Ridge Vent Pros and Cons


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Ridge vents provide passive attic ventilation and help with whole-house ventilation. Lower vents are needed for optimal ridge vent function. Heavy rains can enter through them. They are inconspicuous (no stacks/hoods) and small to keep out animals. Poor installation or non-sloped roofs make them ineffective.

Ridge Vent ProsRidge Vent Cons
Roof ventilation is required by code and ridge vents are a good method for achieving thisThere may be a risk of leaking from ridge vents with heavy rains
A great way to keep your attic cool and for dealing with humidityRidge vents are only appropriate for sloped and not flat roofs
Small enough to be installed along the entire roofline for maximum ventilationLower vents are necessary to properly ventilate with ridge vents
Improve the ventilation and cooling system for your whole houseImproper installation makes them ineffective
Inconspicuous ventilation system that blends with your roofing systemRidge vents rely entirely on passive airflow
Small enough that you won’t have to deal with animals getting in 
No vent stacks or hood are needed 
Pros and cons of having a ridge vent

Pros of Ridge Vents

Roof Ventilation is Required by Code

Section R806 of the International Residential Code (IRC) requires roof ventilation:

“Enclosed attics and enclosed rafter spaces formed where ceilings are applied directly to the underside of roof rafters shall have cross ventilation for each separate space by ventilating openings protected against the entrance of rain or snow.”

These openings must be between 1/16” and 1/4” in dimension (bigger than that requires a screen).

While ridge vents are not required by code, they are a good way to achieve roof ventilation, which is required by code.

It is important to check your local code on ventilation before you install ridge vents (or any ventilation system) to ensure that you comply with regulations that may be different from those in the IRC.

Ridge vents make use of the natural airflow in a house. They are designed to allow hot air to filter to the outdoors as it rises. This results in a vacuum-like ventilation system, creating movement in the air by pulling cooler air along with warm air in a continuous upward flow.

Keep Your Attic Cool

As the highest point, your attic is likely to be the hottest area in the house, even in the presence of an air conditioning system. This is because hot or warm air rises and because sunlight beats down onto it.

The potential for holding heat is part of the reason you need to ventilate your roof (aside from airflow); heat can cause structural damage.

If you install ridge vents that utilize the natural airflow of your house, you are going to be providing a way for that hot air to escape the attic and be replaced by cooler air.

Not only do ridge vents help with hot air in attics, but they also allow humidity to escape through them. This will help to keep your attic mold and mildew free and therefore should demote it from your worst nightmare in terms of cleaning and potential health threats.

Overall, your attic should be less homey for any interested animals and you are going to find that it suddenly has a lot more functionality without the risk of ruining anything you put up there. 

Now, if you consider the regular heat and humidity issues associated with an attic, imagine how these issues would be compounded if your bathroom fan was improperly vented and terminated in your attic! If you can’t quite imagine it, I have put together a vivid list of the Reasons Why A Bathroom Fan Should Not Be Vented Into the Attic.

Even Venting Along Entire Roofline

Ridge vents are placed at the tip of your roof peak and are simple enough to install along the full length of your roofline. This makes it easy to achieve good ventilation for your house in a way that complies with building code requirements.

Using ridge vents is also a good way to ventilation multiple sections within the attic or rafter space, without trouble, even if those sections are divided by walls. You don’t need to stress about how you will get sufficient airflow through all the individual spaces.

Air circulation is also more even and efficient when you use ridge vents as there will be more access to openings in the vent system for air to move around.

Ridge vents look more uniform (which will please the asymmetry-disliking members of your family!) and just adds to the overall cohesion of your house design.

Placement of your vents will not be an issue as you will not have to consider vent placement based on any trees or chimneys that might block airflow around a vent stack or hood.

Improves Whole House Ventilation and Cooling

The ventilation and cooling benefits of ridge vents are not limited to the attic. The system works in the same way for the entire house.

Ridge vents help to balance out the temperature of your house by moving air around and in and out. It helps to keep your whole house cooler in the warmer months.

Don’t worry though, this doesn’t mean that your house will be freezing during the winter!

By design, ridge vents help to trap the warmer air in your house when the air is freezing outside. Which helps to keep your house warm and should help keep your heating bills down.

Inconspicuous

Ridge vents are designed to be inconspicuous and to blend into your roof in comparison to the bulky turbine and stack vents.

They sit at the peak of a sloped roof and can be color-matched to the roof as they are covered with your roofing tiles.

They are small and unobtrusive while providing maximum ventilation for your house. So, ridge vents won’t interfere with your décor and stylistic endeavors.

Personally, I prefer the ridge vent style as they don’t make your roof look like it belongs on a factory the way that protruding vents do.

Small Enough to Prevent Animals Entering

Bird perched on a rooftop with two vents

No one wants to deal with raccoons, rats, mice, birds, and a variety of other animals in their attic and rafter space. They can cause a lot of trouble and it’s not always easy to get rid of them.

Thankfully, ridge vents are comprised of slim openings that prevent any freeloaders from getting in. Saving you from costs related to chewed wires, damaged ducts and insulation, the “thrifting” of nesting materials, and a whole lot of poop.

There are also health risks to having animals living in your roof or attic:

  • Chewed wires are a fire hazard and lead to further damage to your electrical system. And let’s face it, the wires that are found in the roof are generally the kind that connect to large and important appliances and the lighting circuit.
  • Ducts serve a purpose such as directing plumbing line gases and exhausted air out of the house. If these are damaged, then they might start pumping those things back into the house.
  • Animal feces and urine in your roof are not hygienic. This is a great way for you to pick up germs and parasites. You also risk having your ventilation system circulating the particles throughout your house. No one wants to be exposing themselves or their families to that!

With ridge vents, you won’t have to worry about these factors or about animals creating blockages in your ventilation system. Although it is still worth checking and cleaning these vent openings annually.

Additionally, and most importantly I think, you circumvent the scurrying sounds that no one wants to hear on scary movie night.

No Vent Stacks or Hoods Needed

When it comes to vent stacks and hoods, there is a higher chance of leaking. Even with the flashing that is installed with this type of equipment, there is still a pretty large opening in your roof that should not really be there.

Ridge vents fit more seamlessly into the shape of your roof and so do not share the same problem as vent stacks and hoods.

Ridge vents are also less exposed to the elements due to the more integrated installation and so suffer less weathering. This means you are not going to have to replace or repair them as often and less damage to the vents means less risk of damage to your house.

As mentioned, another bonus is that ridge vents have a lot less impact on your roof aesthetic than these alternatives.

House air and heat flow through a ridge vent

Cons of Ridge Vents

Risk of Water Leaking Inside From Heavy Rains

According to the IRC Section 806, the ventilation openings must be installed in such a way so as to protect them from rain.

Weather protection for ventilation systems in roofs is defined in IRC Section 903.1, which says that your roof system must be installed according to the IRC (or to the adaptations in your local code) and the instructions of manufacturers in a way that protects your structure.

Your roof has a roof assembly. This is a system that is specifically designed to protect your house from weather conditions all year around.

This means that if you have installed the ridge vents according to the manufacturer’s instructions and so as to meet building and residential code requirements in your area, then there should not be issues with leaking because of ridge vents.

However, if you stay somewhere that commonly experiences bad weather conditions and storms you may need to keep an eye on your attic and rafter spaces for water damage as strong winds may be able to blow water inside.

Not Appropriate for Flat Roofs

Ridge vents are made to be installed at the apex of sloped roofs. The placement of the vent opening and the mechanics of how they are designed to move air means that ridge vents are not appropriate if you have a flat roof.

This is because ridge vents require a level of elevation and an angle that cannot be achieved on flat or flatter roofs.

If your roof is flat, you will need to consider other ventilation systems that are suitable for your structural needs as ventilation is still important. It will still be required by code and can still cause structural damage the way it does with sloped roofs.

Box vents and soffit vents may be viable alternatives, but it depends on your local coding and the structural design of your house.

If you are unsure of anything when it comes to ventilation, it is always best to contact a professional.

Works Best in Conjunction With Lower Vents

Ridge vents work with natural airflow and lack an exhaust or fan component to mechanically create air movement. While this is a great ventilation method, there is a problem in terms of structural design.

Older houses aren’t necessarily designed with the same energy-efficient structure that you tend to find in newer buildings. This means that you might need lower vents in order to achieve optimal ventilation.

Lower vents, such as soffit vents, are put in at lower points on the house. Soffit vents are installed under the overhang of your roof which allows air to enter the house and helps to create a more effective ventilation system.

While I say that ridge vents can be used in conjunction with lower vents to improve ventilation, this does not mean that they are ineffective on their own if the house is suitably designed.

4" Soffit Exhaust Vent

I want to note here that the building codes also specify that if you have vents in the upper section of your attic, you also need some in the lower portions. You can read more in my article on ridge vents and their fulfillment of code ventilation requirements.

Improper Instalment Can Make Them Ineffective

The effectiveness of ridge vents depends entirely on whether or not they are installed properly.

  • If ridge vents are installed on a roof shape that is not appropriate, then they will not provide effective ventilation.
  • Improper installation will also compromise the weather resistance of your roof system, which means you will have problems with rain and snow and this will impact the temperature balancing capabilities of the ventilation system.
  • Any blockages in the vents will prevent airflow and will decrease the ventilation quality in your house.

Due to the importance of ventilation for roofs and the coding requirements for this, it is advisable to seek professional help and installment to ensure that ridge vents are the best option for the house and are installed properly.

Rely Entirely on Passive Airflow

Ridge vents rely entirely on passive airflow to provide ventilation for your roof and house. Unlike turbine or mushroom vents that also have a degree of mechanical venting because air currents drive the fan, which can help pull air up through the vents more effectively.

Vents that rely on passive airflow use the chimney effect, using air buoyancy. Without the use of a fan, exhaust, or motor that active airflow vents use to circulate and move air and moisture the passive air vents are a lot slower.

Active airflow is more continuous in comparison to passive, although ridge vents are considered to give continuous airflow in ventilation.

But when it comes to passive airflow, factors such as the temperature of your attic and the air outside, the moisture levels in the air, the height and angle of your roof, and wind velocity can impact how effective your ventilation is that day.

When it comes to deciding which option is better for your home you might need to consult a professional.

Sources

https://greengarageblog.org/12-roof-ridge-vent-pros-and-cons

https://roofingcampbell.com/how-much-ventilation-does-a-flat-roof-need/

https://www.canadagogreen.com/passive-ventilation-vs-active-ventilation/

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