Weekly Home Information Guide
ATTIC SPACE INFORMATION GUIDE
We have found that the attic space usually has the greatest number of problem areas. We will touch on the access, framing, insulation, vapour barriers, ventilation, and leaks.
Proper and adequate entry into the attic area is essential at all times. This allows the homeowner to quickly access if any problems should they arise. Ladders either pull down or built in with a hinged door is preferred or a plywood hatch cover in place with vapour barrier and insulation attached on the cold side. A foam strip on the warm side will ensure a good fit. A caged light also helps. Very few homes have no access, construction style i.e. "A-Frame", flat roofs, tar and gravel, older trailers, low sloped shed roofs, cathedral ceilings or other interior upgrades closing off the attic access.
The structural supports, i.e. rafters, ceiling joists, ridge boards, knee walls (braces) skylight shafts, purlins and collar ties, should all be in good repair. The rafters are either stick built or preformed trusses. A good visual examination will tell weather they need repair or not. Moisture problems are the greatest concern here. Monitor frequently.
This is the largest area of importance and concern. How it is applied, which type, how much is used, and its overall condition should be noted. Some homes have no attic insulation, some applied 30 or 40 years ago, insulation with no vapour barrier, insulation with a vapour barrier, missing insulation, but never too much insulation. The types encountered include wood shavings, old cement sacks, vermiculite, aluminum baffle, rock wool, paper backed mineral wool, loose fill, batts. There are others. The most popular is the batt type. A good depth is 8 to 10 inches but be cautioned that some types of lighting require a dead air space. Some older homes may not have a vapour barrier on the warm side and retro fitting can be cost prohibitive. Have all wet insulation removed before any new insulation is added. The use of insulation baffles between the rafters where needed is advised. The attic air should be about 5 degrees warmer than the outside autumn/winter/spring/ temperature. They are very much warmer during the summer season. Controlling the basement/crawl area moistures help prevent many other problems especially in the attic.
There is much to be said about vapour barriers in both new and retrofit construction. It has much to do with personal opinion and preference. It is recognized that the vapour barrier does help control moisture and reduces unwanted repair bills.
All new construction requires its use. The older the home the more likely it will not have any. One of the easiest remedies is to use vapour barrier paint. A more costly remedy is to tear down the ceiling to add a vapour barrier. All through the ceiling penetrations should be well caulked and sealed on the cold/unheated side.
This is of great importance. There are many sources of moisture that are formed in the house and they all want to attack the structure at the same time. How we deal with the moisture problems depends directly how long the house remains standing. Plants, humans, animals, washing dishes, showering, etc. create moistures wanting to go somewhere. We can open a window, door or turn on a fan just to rid the house of moisture. This is one aspect. Others are the use of soffit venting, passive roof vents, dehumidistats, gable end vents, turbine vents and continuous ridge venting. We highly recommend that all fans be vented through the roof and into the atmosphere but never into the attic areas. There should be no musty or stale odor in the attic area with good ventilation. All ceiling vents should be insulated where they go through the attic. Maintain a minimum two-inch air space above the insulation and the underside of the sub-roof to ensure adequate airflow from the eave to the ridge.
We often see the result of poor caulking methods. All too often this situation can be avoided. We highly recommend that exterior or marine grade silicone or acoustical sealant/caulking either clear or light coloured be applied to any problem area.
All roof penetrations should be monitored on a regular basis for any change. Chimney bases, plumbing stacks, soil stacks, sky lights, roof vents, aerials, and communication cables all need to be monitored outside and in the attic. Monitor all attic areas after heavy rains, high winds, wet snow loads and after any roof repairs or additions.
We recommend that a construction/retrofit tradesperson do all tasks as they offer quality materials, proper installation requirements and a written guarantee.
Know that, for peace of mind, the care and attention you give your home will serve you well year after year and in comfort.