Build | Garage | Maintenance | Outdoor Projects

How to Install an Exhaust Vent Fan in Your Workspace

I’ve had garage ventilation on my mind for some time now.  Between Eileen and I always doing projects in the garage, we produce a lot of fumes from painting and staining.

Cutting wood in there also throws a lot of sawdust into the air.  Even when I work on the mower and other small engines in there, the smell of gasoline lingers.

On nice days when it’s not raining, we leave the garage door open and sometimes even put a fan to help exhaust the air.

However, this was not the ideal solution.

Easy to follow instructions for installing an exhaust fanMany painting and staining projects would sit in the garage overnight filling the air with fumes, just to be aired out when the sun came up and when we can open the garage doors.

Aside from the noxious odors sitting in the garage the next morning, it would also delay the completion of these projects.

A better solution had to be devised for garage ventilation.  ​

To add to the pressure, I recently acquired a snow blower for the upcoming winter snow storms, and that was bound to leave the garage filled with gasoline odors after usage. Even more reason to look into garage ventilation systems.

Garage Vent Fan

So I put my thinking cap on and wandered around the garage looking for ventilation ideas.

I knew I wanted to set up some type of fan that would exhaust the air, so I was looking for areas in the garage that would be an ideal location.

In my previous home, I used to run a lot of computer equipment in the garage that would produce a lot of heat. I had researched garage venting options back then and settled on a small fan and vent that could be installed directly in the garage door (via a small hole that you cut).

This solved my problem of exhausting the heat, but had an unfortunate side effect. During the winter, the garage door vent would let all the cold air in and drop the garage temperature below the freezing point, wreaking havoc on my paints and other liquids that were not meant to be frozen.

The garage door vents and exhaust option left a bad taste in my mouth ever since, and I was determined not to pursue that direction again. Also, to properly exhaust the size of my current garage, I would need a much larger fan and hole to make the job worthwhile.

Making a Plan for Ventilating the Garage

I finally settled on a way of venting the garage. I would find an ideal venting location in the garage, and cut a large square hole in the wall (roughly 14”x14” in between the wall studs).

Then I would install self-closing shutter vents on both the interior and exterior of the wall. Finally, on the inside, I would install a powerful exhaust fan to ventilate the garage.  The double shutter vents were going to be key in helping to keep the cold air outside during the winter.

I did a lot of research on exhaust fans and decided on one with built-in shutters. I purchased a 14” diameter fan capable of 800 CFM.

No wiring was needed with this particular model because it just plugs into an outlet. I already had a wireless switch ready for it too, so I could activate it from the other side of the garage. For the exterior wall, I went a 14” aluminum shutter vent.

With the hardware identified, I looked for an ideal location for the vent.  The best location would have been above one of the garage doors, but for aesthetics, I didn’t want the vent to be visible from the street.

So I went with a wall that faced the rear of the house. It would be practically invisible but still serve its purpose.

Here’s the location I chose inside for the garage exhaust fan:

Choosing a Location for Installing an Exhaust Fan in the Garage - TutorialHere’s where the vent would exhaust outside:

Determining a Location for Installing an Exhaust Fan - TutorialHow to Install an Exhaust Garage FanPreparing to Install the Garage Exhaust Vent

Above, you’ll see the first layer I went through was the drywall. Then I had 2 layers of insulating foam.

Next was the white vinyl siding. I left this intact for now while I awaited shipment of the exterior vent.

The cutout got a little rough at some of the edges, but it was not a big deal. The fan would cover all the edges, and hide any irregularities in my cut.

Next, I had to seal the top and bottom edges of the hole.

This was a necessary step to prevent the fan from venting air into the wall. I simply cut two pieces of 2x4s, inserted them in the top and bottom, and attached to the wall studs using some pocket hole screws (with the help of my Kreg Pocket Hole jig).

I put temporary hooks into the 2x4s to make it easier to maneuver them.

​Here’s one of the 2x4s ready to be inserted:

Cutting and Sealing the Hole to Install the Exhaust Fan

Here’s a picture of the bottom of the hole, sealed in with the 2×4:

Cutting and Sealing the Hole to Install Exhaust Fan

Next I inserted the exhaust fan to make sure it fit properly:

How to Install an Exhaust Fan

A few days later, the exterior shutter vent arrived and I resumed work on the project.

Constructing a J Channel Frame

Cutting a hole through the wall meant that I had to be careful to make the exterior side water proof. I couldn’t just cut a hole in the siding, insert the vent, and call it a day.

To keep water from penetrating the siding, I needed to use J channel. This would allow me to create a frame around the vent that would overlap the siding and shield the rough cut edges from water.

Here is a picture showing 4 pieces of J channel cut to make the vent frame:

Constructing a J Frame to Install an Exhaust Fan

This was actually my first time working with J channel, so I had to do some research online to see how to make the cuts on the ends (important to prevent water from seeping in).

I followed some great instructions on FamilyHandyMan.com (under the section “Install J-channel around the window”).

Here’s a picture showing the assembled J channel pieces wrapping around the vent:

Assembling a J Frame to Install an Exhaust Fan for the Garage

Preparing the Siding for the Exhaust Fan

Now came the fun task of working with the siding.

To properly install the exterior vent, I needed access to the wall underneath the siding, which meant removing several pieces of siding. This was a learning process as I went along (I did all my research, so I was confident in the task at hand).

With the help of a siding removal tool, I was able to easily detach some siding, and pull it away from the wall.

With enough of the siding out of the way, I was able to continue work on the hole.

To help with the waterproofing, I used some flashing tape (left over from my shed project) to seal in the edges of the hole.

Here’s a picture showing the flashing tape in action:

Preparing the Siding for Installing a Garage Exhaust Fan
In the event that water did make its way through the siding, the flashing tape would ensure that the water couldn’t seep behind the exposed edges of the foam insulation.

Installing the Garage Vent

Next, I inserted the shutter vent and nailed it in the wall studs. Here’s a picture showing some progress:

How to Install a Garage Exhaust Fan Vent

With the garage vent in place, I attached the J channel frame, overlapping the rough cut edges of the vinyl siding.

​Here’s a close-up showing the finished outside wall with J channel:

DIY Instructions for Installing a Garage Exhaust FanLooks very professional, doesn’t it?  It should be very water tight too.

Here’s a picture showing the vent from the inside:

DIY Instructions for Installing a Garage Exhaust Fan

Installing the Exhaust Fan

I was nearing the end of the project of putting vents in the garage. I inserted the exhaust fan in the hole and was getting ready to screw it into the studs.

Then, I decided to check the vents on the fan to make sure they opened and closed properly.

They opened fine. Unfortunately, they had trouble closing.

They would stick on the way down and not close all the way. This was bothersome because a partially open vent meant cold drafts coming in.

After some fiddling, I discovered that the hole I cut was too snug of a fit for the fan frame.

It was distorting the frame ever so slightly to cause the shutters to not close properly. If I pulled the fan about 2 inches out from the wall, the shutters worked fine.

So the solution was simple.

Making a Framed Wooden Spacer for the Garage Wall Exhaust Fan

I would built a 2×4 wooden frame between the wall and the fan, to give the exhaust fan enough distance from the hole for the shutters to operate properly.

I literally spent only 10 minutes on this task – I chopped some 2x4s to length with the miter saw.

Then I attached them to each other with pocket hole screws to form a frame.

​Finally, I used some lag bolts (countersunk with a forstner bit) to attach the frame to the wall studs.

Here’s a picture of the garage wall exhaust fan frame (the pocket holes are hidden on the other side):

How to Install a Garage Exhaust Fan - SpacerAt last, the exhaust fan could be bolted to the wall.

I pressed the fan against the 2×4 frame and made sure the shutters opened and closed freely. Then I attached the fan to the 2x4s with some heavy duty screws.

My garage vent was now completed.  I stood back, admired my handiwork and then fired up the exhaust fan with my wireless switch.

​As the fan speed increased to full, both the inside and outside shutters opened to exhaust the garage.  The fan was not that loud either (it was barely audible outside the garage).

Here’s a picture of the mounted garage wall exhaust fan (powered on) from the inside:

How to Install an Exhaust Fan with a Framed Wooden Spacer​Here’s a picture of the outside of the garage wall exhaust fan, showing the vents open with the fan on:

How to Install a Garage Exhaust Fan - Simple DIY Instructions

I’m very excited about our new garage exhaust fan.  I already used it this past weekend with great success.

We had a mild snow shower (about 4 inches), and so I broke out the snowblower to try it out.

As predicted, when I finished clearing out the snow from the driveway, and put away the snowblower in the garage, the still warm engine started to stink up the garage.

I engaged the new exhaust fan for a few hours, and the garage was back to normal.

​I can’t wait to see what the fan does when the garage is full of sawdust in the air.

Total cost of putting the vent fan in the garage was around $150 and was collectively about a day’s worth of work.

If you are in need of exhaust fans in the garage, this tutorial will have your new garage wall exhaust fan up and running in no time!

Garage Vent Fan Update – Two Years Later

I was really pleased with the garage vent fan. It runs great and really airs the garage out nicely.

However, I did add on more thing to our garage vent fan.

I had been manually turning the fan on and off as needed. Sometimes I left it running longer than I anticipated.

So I wanted a better system of turning the fan off.  I ended up purchasing an electronic timer switch and plugged the fan into it.

Now, I just press a button for how long I’d like the fan to run for and it runs for just that duration. 

Learn how to properly ventilate your garage by installing a simple exhaust vent fan.

26 Comments

  1. Angie ~ ambient wares says:

    Awesome how-to! Can you install one of these in our garage 😉 Thanks for sharing at Funtastic Friday!

  2. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

    haha:) thanks Angie :))

  3. This a great tutorial!! My hubby installed one in the roof or our garage after it was built, it comes on automatically to keep the humidity and dampness down. It doesn’t help much with fumes, so we still open the window and door when we are working on projects like you mentioned

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks Susanne! 🙂 So far it’s working well:)

  4. Sharon@bluewillowhouse says:

    Great DIY tutorial. Thank you for sharing at Vintage Charm.

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks, Sharon! Have a great week:)

  5. Thankfully our garage is detached from our home (and not really airtight anyway), but whenever we move I’m sure this will come in handy. Just the thought of all that sawdust in the air gives me the shudders!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      I so agree! This has definitely been helping:)

  6. Helen at Pleasures of the NW says:

    You make this look so easy!! Thanks for sharing on the Pleasures of the NW’s DIY Party!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks Helen! Have a great week:)

  7. Wow! What an amazing tutorial. Thanks for sharing at Over the Moon.

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks, Shelley!!:))

  8. This looks important and ambitious. But like your other projects, well done!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks so much, Debbie!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks, Jess – would love to 🙂

  9. Jen Panguluri says:

    I have the same issue as you with creating dust and fumes in the garage. Thanks for the detailed tutorial of the installation. I was worried reading your post that there would be electrical stuff involved but BAM you powered up your fan with the remote control. Love it! Thanks!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks, Jen!!:) I’m glad we could help – Ash is great at solving problems the simplest way possible 🙂

  10. Lisa J O'Driscoll says:

    This is a great tutorial! You save a lot of money by doing it yourself! Thanks for sharing with us at Share The Wealth Sunday!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks, Lisa! We did 🙂

  11. Michelle @ Magnolia Simple says:

    This looks amazing. Thanks for writing this up! Our garage is actually an old house that is next door to ours. It needs some vents since no one actually lives in there anymore. Kind of a mess in there to be honest!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Thanks so much Michelle! That sounds really cool:) The air vents worked out great and were pretty simple:)

  12. This looks very interesting. I’m thinking of doing something similar in my garage as it holds lots of heat in the summer.
    But I have a couple of questions that come to mind…

    If you exhaust all that air, it has to come from somewhere. Do you have an intake vent somewhere in the garage?

    I live near a field and have had issues with mice getting into the garage. I want some shutter vents like that, but I want to put screen over them to keep mice out. Is there enough clearance on one side or the other of the exterior vent to attach screen without interfering with the louvers opening/closing?

    1. Hi Peter, I don’t currently have an intake vent, but I do plan on installing one in the near future. Rather than punching another hole in the wall somewhere, I’m thinking of utilizing the soffit vents in the attic space right above the garage (maybe install a small vent in the drywall ceiling, and run some short ductwork to some of the soffit vents).

      Regarding the screen, depending on how you install the vents, there should be enough space for screening. My specific design actually incorporated a 2×4 frame for the inside fan to rest against, increasing the space between the fan and the exterior vent. So if you are worried about space between the fan and the outside shutter vent, you can always do something like that.

  13. Pam Jones says:

    Hi, I unfortunately live with a smoker. That argument is over…SO, I was wondering if a fan like this would work at the end of this tool bench to take cigarettes smoke outside? He is the only one smoking there and does so about a dozen times a day. Only puffs a bit and then back upstairs. So I was thinking this fan may work for him to smoke in front of when he is down there He no longer works in the garage, because of health (yes, I know he is killing himself) Just trying to find something to keep the peace and allow me to do things down there and my connected sewing room. We have a wall at the end of bench that would work well and not worried about heat loss. Thank you so much for the help and understanding……It ain’t been easy for sure!

    1. Hi Pam, I think the fan would definitely help. Make sure you get a high flow one so it will push a lot of the air out. That would help quickly dissipate the smoke. Hope it helps you!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *