A vent to nowhere…
I want to start a small blogging project of common things I see inspecting homes in Washington, as well as some handy home repair tips and tricks i’ve picked up through the years.
For our first installment, I’d like to bring up vents to nowhere – kitchen and dryer vents that go into an attic, and don’t leave the structure! I’d hazard a guess that half or more of all homes in the area have at least one of those vents disconnected, blowing all that moist air into the attic, promoting mold and fungal growth. Yikes, right? Most instances i’ve come across are typically poor installation of the vent ducting to the roof vent. That connection point weakens from the vibrations of the fan, changes in temperature in the attic, people moving boxes and what not around in the attic, or a plethora of other ways to bump the vent duct.
On occasional, I’ll come across a fan that was installed with no ducting at all, it just blows moist air into the attic like a honey badger – without care. Hopefully that was a home owner install and they didn’t pay someone to do that.
When i’m performing a home inspection, something I’m always keeping in my mind is “where does moisture go”. Especially in the Pacific Northwest, places like Vancouver and Longview get a vast amount of rain for 9 months out of the year. Water is easily the number 1 enemy of any home, and making sure to keep the water on the outside is key to having a long lasting structure. So when I see bathroom vents that vent directly into the attic instead of passing through the roof or gables to the exterior, it makes me cringe a little bit inside. It’s also a good indicator that I’m going to find mold in the attic, and to have my moisture meter ready to probe some rafters and sheathing.
Increasing moisture in the attic can lead to a myriad of problems for the home owner, but thankfully if caught early, they can be mitigated! So there’s a silver lining! But left untreated, you can start to see mold colonies prosper and mildew to begin to grow. Fear not, for mold is easy to remove, and reconnecting a disconnected duct is also quite simple. What’s a little more difficult is getting around in an attic, as many do not have sub flooring covering the ceiling joists, so you have to walk through just on the edge of those 2x beams. One misstep and you’re popping your leg through the ceiling! How embarrassing.
For that reason, I typically don’t recommend home owners repair their own disconnected vents, or attempt to clean the mold. It’s not that the task is difficult, it’s just a little more dangerous for the average person to hop around on rafters covered in insulation in a 120* attic. But for the adventurous and sure-footed, you can make quick work of it with some zip ties or a ring clamp, or push come to shove, duct tape. Some installs may require a bit more work to secure the duct to an exhaust port, as seen below – the shredded vent and difficult to attach to roof vent. I’d recommend you leave that one to the pros.
So now you’ve got a little information on a very common defect I come across regularly doing home inspections in the Longview, Vancouver, SW Washington area. If you see it pop up in your report, don’t be alarmed, it’s pretty typical, and it’s an easy, inexpensive problem to fix.
Until next time, this is Michael with MACH Inspections, wishing you a happy, sturdy home.