Attics are hot in summer, cold in winter, dusty, dirty, and part of a complete home inspection. Inspectors typically work by a set of standards. They’re the Standards of Practice, and most home inspector associations have them.
No matter which Standards you work by, you can bet that attic inspections are always on the list. Here’s why:
Attics Aren’t Just Empty Space
Attic spaces are more than a place to store holiday decorations and out of season clothing. They’re an important part of the home’s overall built-in ventilation and climate control system.
Unfinished attics should stay about the same temperature as the great outdoors in all seasons, says inspector Mike Holmes for the Winnipeg Free Press. And they need to breathe. That’s why attic ventilation is so important. If it’s adequate, excess heat in summer and condensation year-round will have a place to escape. If not, the attic and the whole house might have a dampness problem.
Attics Inspections Begin Outside
According to Working RE magazine, attic inspections begin with the roof. Inspectors look for proper ventings such as turbines, soffit vents and ridge vents. And what’s adequate for one house might not be for another.
Other issues, such as peeling soffit paint and mold, are clues to what you might find inside. If condensation and heat are and excessive inside the attic, they can easily make their way through to the home’s exterior. Torn attic screens and nests also hint at possible infestations by birds, raccoons or other animals.
Inspections Require Access
As with any other part of a home inspection, attics must be accessible. If they aren’t, inspectors are not required to gain entry by heroic means. For example, a past renovation might seal up an attic access panel in the ceiling entirely. Or the homeowner might have a bureau placed in front of an attic door.
Some inspectors believe that access must be gained, even if it means cutting through a paint seal or moving a bureau. That’s a decision left to the inspector, as the “visible and accessible” rule is consistent throughout nearly every set of Standards. Always factor in the possibility of damaging the home or the homeowner’s belongings in the process.
Attics Moisture Gives Clues About the Home’s Health
The attic space takes a keen eye, and it can yield vital information about the condition of the whole house. For example, darkened wood and water on the attic ceiling might indicate failed shingles and a roof leak. But the roof might be at risk a different way if the real problem is condensation that works its way up and can’t find a way out through proper vents.
Insulation is a common issue, especially in older houses. Many have precious little and could benefit greatly from more. But some well-meaning homeowners install the insulation vapor barrier on the wrong side or add new insulation over old with a second vapor barrier in place. Both issues are bad news for condensation and energy efficiency.
The attic is a vibrant and lively part of any house. That’s true, even if the only time it’s accessed is periodically by the homeowner and less often during an inspection.
The attic framework might be bowed, sagging or cracked. It might also hold important information about a previous house fire. Leaks in chimneys, improper gas appliance and plumbing vents, and a dreaded home for wayward bats might all await in any attic that you inspect.
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