Often times, just after descending down my ladder from the attic, my clients will ask me, “what do you look for up there?” Here is my list of the most common issues I find in attics all over the Greater Seattle area:
Poor Ventilation. This is crucial. It has become more and more apparent to me the importance of having proper air flow through the attic space. Proper air flow will give any unwelcome moisture that may enter the attic the chance to find its way out. Poor circulation keeps the temperature of the attic space hot during the hot season, which can cause wear and tear on the roof cover. Ventilation will help keep the house cooler because the attic is cooler. If the ventilation is inadequate, it can lead to mold and other issue in the attic.
Bathroom Fans blowing into the attic. The reason we have bathroom fans at all is to remove moisture in the air created by showers and baths. Moisture can lead to mold, cause a bad odor in some cases, and cause damage in others, including in the attic. Moisture should vent through a duct from the fan up and OUT of the attic through a vent cap. Far too often I see the bathroom fan vent into a box vent designed to ventilate the attic or eave vents. Sometimes there is no effort made at all to get the moisture out of the attic.
Poor Insulation. This is more an issue with homes built in the 90’s or earlier. With the energy efficiency movement upon us, the standards have been raised. Most jurisdictions require over a foot of insulation, but it is common to see no more that 2 to 3 inches, and sometimes no insulation at all. We added some insulation to our attic a few years ago and felt it paid for itself in the first winter.
Rodent activity. I never see living rodents, but I see signs of them all the time. The most common sign of rodent activity is they leave their little poops everywhere. The first question I often get after telling a client they have rats is how they get up there. The answer is: if they have bushes or trees close to the house or roof, they find a way in from those. Rodents will poop and pee in your attic as long as they are allowed to stay. If it occurs long enough, it becomes a sanitation problem and I’ll recommend you remove all the insulation and have new insulation installed.
Your attic is the key to the overall longevity of your home and should be evaluated often. I recommend poking your head up there every 3 to 6 months. Check for each of these items every time. This will make for a clean and healthy attic.