A pro's take on attic ventilation

A tip to properly exhaust hot air

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 3, 2010

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A tip to properly exhaust hot air

Paul Bianchina
Inman News

Q: My house currently has a continuous ridge vent in the attic and two gable vents (one on each end of the attic). However, it has no soffit vents at all. I'd like to install some but I'm not sure what kind are best. Is it bad to have more ventilation at the eaves than at the ridge? Any tips are appreciated. --Mike

A: For the typical attic, ventilation is achieved by installing a series of low vents along the eaves or soffits of the roof, and a series of high vents along the roof's ridge or gable ends. Since the air in the attic is warmer at the ridge than it is at the eaves, the natural upward movement of the warmed air creates a current of moving air.

The low vents act as air intake vents and the upper ones act as exhaust vents -- lower temperature air is drawn in through the low vents, pushing the higher temperature air out the high vents.

Without the low ventilation, as is the case of your attic, you are dependent solely on wind pressure to move air in through one of the high vents and out through the other, which doesn't work very well.

You want to use a ratio of approximately 1 square foot of ventilation area for every 300 square feet of attic area, including attached garages. That ventilation should be equally divided between high and low vents. So, simply divide the square footage of your attic by 300 to get the total amount of ventilation required, then halve that number to determine approximately how much should be high and how much should be low.

Ideally, you want to keep the amount of high and low ventilation roughly equal, and you also want to keep the low vents roughly balanced on each side of the house. In other words, don't put all the low vents on one side and none on the other.

However, as long as you install the correct total amount of ventilation required for the entire attic, if you have a little more low than high it won't matter.

The type of soffit vents to use depends on the construction of your house. If you have open soffits, where you can look up and see the underside of the roof sheathing, you can remove some of the solid wood blocks between the rafters and replace them with screened eave vents.

If you have a closed soffit, which means the underside of the rafters are covered, you need to cut a slot through the soffit and install long continuous soffit vents, of which there are several types on the market. And in addition to the new vents, make sure all your exhaust fans are vented to the outside to prevent moisture problems in the future!

Q: We have two fairly new appliances (dishwasher and convection/microwave) that are bisque (color). Our present stove is bisque and the fridge has wood panels on the doors to match the cabinets. I have found a fridge and stove in bisque but now am beginning to wonder if the way to go is with stainless steel. Will the bisque "date" the house?

(The brand of cabinets we now have) do have bisque laminate cabinets, but then I'm thinking everything bisque may be way over the top. This is the part I hate about doing anything in the house -- too many decisions! --Virginia B.

A: I definitely sympathize! Too many decisions, and a lot of them -- especially when you're dealing with the kitchen -- can be quite expensive. As such, you need to make your decisions based on what's practical and affordable, not just on what's currently popular. Discarding perfectly good appliances doesn't make any sense.

Stainless steel appliances are hot right now, and have been for several years. I suspect they'll remain so for quite awhile, since they look classy and they blend well with a wide variety of cabinets, counters and flooring. Black appliances tend to do the same thing, and while they're not currently a hot trend, they tend to remain relatively popular year after year.

Bisque will probably date the house to some degree, but it's such a neutral color that I don't think it would be a huge turnoff to a potential buyer. One thing I would strongly recommend against is bisque cabinets! As you mention, that would be way over the top. What's currently popular in the way of cabinets is neutral, softer-grained woods such as maple and alder.

Finally, try not to get too stressed. Don't look at too many options. After a while it all gets confusing and overwhelming, and it takes the fun and excitement out of remodeling.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author's actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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