Have you looked in your attic lately? Any idea whatís up
there? It always surprises me when I meet homeowners who
never inspect their attics ó and that is something you
need to do regularly.
Recently I even met a couple who didnít know they had an
attic, even though from the street you could see a window
into the space. Their attic access had been closed off and
covered over by previous owners of the home. Thatís a huge
red flag to me. Why would you close off one of the most
important parts of your home?
An attic could be hiding any number of serious problems
such as inadequate insulation and ventilation, bad wiring
and vermin intrusion. All of those are visible to the
naked eye, and if left unchecked can lead to mould,
structural damage and fire hazards.
It might sound contradictory when you hear an attic must
be well insulated and properly ventilated, but itís not.
You need to have enough insulation between your living
area and the attic above it to prevent heat from escaping.
That saves money on your energy bills and helps prevent
ice dams. If heated air escapes into your attic in the
winter, it will melt the snow on your roof, and the snow
will refreeze down by the gutters, causing icicles and
dams. One of the biggest sources of heat in the attic is
recessed lighting. I donít like it in ceilings that back
into a cold zone, like the attic.
If you insist on having recessed lights in the attic,
install the correct type. Building code requires all
recessed lights in an insulated ceiling to be IC, or
insulation contact. Thatís a safety issue. Many handymen
and DIYers who donít know better and want to save money
will use the wrong kind.
But IC isnít necessarily air-tight. There will still be
hot air escaping from the fixture. Use LED or CFL lights,
which give off less heat and minimize the risk of ice
Your attic should be ventilated so thereís plenty of air
movement. It should be the same temperature and humidity
as the exterior air. Too much humidity encourages mould.
Also, if the wood sheathing on your roof (under your
shingles) doesnít get enough ventilation, it will rot. The
shingles wonít last as long as they should and youíll be
re-roofing often. Your attic needs to have enough vents ó
whether they are soffit, gable or ridge vents doesnít
matter. And they have to be open, not covered over by
insulation. Adding extra insulation to your attic is
great, but make sure you use Styrofoam baffles to direct
air flow from the soffit to the top of the attic and that
the vents are able to do their job.
One problem Iím always finding is old wooden soffits that
have been covered with aluminum during an update or
renovation. But no holes were made in the original wood
soffit under the new layer of aluminum, which means there
is no possible venting. It might look good, but it will
lead to trouble over time. Poorly vented bathroom and
kitchen fans contribute to humidity in the attic. Itís
essential to have extraction fans in these rooms, since
theyíre the source of the most moisture in the home. The
fans should be vented directly to the exterior to prevent
warm, moist air discharging into the attic.
Checking your attic at least once a year is an important
part of home maintenance. Just because the attic is out of
sight, it shouldnít be out of mind. Catch Holmes in his
new series, Holmes Makes it right, tuesdays on HGTV. for
more information, visit hgtv.ca.