How to Ventilate an Attic without Soffits

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jeff in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with how to ventilate an attic. What can we do for you today?

JEFF: Yeah, I should vent a little bit, because I had to insulate that attic up there.


JEFF: Yeah. So, you know, it’s an old addition and when they built it, they covered the old gable up. And so when I went up there to insulate this spring, I had to kind of cut a hole through the old gable end to get into the addition. And so my question is: do I need to – should I keep cutting away at that or do I – how do I properly vent that? I don’t want to cut the whole thing out, because I suppose there’s some support there.

TOM: OK. So they – basically, when you added the addition, they added it onto the gable end of the old roof. So when you go up in the attic, you kind of see the old roof structure and the old gable end where the vent used to be, correct?

JEFF: Right. In fact – and I couldn’t get through there. I mean there was – the vent was too small for me to get through to get into the addition to insulate.

TOM: Oh, so there wasn’t even any access in there to insulate. They didn’t insulate when they built the addition?

JEFF: They did. They did insulate but how they actually got it in there, I don’t know. I couldn’t get to it, I know that.

TOM: The answer to your question is that you want to basically treat each space separately in terms of ventilation. And the best way to ventilate an attic is – actually no longer do we consider gable vents to be the best type of ventilation. The best type of ventilation – a continuous ridge vent that goes down the peak of the roof, matched with soffit vents at the overhang. So this way, we take air in down low, we run it up under the roof sheathing and exit it at the ridge. And that cycle will repeat 24-7, 365.

JEFF: Yeah. The only problem is there’s no soffits in this house.

TOM: Alright. So if you did want to ventilate an attic, you could use a type of vent called a drip-edge vent, which would require a little bit of carpentry. You’d have to extend or actually reshingle the bottom layer of shingles at the edge. But the drip-edge vent actually extends that roof line by about 2 inches and creates a continuous soffit.

And if you go to – that’s the website for the CertainTeed air-vent companies – I know they’ve got a good diagram of one right there. So that’s the way to improve that.

Now, if you can’t do that or you don’t want to do that, for all the obvious reasons, and maybe you’re not seeing that you have a big ventilation problem right now, then I guess what I would suggest to you is to put in the ridge vents, since that’s something that you can always do, and then couple that with as many other roof vents as you can.

Jeff, thanks so much for calling 888-MONEY-PIT.

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