Saturday, May 25, 2013

What's Hiding In Your Attic?

Attics can be really scary places. After all, that's where the monsters live when they're not hanging out in the closet or under the bed, right? Believe it or not, there's something even scarier than monsters that could be lurking just above your head. Serious problems such as improper insulation, pest problems, and bad wiring could all be hiding in your attic, and when left unchecked, small problems only lead to bigger ones. It is every homeowner's responsibility to visually inspect their attic space at least once a year as part of their home maintenance schedule. What should you look for? First, the temperature in the attic should be roughly the same temperature as the outside. If you live in a snowy climate, you don't want your furnace working overtime due to heat loss caused by improper insulation. Heat loss into your attic can cause snow to melt on your roof and refreeze down by the "gutters."

SIDE NOTE: I think it's funny that the word "gutters" was used instead of the more Canadian accepted word "eavestrough." They both mean the same thing, but I have NEVER EVER heard Mike Holmes use the word "gutter" before, accept when being asked the question if there was a difference between gutters and eavestroughs. Did Mike actually write this article? Who is Margo Goodhand, and if she wrote this, why is Mike's name on the column? Conspiracy....


 Regardless of whether or not Mike actually wrote this article (it certainly sounds like Mike's writing style, minus the use of a word he doesn't typically use), it's important you check your attic space to catch small problems before they turn into bigger ones.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

MIKE HOLMES: What's hiding in your attic?

Hidden problems can lead to mould, fire

By: Margo Goodhand
Posted: 1:00 AM |

Checking your attic at least once a year is an important part of home maintenance.
Checking your attic at least once a year is an important part of home maintenance.
Have you looked in your attic lately? Any idea what's up there? It always surprises me when I meet homeowners who never inspect their attics -- and that is something you need to do regularly.
Recently I even met a couple who didn't 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.

That's 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 it's 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 don't like it in ceilings that back into a cold zone such as the attic. You'd be amazed at how much heat recessed lights give off. That heat will collect in the attic, melt snow on the roof ...
If you insist on having recessed lights in the attic, install the correct type. The building code requires all recessed lights in an insulated ceiling to be IC (insulation contact). That's a safety issue. Many handymen and DIYers who don't know better and want to save money will use the wrong kind.
But IC isn't necessarily airtight. 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 dams.
Your attic should be ventilated so there's 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) doesn't get enough ventilation, it will rot. The shingles won't last as long as they should and you'll be re-roofing often.
Your attic needs to have enough vents -- whether they are soffit, gable or ridge vents, doesn't 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 I'm 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. It's essential to have extraction fans in these rooms, since they're 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.
Bad wiring and exposed junction boxes are also common attic problems. Because the attic is an open, unfinished space, it's easy to run new wires for projects. That can be a good thing gone bad when unqualified or amateur electricians leave junction boxes open -- or hidden, for instance, buried under insulation. That's a fire hazard.
Checking your attic at least once a year is an important part of home maintenance. Just because the attic is out of sight, it shouldn't be out of mind.
-- Postmedia News
Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes it Right Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit For more information on home renovations, visit

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