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.