Venting Attic Without Soffits? (Is It Possible?)

Are you interested in adding ventilation to your attic without soffits?

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 (here is my review on the best rated gable attic fans).

In this guide, we will go over...

attic venting without soffits
  • 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.

Read Also: What Are The Best Rated Gable Mounted Attic Fans?

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.

Read Also: What Are The Pros And Cons of Attic Exhaust Fans?

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.

What About Edge Vents?

A company called Air Vent has created a patented product called shingle-over edge vents.

These vents are purchased in 4 foot sections and installed under asphalt shingles at the edge of the roof --- even if you don't have soffits.

edge vent

The Edge Vent By Air Vent

Edge vents can be a great way to add intake venting if you can't or don't want to install soffits. Edge vents are made to be installed by qualified roofers.

Read Also: What Are The Best Roof Mounted Attic Fans?


attic venting without soffits (1)

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.

Read Also: How To Install An Attic Fan On The Roof?

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.

Read Also: What Are The Best Solar Attic Fans?

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.

Read Also: How Do Attic Fans Work?

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.

Other Home Guides

Looking to learn more about home maintenance? Check out our other informative home product reviews and guides!

pros and cons of attic ventilation fans (1)

Do you want to know about the pros & cons of attic fans? As a home inspector, I have seen many attic fans. Check out my detailed guide right here!

Read More »
top best rated master flow attic fans reviews (1)

Want to find the best Master Flow Attic Fan? Master Flow fans are made by GAF Materials Corporation which is based in New Jersey. Check out my review!

Read More »
top best rated natural light solar attic fan

Want to find the best Natural Light solar attic fan? Natural Light is based in Arizona and is a leading maker of solar vent fans. Check out my detailed review.

Read More »
best roof mounted attic fans

Wonder what are the best roof mounted attic fans? I have created this detailed guide on the top rated attic fans that cool your attic. Check it out here!

Read More »
how to install attic fan in roof

Want an install guide for a roof mounted attic fan? Here is my step-by-step guide on installing attic fans on your roof to keep your attic cool and dry.

Read More »
how does an attic fan work

Want to know the lowdown on how attic fans work? Attic fans can help keep your

Read More »

10 thoughts on “Venting Attic Without Soffits? (Is It Possible?)”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to read this i have a small cabin in ND the cabin is 14X20 we used a single pitch roof the front wall is 12 foot and the rear is 8 foot we used fiberglass insulation in the ceiling and of coarse are now having issues the last trip we made we had water dripping off the roof above the insulation worried about mold i removed all the wet insulation knowing it has to be vented how would you go about this with this style roof thanks Nick

    Reply
    • Hi Nick,

      Assuming there is no lower soffit, you can install edge vents at the bottom of the roof, and a few passive vents on the top portion (or edge vents also) since a ridge vent isn’t feasible. You could also just install a few passive vents on top and bottom.

      If you do this type of passive venting and there isn’t an attic (raised ceiling), there should be baffles in between the roof sheathing and the fiberglass insulation along the entire roof line to keep the air flowing from bottom to top.

      If this sounds like a hassle, you could also just seal the roof cavity or attic and install spray foam insulation — that’s what I would probably do.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  2. My friend and I are disagreeing on a point. He is adding a small addition to his house, roughly 20×10. The ceiling of the addition will technically be the roof. He is not going to create a soffit with vents, however, he’s going to be installing rafter vents with insulation. Im saying that raft vents are pointless without air circulation from the soffit vent. He is saying that rafter vent will work with heat dissipation. Can someone settle this.

    Reply
    • Hey Mike,

      Yeah, I think the rafter vents will be largely worthless without airflow. Your friend could install edge vents which would solve the issue — they can be installed without soffits. If heat dissipation worked in removing hot attic air, then every new home only have ridge venting. It works as a suction system, hot air rises through the soffit, and the hot air leaving the ridge further creates suction, pulling more air through soffit.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  3. I live in the northeast and my house is a two story with front and back dormers. Can’t install eave vents. Am re-roofing and currently don’t have adequate ventilation. Will a ridge vent work with several exhaust vents lower down on the roof? I’m told edge and smart vents are not made for this area. My biggest problem is getting air intake. Thanks

    Reply
  4. Hello,
    In Minnesota old house built in 1929
    10/12 pitch with no ventilation due to a converted attic to bedroom.
    Roof is essentially the ceiling and has fiberglass insulation with sheet rock.
    How would you suggest we ventilate properly?

    We just installed a new asphalt shingle roof.

    Thank you

    Joe

    Reply
    • Hi Joe,

      The only way that I am aware to ventilate the roof is to still have the ridge and soffit vent system, but you have long “baffles” in between the roof sheathing and the top of the insulation. These baffles allow air to flow through the roof cavity to the ridge vent.

      Good luck,

      Arie

      Reply

Ask Me A Question!

Arie Van Tuijl

Arie Van Tuijl

Arie is the founder of Home Inspector Secrets, an online resource dedicated to helping people understand how homes work. He is a licensed home inspector in two U.S states and owns a residential and commercial inspection company (read his full bio on the About page). To ask Arie a question, please use the comment box at the bottom of the relevant article.

Like? Please Share With Friends

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

About Home Inspector Secrets

Home Inspector Secrets is an online resource for owners, buyers, and sellers to understand all aspects of home maintenance. We have detailed home guides, product reviews, inspection advice, and much more.