Q: My dryer vent blows lint out onto my back stairs, which means I am always having to sweep them. Is there any way I can prevent this?
A: We can think of at least three ways to solve this problem. The one you choose depends on the location of the vent, the amount of work you want to do and the look when it’s completed.
We assume that the vent cap is at or above the level of your stairway.
You can either move the vent or leave it in place and redirect the flow of air away from the stairs. Both jobs are relatively easy to do and inexpensive. Relocating the vent presents the additional problem of patching the old vent hole.
Most dryer vent caps are made of aluminum and shaped like a hood that directs the warm air down — in your case toward the stairs. A simple fix might be to loosen the vent cap and redirect the opening of the hood to the side — diverting the air flow away from the stair treads.
This type of vent cap is usually attached to the wall by four screws, one in each corner. Simply remove the screws and twist the vent cap into the proper position. Sometimes, caulk has been applied to the edges of the cap where it meets the wall to ensure an airtight seal. If this is the case, score the caulk with a utility knife until the cap is loose, and reposition it.
Some vent caps are made in the form of louvers. When exhaust air blows through the vent pipe, the louvers open, and the air is directed outside. Turning the louvers will do no good. If you have this type of vent, replace it with a hooded model and direct the hood opening away from the steps.
An alternative solution is to remove the vent cap altogether and install a 90-degree elbow to the end of the exhaust pipe. Direct the end of the fitting away from the stairway and toward the ground. Remove the vent cap. You’ll probably have to extend the length of vent pipe a short distance to be able to attach the elbow.
Use duct tape or — what we prefer — adhesive-backed aluminum tape, to join the pieces.
To the outside of the “90” attach a straight section of rigid vent pipe and direct it to the ground.
If your vent pipe is flexible plastic, we suggest you replace it with rigid aluminum. Plastic vent pipe is formed by embedding wire into plastic. It looks like the Slinky toys of our youth. When the pipe is extended, undulations form on the inside of the pipe and collect lint. The lint buildup reduces the efficiency of the air flow moving through the pipe and is a potential fire hazard.
The most complicated but perhaps most aesthetically pleasing solution is to relocate the vent. Depending on the placement of the new vent cap, you may be forced to reroute the existing pipe. If that’s the case, keep sharp bends to a minimum to facilitate air flow.
Once the new pipe is in place, you’ll need to patch the old hole. If the existing siding is stucco, you’re in luck. Just take care to blend in the old patch with the new.
But if you have wood or composite siding, it will be difficult to make the patch disappear. All things considered, we think if we were faced with this situation, we’d install the 90-degree bend and extend the vent away from the stair treads.