Articles & Advice

Ridge Vents Can Help Let Off Some Steam

by Marc Dickinson

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Roofing & Gutters

You probably only enter your attic when you need the occasional memento or when you retrieve your Christmas decorations. Therefore, you probably rarely get a sense of what goes on up there all year long. Since roofs are designed to keep out external forces, such as rain, snow, and wind, they are sealed weather-tight. Of course you want this for your roof, but this air-tight seal can also trap hot and cold air in your attic if it is not properly ventilated.

You may be asking yourself: Who cares if my attic gets hot or cold? It's not a habitable part of your home and you're certainly not going to air condition it in the summer and heat it in the winter. However, like any part of investing in your house, you have to make sure everything is being maintained properly. The attic is no exception; and ridge vents are your answer.

Problems to Avoid
If your attic is not properly ventilated, several problems can occur. In extreme climate months (summer and winter), the possessions in your attic may be at risk. Can you imagine what your photo album looks like when the temperature in your attic hits 160 degrees? In the winter, frost can form on the underside of your roof, causing condensation and eventual dripping, putting everything you own at risk, not to mention damage to your roof joists and floorboards. And though you're not intentionally heating or cooling your attic, the hot and cold air that this space takes on will eventually seep over into the rest of your home's interior, making your utility bills increase unless everything is correctly ventilated.

How It Works
Ridge vents are also excellent in that there will be no holes in your roof for turbines or other ventilation methods. This makes for a nice, smooth continuous roof, which can be quite striking.

To avoid long-term repair costs, a simple way to circulate air through an attic is with ridge vents. By installing soffit vents behind or above your gutter system, air is then able to enter your attic, and through the natural forces of wind and thermal convection this air then circulates through your attic and exits through the peak of your roof through ridge vents. This floating exchange of air keeps your attic cool in the summer and dry in the winter, and the wind outside can even expedite this process by sucking out any warm air and moisture more quickly. These vents work all year long and are often designed to blend in with your roof so that they become invisible to onlookers.

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Don't Break the Seal
Though these ventilations systems allow musty air to escape your attic, they are also specially designed to keep precipitation out. They often come with external baffles or weather stripping to continually deflect any rain, snow, or other outdoor threats. So though you are opening your attic to fresh air, you're not welcoming unwanted intrusions.

Some Helpful Tips
If you already have a ventilation system, yet your attic still makes you want to pass out from the heat, you may have to re-invest in new vents. Plus, if you have an older home, you're system may be out of date. So always consult with a roofing contractor to see if your system is up to code. Also, when it comes to installation, it's best to leave it to the professionals: ventilation systems use complicated laws of physics so all the parts have to work in unison. Everything has to be put in their proper place, otherwise it won't work. Therefore, to relieve any additional worries or stress, leave this job to the people who know what they're doing.

Marc Dickinson has worked in both the general contracting and landscaping trades and is currently a home improvement freelance writer with over 300 articles published.