Of all the areas of the home that are often overlooked when it comes to checking for damage or other problems, the attic perhaps ranks highest. If your attic is not regularly used, you have no need to be up there, so you’re unlikely to visit when passing! The truth is, the attic should be inspected on a regular basis, as there are many problems that can arise.
The attic is a necessary space between the roof and the upper ceilings of the house. It will have wooden frames that support the roof, and it may also contain elements of heating and water or other systems essential to your home. Let’s talk about why attic inspections are so important for the homeowner, what to look for, and what can go wrong.
What Are The Basics?
Let’s consider what a professional attic inspector would look for, perhaps one you may hire to have a thorough look at a property you are buying before you commit. This should give you an idea of where you should begin with your home inspection. Although it’s handy to check yourself, should you spot any suspected damage or problems we recommend you contact a licensed professional home inspection company for a thorough investigation.
Ventilation – your attic space needs proper ventilation, especially when living in the humid climate of Birmingham, Alabama. You should check that there are enough vents for air to move freely around the attic, and this becomes very important during the colder months. Condensation is a sign that your attic is not properly ventilated.
Condensation is caused by moisture in warm air coming into contact with cold surfaces – the roof in this case – and a build-up of condensation will cause mold. Mold and condensation may rot the wooden structure, causing expensive and sometimes dangerous damage to the property. What’s worse is that it’s often not possible to spot mold hidden in rafters and crawl spaces, so you might want to consider having a mold inspection to test the air.
Condensation and mold are the number one reasons many people have an attic inspection performed as the weather gets colder. Look for limited ventilation and especially for signs of condensation. It is also recommended that you engage the services of a company that can clean your vents and ducts on a regular basis, to remove any debris that may be in there.
Pests and Vermin – the warm and cosy environment your attic space provides will be of great interest to the local wildlife, especially birds and rodents. Not only do they build nests that block your vents and stifle your ventilation, but they also chew through electrical wires, which can be very dangerous indeed. Electrical systems that are damaged can lead to a fire risk, and fire will spread very quickly indeed through an attic space.
Real-Life Pest Finding:
We ran across a home on the McCalla area with cedar siding that was original to the 1970s construction. Nuthatches are a native bird here in Alabama that decided to tear through the ageing siding and take up residence in the attic. By the time we found them, it looked like they had been there for at least a year or two. A lot of the damage to insulation and structure could have been spotted earlier, had the property been subject to yearly attic inspections. For that matter, a Home Inspector would have pointed out the need to replace the siding sooner.
An attic check will involve looking for signs of pests and for damage to insulation, electrical wires and ducting. If there are pests around, you need to get hold of experts in pest control to get rid of them, and to make the attic rodent-proof as best as possible. If the entry points are left unattended to, your little vermin friends will be back before you know it.
General Damage – a roof inspection should include a thorough look at the structures involved – from the wooden frames to the boards on the floor, the vents and ducts themselves and the chimneys – for any signs of general damage. Whether caused by rodents or by the weather, a leaking roof vent, for example, will cause water to enter the attic, and this will eventually lead to rot.
Loose tiles on the outside of the roof can often be spotted from indoors, but an external inspection should also be undertaken. Loose tiles let in water, and need attention as quickly as possible. Take a walk around your house and look up at the gutters and the roof. Damaged gutters – or those that are blocked – may be recognised by leaks. This may cause water to pool on the roof, and in turn, it may enter the attic space and cause damage as explained above.
It is surprising how quickly rot can eat away at wood, which is another reason a regular inspection should be undertaken. Mold may also grow in warm and damp conditions, and this will also rot the wood, while any areas where water leakage is noticed need to be attended to immediately. Left only for a short time, this sort of damage can be very expensive to repair.
Insulation – your loft needs to be suitably insulated for both warm and cold conditions. Poor insulation not only means poor ventilation, but also means you are losing energy in the form of heat through the roof, and that means it’s costing you money. An experienced attic inspector will easily be able to tell you if you have adequate insulation, or if that you have in place needs attention, so it’s worth having it checked at least once a year.
If there is condensation in your attic, it may be that you need a membrane fitted between the ceiling and the attic. This is designed to limit the heat that escapes from the home below, so reducing the possibility of moisture and condensation. A qualified inspector will be able to advise you as to the best solution for your attic condensation problems, so it’s certainly worth having a preliminary inspection performed.
Getting Your Attic Inspected
If this article has made you wonder whether you should be making an appointment for an attic inspection, then you really should. We recommend you take a look up there yourself and see if any immediate problems are noticeable, as that will make things easier for your inspector. DIY is cost-saving in principle, but as you are doing it to cut corners, you may find you miss something the trained eye will spot, and end up with added costs further down the line.
Get a full report to set your mind at peace. It’s not expensive and it will tell you whether you need work on your attic space, exactly what needs doing, and how much you need to budget.