9
Jan

Attic Ventilation Myths That are Off the Charts

Attic Ventilation Myths That are Off the Charts

Attic vent

 

Few things are more misunderstood about the home than attic ventilation. In essence, all ventilation is about circulating air to keep it fresh and to reduce moisture levels. About 90 percent of homes in the US have unreasonably high levels of moisture. Understanding whether your home could benefit from some form of attic ventilation might just be, if not a life-saver, a roof-saver. Here are some of the myths and the facts you need to know about attic ventilation.

1. More Attic Ventilation is Good

Just like properly sizing your furnace and air conditioning unit, you want precisely the right amount of attic ventilation for your home. Insufficient ventilation can lead to moisture problems during the winter and decreased energy efficiency during the summer but too much ventilation can be just as bad, if not worse. Roof vents create an additional roof penetration, essentially another place of vulnerability where leaks can occur. Some vents are necessary, but you don’t want to needlessly increase the number of roof penetrations. More than leaks, these seams can cause blowouts during a hurricane or allow sparks from a wildfire to enter your home and set it ablaze.

So, how much ventilation should you have? Without exception, you should talk to a professional to determine what your home requires. Generally speaking, you need a ratio of 1:300, where for every 300 square feet of ceiling space, you need 1 square foot of attic ventilation. That said, air resistance and interference (such as vent grates) reduces the area of true ventilation. In other words, the entire vent opening doesn’t count as vented space.

2. Roof Vents are for Warmer Climates

Too many people believe the importance of roof ventilation is to increase energy efficiency during the summer. Good roof ventilation can do this, but shingle color, sun exposure and insulation are exponentially more important to overall energy efficiency than ventilation. Sure, installing roof vents for older homes can reduce your hot air during the summer, but there are probably more low-risk, cost-effective ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, preventing moisture damage is a much greater benefit and applies to colder climates more than warmer ones. In fact, the colder the climate, the more likely it is that your home will benefit from attic ventilation. In order to install an unvented roofing system in colder climates, you’ll need highly rated, rigid insulation to prevent condensation on your roof sheathing. In warmer climates, you don’t need to worry about condensation. Think about how often dew forms on your grass. In these climates, hot attic spaces are eliminated by installing a thermal barrier along the roof line, instead of the attic floor.

3. Roof Vents Remove Warm Air during the Winter

Too many people believe that because heat rises, ventilating an attic space during the winter means you’re releasing warm air and creating a drag on your heating efficiency. If this is true, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about than letting warm air escape from your home. Poor insulation is usually the culprit, although if you enter the attic on sunny, winter day, your attic space can be warmed by the sun more than your furnace.

Unless your roofing system has insulation on the roofing deck and is designed without ventilation, your furnace should not be heating your attic. Worse yet, inadequate insulation is almost surely allowing moisture-laden air into your attic. When this warm, moist air hits your roof, it’s likely to form condensation that will lead to further deterioration of your insulation and/or wood rot. If you think this might be a concern, wait till the sun goes down and measure the temperature in your attic. It should be pretty close to the outdoor temperature.

4. Research Studies

Numerous studies have been completed regarding the effectiveness and optimization of general roof ventilation and particular types of roof vents. The benefit of roof ventilation is undisputed. Laboratory setting are a poor indicator of real world wind and weather behaviors. Moreover, regional differences magnify certain traits of roof ventilation over time. What works best in San Antonio, TX is probably not the same as what works best in Cleveland, OH.

In some ways, roof ventilation is as much as an art as it is a science, and installing your own roof vents based on something you read online is like trying to diagnose a skin rash using WebMD. Finding a trusted and experienced roofer who has worked in your region for his or her entire career is a better for your particular roof than any research study or online “expert.”

5. I Have Roof Vents, So I Have Roof Ventilation

While hardly anybody agrees on the best roof ventilation system, everybody agrees some roof vents do hardly any good at all. Take, for example, ridge vents. The majority of roofing experts agree that ridge vents are the most effective and cost-effective roof vents available. Without baffles (blinders that prevent outside air from crossing over the vent), a ridge vent may create almost no ventilation at all. Gable vents may circulate air through only a small percentage of your attic. Static, roof-line, vents are effective for ventilation but generally aren’t recommended due to issues with leaks. Soffit vents may leave air trapped at the top of your attic. Most effective ventilation uses a ridge-and-soffit continuous ventilation system, but even these designs can vary from roof to roof.

If you don’t know how your roof vents work, or if you’re unsure about your attic ventilation in general, you should talk to a roof inspector about your current system and any inherent weaknesses that may be at work. The risk/reward for having no ventilation or poor ventilation, along with the negligible cost of installing a good-working ventilation system makes them one of the unforgivable sins of home maintenance negligence.

9
Jan

Make Use of Forgotten Space with Attic Remodeling

Make Use of Forgotten Space with Attic Remodeling

Remodeled attic

 

One of the most overlooked areas of a home is the attic. Often forgotten except to store old boxes and keepsakes, attics actually have a lot of potential when it comes to remodeling your home, creating more living space, and opening up the space you already have. Here’s some attic remodeling ideas, as well as some common challenges most attic remodels face.

Attic Remodeling: The Possibilities

When most people think of remodeling attic space, they often think of lofts or other simple renovations to the space. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, however. If you’re still in the planning process, here’s a list of some popular remodeling projects involving attic spaces to get your gears turning:

  • Vaulted Ceilings: Most people think extra living spaces when they consider remodeling attic space, but what about opening up living areas you already have? Transforming a neglected attic into vaulted ceilings for your living room or great room can change the entire feel of your home in one easy renovation.
  • More Windows: Besides creating more space indoors, opening up the attic to high ceilings also makes room for the addition of large windows to let more natural light into your home.
  • Extra Bedrooms: Provided your attic ceiling is tall enough, your attic can also be an excellent place to add extra bedrooms. Guest bedrooms and bedrooms for children and teens are particularly well suited to the smaller spaces that are common in attic remodels.
  • Playrooms: Playrooms for children are a perfect fit for attic remodeling. Attic playrooms provide a nice place for children to get away from adults and do their own thing, not to mention they are ideal for keeping toys and messes contained and out of sight.
  • Lofts and Office Space: Okay, we went here anyway. But only because lofts are a great use of attic space. They work great in conjunction with larger remodeling projects such as introducing vaulted ceilings into your home and can also add a little more flexibility to remodeling attic space since they don’t have the same code requirements that bedrooms do when it comes to access.

Some Things to Look out for with Attic Remodeling

Attic remodeling is full of possibility, however you should keep in mind that there are some challenges when it comes to remodeling attic space. The first is ceiling height. Consider 5 feet to be the absolute minimum height for a usable space, and know that even that is pushing it. You’ll be hitting your head on a regular basis even if you do abide by this rule. Raising or modifying your roof is always an option, though the high costs of such a project can be prohibitive in the end. The second challenge you may run into is whether the floor of your attic can support a usable living space. It’s not unlikely that you might have to reinforce or replace the floor to safely accommodate living areas. Finally, keep in mind the approach. You’ll need a stairway to reach your new attic space, so it’s important that you plan space accordingly. Spiral staircases can save room, and if your attic remodel doesn’t include bedrooms, then ladders are also an option.

Consult with a Professional

Whether you plan to do your remodel yourself or hire a contractor, it’s important that you have the space evaluated ahead of time so you know what you’re getting into. Attic floors and roof joists often play a large structural role in holding your home together, and your home’s infrastructure, including wiring, plumbing, and ductwork is often housed in your attic as well. Hiring an architect, contractor, or engineer to come in and do a preliminary evaluation of your attic space can help prepare you for the remodeling project to come, and let you know whether you attic is a good candidate for remodeling in the first place.

9
Jan

Roof & Attic Ventilation – Extend Your Roof’s Lifespan

Roof & Attic Ventilation – Extend Your Roof’s Lifespan

Roof Ventilation

 

More than ever, homeowners are frustrated by poor-performing roofing products, especially when a new roof costs between $5,000 and $10,000 and lasts only 12 to 15 years. In some cases, it is a troublesome brand of materials. More often, however, inadequate attic ventilation is the culprit. Building standards, driven by energy shortages, have sewn up the homes that we live in tighter than a drum. Surprisingly, standards of ventilation adopted in the 1930s are still in use today. Therefore, most homes are woefully under-ventilated.

Home Ventilation and Energy-Efficiency

If you take a moment and think about it, it’s easy to understand why ventilation and energy-efficiency work as a catch-22. Many of the principles of creating an energy-efficient home deal with locking air inside the home to prevent heat loss. This, in turn, creates an environment of continuously recycled air. In recent years, indoor air pollution has become a bigger problem than outdoor air pollution. Air filtration systems can help purify this recycled air, but energy-efficient homes lock in moisture as well as air. This can lead to condensation forming on your windows, mold problems, and roofing failures caused by wood rot and ice dams. Roof ventilation is the best and, in many cases, the only way to prevent these air and moisture problems.

Roof Ventilation

Roof ventilation is a major concern to anyone who is contemplating having their home re-roofed. It is common for the average household to produce from four to five pounds of water vapor per day. To illustrate how much water that is, go to your kitchen sink, fill an empty one-gallon container with water, and pour that on the floor. In poorly ventilated homes, this moisture has nowhere to go. So it forms condensation on the underside of the plywood sheeting of the roof, causing the plywood to expand, buckle, and delaminate. Naturally, this degrading plywood has a detrimental effect on the roofing, including reduced nail holding power, wind damage due to an uneven deck, and stress cracks due to unstable decking materials. This is why turbine ventilators should never be covered up in the winter.

Attic Ventilation Systems

During the summer, when temperatures can soar above 100 degrees, your attic is 145 degrees and the temperature on your new roof is nearly 180 degrees. It is now more important than ever for a total roof ventilation system. A proper attic vent system consists of an intake and an exhaust. Most often, this system works much like your fireplace. As warm air rises, it creates a slight suction at the intake vents. This relatively cooler air removes excess heat from the underside of the sheeting as it exits the exhaust. This cycle of heat exchange regulates the temperatures of the new shingle, saving your roofing investment from becoming a cinder.

When it comes to ventilation, more is always better. Choices are many for both attic and roof ventilation. The turbine ventilators are a good product, but the aesthetics are poor. They can also become a maintenance headache as they get older. Dormer vents are another way to go. They are simple and can be installed out of sight at the rear of the building. Proper attic ventilation in your new roof may be the difference between a successful, long-lived roof and a complete failure in a very short period of time. Considering the high cost of re-roofing the average home, a few hundred dollars for additional attic ventilation is, indeed, a very wise investment.

9
Jan

Move On Up with Attic Conversions

Move On Up with Attic Conversions

Converted attic

Many homeowners, when their family grows too big for a small house, will consider room extensions to create additional square footage and space. However, new additions can be expensive, time-consuming, and can ruin the look of your exterior facade. Instead, many people decide it best to “build up” by remodeling their upstairs storage area. An attic conversion allows you to utilize used space to its greatest potential. Instead of building new additions horizontally, which can also eat up valuable lawn and garden area, renovating vertically is an easy way to develop pre-existing square footage into suitable living spaces.

Things to Think About

Before you make a decision about a major attic renovation, you’ll first want to ask yourself a few questions. You want to make sure you have a clear goal in mind before hiring a contractor so that you’ll be able to communicate your ideas better. By considering these questions about the project beforehand, you and your contractor will both be able to get on the same page and work towards a final, common vision.

  • What is its purpose? Do you want it to be a master bedroom, a guest bedroom, a library, or a home office? Many times these spaces make for a unique loft that you can use as an entertainment area. In fact if you think about this upstairs space like you would a finished basement, many new ideas begin to pop up: a pool table, a wet bar, or maybe a home theater are all possibilities.
  • Are there obstacles? Look at the space and see what difficulties will have to be overcome. Is the space big enough to work with? Is there enough headroom? Is the roof pitched? Do these “obstacles” create inconvenience or a unique look to the room? Are there beams and trusses taking up additional space? Is the floor reinforced to hold furniture? These are questions that contractors immediately think about, so inspect the area to make sure it’s worth it before committing to the project.
  • What isn’t there? Remember, many times these areas weren’t originally meant to be living spaces, so think about what will have to done to make it comfortable and safe. Unlike building additions where all the planning is customized to the new project, building around pre-constructed areas can be a pain. You could run into hidden problems by working with old materials and pre-existing structures.

So keep in mind all the things you’ll have to add in order to create an adequate living area. Do you have easy access? Many times these storage spaces come with pull down stairs, so you will probably have to add a walk-up staircase. This area is usually meant to be sealed up and ignored, so you’ll have to add windows, dormers, or skylights to brighten up the place. It can get really hot and very cold up there, so extra insulation will be required in your attic renovation. Also, there are the details of flooring, drywall, plumbing, and electrical work. So make sure you think about all the details you’ll need to invest in before calling the contractor.

The Code

Whenever you add extra living space to your home, you’ll need to get a building permit approved by the city. This also goes for attic conversions. Oftentimes the contractor will make sure everything is up to code and will take care of permits from the city, but you want to make sure the space is properly approved, otherwise it is against the law and your attic renovation could be unsafe to live in.

But once everything is set in motion, attic conversions are a fun and unique way to add square footage to your home. Though they can be a bit expensive and the actual remodel could take several weeks (all of this is contingent upon the size of the space), the final result will create more value to your house and the extra room is well worth the expense.

9
Jan

Are Dormers Right for Your Home? A Look at the Pros and Cons

Are Dormers Right for Your Home? A Look at the Pros and Cons

Dormers

 

Dormers — those windows you sometimes see sticking vertically from a slanted roof — can be a great way to add dimension, function and style to your home’s exterior. Of course, they can also be expensive and hard to install. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of dormers, as well as some of the different types available, to help you decide whether dormers are right for your home.

Benefits of Dormers: Dormers offer a numbers of benefits to homeowners and their families. First, dormers create better air flow, improve lighting, and increase height and square footage in the upper areas of the home. Second, dormers create an additional opening for use in situations requiring emergency exit from the home. And third, dormers add unique detail to a home’s interior and exterior, thereby increasing both the character and the property value of the home.

Drawbacks of Dormers: Despite the many advantages of dormers, they come with a few drawbacks as well. For starters, dormers may be difficult and expensive to install — particularly in existing structures. Not only will adding dormers require a significant amount of time and materials, but dormers may also require permits and licensing, as well as the work of an expert contractor and architect or engineer. Further, dormers generally require a fair amount of routine maintenance to ensure that they are adequately protected from the wears and tears of elemental exposure.

Common Dormer Types: There are a number of dormer types available. The dormers best suited to your home will depend on the aesthetics and construction of your home, the total budget for your project, and the benefits you wish to realize with the finished product. Here’s a look at some of the most common dormers:

  • Barrel: Includes an rounded roof at the top of the window.
  • Eyebrow: Includes a curved roof (the curve resembling that of an eyebrow) at the top of the window.
  • False or Blind: Includes a false dormer solely for improved exterior aesthetics (i.e., does not include benefits of added space, light and ventilation).
  • Flat: Includes a flat roof at the top of the window.
  • Gable: The most common dormer type, includes a pointed roof above the window.
  • Hipped: A gabled dormer that slopes backward.
  • Recessed: A dormer inset into the main roof.
  • Shed: A basic dormer structure designed to maximize space underneath.

Dormer Installation: Installing dormers is a project best left to the pros. Local experts will know which permits are required in your area, and they will also be able to address any structural, seasonal or material concerns.


9
Jan

Getting to Know Attic Ventilation

Getting to Know Attic Ventilation

Attic vents

 

Attic ventilation is one of the single most important aspects of your home when it comes maintaining high energy efficiency, besides its numerous other benefits. If you suspect you don’t have sufficient ventilation in your attic, or just want to upgrade the ventilation system you do have, talk to a roofing contractor or ventilation specialist about the best available options for your home.

Why Attic Ventilation Is So Important during Summer Months

First and foremost, proper ventilation in your attic means big energy savings. During the summer months an improperly ventilated attic can reach temperatures of over 160 degrees, and all that heat radiates right down into your home. If you’ve got an air conditioner, it’s working overtime to compensate and costing you money. And if you don’t have an air conditioner, all that extra heat can make hot summer days almost unbearable. By installing proper ventilation you can drastically cut down the time you’ll need to run your AC, save money, and make your home more comfortable, all in one fell swoop.

Why Proper Ventilation Is So Important: the Winter Version

In the winter, your attic ventilation serves an entirely different purpose. Poor ventilation can lead to moisture build-up in your attic, and in the winter months that can mean big trouble. As the temperature in your attic fluctuates with the weather outside, that moisture can actually condensate, freeze, and then “rain” down on your attic when it melts. The result is water damage, and even worse, mold and mildew buildup. Furthermore, a well ventilated attic helps prevent ice and snow buildup on the outside of your roof as well, both of which can lead to host of other problems. Basically it doesn’t matter what the season is, a well-ventilated attic is a home improvement must.

Tools of the Trade

A contractor who specializes in attic ventilation will be able to inform you which ventilation systems are best for your home, since your home design may limit, to some extent, the options you have to choose from. Nonetheless, here is a quick list of the most popular ventilation systems being installed today.

  • Ridge and Soffit Vents: This is as simple as it gets. Soffit vents are installed under the eaves of your home, and ridge vents are put in along the roofline. With proper passive ventilation both at the base and peak of your roof, you’ve created all that is necessary for fresh air to continually flow in, up, and out of your attic, which is the primary goal.
  • Fan Powered Roof Vents: These are basically ridge vents with electrical fans built in that speed up the process mentioned above. They can either be operated manually with a switch, or wired to turn on automatically when the temperature in your attic reaches a certain point.
  • Attic Exhaust Fan: Instead of being installed at the peak of your home, attic exhaust fans are installed in the gable. They usually require adding extra ventilation elsewhere (usually in the form of a gable vent on the other side of the attic) because they blow so much hot air out, and in turn draw in fresh outside air to replace it. These fans make a huge difference where both ventilation and energy savings are concerned.You really can’t go wrong when it comes improving ventilation in your attic. It makes for a safer and more comfortable home, and since this is one of those energy efficient home improvements that saves you money over time, it ends up paying for itself in the end.
  • 9
    Jan

    Getting into Your Attic with Attic Stairs

    Getting into Your Attic with Attic Stairs

    Kitchen with attic stairs

     

    Attics are one of the most common untapped living spaces in homes today. Attic renovations are a great idea to create that home office or extra bedroom in your home that you’ve always wanted. In order to get into this new living space, though, you need a dependable way to get in and out of your attic. Folding attic stairs aren’t the old, creaky, rotting attic stairs of your parent’s old house. New attic stairs are made from steel, are safe, fire-resistant, and provide easy access to your newly renovated attic.

    Folding Attic Stairs and Ladders

    Steel attic stairs are engineered for safe access, with increased weight capacity, and greater durability. Few homeowners are as concerned about the tradition and warmth of natural wood for their attic stairs as in other areas of their home. Weatherstripping and insulated stair doors create an energy-efficient attic opening. Attic stairs can be painted or finished to match any attic décor.

    Folding ladders, specialty stairs, or loft ladders can all be used for smaller access spaces and/or for people with limited mobility. Naturally, attic stairs or ladders can be installed as part of an attic renovation or as their own separate project. Often, old, wooden stairs fall into disrepair while the general condition of the attic is still decent. On the other hand, the need to replace your attic stairs can be just as good an excuse as any to consider an attic renovation for your home.

    Attic Stair Installation

    Attic stair installation is a relatively easy project and well within the purview of most DIYers, if there’s attic opening that doesn’t need to be enlarged. Creating or enlarging an attic opening can be a tricky prospect, as you must avoid pipes, wiring, and roof trusses. The other tricky part of attic stair installation can be conforming to building codes. Many areas now require a certain amount of access space to create a stair design that isn’t dangerously steep. Attic stairs are generally steeper than other stairs in the home, and your local building codes may make exceptions or they may not. Often, older attic stairs are grandfathered in under old building codes, but once they’re replaced the new codes have to be observed.

    Attic Renovations

    Don’t get ahead of yourself. Before you install folding attic stairs, make sure an attic renovation is a plausible home improvement project. Without adequate headroom, not only will your renovated attic feel claustrophobic, it may not pass building codes. If you’re on a budget, make sure you determine if your attic has pre-existing joists that are adequate to hold the weight of a few people and some basic furniture. Installing reinforced joists will significantly add to the price of your attic renovation, but skipping this step can lead to damaged floor ceilings. Some roof designs, especially in newer homes, also have a prohibitive number or cross joists and beams that render the available attic space implausible for renovation.