DIY Doctor

Sealing up broken extractor fan in bathroom

Postby Shielding2020 » Thu Dec 17, 2020 5:06 pm

Hi All,

Quick question about sealing up a broken extractor fan.

I'll give a bit of background as it is relevant. Please bear with me.

I have recently moved into a flat in a 1970s red brick block of flats. I'm on the third out of four floors, in an 'end' flat. The extractor fan in the bathroom is not working, and there is no chance of it being fixed (the block of flats is going to be demolished in a couple of years - for regeneration, not because it is structurally unsound or anything - so they are not really doing any repair work at all).

The smell of cigarette smoke coming in through the fan is pretty overpowering. It spreads out from the bathroom into the rest of the flat. I cannot tell where it is coming from. It might be my upstairs / downstairs neighbour. The other side of the bathroom wall where the fan is is an external wall. There is no hole in that wall, level with the fan or otherwise, so the extractor fan must just give onto internal piping/ventilation, and the smell/air could be coming from anywhere, in fairness. When a neighbour flushes the toilet, it flows through the pipes in my bathroom, so the flats are all definitely pretty well connected, piping wise.

So, here's the thing: I could live with the smell. It's not particularly pleasant, but I can always use air freshener / plug-ins / candles. But it's recently dawned on me that if I can smell someone else's cigarette smoke to that extent, and it's not coming from outside, then the air must be circulating to a significant amount in the building, and into my flat, through that hole.

The problem is, I am shielding. I'm really vulnerable to this virus. I've not been out much at all since March 2020 (other than to move flat, which was a real nightmare), and I have only had one family member (who is in a bubble with me) visit since that was allowed in July. It's been pretty tough. And I'm now a bit afraid that all those efforts might be pointless, and that my home itself might not be safe because of the ventilation issues. There is no prospect of me being able to move again.

So, all that to say, I was wondering about blocking up the fan, which is not working anyway. I understand that it may lead to condensation / mould / mildew, but I'd sooner take my chances with that, rather than the virus. I can leave the bathroom door open always, so at least air will circulate from the rest of the flat.

This is what the outside of the vent looks like: https://www.tlc-direct.co.uk/Products/FD4DIF.html (image also attached). The cover doesn't seem to easily come off for me to see inside.

I don't think just sellotaping plastic over the front of it would do the trick. A friend suggested filling it with builders' foam.

I'd be really grateful for any ideas.

I'll be living here until the place is ready to be regenerated, so there is no risk of ruining it for anyone else, or anything like that.
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Shielding2020
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Postby stoneyboy » Fri Dec 18, 2020 10:41 pm

Hi shielding2020,
The shielding thing is difficult especially for those who do not have a personal outside space eg garden. Suggest you try sticking heavy duty plastic over the fan first just in case this is not the source. Use duct tape and fit it around the outside edge as well as across the middle.
Regards S
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Postby Shielding2020 » Wed Dec 30, 2020 2:38 pm

Thanks a million for the response, S.

I did try doing that, and you were right. It is not the only source.

It turns out on further investigation that there is a 2 inch gap all along the bottom of the bath panel, where the smell - and a gale - seems to be coming in. I took the panel off and the air and seems to be coming in from holes around the bath piping. It must be that they lead onto a joint panel / cavity, which is allowing air, and everything else, to circulate.

Is it ok to use expanding foam around those pipes to block up the holes? The main one is the bathroom draining pipe. Would that be a problem if there was ever a leak? I might take the chance anyway. I am really concerned at the amount of air circulation. It smells like someone is actually smoking in the bathroom. I'm in big trouble if my neighbours get the virus.

Thanks
Shielding2020
Rank: Labourer
Progress to next rank:
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Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2020 4:18 pm


Postby stoneyboy » Wed Dec 30, 2020 10:37 pm

Hi shielding2020
Yes seal up with foam, if you get a leak it is easily removable.
Regards S
stoneyboy
Rank: Project Manager
Posts: 4467
Joined: Wed Dec 10, 2008 6:44 pm



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