Ask an Expert

Do I need special permission to install a fan in my apartment's bathroom?

By Virginia K. Smith  | October 10, 2016 - 1:59PM

I want to renovate and install a bathroom ventilation fan in my apartment, but I'm not sure if it would violate any building codes. What would I need to do in order to get this done through proper channels?

What kind of permissions you need will depend on the type of fan you'd like to install, say our experts.

If you'd rather not deal with any paperwork hassles, try a fan that doesn't require connection to the building's ducts. "Broan manufactures a duct-free bathroom fan that uses carbon filters to remove odors," says Agustin Ayuso, an architect with Bolster. "That may be the easiest way to solve the problem, although it may not work as well as a tradional ducted exhaust fan."

But if you want to install a more typical bathroom exhaust fan, that will require a ducted connection to the building's exterior, which will require some communication with your building.

"I'd start by asking the building staff if the building has a common interior ventilation shaft where the fan can connect to," says Ayuso. "If this is not possible, then an exterior exhaust outlet must be installed." For the latter option, the potential cost can vary greatly, depending on a variety of factors including the number of interior walls and partitions that might be affected by the installation process, the type of exterior wall or roof construction, type of fan, and the distance from your bathroom to the exterior wall exhaust location.

Unsurprisingly, to do work that requires penetrating the building's exterior requires permission from the landlord or management company as the case may be, and if they refuse, "then you've probably exahusted (no pun intended) all of your options," says Ayuso.

However, if they're open to the idea, you'd do best to bring in an architect or engineer to complete the job, as they'll be able to install your new fan in a way that complies with housing codes (which require that such vents maintain a certain distance from windows and property lines, among other fine print details).

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