Did you know that your home breathes? A healthy house requires air flow and proper home venting from top to bottom in order to last. It is important to balance the air intake, through foundation vents and soffit vents, with air outtake, through roof vents and gable vents.
Home Venting Intake Options
One half of the equation is that air has to get into the house in order for it to breathe. There are many options for home venting intake but ultimately, you have foundation vents and soffit vents.
Foundation vents are the holes you see in your concrete foundation. You can just leave a hole but most are covered in some way. The most common foundation vents have a plastic housing and a grid of hardware cloth to keep the critters out. I have also seen nicer concrete ones that have concrete housing and a grid of hardware cloth. All are built into the foundation, or poured in, which leads to a few issues.
Repairing Foundation Vents
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 prevent critters. 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.
Clearing Foundation Vents
Something to consider is also the need 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. Many people actually block their vents with Styrofoam plugs in the winter which you can do temporarily. You just need to make sure to unclear your vents as soon as the threat of freezing is over.
Separate from your foundation vents, soffit vents are the other intake option for home venting. These sit at the very bottom edges of your roof so that they can take air in so that it can sweep up your roof. Where foundation vents help your main house breathe, these are really for your roof. Then again, what is a house without a sound roof on top of it.
Types of Soffit Vents
There are many types of soffit vents so that you have an option that suits your soffits the best. There are no benefits in terms of venting for one or the other, some just fit the physical space of your soffit better than others. My home has small round puck vents on them because I have relatively small soffits. Most of my customers, being luckier than myself, have something like a small louvered rectangle. I think these look a lot classier but I don’t have room for them sadly. For extensive reading on soffit vents, check out Home Advisor’s excellent article.
Clearing Soffit Vents
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 is what blocks the vents. Blocking these vents can lead to mold and rot issues and required roof repair. That’s why attic friezes are made. They a piece of cardboard or plastic shoved between the roof trusses to hold the insulation back from the vents. You can actually use a piece of a box but I find the ones made specifically for this are worth it. They are cut appropriately and prepped to bend at the right spot to fit correctly in the trusses.
Home Venting Outtake Options
What goes up must come down and what goes in must come out. For home venting outtake options, you have roof vents, both pot vents and ridge vents, as well as gable vents.
The main option for outtake home venting is roof vents. These are vents that are incorporated into the main structure and shingling of you roof to provide an escape for air. I would argue that these are the most important and most overlooked vents on most houses. If you have a contractor who knows what they are doing, your roof vents are probably on the back side of your house. Go ahead and go take a look now.
Vents within the field of your shingles, or pot vents, are the most common among American houses to this day. They are square vents that are made of either metal or plastic that are along every ridge of your house. You will sometimes see them in the center of the field if there is a stop in the roof structure. Anywhere you would have air sit at an apex in the roof structure, you need to have a pot vent.
Maintaining Roof Vents
Maintaining these vents is relatively easy. Pot vents tend to be subject to some serious moss growth and if you have too much moss, it can tear up the edges of the vent. Fortunately, it is easy to fix this with a dutiful application of moss killer each Fall and throughout the Winter.
Pot vents cannot accommodate the air that gets stuck at the very peak of the roof structure. Fortunately, there was an intelligent contractor that thought, how can we do this better? That contractor came up with the ridge vent. These vents are actually incorporated into the ridge of the roof so that the air at the very top can be released effectively. Ridge vents require that you cut back the roof decking slightly to accommodate the vent. These vents are the apex in roof venting options.
Gable vents are the home venting option that sit in, you guessed it, the gables of your house. This is the side of your home, just under the peak of your roof. Gable vents are incredibly similar to the intake venting options, they are louvered and usually contain a grid of hardware cloth to keep critters out. These are the most popular vents to have a powered fan behind that to help push even more air out.
Power Fans for Gable Vents
The power fans available for gable vents come in two main varieties, those that turn on when they sense high humidity and those that turn on when they sense high temperature. I tend to prefer the humidity fan. The humidity is the main cause of mold growth after all.
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 in one direction, you are inviting rot and mold into your house. You should also maintain your vents by keeping them clear and keeping the screening in good shape. If you are missing vents, for example my house had no soffit vents, replace them as soon as possible. Replace them if necessary, keep them clear regularly, and always keep in mind the balance of your home venting intake and outtake.