In Repair & Maintenance

Great Home Venting Options: From Pot Vents to Foundation Vents

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Did you know that your home breathes? A healthy house requires air flow and proper vents for roofs as well as foundation vents. It is important to balance the air intake, through foundation vents and soffit vents, with air outtake, through vents on roof and gable vents.

In all reality, rooftop venting could be as simple as a hole in the roof but rainfall prevents that. Vents of roofs are commonly found in the form of either pot vents or ridge vents. These keep water and insects out of your home.

As for the foundation vents and soffit vents, they could also be as simple as a hole. But again, these vents are typically covered with some sort of metal grid so that bugs and rodents don’t get into your home. If you are doing major repairs on your roofing vents, you should ask your homeowners insurance if you can get a discount somehow.

Home Venting Intake Options

The first half of the equation is air getting into the house in order for it to breathe. There are many options for air intake in home venting situations. Soffit vents will range from linear vents to puck vents in the soffit of a home. Foundation vents cover holes in your foundation to help the lower floors breathe.

Foundation Vents

Foundation Vent

Foundation vents are the holes you see in your concrete foundation. The most common foundation vents have a plastic housing and a grid of hardware cloth to keep the critters out. Some of these foundation vents are covered with plastic damper flaps to keep cold out in winter though foam foundation vent covers work just as well. 

There are upgraded and nicer options for foundation vents. You can get vents that are made with concrete edges and a metal grid in between. Another option is to cover your existing foundation vents with soffit vent covers. The finer mesh helps keep racoons from peeling the hardware cloth back and the metal louvers look nicer too.

Repairing Foundation Vents

The problem with foundation vents is that the metal grid, the hardware cloth, is built into the vent. And the vent is poured into the concrete, so you can’t just pull out a damaged one and put a new one in.

Every once in a while, you have, shall we say, a bandit or a critter that destroys your vent. If you’re lucky, they just tear the grid of hardware cloth out but I have actually talked to two customers who had whole vents taken out by these bandits with ringed tails. Racoons are bastards. There, now it’s out. 

The only solution is to replace your hardware cloth. To do this, you build a 1×2 frame out of an exterior wood, cedar or redwood, and then attach hardware cloth to it. This grid can then be attached to the foundation using construction adhesive or masonry nails. Or you can attach a soffit vent cover to your foundation vent over the concrete.

Clearing Foundation Vents

You should also consider how you are going to keep your foundation vents clear. After all, your house breathing through a blocked foundation vent is the same you feel when breathing through stuffed sinuses. 

You have to clear vents of all dirt and leaf debris on a regular, usually yearly, basis as part of good homeowner maintenance. Many people actually block their vents with Styrofoam plugs in the winter to keep the cold out and lower their heating bills. You can do that temporarily. You just need to make sure to unclear your vents as soon as the threat of freezing is over.

Soffit Vents

Other than your foundation vents, soffit vents are the other major home venting intake option. You can find these by walking the perimeter of your home and looking up at the eaves, where the wall meets the roofline. There, you will see small circular or rectangular vents.

These soffit vents sit here to work in conjunction with your roofing vents to give intake air a path to sweep up to the rooftop venting. Because heat rises, your rooftop needs more venting. Soffit vents and pot vents keep your roof sound and hale to keep water and wind out of your home.

Types of Soffit Vents

Soffit Vent 1

Soffit Puck Vents

Puck vents are small, round vents that are placed every couple of feet in your soffits. They are particularly useful for homes like mine with smaller soffits because they require less square footage. You do need more of them to get the required venting because they are so small; keep that in mind.

Soffit Rectangular Vents

Most American homes have medium rectangular vents, roughly 6” x 16.” These vents are placed every ten feet or so in order to provide adequate roofing vents across the whole roof. If you have a narrow but long soffit, a linear soffit vent may be perfect because it is narrow and long.

Keeping Soffit Vents Clear

Just like foundation vents, soffit vents need to be kept clear or they don’t function well. Unlike foundation vents, soffit vents are not usually blocked by nature but by well-intentioned home owners.

Homeowners try to make their homes more efficient by putting more insulation in the attic and frequently this blocks roofing vents. Blocking these vents can lead to mold and rot issues because it prevents proper airflow. Remember those blocked sinuses from earlier? 

That’s why roofing baffles, or friezes, are made! They are pieces of cardboard, plastic, or thin styrofoam shoved between the roof trusses to hold the insulation back from the vents. They are not fancy and you can use something as simple as a cardboard box to keep your rooftop venting clear.

But I find the roofing baffles made specifically for this purpose are worth it. Your attic is filled with insulation and it’s hot and dark. Roofing baffles you buy are cut appropriately and prepped to bend at the right spot to fit correctly in the trusses. This means they can be installed quicker and easier for a small increase in price.

Home Venting Outtake Options

What goes up must come down and what goes in must come out. I’ve talked to you about home venting intake options but now, let’s look at the outtake options in your home. These range from rooftop venting, in pot vents and ridge vents, or gable vents in the side of the house.

Roofing Vents

The main option for air outtake is rooftop venting. These vents are incorporated into the main structure and shingling of your roof to provide an escape for air. I would argue that these are the most important and most overlooked vents on most houses. 

This despite the fact that rooftop vents are an incredibly ugle part of the house. Because they are ugly, most contractors and home builders put your roof vents on the back side of the house. Go ahead…take a look before you read more.

Pot Vents or Field Vents

Pot Vents

Roofing vents within the main body, or field, of your shingles are called pot vents and they are the most common rooftop vents among American houses right now. They are square vents for roofs that are made of either metal or plastic.

Typically, pot vents are placed in a line close to the ridge of your house and there should be one every few feet. You will sometimes see pot vents in the center of the field proper if there is a stop, or inner wall, in the roof structure. Anywhere that your home may have warm air sitting at an apex in the roof structure, you should have a pot vent.

Ridge Vents

Ridge Vents

Pot vents have a downfall: they cannot accommodate the air that gets stuck at the very peak of the rooftop. Fortunately, there was an intelligent contractor that thought, how can we do this better? That’s why ridge vents are my favorite rooftop venting option. They do what pot vents can’t.

Ridge vents are actually incorporated into the ridge of the roof, the spine at the very top. This allows the warmest and most humid air to be released effectively. To install ridge vents, you have to cut back the roof decking slightly to accommodate the vent.

Maintaining Roof Vents

Maintenance for roofing vents, whether they are pot vents or ridge vents, is relatively easy. Pot vents are subject to some serious moss growth and too much moss can start to tear up the edges of the pot vent because they will bend. Apply moss killer on the entire roof, but especially around the pot vents, each Fall and Winter.

If you see any cracking on your roofing vents, keep a small tube of silicone roof coating on hand to caulk over the crack. Silicone works on metal and plastic so it’s a great all-around option for everybody.

Gable Vents

Gable vents are a home venting option that sit in, you guessed it, the gables of your house. The gable is the side of your home, just under the peak of your roof. Gable vents can act as both air intake and air outtake options.

A gable vent has metal hardware cloth behind metal, plastic, or wood louvers. This helps to not only keep animals out but allows free movement of air through. The louvers are typically very plain but options are available that have more decoration in them.

Power Fans for Gable Vents

Gable vents can be passive, with just the hardware cloth and louvers, or it can be powered with an electric fan behind it to push more air out. These fans are typically set to turn on when either the temperature or the humidity get too high in the attic. The fans set to humidistats tend to be more popular since humidity is the main cause of mold growth.

Final Thoughts

When looking at your home venting options, it is vital that you balance the intake and the outtake of your home. If you unbalance this system too much, you are inviting rot and mold into your house.

You should also maintain your roofing vents by keeping them clear and keeping the screening in good shape. If you are missing vents or roofing baffles, for example my house had no soffit vents, replace them as soon as possible.

Replace vents if necessary, keep them clear regularly, and always keep in mind the balance of your home venting intake and outtake. If you feel like you need more information on roofing vents or roof structures, check out this article from Bob Vila.