Ah, a homeowner’s attic. It is one of those areas that rarely gets mentioned but needs a bit of attention. Attics maybe like the forgotten step-child of a home, but they certainly need a little tender love and care. How can you take care of it as far as ventilation goes?
To increase your attics ventilation system assess your needs first to see what you really have to have and then move forward with the solution. Then, you can either install roof vents, soffit vents, gable vents, or put in a few fans to get their air flowing.
A properly ventilated attic is something every home should have, but it can be a pill trying to figure out what you need. Truly, increasing your attic ventilation is something that will save your home- not only in resale value but in anything you choose to store in your attic. Learning how to determine if your attic needs more ventilation and increasing the ventilation accordingly is worth investing your time and resources into. Let’s take a closer look.
Table of Contents
1. Determine if Your Attic Needs More Ventilation
Before jumping the bun and increasing the attic ventilation, you will want to determine if your attic needs more ventilation in the first place. While this might seem like an obvious tip, it is one that can often be overlooked. Determining this per various seasonal changes can be a great place to start.
Increasing attic ventilation is typically something that is going to require quite a bit of work from you or from the one installing it. Because of this, you want to make sure that your attic actually needs additional ventilation. This means assessing your attic during different seasons and seeing how it fares in the summer versus the winter. These are obviously the two most extreme temperatures, therefore the times when your attic will be put to the test.
2. Check Your Attic’s Ventilation in Summertime
Honestly, I could go on and on about the treachery of an attic in the summer heat. Have you ever gone up into your attic on a day that is over 85 degrees with 77% humidity trying to find that garden gnome your mom keeps insisting you took from her? Once you open the door it is like being body-slammed by a concrete wall of fire and moisture. How those two coexist, I will never understand, but your attic is the perfect place for their marriage, and it is horrible.
Attics, in the summer, can be one of the worst places to be on earth. Now, if you experience this type of horror in your attic on a summer day, it means that it is in serious need of some new ventilation tactics. Even the attic should be able to stay cool-ish in the middle of July, so this heatwave that you experience is certainly not something that should be a reality. Although it may feel like a perpetual state, that heat is something that can be obliterated.
Obviously, a wave of heat smashing into you when you enter your attic is a sign ventilation needs to happen, but there is one other way to tell if the signs are not so apparent. On a summer day that is very hot, touch the ceiling of your attic to see if it is either warm or hot. If the ceiling feels warm, this is a sure-fire sign that the attic needs more ventilation than it already has – if it has any at all currently.
3. Check Your Attic’s Ventilation in Wintertime
Although summer can be a nightmare for those of you entering your attic, winter can be just as unforgiving. Attics typically don’t have central heat and air in them (for most homes). This means that cold winter days and even colder nights can wreak some serious havoc on your attic and what is within it. On the coldest of winter days, you can go up there and sometimes turn yourself into your own version of Frosty, however, if there are a few things you do not want to see.
Winter usually means snow, and if it does not mean snow, (in colder regions) it typically means freezing temperatures. If you do find yourself in the middle of a snowstorm with a few inches of accumulated snow on your roof, your first thought should be your attic. Go up there and check to see what the inside of your attic looks like. If you see ice buildup along the eaves, this means that you need to hunker down and get some proper ventilation up there.
This actually happens by warmth escaping from your home and accumulating in the attic. When this happens, the snow on the roof melts and makes its way into the eaves of your attic, and refreezes. You can also look for any condensation on the roof of your attic from within or along the walls. If you see condensation, this also means that warm air is getting trapped inside and has not found a way out. Yet another case for increasing your attic ventilation.
4. Add Soffit Vents, Roof Vents, Gable Vents, or Fans to Ventilate Your Attic
Unfortunately, this is not one of those projects that can be done from start to finish within thirty minutes or so. However, there are a few different options out there that can range from relatively easy to a bit more difficult depending on what your need is, how much time you have, your experience level, and whether or not you want to hire a professional to get the job done for you.
Either way, adding soffit vents, roof vents, gable vents, and fans can help to ventilate your attic. Using other tips on this list, you can more effectively place these sources of ventilation.
Add Soffit Vents
Roof vents are some of the most common forms of ventilation systems out there because they are easy and effective. If you have ever been beneath the highest point of a home’s roof and looked up, it is likely that you saw a few planks along the overhang of the roof that are covered in little tiny holes. The vents are typically placed along the roof’s peak because this is where air naturally rises. Science is so fun, isn’t it?
Soffit vents do a fantastic job at letting air enter the attic from below. This then prevents air from stagnating in the attic by pushing out the air when paired with a roof vent, which protects the structural integrity of your attic and your roof. They also help to keep condensation at bay. By doing this, insulation is protected and you are able to get through those hot summer days without having to worry about if your attic is up for the challenge.
Add Roof Vents
Have you ever looked at the top of a house and saw a round, spinning object attached to the roof? No, this is not some next-level space-age craft, it’s a vent. Yep, this little guy is able to get the air out of your attic like nobody’s business and it can do so without any help from you. As previously mentioned, roof vents work as a great teammate with soffit vents as roof vents help to pull air out of the attic while soffit vents put fresh air in.
Roof vents pull all that hot air out of your attic and also work particularly well at keeping condensation from building up on the walls, floors, and roof. Just be sure to regularly check your roof vents to ensure that no debris has built up within them. These vents are notorious for bird nests, so be prepared to have to evacuate a robin family every now and then.
Gable vents are like the quarterback of ventilation options when it comes to attics: they carry the teams. Gable vents are for those of you that need a bit more ventilation for your attic when the soffit and roof vents simply aren’t cutting it. Gable vents are installed on the gable of your roof and are able to open or close as much as needed. They are designed to pull air out of the attic and work as a team player to get air gone. However, working alone, they aren’t enough.
It is important to note this little fact because many people think that gable vents (because of their larger size) will do just fine on their own when it comes to ventilating properly. However, they need something that will air in getting air into the attic or something that works well at pulling air out. A gable vent does great at releasing lots of air from the space, but it does need a bit of back-up support in order to effectively function.
Ok, let’s say that you have all the ventilation any homeowner could ever dream of: you have the roof vents, the soffit vents, and even the gable vents for your attic. However, you live in an area where summertime is more closely related to volcanic lava rather than pools, therefore, you need something more than what you already have. If you find yourself in a position where you simply cannot get your attic to cool off, consider bringing in a portable fan.
This is not a long-term solution and is not one that should be used alone, but it is a great option for those summer days when it feels like your home is actually beginning to melt. They will be able to draw air out of your attic and get things to cool off a bit. If this is a problem more often than a few days a season, consider purchasing one that is operated by a thermostat that will turn on when the attic gets too hot. Less fuss for you, more cool air for your attic.
5. Pay Attention to Jumps in Your Heating and Cooling Bills
Going up in your attic during extreme heat and extreme cold are great ways to see if you are in need of more ventilation, but some of you out there live in more mild climates, and this means that ice build-up and super hot roofs aren’t a super common occurrence. If this is the case for you, here are a few other scenarios that will help you determine if your attic is in need of a bit more ventilation.
One of the biggest giveaways is a jump in your heating and cooling bills. I do not mean the kind of jump that comes after a few days of your cold-natured in-laws have been in town. I mean an increase that happens after a month with no change to your household or one that occurs continuously for a few months.
This may be an indication that your insulation has gotten wet due to condensation and thus, has lost its effectiveness. If you notice a jump in your heating and cooling bills, you will need to observe any locations that ventilation is lacking and resolve the issue accordingly.
6. Notice any Repeated Repairs (ex. on your HVAC)
If you find yourself having to get your HVAC repaired over and over again, this could mean it is working way harder than it should have to. If your ventilation is poor, your HVAC might be working overtime and this can cause it to break down without warning.
Do not put so much strain on your HVAC due to improper ventilation. Ventilate your attic by using soffit vents, roof vents, gable vents, fans, etc., and see your HVAC transform from pauper to princess overnight. I promise it will thank you.
7. Remove Warped Shingles and Repair Your Roof Along with the Ventilation.
We have talked about how water, ice, and heat can warp your roof, but let’s talk about this more objectively. If you are looking at your roof and you see that its appearance is looking more like a ripple chip rather than a nice, flat surface, you have a problem.
The shingles have been warped due to a lack of ventilation and now, you not only have a ventilation problem, but you have a roof problem as well. By taking care of the source of the problem, you can ensure long-term effectiveness for attic ventilation.
8. Find Subtle Ventilation Leaks by Observing the Condition of Metal Materials in Your Attic
Not only do you need to pay attention to the obvious signs of air leakages, but you need to look at the small stuff, too. By small stuff, I mean pay attention to the condition of metal materials in your attic. Do you see that nail heads have started to rust or those light fixtures that have brown spots on them now? This means that too much moisture has gotten into your attic and a solution should be made. Be sure to increase ventilation especially in this area.
9. Pay Attention to Increased Allergies
Paying attention to increased allergies is a bit out-of-the-box, but it can be very apparent to you or your family. If you or some of your family members are more allergy-prone, take note of an increase in any type of allergy symptoms that don’t normally occur otherwise.
If you find yourself sneezing or constantly stopped up, check your attic for any mold or mildew that could be hiding in there. This is also caused by moisture and means that ventilation is a must, and the area that moisture is accumulating can be a great place to start in adding ventilation.
You can also take this as a sign to remove old couches and other objects with dense fabric and foam that could be storing moisture within your attic and causing further ventilation issues.
Why Your Attic Should be Ventilated
I can hear you now, “Why in the world would I need my attic to be ventilated? No one uses it besides our Christmas decorations.” It may seem like we are going a little overboard in telling you that good ventilation is a necessary component to your attic, but let me tell you, a little care in this area can go a long way. Although you may not be using this space as a living area, its atmosphere makes a big difference to your home in more ways than one.
Remember how we discussed the extreme heat that attics endure in the summer? Heat does not just start and stop and make you uncomfortable when you have to fetch last year’s lawn chairs up there. Alternatively, heat can be a big deal for your home and how it weathers long-term. If your attic is not properly ventilated and is exposed to excessive heat for long amounts of time, this can cause the roof sheathing to warm and can even distort and age your shingles.
Opposite of summer, in the winter, warm air rises up into your attic and warms up the roof deck. This then melts the bottom layer of snow and trickles down the roof onto its edge. The water then refreezes and eventually can form an ice dam along the eaves that prevents additional runoff to escape. When this happens, the water then resorts to being stored under the shingles and will cause you a serious mess when it comes to the effectiveness of your roof.
Humidity is also bad news when it comes to an attic that is not properly ventilated. If you live in a warm area that is humid (I do, and I feel your pain), this humidity is able to get into your attic, of course. Because your home is typically cooler than the temperature outside, when the humidity comes into contact with cooler surfaces, it creates condensation. Condensation build-up can cause deterioration to your roof and walls of your attic.
Humidity can ruin the insulation of your attic as well, as this material should never be wet. Last, but not least, humidity can open the gates to mold and mildew which is a no-go for your home as well as for your health. Proper ventilation may be a pain to install for now, but it will pay off big time in the long run. It is so important to protect one of the biggest investments of your life – your home – and this can be done by starting at the very top with your attic.