The purpose of the attic is a combination of ventilation and insulation. It is a place under the roof that houses different systems important to the safety and efficiency of your home. Electrical, heating, plumbing – a problem in one of these systems, or a lack of cooperation between these systems, can lead to a number of conditions. The attic is also the space where the structure and roof sheathing of your home is discovered, making it one of the most important areas of the home to investigate during the (always obligatory) home inspection. Hidden trouble in the attic can be fairly common, but the solutions are readily available. Here are the main problems home inspectors identify during an attic inspection.
Electrical wires running through the attic is a common occurrence. It is vital, however, that these wires are properly secured to the structure (e.g. wooden beams) of the attic, and safely tucked out of the way from crawl and/or walk spaces. Exposed or improperly secured wiring can pose a serious fire hazard, as well as a target for rodents to chew on.
Chimneys and vents often run through the attic on their way up through the roof. Blocked or improperly secured vents prevent the escape of hot air from the home’s heating system, leading to a build-up of moisture and possible damp. Metal chimneys can also become rusted from condensation.
The home’s plumbing systems also winds its way through the attic to outside discharge areas. Air leaks, such as around plumbing stacks and open eave spaces, can create water vapour and moisture build-up. These air leaks are known to occur around bathroom and kitchen vents that penetrate the ceiling, and must be sealed. For the trained eye of the home inspector a sure sign of air leakage is the discolouration of insulation.
A home inspector will check the insulation in the attic for damage and suggest repairs as necessary. Heat loss through the attic can have a significant impact on your utility bills. Insulation needs to be 10 to 12 inches in thickness to be most effective. Any outdated and dangerous insulation such as asbestos must be removed immediately and only by professionals; and all heat sources must be protected from the insulation or removed entirely.
The attic houses the roof and ceiling structure. The home inspector looks for structural beams and supports that are broken, splitting, sagging, or badly installed. Depending on the situation finding any such structural deficiencies may require anything from further investigation to immediate repair to forestall damage or even structural collapse.
The roof sheathing is the main support for the materials that cover the roof, such as the shingles. A home inspector will complete a detailed inspection of the sheathing for stains, leakage or mold. The roof is the part of the house that is most exposed to the elements. And the first part of the house to be affected is that place just below the roof – the attic. That is why a thorough home inspection when you’re buying or selling your home is not an option – it’s the only option.