We include footnotes on all of our home inspection reports to provide clients with helpful tips for basic maintenance. Among the many tips, one of the most important is periodically checking any unfinished spaces in your home – especially the attic. I can’t count how many houses we’ve inspected where the owners have confessed to never seeing their attic space, and many of them have lived in their homes for decades.
Aside from storing the Christmas tree and a few old heirlooms in the attic, most people never have a need to visit their unfinished (and let’s face it, often dirty and creepy) attic space. So it’s not surprising that no one makes it a habit of visiting their attic from time to time, and most homeowners would never even think of it. Unfinished attics – especially in old homes – bring to mind things like cobwebs, bats, and countless other eerie surprises. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Well, as you probably guessed, avoiding scary spaces isn’t exactly the best idea. The same conditions that make unfinished spaces less than appealing also make them more prone to problems that demand periodic monitoring. If you’re diligent about paying these spaces an occasional visit, you’ll be far more likely to spot possible issues and deal with them quickly before they have an opportunity to turn into much bigger, more expensive defects.
The owners of a house we recently inspected learned this lesson all too well after getting news of our report. In general, the home was very nice and well maintained, so we didn’t expect to run into any major defects. Of course, I knew that if any area would have problems it would probably be the attic, and unfortunately that turned out to be true. The attic wasn’t adequately ventilated and the inspection was in the middle of winter, so temperature extremes had quickly led to condensation buildup of vapor-laden air on the rafters and roof sheathing, along with subsequent dark staining, microbial growth, wood deterioration and water dripping onto the attic floor and insulation below. See the photos below to see what I mean…
I instantly felt bad for the homeowners, knowing they had worked hard to maintain their home very well over the years, and also knowing they probably never checked their attic and had no clue that this issue was lurking above their heads all along. Had they known how important it is to check unfinished spaces and not just the main living space, they undoubtedly would have discovered and dealt with their ventilation problem far earlier. As a side note, I should also point out that this is precisely why people get home inspections. The buyers of the home may very well have never entered the attic space either, and they would have been saddled with a major problem down the road!
Set reminders for yourself to periodically check unfinished spaces in your home, like attics and crawlspaces, that you normally wouldn’t enter. Do this at least once each season (about once every three months) at a minimum, and preferably a little more often. Yes, it may require getting a little dirty and dealing with some things that are a bit creepy, but it’s far better than allowing defects to form and grow undetected and having a costly mess on your hands in the future! And if you just aren’t comfortable doing this yourself, you can always hire a professional to do it for you.
*To visit our main website, go to http://www.hillinspections.com