A Guide to Routine Attic Maintenance

An attic in the background with tools in the foreground.
  • 2 hours
  • Beginner
What You'll Need
Flashlight
Pry bar
Measuring tape
Particle mask
Work gloves
Safety glasses or goggles
What You'll Need
Flashlight
Pry bar
Measuring tape
Particle mask
Work gloves
Safety glasses or goggles

For most homes, an attic is a place for storage. But what if that space can also, if left to its own accord, be a determent to the rest of the home? Experts claim that routine inspections and maintenance at least once per season are needed to ensure the spaces’ longevity and safety, as it is the closest space to the roof and a barrier to the rest of the house and can quickly pose danger if certain things go unnoticed. This article offers tips and suggestions to create a routine of simple yet necessary checks of a home’s attic space.

Creaks and Cracks

An attic with some light streaming through the eaves.

A homeowner should first enter an attic in the daylight. During the day, look for streams of light through cracks and crevices, taking time to fill such holes as necessary. Caused by elements (high winds for instance), or even the age and building materials of the home itself, any lesions or cracks can lead to bigger issues down the road as moisture and non-controlled temperature can run rampant in the unregulated space. Further, this check-up is imperative as such occurrences can too be symptoms of issues elsewhere in the home such as foundation and structural issues, stress and deterioration of load-bearing walls, even decay of wood and fabrication materials in the attic itself.

Water

Using a flashlight, one should carefully inspect the ceiling and the rafters for any sign of moisture and leakage. Looking for residue, investigate the boards, rafters, nails, adhesive materials, and corners and edges of elements (vents, pipes, chimneys, etc.). The residue would be an excess of moisture and water in the space, which can cause the growth of mold and initiate rot.

Fans and Vents

An attic with a fan.

Are there whole-house fans stationed in your attic space? Inspect the belt and blades of each fan, looking for dry rot which can be present thanks to the extreme temperature changes and often high levels of moisture mentioned above. Ensuring fans are in good working order can save time, money, and hassle when cooling an excessively warm house.

The seriousness of inspecting attic vents mainly lies in when the house itself was built. Some older homes vent air from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry areas directly into the attic. However, when not directly pumped outside it can add to additional condensation and mold or fungus growth. If moving the final destination of said airflow isn’t an option, one should simply take greater vigilance in inspecting such areas and cleaning them when needed.

Creepy Crawlies

The last element to any attic maintenance inspection routine is to look for signs of bugs and critters that have taken a liking to the unoccupied dry space. I have seen birds, mice, even bats living rent-free in such spaces, and they tend to have the innate ability to expand to less considerate areas of a home if not taken care of. One should look for droppings as the main sign of their inhabitancy.

Insulation

Insulation in an attic.

Insulation in unfinished attics should be level with the floorboards and joists. Any less than this amount is known to drastically change the effectiveness of a home’s heating and cooling system. It may be a little difficult to verify if you are fortunate enough to have a finished attic, so if you're in doubt, choose an inconspicuous spot such as inside a closet where an opening can be created into the floor, to check levels with the use of a flashlight or tape measure, gently prodding what is inside to ensure the insulation's effectiveness, considering that set amounts vary depending on climate.

Finished attic walls in older houses could also be a source of energy loss as the insulation tend to slide down as it compacts through the years, but that can be more apparent in winter by feeling the wall to see how cold it gets during colder days and save you from inadvertently trying to fix what doesn't need to be fixed.