Inspecting Your Attic

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The Attic Portion of The Home Inspection

The attic portion of the home inspection covers many different components from the home that may be present in the attic. This is not meant as a “checklist” of items to look for, but as an overview to stress the importance of inspecting as much of the attic as safely possible.

This attic access is large enough to replace the equipment installed in the attic.

This attic access is large enough to replace the equipment installed in the attic.

This attic access is too small for safe physical access.

This attic access is too small for safe physical access.

Know The Proper Attic Access Size Requirements

The proper minimum size of an attic access according to modern building practices is 22 inches by 30 inches. Another determining factor in the size of the access panel is that it must be large enough to allow for removal of the largest piece of equipment in the attic.

Before Entering The Attic You Should Be Prepared With The Proper PPE

Before entering the attic you should be prepared with the proper PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). A good quality respirator and goggles are a must have. Many types of insulation contain particulates that become airborne when the insulation is disturbed. Insulation particulates may cause respiratory problems in sensitive individuals. Various diseases can also be transmitted by airborne particulates containing virus or bacteria from animal urine or feces. The dust masks like you may purchase at the Big Box store are inadequate.

Visible moisture staining on the sheathing

Visible moisture staining on the sheathing

Look For Moisture Stains In The Attic

The attic is a great place to find roof leaks. If you do notice staining from moisture penetration, it’s a good idea to check it with a moisture meter to determine if this is an active leak, or an old leak. Decay fungi become active at about 20% moisture content.  If it’s been some time since it rained then it may require further investigation on the roof exterior.

Well lit attic and nice working platform.

Well lit attic and nice working platform.

Electrical splices should be in an approved junction box.

Electrical splices should be in an approved junction box.

Attic Electrical Components

You will also discover components of the electrical system in the attic. The home inspector will be looking for improper and unsafe terminations of the wiring system. If there is any HVAC equipment in the attic, then it is also necessary for there to be a light and working platform for performing maintenance on the equipment.

This is the "H" clip.

This is the "H" clip.

Look For Structural Issues In The Attic

Look around at the underside of the roof sheathing for damage and improper installation. In some jurisdiction it is required that “H” clips be installed at the sheathing panel edges between the rafters for additional support. This is sometimes dictated by the Architect or Engineer.

An unlicensed contractor, during a non-permitted remodel, removed some much needed bracing and replaced it with his version of a beam. 

An unlicensed contractor, during a non-permitted remodel, removed some much needed bracing and replaced it with his version of a beam. 

Also look around for any modifications to the structure. Structural modifications need to be designed and approved by a structural Engineer. And then permitted and inspected by the local building authority.

A gable vent is one of the many methods used to ventilate an attic.

A gable vent is one of the many methods used to ventilate an attic.

The Importance of Attic Ventilation

Ventilation of the attic space is important for the life of the roof covering and to prevent a build-up of moisture. A poorly ventilated attic will severely reduce the lifespan of some roof coverings.

A Comprehensive Attic Inspection

This article was intended to give you just a taste of what could be in your attic. It was not intended to cover everything

If you’re not comfortable exploring your attic, then consider hiring a professional home inspector to check it out for you.