We all know ventilation is essential for any home, but sheds are not typically used as living spaces, so it is easy to assume that the same standards would not apply to these structures. However, ventilation is not just about good quality air for breathing, it also plays a role in maintaining structural integrity.
If you will be converting your shed into a living space (a workshop, a relaxation room, an office, etc.), then you will need to ventilate it according to the rules for living areas as set out in the International Residential Code (IRC) or whatever codes apply to you. If your shed is used as a shed, there are still benefits of ventilation, and multiple ways to achieve it, including through the installation of ridge vents.
Shed ventilation isn’t regulated, so ridge vents aren’t mandatory. But ventilation is necessary to prevent extreme temperatures, moisture build-up, mold, and toxic fume build-up. Ridge vents are a good option for sheds as they work with the natural flow of air and are too small to let rodents into the shed.
Shed Ventilation Not Mandatory
When your shed is used as a shed, ventilating it is a personal choice, i.e., it is not regulated by the IRC. Most states follow IRC regulations, but some states have made alterations or additions to account for differences in location and associated factors such as climate.
In some regions, the climate might require you to add ventilation to your shed. So, it is always better to check the local regulations while planning a shed construction.
Unless Used as Living Space
One of the great qualities about the shed is that you can turn it into whatever you like. Apart from storage, you can use it as a workshop, a studio, or a place to pursue your hobby. It can be constructed like any other simple shed or can be constructed elaborately and finished with electrical outlets.
If you are going to be using it as a living space, it will need to be constructed up to code and that includes installation of a sufficient ventilation system. You can find these rules in Chapter 3, Section R303, Chapter 15, and Chapter 16.
Ventilating a Shed is Advisable
Ventilation is not a must for sheds, but it is always better to have proper ventilation because it is good for the structure. Even if you are not spending hours in your shed, there are still ways that poor ventilation can be bad for you. Below are reasons why you must consider ventilating your shed.
Prevent Extreme Temperatures
Sheds typically do not have insulation. This means that as the sun beats down on the roof and walls of the structure, the air inside the shed can reach very high temperatures. With no ventilation strategy, there is little chance of dispelling this hot air.
Not only can the high temperature be bad for the items you store in the shed, but it can also make spending any time in there most unpleasant.
On the other side of the thermometer, lack of insulation means that heat is readily lost when the external temperatures are lower. As temperatures drop, water condenses out of the air, which can result in moisture damage to stored items and storage units (shelves, plant stands, boxes, etc.). Additionally, extreme cold is just as difficult to work in as extreme heat.
Wood and metal both expand and contract with temperature changes. The wood and metal structural components of the shed as well as any items stored therein will be subjected to repeated expansion and contraction. This will weaken the material.
Ventilation will help to move hot or cold air in and out of the shed, making the temperatures and temperature ranges less severe.
Note: Adding insulation does not necessarily mean that ventilating your shed becomes irrelevant.
Prevent Moisture-Related Structural Damage
I have already mentioned the condensation of water out of cold air, but the truth is that no matter what the temperature, moisture can be an issue in a structure like a shed. If your rainy season is also your summer, then you can have issues with standing water or even steam in your shed if there is no airflow.
Metal rusts, wood swells and rots, and concrete is eroded in the presence of water. This will severely impair the structural integrity of your shed over time.
Airflow that makes sure moisture-laden air does not get “stuck” in the shed is not the perfect solution to this, the materials should also be coated in protective substances, but it does make a significant improvement.
Prevent Mold and Mildew
Proper ventilation keeps mold and mildew at bay by mitigating the chance of the shed developing the moisture and temperature conditions ideal for the growth of these harmful organisms.
Mold and mildew damage walls and floors, cause rust on metal, and deteriorate the indoor air quality. If exposed to mold spores for a long time, you can develop health issues like headache, eye irritation, and breathing problems.
Prevent Build-Up of Toxic Chemicals
Have you ever experienced a gust of stale pungent air hitting your nostrils every time you open the door of the shed? If you have, then you know how unpleasant it is. This happens due to the fume build-up from gasoline, paint, pool chemicals, etc., that you store in the shed.
Fume build-up is a health hazard that can cause eye and skin irritation along with respiratory problems. Also, it is dangerous because some chemical fumes can be explosive. Think about this in conjunction with the extreme heat that can build up in a shed and you will start to see just why this can be terribly dangerous.
If air has a chance to flow in and out of the shed through the ventilation system, e.g., through the ridge vents, then this risk is greatly reduced.
Ridge Vents Are a Good Option
Ventilation does not have to be achieved through ridge vents, but they are a good option if your shed has a peaked or sloped roof.
What makes them ideal is their location. At the top of the structure, they are perfectly positioned to allow the escape of hot air, which rises naturally.
The outward flow of this warm air creates a chimney or stack effect and cool air from outside will be pulled into the shed through cracks and gaps near the floor. The upward flow of air within the shed disperses this cold air throughout.
Any moisture contained in the warm air (and remember that if any air is going to be holding moisture, it will be the warmer air), will also be removed from the shed through the ridge vents.
Another great thing about ridge vent is that it blends seamlessly with your shed’s roofing system and can run the full length of the roof for maximum ventilation capacity.
Furthermore, with ridge vents, you won’t have to worry about rodents or squirrels getting in as the vent apertures are too small.
Some Downsides to Ridge Vents
If you are considering ridge vents for your shed, then you must know that ridge vents come with limitations.
- Ridge vents are potentially a more expensive option.
- They need to be located at the peak of a sloped roof. So, if your shed has a flat roof, ridge vents are not a viable option.
- During heavy rainfall, the direction of the wind may cause rainwater to leak through the ridge vent, however, this will only be in response to extreme weather conditions. If it happens frequently, it is more likely to be an issue with the installation.
- Ridge vents work best when combined with other ventilation systems like a soffit vents, which provide better air intake routes than random cracks and gaps in the structure.
- Ventilation via ridge vents is slow as ridge vents depend on passive airflow. Factors like temperature, air, angle, and height of the roof affect the ventilation process. The opposite side of this, however, is that it does not require electricity to run, and many sheds are not wired.
I have a detailed article on the pros and cons of ridge vents. This article speaks about ridge vents in terms of a house as opposed to a shed, but I think that you will still find the information relevant and helpful.
Alternative Ventilation Options
If ridge vents are not the right fit for you, you don’t have to give up on ventilating your shed; after all, you are now aware of the immense benefits thereof. There are other options for shed ventilation.
I will mention a few alternative options in this section and also highlight the pros and cons of every option. Hopefully, you will find the option that is suitable for you.
You can install a window or two in your shed and keep these open for natural ventilation.
Pros: The window will make your shed look more attractive and will allow sunlight and air to enter the shed, and only minimally increases the maintenance of your shed
Cons: A single window has limited effectiveness. At the very least, you should install one window on two of the walls (preferably opposite walls), and put one window higher up and the other lower down on the selected walls. Furthermore, the windows must be open to be effective, which means that animals and intruders can easily enter the shed.
A wall vent is a very common option and is used in many sheds. It is usually made of metal or plastic and comes in different sizes to suit individual needs. If you want, you can also paint it in a color of your choice.
Pros: It is easy-to-install and extremely pocket-friendly so you can install multiple wall vents for better ventilation. They are excellent to use in conjunction with something like ridge vents.
Cons: Air is unlikely to leave through the wall vents unless you position them similarly to the windows as described previously. Bugs can also gain access to the shed through the vent.
A venting skylight is like a roof window. You will always get extra light along with good air circulation.
Pros: Its high location brings with it the benefits of ridge vents, i.e., working with the natural flow of air.
Cons: Snow can block it easily and it might get cracked over time.
Powered Gable Vents
A powered gable vent comes with a thermostat enabling you to control the airflow. It is easily available in different sizes.
Pros: Extremely effective when it comes to removing heat from the shed and improving the airflow inside the shed.
Cons: Runs on electricity and can be noisy. You will have to cut a hole in the wall for installation.