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Ventilation Is Vital to the Life of Your House

Like a person, when a house can’t breathe bad things happen. Or you may say it is more like a car: it has intake and exhaust and if one or the other is broken the engine shuts down. Quite often we take for granted the “breathing” ability of our house. It isn’t something we think about much.

Let me give a little history of the problem by starting with a statement I hear from homeowners, “Why do I need to ventilate now, the house is 40 years old and it’s been fine all this time?”

When houses were built pre-1970’s or so, they could breathe naturally. The windows were drafty, the doors were drafty, the attic was drafty; air moved throughout the whole house and vented everything and no one really thought much about it.

But when the “siding and windows” craze started in the 1980’s, all of a sudden all that air movement was cutoff. No longer could the house breathe naturally because the windows were airtight, the doors were airtight and the attic was airtight. A house that had been venting naturally was wrapped so tight that all of the moisture that used to go out through the windows and doors now rises up through the sheetrock into the attic. So what is happening, is the attic space is now required to vent the entire house and has to be modified to do so.

If you live in a newer home, the modifications have more than likely been made, otherwise you’ll need to make sure they addressed are when the roof is redone.

So what I see, quite often, when I go into an attic is moisture, in forms of mildew or mold. And if you have a cathedral or vaulted ceiling, the problem is compounded a hundred fold. Why? Because the air can’t move up the cathedral ceiling and out the attic vents because of insulation crammed in there.

If you have a very low attic space (usually a ranch-style house falls into this category) then you need to pay special attention to the ventilation system in your attic. And if you have a FROG or cathedral (vaulted) ceiling anywhere in the house, then you need to be extra-specially careful about venting your attic space. Again, because of the lack of air movement.

The following pictures are examples of houses that weren’t vented properly:

So, the questions are, what can be done to fix it and how do I know if I have a problem?

First of all, have a contractor look through your attic spaces thoroughly. I know that very few roofers actually go into the attic and look around to see if there is a problem, but insist that they look and make sure that everything is ok. The last thing you want to do is put a new roof on your house, spends thousands of dollars, and still have the same problem 4 years down the road. It would have been much easier and cheaper in the long run to just get it all fixed at the same time.

Secondly, sit down with the contractor and have him explain everything in detail. There are options out there that work and some are cheaper than others. Spend some time getting to know your options. The more you know up front the better prepared you’ll be when it comes down to choosing the right specifications and contractor.

As far as the options go, it depends on the style of house you have. If you have a vaulted or cathedral ceiling than you may need to install baffle vents. If you have a mansard or gambrel style house, you may need baffle vents but you’ll also have to make sure the vents can feed into the main attic up top. Depending on whether you have a gable-style house or a hip-style house, ridge vents or power fans can be used.

The important thing is to make sure that when the house is finished, it can breathe and that air can move fluidly from the intake vents in the soffit out through the ventilation up top. If it can, then it will cut out the chance for mold, mildew and rotten wood.

Find a contractor willing to go over the specifics with you. If he/she doesn’t have the time to make sure you understand exactly what is needed up front than they definitely won’t be around to help you if there is ever problem with the roof they install.

If you live in South Carolina and want one of us to talk with you about your roofing project, or just have questions concerning Ventilation, give me a call at (803) 994-9498 or fill out the quick estimate form here.

Roy Bauer

Bauer Roofing