As a builder, you follow code when it comes to installing soffit ventilation on a new home or new addition. But if you’re remodeling an older home or closing in the eaves, you need to ensure you provide enough outside airflow to the attic so that the house stays comfortable and protected from mold, mildew and rot.
This article will cover the basics of soffit ventilation and ways to ensure your customers’ homes are breathing properly.
Soffit vents allow outside air to be drawn into the attic to keep the home cooler in the summer months. They also help minimize the amount of energy used for air conditioning because an attic will stay considerably cooler when properly ventilated.
Soffit vents can be divided into two main categories: continuous and individual. Most soffit ventilation is accomplished through natural convection, though some systems use attic fans in the gables or mushroom fans on the roof to assist in the process.
Continuous soffit ventilation can be achieved with vinyl or aluminum soffit panels installed beneath the eaves, outside of the warm wall line. The location of the vent is important because the air is cooler as you move further from the wall. The effectiveness of this type of system relies on drawing cool air into the attic space.
This is the most popular way to properly ventilate a home. If you are building a home with vinyl, fiber cement or another type of composite siding, you will normally use aluminum fascia and aluminum or vinyl soffit panels. These soffit panels are available as solid panels, partially ventilated or continuously ventilated.
Narrow vent strips can also provide continuous venting, are usually sold under the name of continuous soffit vent and are mainly used on homes with all wood exteriors. These vents are installed by cutting a 2-inch opening in the center of the wooden soffit panel that extends around the perimeter.
Individual soffit vents are available in triangular or rectangular configurations. They are usually found in older home designs as the main source of attic ventilation and can be installed as additional ventilation to improve the efficiency of inadequate systems.
The typical vent location for this type is found at the gable ends, installed near the peak. This type of stand-alone venting is not as efficient because they sit higher up in the air space and require the outside air to be drawn perpendicular to the vent rather than straight up into the attic.
Circular vents can also be used and are available in 2” to 4” sizes. Although not feasible for a whole house, they can help in problem areas, such as room additions or attics modified as living spaces.
Without proper ventilation, an attic could reach temperatures of 150 degrees — that’s 50 degrees higher than it should be. Conduction will transfer that heat from the shingles on the roof deck to the ceiling of your home.
Through convection and radiation, some of that heat will be spread to the rooms below, making the cooling system work overtime to cool the home. Soffit vents and ridge ventilation can solve this problem.
House ventilation is normally passive. In other words, there’s no equipment operating in order for it to work properly. The ridge vent that runs along the peak of the roof allows hot air to escape from the attic. As that air leaves, it pulls cooler air into the space through the soffit vents installed in the eaves. This sets up a constant air circulation that keeps the attic cooler on a hot summer day.
However, this circulation also continues through the winter, as hot, humid air from everyday household activities is released into the attic. If this humid air is not expelled, then black mold may develop and spread as it grows on drywall, insulation and other building materials found in the attic. As warm air rises, it will continue to pull in cooler air from outside.
In addition to providing a more energy-efficient home, a properly ventilated attic will protect your shingle warranty. Most shingle companies will not honor the warranty if the roofing is installed on an unventilated attic. Shingles are meant to reflect heat from above, which is the purpose of the granular covering on them. Excessive heat from below can cause rapid degradation of the asphalt mat of the shingle, resulting in early roof failure.
Yes, soffit ventilation is needed in every home, and it can be provided with open eaves or soffit vents. Open eaves are easy to install and inexpensive, but there can be major issues with insects and other pests, and it is not the most attractive solution, either. Aluminum or vinyl soffit panels provide the most durable, effective and attractive solution for effective attic ventilation.
Maintenance-free living is the desire of most homeowners today, and vinyl and aluminum exterior products provide just that. At Alsco Metals, we carry soffit panels and accessories, trim coil and roofing accessories that work together to create a beautiful exterior so your customers can spend more time enjoying their homes and less time maintaining them.
Contact us today to find a supplier near you, and talk with one of our customer service professionals about assisting you on your next project.