light streaming in through attic window

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Attic

Most people don’t spend a lot of time in their attic. After all, it’s generally used as a storage solution, rather than a livable space. 

However, taking care of your attic is one of the best lines of defense for your home. A well-maintained attic improves your house’s overall energy efficiency, while also protecting from pests and water damage.

Want to learn more about this valuable part of your home, and how to keep it in top condition? Read on for five things you may not have known about your attic.

1. When it comes to insulation, more isn’t always better.

If you don’t have insulation (or just don’t have enough of it) in your attic, heat from your heating system or cold air from your air conditioner will escape. This is an obvious issue, as your home will require more energy to maintain proper temperature control. However, this doesn’t mean that more insulation is necessarily better.

While it may be tempting to pack your attic to the rafters (literally!) to more effectively heat and cool your home, your efforts may be met with diminishing returns. Packing your insulation too tightly lowers its R-value, a calculation that quantifies the resistance to heat flow. A higher R-value indicates more resistance to heat transfer. This means that your insulation won’t be as effective in keeping heat out during the warmer months, and holding in heat during the cooler ones.

So how do you determine the proper amount of insulation for your attic? It depends on your geographical location. The Department of Energy’s climate map indicates the recommended insulation by climate zone, including recommendations for wall insulation, as well as uninsulated vs. previously-insulated attics.

2. Attics require proper ventilation.

Ventilation is paramount to the health of your attic insulation, especially during the winter months. If your humidifiers are set too high or you simply have excess moisture in your home, that moisture will collect in your attic and dampen the insulation, making it less effective. Another common culprit is improper bathroom fan ventilation. Make sure your bathroom fans are ventilated to the exterior of the house, rather than inside your attic. Not only does this put additional moisture in your attic, but it could also rot the plywood from the inside out.

To most efficiently ventilate your home, you’ll need two vents: a ridge vent and a soffit intake vent. The ridge vent allows damp, warm air to escape the attic; the soffit intake vent allows fresh outside air into the attic. To reap the benefits of this vent system, make sure you install baffles to hold down your insulation. Otherwise, your insulation might block the air intake from the soffit vent.

3. Some materials shouldn’t be stored in the attic.

Attic temperatures can fluctuate depending on the season, so be mindful of the materials you’re storing up there. Anything that is sensitive to heat, cold or moisture — such as wood furniture, electronics, important papers, and delicate fabrics — should ideally be kept elsewhere. 

If you can’t avoid storing these items in the attic, invest in the right storage containers. Cardboard boxes can break down and can even attract cockroaches; garbage bags can also deteriorate after a few years. Using sturdy plastic boxes and heavy duty storage bags can protect your belongings from the extreme temperatures.

4. Regular inspection is key.

Inspect your attic at least annually for signs of water penetration and pest openings. You may want to do so more frequently if you’re experiencing storms in your region. 

Rotted, damp or stained wood around chimneys or vent pipes could indicate a leak. Cracks or openings to the outside could allow the escape of cool air or heat (and the entry of pests). If you notice any structural damage or suspect a leak, consult with a professional contractor.

5. Be safe.

An attic can be a great storage solution for your home — but before you start using it, you need to take the necessary safety precautions:

  • If you’re using your attic for storage, make sure you have secure flooring. If you store items or walk on open rafters, you’re putting yourself and your belongings at risk of falling through.
  • When adding insulation, wear a protective respirator mask and eye goggles to protect yourself from dirt and dust.
  • Test the structural integrity of your attic stairs before use.
  • Be aware of the extreme temperatures and dress accordingly. Stay hydrated and take breaks as needed.

Notice signs of damage to your attic or roof? Fallon Contracting will safely assess your project’s needs and offer a no-cost, no-obligation estimate. Contact us to get started today.

spring home maintenance | front of house with mulch

Your Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

With the weather getting warmer and the days growing longer, spring is in full swing here in New Jersey. We’re spending more time outside, enjoying the sunshine and thinking ahead to the summer. And with the state’s stay-at-home order extended indefinitely, we’re also spending a lot more time around the house.

If you’re staying in and have some extra time on your hands, now is the perfect time to tackle your spring home maintenance checklist. Here are some tasks you can do today to prepare your home for warmer days.

Inspect your roof for signs of damage.

The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends checking your roof at least twice a year, specifically in the mild temperatures of the fall and spring. Making any necessary repairs now will ensure your roof can handle more extreme weather when it comes.

Check your roof’s chimney and vent pipe flashings as well as shingles. Look for water spots inside the house, as well as shingles that have blown away after a windy day; these are common signs that there are issues with your flashing. Have a contractor assess whether your flashings need to be sealed – we recommend having your flashings sealed at least once a year to prevent damage.

Check for broken window seals.

If you have insulated glass unit (IGU) windows – also known as double-pane, multipane or thermopane windows – check them for broken seals. If the seals between panes are broken, your windows will be less efficient in keeping out air and humidity. Look for visible condensation or distortion of the glass, which are two of the most common signs of a broken seal.

Windows that receive a lot of sunshine are also more susceptible to broken seals, as the glass expands and contracts regularly with the heat. However, anything that damages the window’s sealant material can also cause the seal to fail. If you suspect your window seals are broken, call a contractor to replace the IGU.

Do an outdoor check.

Your rain gutters and leaders protect your home from water damage, so be sure they are clear and in good repair. You can clean them out yourself if you feel comfortable doing so, but you can always call in a professional to help.

Then, make sure any mulch or soil is graded away from the house. This will prevent water pooling in any low spots around the house. You can add mulch or soil to build up the grade, and then slope it away from the house.

Don’t forget the inside!

While you’re checking the outside of your house, don’t forget to take care of the inside! Use this time to change your furnace filters, as well as drain and refill your hot water heater (we recommend doing this once a year).

You should also look under sinks and vanities for leaky pipes and traps – even a small leak can lead to major water damage when left unchecked. In some cases, you can tighten a loose trap yourself. However, it’s best to call a plumber if you’re facing a pipe or shutoff valve issue.

Important considerations During COVID-19

Whether you’re tackling these maintenance tasks or planning a major home improvement project, you’ll need to consider the impact of COVID-19 on your process.

For projects that require prior approval and inspections (e.g., finished basements, decks, and additions/renovations), allot extra time for communicating with building departments. Since physical buildings are closed, interactions are limited to mail or email, which can take longer than originally anticipated.

Local home improvement stores have also limited their hours, as well as the number of customers allowed in-store at a time. If you’re shopping for home maintenance or smaller DIY projects, it’s best to shop during off-peak hours (usually earlier in the day) and allow extra time. Making a detailed list can also help you get everything you need in one trip. If you’re ordering parts online, be mindful that online ordering and shipping are delayed across industries.

Need help with your spring home improvement project? Fallon Contracting will safely assess your project’s needs and offer a no-cost, no-obligation estimate. Contact us to get started today.