Do I really need roof vents / venting ?

free_zucchiniSeptember 30, 2007

I'm about to commence a total tear-off and re-roof on my 1880's upstate NY Victorian. From the HUGE attic, the original slats and underside of the cedar shakes are still visible (and beautiful, *sob*). It is my understanding that these original cedar roofs were able to "breathe". None of the older homes from this period or earlier that I have owned had venting of any kind. Of course, the cedar can no longer breathe, since 4 layers of shingles have been nailed on top.

The roof has 4 large gables. Two contractors have quoted the job, and both included ridge vents, but no soffit vents. I called one back and he'll add 24 3" vent disks to the eaves for $325. But I've just come from the attic and there's floor boards right to the edge of the roof all around, so the eave vents won't fly without cutting though the floor as well, and I feel things are getting out of hand.

I store all kinds of stuff up there. We've lived here for a year now, and it looks like this attic has done fine for 125 years without vents. There's a temp/humidity-controlled window fan with flaps installed, but it only runs on 90-degree+, sunny days in summer, and the only source of air for the fan is are the leaks in all the windows up there and a vent installed thru the attic door that pulls air from the house. We have no A/C, so there's always open windows during the summer.

So, back to my original question: Do I really need ridge and soffit venting? My research indicates I shouldn't have one without the other. I'd love to save the money and put it in the garden where I'm sure to enjoy it more!

And if I DO need venting, any ideas for alternatives to these round eave vents that might not work for me? And please, not box vents? I think they're ugly. It's a beautiful home!


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First of all, everything I've read says you need vents at the bottom (eaves or other) and at the top (ridge or gable or other vents) to keep from trapping ambient moisture from the air in yuur attic, thus making your ceiling insulation less effective and creating an excellent incubator for mold and mildew.
I saw one alternative to eave vents in (I think) Fine Homebuilding Magazine. It is a 1/2" thick vent 'mat' laid between two of the lower layers of shingles. A horizontal slot is cut in the roofing underlayment to enable the top of the vent mat to duct outside air into the attic. Basically the same principle as the ridge vent, only on the inlet end of the airflow.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 4:38PM
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Lack of venting in an attic will cause several problems. Higher heating/cooling costs, much shorter life of roofing materials, and build up of nasty smells/mold/etc. in the space.

Your research is correct---a ridge vent without Adequate soffit venting is useless.

Since you have venting---the fan is a vent system----it seems to me adding a couple inlets---with flaps activated by the suction of the fan---will provide all the venting the space needs. Just make sure you install screens on all the openings to keep out critters and debris.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 5:47PM
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If you live up north maybe and maybe not. If the house has lasted that long with out any ice daming and roof rot I'd not be too concerned. I lived in a house that was built back in 1826 in Ct and it had no roof vents at all. There was never any kind of rot at all. We just opened the windows all summer and it was fine. I now live in Florida and have 2 solar vents in the roof and two 120v fans on either end of the gables one pulling air in and one out. I have no eve vents and I have insulation right up to the eves. This house has been here since 1923 and with all my improvements it should last till the next ice age. Your biggest concern is ice daming and eve rot from snow build up. If you have this problem you might wish to fix the problem but if not save your money

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 12:27AM
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"If the house has lasted that long with out any ice daming and roof rot I'd not be too concerned. I lived in a house that was built back in 1826 in Ct and it had no roof vents at all."

The attics in these houses probably leaked air like a sieve.
Sealing up under shingles will stop a lot of air movement.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 6:44PM
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Our 1894 Victorian cottage did not have soffit vents per se, between the soffit & the wall (I can't for the life of me think of the name of the trim there) There was a 1/2" gap all the way along the soffit. From what I understand this was the venting. A restoration contractor I was speaking to now does his venting in this style, not just for soffits but beneath porches etc. He has had to train the building inspectors but they now accept this as proper restoration technique.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 7:32PM
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Gaps in the soffit (usually near the fascia) or between the roof deck and the top of the fascia were used for years as the roof ventilation area.
The code only says how much free area is required.
It does not specify how it is to be designed.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 10:14AM
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