Why Is Cedar Roof Ventilation Important?
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Without a proper ventilation system for your cedar roof, you're more likely to have problems. Your home could become uncomfortable and expensive to heat or cool, and your roof — and even other parts of the house — may end up severely damaged. In this article, we'll explain what a roof ventilation system is and why proper roof ventilation is so important for your cedar roof.
How Does Roof Ventilation Work?
Simply put, ventilation refers to the provision of fresh air to a room or system. Ventilation is important for many areas of a house, and your roof is no exception. The importance of roof ventilation was first documented in the early 1900s, when builders recognized that poor roof ventilation was the cause of condensation problems in homes and buildings.
There are two ways to create ventilation in an attic: natural and mechanical, which requires a power source. Air will naturally circulate when two phenomena are present: the stack effect and the wind effect:
The stack effect: This effect occurs when warm air rises and creates higher air pressure at higher points in your attic. Hot air that escapes is referred to as exhaust. The hot air will be unable able to escape, however, if there is no inlet that lets in cooler, lower-pressure air. The cool air that comes in is known as intake.
The wind effect: When wind outside blows against a roof, it increases the amount of intake and exhaust, which increases the flow of air in the attic, creating good ventilation.
Types of Roof Ventilation
There is no standardized ventilation system for attics — systems vary from home to home depending on code requirements, the climate of the region and the design of the ceiling. However, all systems do feature exhaust and intake vents in one form or another:
1. Exhaust Vents
Exhaust vents let exhaust escape. They come in several varieties:
Ridge vents: Ridge vents, which are the most popular type of exhaust vent, are installed where two roof planes, which are also known as ridges, intersect. Some ridge vents feature a baffled ridge. They're generally made out of high-impact, molded copolymer and installed under a top layer of shingles, which gives the roof a seamless appearance. Ridge vents are nearly invisible to an untrained eye.
Wind turbine roof vents: This type of roof vent features blades that spin when the wind blows, pulling air up in through the intake vents, through the attic and then back out of the house. If spaced evenly across your roof, these turbines can provide passive exhaust when there's no wind.
Roof louvers: These vents are made to fit into your roof's highest peaks and depend on the wind to work. They're a kind of louvered vent, which can serve as either an intake vent or an exhaust vent, depending on the direction of the wind.
Hip vents: These vents are installed at a roof's hip and have a lower profile, which creates the best possible air movement across your entire attic.
Powered roof vents: These vents make use of electricity or solar power to pull up air from the lower intake vents and out through your roof. With powered roof venting, your ventilation system will have more consistency and control. It's an option to consider if you live in a region with little wind.
2. Intake Vents
Intake vents work together with ridge vents to let the cool air come into the attic, which in turn forces warmer air out through your ridge vents. They're often even more difficult to spot than exhaust vents. Like ridge vents, intake vents are also typically made from a copolymer material. Found on the edge of a roof, intake vents come in several varieties:
Soffit vents: These vents run along the entire length of a soffit or are installed between joists.
Drip edge vents: Appropriate for roofs with smaller eaves, drip edge vents create airflow between the roof ridge and the fascia.
Fascia vents: These are mainly used to provide intake ventilation for roofs that don't have soffits.
The Importance of Cedar Roof Ventilation
Now that you know how roof ventilation works, we're going to explain why a roof needs ventilation. Some of the top benefits that roof ventilation provides are:
1. It Prevents Ice Dams in the Winter
If you live in a region with colder winters, you're probably familiar with the icicles that build up on gutters and the edges of roofs. This phenomenon, which is called ice damming, occurs when heat within the attic together with the heat of the sun melts the ice and snow on the roof. When the snow melts, the resulting water travels down to the roof's edge, where it then starts to freeze again. As more ice at the edge of the roof begins to accumulate, it can cause water to pool on the roof. This standing water can then leak through the roof, causing potentially serious damage to the entire roof system as well as the interior of your home.
With proper ventilation, warm air can escape from the attic before it can melt the ice and snow on your roof. A roof with proper ventilation can be easily spotted because the snow is still on the roof and there are no icicles hanging off the side.
2. It Keeps Your Attic Comfortable in the Summer
Ventilation is also beneficial for a roof during the summertime. When outside temperatures rise, the temperature on the surface of your roof can be almost double. If you have a hot roof and insufficient attic insulation, your attic will likely be insufferably hot. This is because attics with poor ventilation have no way to release the hot air that builds up inside.
3. It Prevents Shingle Damage
This heat buildup is uncomfortable for anyone who sets foot in the attic, and it can also damage the shingles. With proper ventilation, the hot air can escape, which helps to prevent your shingles from overheating.
4. It Reduces Temperature Extremes Indoors
Many homeowners notice a drastic temperature increase when they go upstairs. This is often a result of poor attic ventilation. Proper attic ventilation helps minimize these temperature extremes, and your home becomes a more comfortable place, no matter which floor you're on.
5. It Lowers Your Energy Costs
A roof with proper ventilation lets heat escape, which means it won't transfer itself through your attic's floor and start warming other rooms in your house. This, in turn, lowers the work your air conditioner has to do to keep your home comfortable. If your air conditioner runs less, your energy bills go down.
6. It Prevents Your Wood and Walls From Getting Damaged
The heat that results from a poorly ventilated attic in the summer can also warp your attic's wood framing, which can cause your walls and door frames to become warped as well. As the heat transfers down to the walls below, it can also blister wallpaper and paint.
7. It Prevents the Build Up of Moisture
Whenever you take a shower, dry your clothes or boil water, steam is released. This steam sometimes makes its way up to your attic, where it condenses when the weather is colder. This condensation has the potential to do serious damage: it could drip back onto your insulation, which will decrease its effectiveness. It can also cause mold and mildew to form in the attic as well as in the insulation, where it could negatively affect your and your family's health.
Excess moisture and condensation may also form on soffits and eaves, which drive moisture back up into your roof and form ice dams, which, as we mentioned earlier, can cause serious leaks. Good ventilation systems will keep air moving throughout the year, which will remove the moisture from your attic before it has the chance to condense and do damage.
The Importance of Ventilating Your Cedar Roof Year-Round
As you probably aware of by now, it is absolutely critical that your cedar roof stays ventilated throughout the year. It is most obvious to homeowners in the summertime, when attics and homes often become uncomfortably hot as a result of poor ventilation, but ventilating in the winter is just as important, as it will help prevent the formation of ice dams.
To ensure that your cedar roof stays ventilated all the time, you should routinely check all exhaust and intake vents to make sure they're clear and haven't been accidentally blocked. This includes all places with louvers, ridge vents, soffit vents and roof vents. A cedar roof is meant to breathe, and if it cannot, its lifespan will likely be negatively affected. Additionally, if cedar roofs are properly ventilated, their natural insulation properties will function better, meaning that your air conditioning and heating costs will also be reduced. Poor ventilation and improper maintenance almost always mean an early cedar roof replacement.
How to Make Sure Your Cedar Roof Is Ventilated Properly
You can ensure your cedar roof stays well ventilated during its life in several ways:
Have a professional install your ventilation system. If your cedar roof does not have a proper ventilation system installed, do not attempt to do it yourself. While many DIYers assume this is a task they can handle themselves, we strongly discourage this.
Make sure to keep your cedar roof clean. Keep an eye on your cedar roof to make sure that debris doesn't accumulate, especially around the intake and exhaust vents. However, only remove the debris yourself if it is absolutely safe to do so, and under no circumstances should you walk on your cedar roof, as doing so could cause damage. This task requires special training and should be left to a professional.
Have your cedar roof routinely inspected and repaired. Have cedar roof professionals inspect your roof regularly. Cedar Roof Coatings has the experience and tools necessary to handle all your cedar roof needs.
Keeping your cedar roof beautifully maintained can boost your home's value and its curb appeal. Conversely, if you don't stay on top of your maintenance, you may end up having to prematurely replace it entirely. As you can imagine, this is an extremely costly undertaking!
Come to Cedar Roof Coatings for All Your Cedar Roofing Needs
At Cedar Roof Coatings, we offer a wide range of services for your cedar roof, including:
Inspection: We provide a thorough inspection of your cedar roof to uncover any potential issues you should be aware of. During our inspection, we search for various issues, including signs of hail or wind damage, infestation, animal damage as well as the quality of the original materials and installation. We also look for issues like clogged gutters and overhanging trees. Above all else, we determine where your roof is in its useable lifespan, so you'll know whether you should get your roof repaired, restored or replaced. When it comes to cedar roof maintenance, it is critical to leave this demanding task to professionals.
Repairs: Are any of your roof tiles missing? Has your roof suffered any damage from animals, insects or algae growth? Have you noticed any water damage to your ceiling? Damage done to a cedar roof can severely affect its integrity. We provide a wide variety of repair services for your cedar roof — we replace ridge caps if needed, as well as damaged, rotted or severely curled shakes or shingles. We also repair and replace vents, valleys and flashings.
Preservation: At Cedar Roof Coatings, our highly qualified staff have been professionally trained to remove mold, moss, debris and fungus from cedar roofs, restoring them to their natural, beautiful color without destroying the wood's structure. We remove the layers of wood cells on the surface that have been damaged by UV rays, revealing your cedar roof's true beauty. Once we clean your roof, we can then treat it to protect against mold, mildew, UV damage and fungus. Our products also protect and rejuvenate the wood's repellency and lubricity lost to time and weather, which add years to your roof's lifespan.
If you're a homeowner in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or Westchester County, New York, and think you might need one of these services, you can get a no-risk assessment from us. Contact us today to set up an appointment for a checkup.