You may not give much thought to your attic beyond the occasional handy storage space. But the attic plays a crucial role in many elements of your home, including comfort, energy efficiency and roof protection.
Your attic can easily attract moisture, which means it’s important to keep an eye on it. Moisture tends to rise, and it can follow your ceilings and walls up into the attic. Without good ventilation, it will stay in the attic and create mold, mildew or other kinds of damage. And since your attic may go weeks or months at a time without anyone in it, that damage can build up quite a bit.
An incorrectly insulated or poorly ventilated attic can cause heat-based roofing damage in the summer and make ice melt and refreeze in the winter, creating dangerous and damaging ice dams. Gaps in the edges can make the attic an attractive home for rodents. In some cases, poor attic ventilation will void the warranty on your roof.
An attic inspector can take a look at all these elements and suggest improvements. This task will typically cost between $200 and $500. A licensed home inspector is the best person to hire for this work. You’ll get the best value for your money by hiring them to complete a whole-house inspection, which will pinpoint problems across all areas.
Poor insulation is a major culprit for temperature problems. Poor airflow can be solved with one of two methods: adding a ridge vent or installing room turbines to pump air out. Both have pros and cons. Ridge vents tend to be more expensive and less obvious, while turbines are less likely to create gaps where pests can get in.
DIY attic inspection
You can also take a close look at your attic on your own. Even without an inspector’s expertise, you might be able to identify significant problems. Here’s how to do it.
Start with a camera and a flashlight. Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself. Gloves, a face mask and eye protection are also good ideas.
Take great care to step only on rafters. You can easily fall through the ceiling if you put pressure on the plaster or drywall below.
Closely examine the plywood beneath your roof. Mold, condensation or watermarks are a sign something’s wrong with the airflow. Keep an eye out for signs of critter infestations, such as shredded nests or damaged wires.
Make sure your bathroom exhaust fan vents to the outside and not just into the attic. Ensure no vents are blocked in any way. Even minor loss of airflow will cause trouble.
Verify that you have sufficient insulation. In most houses, attic insulation should be 10 to 14 inches thick.
If you find signs of leaks, mold, rodent infestation or insufficient insulation, call a pro to handle the problem.
By Paul F. P. Pogue, Ask Angi (TNS). Visit at angi.com.