You don’t need us to tell you how important roof ventilation is to home maintenance and its residents. That’s already a given. But if you want to get a better appreciation of its many benefits, it bears knowing how roof ventilation works and how its different components work together.
But first, what is roof ventilation in the first place? And how does it work?
Simply put, roof ventilation is a system that allows the continuous flow of air through the lower end of a roof (or the attic). To be more specific, it’s the flow of air through a system of intake and exhaust, thus helping to regulate temperatures inside the home.
Everyone who paid attention in science class back in the day knows that air rises and cold air sinks. So, what happens if you put a good combination of exhaust vents and intake vents inside (or over) your roof?
Spoiler alert: you get an environment that makes it easier for hot air to escape and cold air to enter, thus promoting the robust circulation of air inside the house as the wind blows against the roof.
On this page:
- The Importance of Roof Ventilation
- Types of Roof Vents
- Signs of Problems with Your Roof Ventilation System
- Roof Vent Problems
- The Importance of Roof Inspections
- Getting Free Quotes
The Importance of Roof Ventilation
So, with that out of the way, here are the many benefits of roof ventilation.
1. Extends the lifespan of your roof
Proper ventilation can extend the shelf-life of your roof in two ways.
First, it prevents ice damming. Ice damming is when ice and snow form at the edge of the roof during the winter months. This can potentially damage the roofing system since water has a tendency to back up behind the ice dam.
Ice damming occurs when the hot air inside the attic rises up and comes in contact with the heat from the sun. This hot air melts the snow and ice sitting on top of the roof, causing water to flow down the roof’s length. The problem is this water refreezes as soon as it reaches the roof’s edges, hence the formation of ice and snow around the roof’s edges.
When you have proper roof ventilation in place, you’re allowing the hot air to escape before it melts the snow and ice on the roof, preventing ice dams from forming on its edges.
Proper ventilation also keeps the heat at bay during hot weather. When it’s hotter than usual, the roof has a knack for trapping all that heat. This makes the attic, and subsequently the home’s interior, feel like a hot furnace. All that heat can’t be good for your roof’s shingle or your home’s wood framing.
When you have proper roof ventilation, you’re literally providing all that accumulated heat an escape hatch, thus regulating the temperature inside the attic and in consequence the home’s interior. That can only bode well for your roof in terms of its lifespan.
2. Reduces electricity bills
When the summer months get too hot, we have no choice but to turn up the air conditioning unit to keep our home, well, livable. Suddenly, picking the electricity bill from the mailbox doesn’t sound like a hot prospect. It becomes worse if you’re in a location prone to hot weather.
A roof with proper ventilation solves this problem in one fell swoop. Since a properly-ventilated roof allows heat to escape, you don’t have to rely too much on the air conditioning unit to keep your home cool enough for comfort.
3. Keeps you comfortable in any weather
As already explained, trapped heat inside the cellar can enter the home’s interior, negatively impacting your living conditions. If you notice a sudden rise in temperature every time you go to a higher floor in your home, then that’s a sign of a poorly ventilated roof.
Fixing the ventilation system in your roof should allow the air, and the heat to go along with it, to escape easily through the roof vents, making your living space cooler and more comfortable even during the hotter months.
Types of Roof Vents
Which brings us to roof vents. If you want your roof to become properly ventilated, you need to have them installed on your roof.
But don’t just buy any roof vent that you come across. There are many types of roof vents to choose from, and choosing the right one depends on many factors, including the local climate, home design, and the size of your home, among many others.
Before we go more specific, bear in mind that there are two main types of roof vents, namely intake vents and exhaust vents.
Note: It also bears noting that roof vents must conform with residential building codes, which requires roof vents to occupy 1 square foot for every 300 square feet of attic floor space that has a vapor barrier, and 1 square foot for every 150 square feet of attic floor space that has no vapor barrier.
With that out of the way, let’s discuss the more specific types of vent systems.
Box vents provide roof ventilation by way of natural convection, meaning they use natural winds to promote air circulation within the attic. These static roof vents are installed over holes cut into the roof. They are usually made of hard plastic, and some are constructed out of metal. Since they come in different colors, box vents are easy to blend with any roof exterior design.
One great advantage with box vents is that they can be installed anywhere. In fact, they don’t need to be installed near roof ridges to become effective. While box vents are not as effective as most roof vents, you can compensate for it by installing as many box vents as you deem necessary.
Pro-tip: If you want more consistent air flow, you can buy box vents that have a three-louver design, such as VentSure Metal Slant Back Roof Vents.
Sometimes called “whirlybirds,” wind turbines are vents that come with moving parts—a series of spinning vanes that suck the hot air out of the attic. These vanes rely on natural wind for their movement. The more powerful the wind blows, the more effective the turbines are in facilitating the circulation of air.
The quality of wind turbines being sold out there varies too much, which is why it’s highly recommended that you buy only the premium models. Besides, inexpensive wind turbines require more maintenance. And they squeak a lot.
Power vents, as the name implies, are powered by electricity and use large fans to suck all the moisture and hot air from the attic of your home. Since they come in a wide variety of colors, you can easily find a power vent that blends well with your roof.
The main advantage of power vents is the wide array of features they provide, most particularly their adjustable thermostat which turns the vents on automatically when the attic’s temperature rises at a certain level. Most power vents also come with a humidistat that adjusts automatically according to certain levels of humidity.
If you prefer to use a power source that is more environmentally-friendly, power vents that run on solar panels should serve you well. While solar-powered power vents have an initial high cost due to installation, the savings you get in electricity costs over time will more than compensate for it.
Ridge vents are similar to box vents in that they have no moving parts, but that is where their similarity ends. In terms of shape, they couldn’t be more different. Shaped like an inverted ‘V,’ ridge vents are installed at the top of a sloped roof, and positioned so that they’re running the entire length of its horizontal ridge.
Ridge vents are a great option for roofing systems that require an equal flow of exhaust and intake. This is in large part due to its T-shaped design which facilitates even spacing underneath and efficient circulation of air— the ridge vent takes in cool air, it also expels hot, humid air in kind.
One great advantage of using ridge vents is that they aren’t too dependent on wind. They work just as well even on account of changes in wind speed.
Ridge vent problems may occur on account of the fact that their length allows for many open spaces, increasing the likelihood of leaks. If you want to do away with leaks, make sure that you buy a ridge vent that comes with a moisture barrier, such as Owens Corning’s VentSure Rigid Roll Ridge Vents with Weather Protector. If you live in a location where winters are long and severe, a ridge vent with snow guard (such as the Cobra Ridge Vent by GAF) should serve you in well.
Soffit vents are installed under the home’s eaves, taking in fresh air from the outside so that it gets absorbed by the roof ventilation system. Usually made of PVC or aluminum, soffit vents are installed in homes as a matter of course. And if you don’t have one, you’d do well to install one immediately.
Soffit vents work better in facilitating air flow when used in conjunction with small gable-end vents and roof vents.
Cupola, a term derived from the old Latin word “small cup,” is a type of roofing vent known for its aesthetic flourishes. Cupolas have been in use since time immemorial, and were often installed to provide visual enhancements to castles and chapels and most recently barns, houses, and offices. They come in a wide variety of designs, the most popular of them being octagonal, ell-shaped, cap-squared, and many others.
Cupola vents let light in and expel hot air out via passive ventilation. They’re similar to soffit vents in that they are more effective when used simultaneously with other types of roofing vents. One big advantage of cupola vents is that they let natural light into the house, eliminating the need for electrical lighting during the day.
Signs of Problems with Your Roof Ventilation System
Now that you’ve come this far into the article you already know why having proper roof ventilation is essential for every homeowner. Not only does it help you extend the lifespan of your roofing system, but it also keeps your living space comfortable and saves you in energy costs.
With that said, to maximize the benefits of your roof ventilation system, you should stay alert for any signs of problems with your roof vents that could additionally cause water leaks.
Below are the most common roof vent issues every homeowner needs to keep tabs on.
Poor roof ventilation tends to trap moisture and hot air inside the attic, resulting in the deterioration of the roof decking as well as the shingles and the underlayment. Excessive moisture not only causes the decking to sag, but it also causes rust to appear in the attic. Nails and screws accumulate rust as a result, weakening the structure of the roof decking.
It is in your best interests to inspect your roof decking at least once a year to see if there are any signs of roof deterioration. Also, check if there are signs of excess moisture and heat inside the attic. In this case, it’s highly likely that the roof vents aren’t doing a good job of expelling hot air and moisture from the attic.
Mold and Mildew
When mold and mildew start appearing in your roof deck, then that’s an obvious sign that your roofing ventilation isn’t working as efficiently as it should. For one thing, the growth of mold and mildew is a telltale sign that there are excessive moisture and humidity inside the attic.
If left to thrive, mold can cause the roof decking, including beams, rafters, and wooden studs, to deteriorate. Mold can also cause a score of health issues, particularly those related to the respiratory system and allergies.
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms on the roof’s edge after melting snow is drained off the roof’s peak. This causes problems since melting ice dams can cause water to back up and leak into your home, damaging ceilings, walls, and many other areas of your home.
Poor roof ventilation facilitates the formation of ice dams when the trapped heat in the attic causes the snow or ice on the roof to melt. The melted water then flows down the hip roof until it reaches the gutters, where it eventually refreezes, causing ice dams to appear over them.
Wear and tear on your HVAC system
If you notice that your air conditioning unit requires more than the usual amount of maintenance and repairs, then chances are your attic is poorly ventilated. Excessive heat causes your air conditioning unit to work harder, increasing energy costs and reducing the shelf-life of your AC system.
Roof Vent Problems
We discussed the most common issues with roof ventilation in the recent section. But what we failed to do is explore the reasons why ventilation issues occur in the first place. We can address this by getting more specific, which is to say we need to discuss the most common problems that occur with the roof vents themselves.
Installation issues with turbine vents
Turbine vents work well when it comes to expelling air out of the attic. But for them to work properly, they need to be installed level to the ground. Otherwise, they are likely to wobble or even to stop turning altogether.
When this happens, air doesn’t circulate as efficiently as it should, hence the roof ventilation issues. As such, some adjustments with the pitch setting need to be made. If the turbine head has tilted slightly, prying the bottom of the turbine upward with a screwdriver until it’s level to the ground should do the trick.
Turbine vents also perform poorly in terms of pulling air from the attic if the said attic is not air-sealed. If you suspect that the vents are performing poorly, inspect the attic for any holes so they can be sealed immediately.
Clogged roof vents
It goes without saying that clogged roof vents prevent the proper flow of air in the attic. Lacking the means to expel air properly, the attic starts to gather excess moisture, resulting in the buildup of mold and mildew.
You must inspect every roof vent, including ridge and soffit vents, for materials that are causing them to clog. You can also clean your vents every few years by blowing them with compressed air.
Imbalance between the vents
Ideally, the number of high vents (exhaust vents) and that of low vents (intake vents) should be equal to better facilitate proper airflow inside the attic. Some homes, however, don’t have low vents due to the lack of soffits. As a result, the high vents are only able to pull air via air leaks in the attic.
Installing fascia vents or bunch vents in the lower areas of the roof should help balance the airflow in the entire roof ventilation system. For exhaust vents, you can use turbine vents, box vents, power vents, or ridge vents.
Animals getting into ridge vents
Ridge vents are usually installed along the peak of a roof, attracting a wide variety of animals, such as flying squirrels, birds and bats. Most vents are effective at keeping the rain at bay, but not at keeping animals out. Once bats or owls get past the vents, there’s nothing stopping them from getting into the attic and causing you a host of roof ventilation problems.
There are many ways to keep these animals away from your ridge vents. The most cost-efficient solution is to install ridge guards or screens underneath the ridge vents. Another good solution is to re-install ridge vents with an animal-proof design. If you already have these pests living there, make sure to call an exterminator to have it addressed as they may also be carrying diseases.
The Importance of Roof Inspections
Any roofing contractor or sensible homeowner will tell you that regular roof inspections are essential to home maintenance. Sadly, not many people do it. And those that don’t often regret it.
With that said, it’s easy to understand why most homeowners don’t prioritize roof inspections much. For one thing, roofing issues can be difficult to spot, and most of them only become apparent once they have gotten worse. By then, homeowners have no other recourse but to pay for major roofing repairs or even a roof replacement. These roofing jobs can be expensive, ranging from $3,000 to $13,000. Such hefty expenses could’ve been avoided if only regular roofing inspections were carried out.
And since we’re on the topic of roof ventilation in this article, regular roof inspections also help in ensuring that your roof ventilation is performing as well as it should. After all, proper roof ventilation promotes the longevity of your roofing system as well and ensures you don’t end up in an expensive-to-fix roof emergency!
Roofing contractors perform inspections to spot any issues that may impact the shelf-life of your roof. The first thing they are likely to do is walk the full length of the roof and check every inch, looking for signs of rots, leaks, as well as warped, loose, cracked, or missing shingles. The roof flashing and the cellar will be checked as well. The contractor will list potential issues and assess the level of damage as well as the corresponding fixes that need to be done.
How often should you schedule a roof inspection?
So, how often should you have your roof checked in the first place. Well, that depends on numerous factors, such as the type of roofing material and the weather conditions in your area.
But if we were to have a general consensus, it makes more practical sense to follow the National Roofing Contractors’ Association’s recommendation, which is at least twice a year.
Take note, however, that those don’t count the inspections that need to happen after every major weather event.
Getting Free Quotes
Good job on reaching this far into the article! By this point, you’re probably entertaining the notion of hiring a roofing contractor to do roof inspections or repair work for you. After all, your roof vents aren’t going to fix themselves.
But there are numerous things that might be holding you back.
First, the cost. Hiring a professional roofing contractor isn’t exactly cheap, especially when we’re talking severe damages. It can be little awkward talking to a contractor only to end up being quoted a price you can hardly afford.
The quality of service that you’re going to receive is also a legitimate cause for worry. What if the roofing contractor you’re about to hire isn’t as competitive as initially advertised? This is your roof we’re talking about, and any sensible homeowner wants a professional roofer they could trust with their investment.
Here’s an advice: You must get in touch with at least 4 contractors in your area and ask them for a quote. After all, you can’t possibly make an informed decision if you don’t have points of comparison.
The problem? Doing that (getting quotes from at least 4 contractors, that is) takes time.
And money, since most contractors would charge you before providing you with a quote.
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