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7 steps to getting good attic ventilation

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May 12, 2011

Most people rarely see their attic space. Some attics are too small to really explore, while others are large, but serve only as handy storage areas for seasonal items and outdated clothes. Most attics are thought of only when the seasons change, and homeowners wonder if they have enough insulation to keep their house as energy-efficient as it should be.

Attics need to breathe

But what about attic ventilation? Every attic needs to be ventilated, though some experts disagree about how well they should be ventilated, and by what means. If you are having problems with ice dams or rotting roof sheathing, soffit vents might be the best answer. Here's how to install one:

  1. Soffit vents come in various shapes and sizes. Long, thin soffit vents, such as those 3 inches by 8 feet, are very popular among homeowners for their ease of installation. Begin by deciding how many soffit vents you need. A good rule of thumb is one vent to each rafter bay.
  2. Using a chalk reel, snap parallel lines that are 1/2 inch shorter on each side than your vent itself. For instance, a three-inch vent requires parallel lines two inches apart.
  3. Bore a hole into the middle of the lines, and gauge the thickness of the the soffit panel. Set your saw to that depth and carefully cut out the area you marked with the chalk lines. Connect the two cuts with a smaller saw and then pry out the cut area.
  4. You might see insulation coming out of the hole you just cut. Push it back in if you can; if not, simply pull it out before you insert the vent.
  5. Place the vent in the soffit cutout and secure it with 1/2-inch sheet metal screws. The screws should be about a foot apart on the flanges. Trim the vent using aviation snips, if necessary.
  6. Double-check to make sure there is no insulation blocking the vents. If there is, rake it away or push it back. With larger vents, you might find you need to remove some areas of insulation.
  7. Make sure the vents stay open by stapling a ventilation baffle to the roof sheathing in each rafter bay. This also helps keep insulation out of the way of the vents.

Ventilating your attic can be tough if there is not much space up there. In that case, get the job done right and make it easier on yourself by hiring a professional contractor to take care of the attic venting for you.

Most people rarely see their attic space. Some attics are too small to really explore, while others are large, but serve only as handy storage areas for seasonal items and outdated clothes. Most attics are thought of only when the seasons change, and homeowners wonder if they have enough insulation to keep their house as energy-efficient as it should be.

Attics need to breathe

But what about attic ventilation? Every attic needs to be ventilated, though some experts disagree about how well they should be ventilated, and by what means. If you are having problems with ice dams or rotting roof sheathing, soffit vents might be the best answer. Here's how to install one:

  1. Soffit vents come in various shapes and sizes. Long, thin soffit vents, such as those 3 inches by 8 feet, are very popular among homeowners for their ease of installation. Begin by deciding how many soffit vents you need. A good rule of thumb is one vent to each rafter bay.
  2. Using a chalk reel, snap parallel lines that are 1/2 inch shorter on each side than your vent itself. For instance, a three-inch vent requires parallel lines two inches apart.
  3. Bore a hole into the middle of the lines, and gauge the thickness of the the soffit panel. Set your saw to that depth and carefully cut out the area you marked with the chalk lines. Connect the two cuts with a smaller saw and then pry out the cut area.
  4. You might see insulation coming out of the hole you just cut. Push it back in if you can; if not, simply pull it out before you insert the vent.
  5. Place the vent in the soffit cutout and secure it with 1/2-inch sheet metal screws. The screws should be about a foot apart on the flanges. Trim the vent using aviation snips, if necessary.
  6. Double-check to make sure there is no insulation blocking the vents. If there is, rake it away or push it back. With larger vents, you might find you need to remove some areas of insulation.
  7. Make sure the vents stay open by stapling a ventilation baffle to the roof sheathing in each rafter bay. This also helps keep insulation out of the way of the vents.

Ventilating your attic can be tough if there is not much space up there. In that case, get the job done right and make it easier on yourself by hiring a professional contractor to take care of the attic venting for you.

About the Author:

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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