Building An Addition: A Homeowner's Guide

Your Roof Needs To Breathe – Fascias, Soffits, And Roof Vents Provide That Needed Ventilation

by Toni Richards

Together, soffits and fascias form a protective but breathable barrier around the edge of your roof. When combined with ridge line and other roof vents, they provide attic ventilation. The following contains information on fascias, soffits, and various roof vents, along with a description of how a completed ventilation system works. Your professional roofer will advise which combination works best on your roof.

The Fascias

Fascias are the vertical finishing pieces found along the lower edges of the roof. The fascias are connected at the end of the rafters or to the trusses, where the gutters are attached to the roof. The structures not only help support the weight of the gutters and the end tiles, but fascias also act as a protective barrier between the end of the roof and the elements.

Fascias also make the roof look more finished because they smooth out any uneven bits along the roof edges. Most new homes have fascias, but it wasn't a design feature in some older models. Fascias are typically made of wood, vinyl, or aluminum. They may or may not have vent holes along the sides. A slight gap is usually left at the top of the fascia sections where they meet the roofline to help with ventilation.   

The Soffits

Soffits are the exposed areas underneath the overhanging roof eaves. Most modern soffits are usually made of the same materials as fascias, all of which minimize your roof's exposure to heat and moisture. Soffits are located near the gutters and are sometimes exposed to runoff from blocked gutters as well as the usual rainy or snowy conditions. They also, along with fascias, help keep bats, birds, and other wildlife out of your attic.

In addition to giving a finished look to the underside of your roof, soffits act as a special type of vent that helps in attic ventilation. Soffits have small slots that efficiently pull air into the attic space. Attics without adequate ventilation can develop rot in the rafters and sheathing. Poor air circulation can also cause air conditioning units to work harder than they need to, increasing energy bills.

Roof Vent Options

Roof vents are also an important part of the equation. Here are the different kinds:

Ridge Vents

Ridge vents are located on the ridge line, or roof peak. They run from one edge of the roof to the other, with the ends pointing slightly downward to discourage water and snow from getting inside. The vents are laid side by side along the roof line, nailed down, and then roofing shingles are fitted over the vents to give the roof a more finished look.

Static Vents

Static vents are simply protected holes in the roof that allow air from the attic to escape. Some, like the eyebrow vents, are barely visible from ground level, while others have round or square covers that are horizontal to the roof surface.

Gable Vents

A gable is the peaked point created when two sides of a roof meet at the roof top. Gable vents are installed at the top of these triangles, along the gable walls. The higher up the gable vent, the more hot air will be forced outside. Sometimes the vents are combined with gable fans, mounted just behind the louvers covering the vents.

Wind Turbines

These are mushroom-shaped vents that are most often found on flat roofs. They are designed to catch the wind, which causes an internal fan to spin and force hot air out of the attic.

The Ventilation System Explained

Combining the fascias and soffits with ridge line vents completes the attic ventilation system. Cool air enters from the bottom of the soffit, with a little more coming in from the gap on top of the fascia. As the cool air enters the attic, it forces the warmer air up towards the top of the roof. The air enters the ridge vent, and any other installed vents, and is forced out. This ventilation system requires no electricity or other power source. The exchange of air may slow down during the cooler seasons, but as long as the vents are kept clear, your attic space will continue to "breathe."

For more information and options, talk with roof repair contractors in your area.