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What issues to expect to find in the attic

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

Attic inspections

When potential #homebuyers are looking at a new home, I'm sure most - if not all - are not looking into the condition of the attic. That is the home inspectors job! Here are a few issues you can expect to find when your #homeinspector is thoroughly inspecting the attic. These tips can be helpful for home buyers or even sellers who would like to know what to look for before listing the home, to catch those issues ahead of time and make the home selling/buying process go even smoother.

The following items are included in a typical attic inspection:

  • The attic access, such as the scuttle hole or pull down ladder

  • Structural members - rafters, roof trusses, purlins, ceiling joists, collar ties & rafter ties, and roof sheathing

  • Any evidence of water penetrations, condensation on roof sheathing, or roof leaks

  • Proper insulation and vapor retarder

  • Vents and attic ventilation

  • Chimney chase, if any

  • Wiring/electrical safety

  • Any appliance or other exhaust venting

proper attic access entries

The Attic Access

It is very common for people to use their attic area as storage space. This is even more of a reason to inspect that your pull down ladder is built properly and free of any damage. The last thing you want is to be hauling something up into the attic, and come crashing down and become badly injured.

You want to look for any loose bolts or fasteners, cracked/damaged steps, and sections that are loose or wobbly, make sure the sections and bottom sit flush to the floor to not put any extra stress on the ladder, if the pull-down system is not properly fastened to the framing with proper fasteners - typically 16d nails or lag screws- the system could come crashing down. Also if your attic access is located in the home where conditioned, there should also be a section of insulation placed on the access door. If no insulation is there, this creates a section of energy loss of the conditioned space into the attic and cost you more money on your energy bills.

Structural members

All your rafters, web system, and trusses should be free of any shears, cracks, deterioration, no excessive bending showing signs of stress from the weight of the home, and be properly fastened for example the use of metal gusset plates. In the picture below you see that the gusset plates have come loose or fallen off all together. This may look minor but can have major consequences and damage the structure of the home.

Gusset plates not only serve as a method of joining the members together, but also strengthen the joints supporting the structure.

Look down each side of the attic to make sure not collar ties or rafter ties are bent or cracked, any cracked, bowing, or twisting rafters, sagging in the roof, any delaminated plywood, and any possible missing roofing members.

Potential roof leak

Any evidence of water penetrations or leaks

It is very common to find leaks around the areas of any roof penetrations such as plumbing vent stacks, around chimneys, and exhaust venting. This is usually caused by improper installations, fasteners not being properly caulked or sealed, and deteriorated or old flashings. Look at the roofing members and roof sheathing for any deteriorated or wet spots and wood rot.

Proper Insulation

The most common type of attic insulation I come across is fiberglass insulation, either loose fill or fiberglass batts. Here in #tuscaloosa for the proper insulation r-value in the attic it requires about 10-13 inches of loose fill fiberglass. That gives you an r-value of around R28-R30. Depending on what area or region your in, different areas need different amounts of insulation and r-values. You can find how much insulation you need here at: where you can find a zoning map. You also want to look for any areas that are missing insulation all together. It is very common after you have work done in the attic on other systems, the workers dig and shuffle around the insulation and forget to put it back. This can also raise your energy bill from energy loss into the attic.

Gas Appliance Venting

You want to make sure all gas appliances are fully terminated and venting to the outside. If any gas flue pipes are venting into the attic, rusted, or damaged, then they are releasing poisonous gas call carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless fume that is from burned gas. Common symptoms from carbon monoxide exposure can be headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, loss of consciousness, or even death. Some tips to avoid such emergencies you can install CO detectors, proper ventilation, and regularly check all flue pipes and chimneys for any damage or cracks.

Other Common Issues

Some other common issues I find during a home inspection in the attic are bathroom exhaust fans venting into the attic. They should always terminate to the outside, as this can release excessive moisture into the attic and cause issues. Damaged wiring, open junction boxes, and open wire splices can be common to find as well. This is not only a safety hazard but also poses a potential fire hazard as well. As electricity runs through the wiring, they splices and connections can overheat and become loose and start arcing, and if not properly covered in an electrical rated box; arcs could fly and start a house fire. Also you want to look for any damaged wire sheathing, if someone is poking through the attic, it can pose a potential shocking hazard.

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