How a loud bathroom fan triggered an entire second-floor renovation

When we bought our house about a year ago, we had in the back of our minds that we would be renovating at some point. The second floor is very 1970s: green shag carpeting, light fixtures that look just like these, and wood veneer wall panelling everywhere. It’s something else. And as we learned over the course of the year, the room we’re using as the master bedroom (previously an office) is not well insulated, which makes it either the coldest or hottest part of the house, but never in the way you’d want.

Still, a home reno is a pretty major project, and since we’d been assured by several people in the know that the bones of our house are solid, we were pretty content to keep it as a “someday” thing.

Enter the bathroom fan.

This fan is loud, y’all. And it started getting louder, and then it started making an alarming whapwhapcrunch sound when it was running, so I pulled the grate off to have a look. It turns out that the little rubber doohickey — yes, I know technical words — at the end of the fan shaft had cracked, which was letting the fan blades slip down the shaft and hit the metal guard bar. Well, not to worry — the other bathroom fan wasn’t working at all (less of a big deal since there is no shower in there) so I cannibalized that, which more or less worked, at least for a while. 

But while the fans were being fiddled with, we started to wonder: where were the fans venting to, anyway? A thorough examination of the outside of our house revealed part of the answer: wherever they’re venting, it’s not outside. Our next guess: the attic? We called in some qualified types to take a look, a process which involved removing part of the wall in Perpetua’s room because — surprise! — we actually don’t have attic access for most of the house. Why would anyone want that? So silly.

Well, we got into the attic enough to confirm that, spoiler alert, the fans don’t vent there either. A second visit confirmed that they are, in fact, venting into the floor joists between the first and second floors of the house. Ok, that’s not great. So now we’re going to have some fellas come out to install new fans, and run some vents out to the actual outdoors. Great! Of course, they can’t shove blindly through the space for fear of hitting wires and other nasty surprises, so they’ll have to go through the ceilings downstairs. Hmm. Well, we’re planning on replacing the upstairs carpet eventually anyway, so why not go through the upstairs floors instead? It’s settled: they’ll go through the floors.

Meanwhile, of course, we still have a gaping hole in Perpetua’s wall. But since that part of the attic is now accessible we might as well take advantage and get an energy audit done, right? The auditor came and did his thing and the upshot is that we really ought to re-insulate… well, basically everywhere. And if we’re going to do that, we might as well get rid of the panelling and the lovely ancient wallpaper we found covering the drywall:

And of course, since we’re taking the walls down to studs, we might as well do the floor at the same time, right? So long, old carpet! (We can see a tantalizing edge of original flooring under the plywood; in the lower part of the house we found beautiful hardwood beneath the carpet. Will our luck hold true upstairs? It’s too soon to tell.)

We did, however, find the chimney. 

And here ends our first update from renovation-land. I’m sure there will be many, many, many more to come.

3 thoughts on “How a loud bathroom fan triggered an entire second-floor renovation

    • Haha, thanks. Forget the cross-and-inter-country moves, multiple pregnancies and kids, and job drama… this will be the real test of our marriage. But I figure if we can hang drywall together we’ll be good for the long haul, right? 😛


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