Are you interested in adding ventilation to your attic without soffits?
I have created this in-depth guide just for you. As a licensed home inspector, I have seen many homes with inadequate insulation, and older homes without soffit venting.
Many of my recommendations include increasing attic ventilation by using a wide variety of vent types.
In this guide, we will go over...
- why it's important to have adequate attic ventilation
- what to do if you don't have soffits (or don't want to install soffit vents)
- how adding foam insulation may be a great option
- attic fans and important things to know
- installing passive vents such as turbine, ridge, and turtle
Let's get started with this guide!
How To Vent An Attic Without Eaves?
If you have an older home that has no soffits, eaves, or roof overhangs, then there are a few different options to add venting to your attic.
Many years ago, home builders were simply unaware of the importance of attic ventilation --- this is why some older homes don't even have soffits. Inadequate attic venting can lead to premature aging of roofing shingles, may warp wood sheathing, and increase HVAC costs.
Let me first say that if you actually do have roof overhangs, and have the space to add soffit venting, then I would strongly recommend that you first add soffit ventilation --- because the soffit/ridge vent system is the best passive venting that currently exists.
How Do I Use Turtle Vents For My Attic?
One way to add ventilation is to install one or more passive vents. The most common passive vent is known as a turtle vent which has a round shape. Others are rectangular shaped. It's important to avoid installing passive vents too close to each other, because it will inhibit their effectiveness.
If two passive vents are too close, then while one vent is expelling hot attic air, the other vent may actually be sucking in the same hot air (that the other vent is pushing out).
If you have a ridge vent, you also want to make sure that the passive vents are preferably at least 25% down the roof (away from the ridge vent). If the passive vent is too close to the ridge vent, the same phenomenon may occur.
When the ridge vent is pushing out air, the passive vents may be sucking in that expelled air from the ridge.
How About Turbine Vents On My Roof?
Turbine vents are wind-powered vents that will only work when there is some wind to propel the metal turbine, causing it to move and suck out attic air. These wind-powered vents can be a great addition to your attic ventilation system especially if your area gets a lot of wind.
Just a few of these vents can work wonders for your attic ventilation if you frequently get wind.
Will A Ridge Vent Work Without Soffits?
The most effective passive vent is the ridge vent. The ridge is the very peak of your roof where a very long "ridge vent" is frequently installed. I would say 99% of all new residential homes have ridge vents --- except for homes with flat roofs or totally sealed attics.
The main idea of the ridge vent is to act together with soffit venting to properly ventilate the attic. When hot air rises up through the soffit venting, it then keeps rising all the way up to the ridge vent. This creates a natural suction phenomenon, where the ridge vent is sucking air out of the soffit vents, creating a natural ventilation cycle.
Even if you do not have soffits, it may still be a good idea to install a ridge vent even if it's effectiveness is reduced without soffit venting.
Are Gable Vents Effective?
Gable vents are large vertical vents on the sides of the home, usually in a triangular shape. These vents are most effective when there is some wind. The idea is that wind goes into one gable vent, and then pushes the air out of the attic and through the secondary gable vent (on the other side of the attic).
If you don't currently have gable vents, then it would be a good idea to install this vent. I would only install this vent if your home is a detached single family home, where you can install TWO of these vents on both sides of the attic. Installing only one gable vent is almost useless.
Will Attic Fans Work Without Soffits?
Attic fans are mechanical fans that use electrical power to push out attic air. Most attic fans are hard wired into the home's electrical system, but solar powered fans are becoming more popular. To read my detailed buyer's guide on the best gable mounted attic fans, check it out here.
Most solar-powered attic fans will simply turn on when the sun is out and run all day. They are generally much lower powered than their hard-wired cousins. Attic fans turn on automatically when the attic reaches a specific temperature --- and usually this temperature is adjustable. Some fans also have humidity sensors that act together with the temperature sensor.
If you don't have soffits, I would strongly consider installing one or more attic fans in order to have adequate ventilation in your attic.
Attic fans generally range in the $100 to $400 range, depending on the quality and brand. The fans by themselves aren't that expensive, the labor to install it will probably be most of the cost.
Should I Install Foam Insulation On Homes Without Eaves?
If I had an older home without soffits, I would strongly consider just completely air sealing the attic and adding foam insulation --- totally removing the need for ventilation.
With old homes, it can be very difficult to properly ventilate the attic for a variety of reasons. Weird attic layouts may be a part of it. When an older home has 2-3 additions added to the home over the years, they didn't exactly design the attic to maximize ventilation.
Even with modern homes, it can be difficult to prevent air leakage into the attic even if it is properly ventilated. According to Home Energy Magazine, there was a research study performed on 8 homes over a 3 month period, and discovered that ALL of the homes had air leakage from the interior to the attic.
The importance of attic ventilation is a more modern concern, and builders years ago really didn't think about attic venting. So if you think your attic may be difficult to properly ventilate, you may want to just completely seal the attic and install foam insulation. The foam insulation will give a very high R-value --- and you won't need to ventilate the attic whatsoever.
There is one caveat with foam insulation. If you hire the wrong contractor to add foam insulation to your attic, it could potentially be a very costly mistake if they fail to add the chemicals correctly. If they don't add the insulation chemicals correctly, it may cause a very bad smell and allow noxious fumes to spread throughout the home --- even making the home unlivable.
Make sure you hire a very qualified and reputable contractor if you decide to install foam insulation.
The Bottom Line On Attic Venting Without Soffits
If your home doesn't have soffits (or you don't want to install soffit venting), there are a number of things you can do to add ventilation. You can install...
- passive or turtle vents
- a ridge vent
- attic fans (solar or hard wired)
- gable vents
- or just air seal the attic and install foam insulation
If your attic has inadequate ventilation, it can act like a "heat trap" and lead to premature shingle aging, warp wood sheathing, lead to mold issues, and increase your HVAC costs. If I had an older home without soffits, I would do everything possible to make sure that my attic is properly ventilated.
I hope you enjoyed this article.