many hard turns are in the line.

If there are none, then you won’t be able to make improvements through this method. Often though, you will find several.

For each 90-degree connector in your duct now, replace it with two 45-degree connectors instead. This will reduce the air pressure and should help quiet your bathroom fan.

5. Adjust the Housing or Fan Blades

If the fan housing or blades become out of whack, they can cause all kinds of noise. Worse, they will also be subject to greater levels of wear and tear, taking years off of your fan’s lifespan.

Remove the fan cover. Make sure the fan is off.

Gently move the fan blades with your finger and look for any obvious signs of it being out of kilter. If you see it’s not moving straight, or it’s hitting the fan housing, then it needs an adjustment.

You will need to remove the fan and then remount it. Make sure when you re-install the fan blades that you get everything completely straight or the problem will persist.

6. Lubricate the Fan Motor and Blades

As your fan gets on in years, it will start to dry out and moving parts will start to experience increased friction. This will start to cause greater wear and damage, reducing the lifespan of your fan.

Remove the fan cover. Make sure the fan is powered off.

First, clean off the fan and the fan housing. Make sure there is no dirt or dust to become thick grime when you add lubrication. This will make your problem worse instead of better.

Lubricate around the base of the fan blades with WD-40, or your choice of lubricant. Make sure to spin the blades around a few times will applying lubricant to ensure that you get a nice coat that gets deep into the moving parts where the friction is greatest.

7. Tighten the Mounting Screws

As your fan goes through years of operation, the screws and mounting hardware may begin to loosen. When this happens, you will experience excess noise and vibration that makes your fan seem louder than it should be.

There are two ways to go about tightening the mounting screws depending on how your fan is installed.

If your fan is installed by screws being run through the fan assembly and into a joist, then you may be able to tighten them without getting into the attic.

Remove the fan cover. Locate the screws used to install the fan to the joists and tighten them. That’s it, simple!

Many fans are installed to the ceiling joists with hangers that are mounted above the ceiling drywall. In this case, you’ll need to head up to the attic and locate your bathroom fan from above.

Start by tightening all of the screws that mount the fan to the hangers.

You should be able to follow the hangers from your fan assembly to the nearby joists that they are mounted to. Tighten the screws that mount the hangers to the joists.

Check your fan assembly by moving it gently with your hand and looking for any movement. If you see movement, then something is still loose. Find the offending screws and tighten them up!

8. Replace the Motor

Unfortunately, the motor that powers your bathroom fan does have a lifespan. Eventually, it will reach the end of its lifecycle and the motor will die. There is nothing you can do to avoid this sad reality.

Just because your fan motor has died doesn’t mean you need to purchase and install a whole new fan assembly. You can get the new motor by itself and replace the one part that has gone bad.

This approach can save you quite a bit over the cost of an entire fan unit. It can also be much easier to install just a fan motor than a whole new assembly. You’ll have to decide for yourself if this is the right option for you or not.

9. Replace the Whole Fan

When you have had enough of the noise problems generated by your old bathroom fan, it may be time to retire it and get a replacement.

Modern bathroom fans are built to be ultra-quiet and exchange the air in your bathroom very quickly. A replacement may be just the breath of fresh air you needed (pun intended).

Start by disconnecting the power to your existing fan. You don’t want to get shocked by accident!

Remove the screws that mount your fan to the joists. These may be underneath, or they may be up above the ceiling, in which case you’ll get access from the attic.

After removing the old fan, check your new fan for sizing. You may need to enlarge your existing hole to install your new fan.

Set the fan in place and screw it into the joists according to the directions provided with your fan. Some units will screw in from the bottom. Others will mount above the drywall by attaching to hangers that screw into the joists.

Once your fan is mounted, you’ll need to hook up the duct. Slide the duct over the outlet on your fan. Using foil tape, secure the duct so that no air will escape.

Hook up your electric by matching the correct colors together. If you are uncomfortable with this step, you can call an electrician.

Turn on the power and make sure your fan is installed correctly!


A loud, obnoxious bathroom fan can become a real nuisance. After reading this article, you should know how to reduce or eliminate the noise your fan makes. If all else fails, replace it with a new ultra-quiet modern one and experience the bliss of silent bathroom usage.

If your bathroom is quieter and your life more peaceful after receiving the help provided in this article, please be sure to share it so that others can also find some peace in their bathrooms! If you have any questions or comments, leave them in the comment box below so I can get back to you.

Eugene Sokol

Hi, I’m Eugene. I work with noise all day, so I enjoy any peace and quiet I can find. I began looking at ways to improve the sound quality of my home and to make a soundproof office for myself. As a DIY enthusiast, I looked for solutions I could do. I created this blog to share what I learned and to make it easier for you to improve your quiet space too.

23 thoughts on “[9 Easy Ways] How to Fix a Noisy Bathroom Fan”

    • If you are turning the switch off, the fan stops, and it is still humming a couple of minutes later, I would get it out and pull the wires off. If the humming stops, you have an electrical problem. I would not wait long to try that in case it is shorting out–it could cause a fire. If it is not electrical, it could be some type of flanking noise coming from the attic. It could also be the wind vibrating or humming around the external cover. Make sure it is not electrical.

      Hope that is helpful.


  1. My fan runs continuously and has no off switch. I live in a new build that is nearly three years old, and unfortunately this is the design they chose. I can hear it from my bedroom with the doors closed. Is it possible to get a switch added do you know or would I need to replace the whole thing?

    • Hi Louise,

      You should talk to an electrician. If you can give him name of the manufacturer, a model, and any other information you have–he should be able to make a recommendation. For what it is worth (because I cannot claim too much electrical knowledge), I would think that it could be wired into your light switch (if the wire is accessible) so it is on when the light is on and off when the light is off, or the electrician could fish a new wire for a separate switch.

      Good luck,


    • Ceiling exhaust fans SHOULD ALWAYS be connected to an on/off wall switch! And I DO mean ALWAYS!
      They should NEVER be connected “hot” and running 24/7, that is not only wasteful, but will add to your monthly electric bill and WILL prematurely wear the fan motor out!
      Your builder just went CHEAP with the build or renovation, he is probably just one of those cheapskate dumbass house flippers (like those AMATEUR clowns seen on those dumb TV networks who really DONT know WTF they are doing!) and NOT a real carpenter/electrician/plumber and hires illegal mexi laborers who don’t know what they are doing either and is only in the game to make money off of SUCKERS who are too ignorant, naive and dumb to know whats right or wrong!
      ALWAYS RESEARCH a house thoroughly BEFORE you plunk your money down and ALWAYS hire an inspector who WILL find problems/faults and warn you BEFORE you buy!

    • Hi Jeanette,

      Quite likely the wind is blowing into the fan pipe through the exterior hood. Check to see if the flap in the hood is stuck open, or if you even have a flap. They come with one to keep out rain, snow, bugs, and small rodents. Mine are the same. When we get big winds from the NW we hear the flap tapping in the bathrooms.

      Hope that helps,


  2. How to remove bird’s nest, family included from bathroom vent? Probably 2nd year of this bird invasion so it(they) are well established. Seem to have babies now and I am willing to wait their leaving nest but would want to clean and prevent return.

    • Hi Allen,

      If they are in the pipe, you might need a new hood with a working flap. If they are just nesting in the hood, get a piece of metal screen mesh and duct tape it onto the hood opening after removing the old nest. Another option is metal lath (used by stucco companies). You would have to screw this on the hood but it is much heavier than window screen mesh.

      Hope that helps,


  3. I have loud noise when the bathroom vent is on. I checked the vent and the fan is not in the bathroom vent but it’s in the adjacent room. I was able to access it and the fan seems to run smooth with no noise. So the noise is coming from the bathroom vent area – it has some metal covering inside with a hole on one side for air. When I press in the middle of the metal covering the sounds seems to muffle a bit. Is there way to reduce/muffle the sound from the vent?

    • Hi Akhil,

      If you have access to the pipe connecting fan and vent, check to see if it is touching anything. Might be vibrating against the framing. Also, check to see if your vent is screwed down tight. If not, it also might be vibrating. You could also glue a piece of heavy cloth on the metal cover (make sure air can get through the cloth) or cover the entire vent with heavy cloth.


  4. Hello,

    We have a continuous “clicking” sound coming from the exhaust fan connected to the bathrooms and laundry room. The sound goes off when the exhaust fan is switched off.

    What do you think it might be?

  5. Hello Akhil,

    We have two Panasonic fans that were virtually silent. We just had our house resided and the installers replaced the cheap plastic flappers with heavy duty metal spring-loaded ones. They look great and I am sure they are more air tight but now both fans are loud. It is clearly the flappers that have changed the noise level. Is there a good quality flapper that matches these Panasonic fans?


  6. I need to completely disconnect the old fan it is driving me mad. What is safe way to do it. I will not be replacing it. It was in this house when we moved in 15 yrs ago

  7. I was getting that high pitched squeal that you spoke of in your article. I completely remove the fan & motor, getting ready to install another one. But, I’m still getting that squeal off & on from somewhere up inside. Any other ideas what might be causing it now?? The motor & fan are no longer in my house. I’m having trouble seeing where this noise is coming from, & it’s not constant. It’s driving me crazy.

    Thanks for any advise.

  8. my bathroom ceiling fan makes a rattling noise like the fan is trying to start will it catch on fire if you do not fix it the fan and lights are connected to the light switch

    • Hi Sue,

      If you are concerned about fire, pull the thing out and disconnect it until someone can look at it. The rattle may be coming from wind blowing into the pipe. If it is making the noise when you turn it on, you should definitely take it out and look at the electrical connections. And if you are going to get an electrician to look at it, he will also probably tell you to split the wires and switches–one for the light and one for the fan. Much safer and more energy efficient.


  9. Hey I’m having a noise issue with my grandparents bathroom ventilation fan as well. When it is first turned on it usually runs normal/quiet for about 1-2 minutes. After a couple minutes though it begins to make this horrible sound. The closest thing I can compare the sound to off the top of my head is that it almost sounds like the hollering of some kind of bird in pain that somehow got itself caught up in the ventilation system. Specifically the fan for the bathroom vent.

    • Hi Josh,

      Sounds like something is going on once the fan gets to full speed. You might want to check that it is well anchored and that the vent pipe is securely attached. The fan could be vibrating in its mount, touching something as it spins, or the vibrating against the pipe.


  10. I have a customer that is complaining of a high pitched whining sound. The thing is, she still has this problem even when the fan is turned off… or further more when the breaker is turned off. I’ve installed dozens of bathroom exhaust fans and have never had a complaint like this. Can it be some type of interference even if the power is off?? I told her I don’t think it is the fab itself, but she is insisting I come out free of charge since I installed the exhaust fan.

    • Hi Harry,

      Sounds like you are correct. Could there be an electrical wire draped over the vent pipe? If there is no juice going to the new fan, there can be no sound coming from it.

      Personally, I would make one more trip to satisfy myself that my install is proper. Take your checkbook and be prepared to walk away.


  11. I have Broan 696N-R02 in two bathrooms in my house.
    Installed by the builder.
    Fan #1 in the master bath sounds “quieter” than Fan #2 which is in the main bath.

    I removed the motor+fan assembly for Fan #2 thinking that it was “bad”.
    Yet when I connected it to a regular outlet, it was quiet.
    I put it back into the metal housing, and the noise was back.
    I have Fan #1 to compare with so that’s why I say Fan #2 is noisier.

    It seems from reading your article, that the only cause for this is the ductwork.
    Am I correct?


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