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Not So Classic Attic Status

By Jon Vacha

Recently, while outside walking around a house that I was inspecting a neighbor yelled over the fence, “have you seen the raccoon yet”? Apparently, there was a hole in the soffit near the roof in this house and the neighbor had been watching raccoon come in and out of the attic space. When I got into the attic I was cautious while moving around the attic space, keeping my head on a swivel for wild life. While I didn’t encounter any raccoons in the attic I did have to double check the bottom of my shoes before coming back down out of the attic. Occasionally, we will report on bat guano to let people know there are extra room mates above.


Normally the items that we report on regarding the attic spaces include insulation, roof construction, and ventilation. At this time of year we are reminded about how well our houses are insulated by our heating bills. While windows or doors and wall insulation definitely factor into how well a house is insulated, most of the heat loss in a house goes straight up through the ceiling and into the attic. Heat rises as we all know. While today’s standards call for 18” of blown in insulation, older houses very often have no more than a couple of inches of insulation in their attics. The small investment to add insulation is often returned quickly after a couple of years.


While in the attic we report on the type of roof construction. Roofs are typically constructed out of trusses or rafters. If a connection is not secure or a rafter is cracked this is cause for concern. Sheathing is usually either OSB board, plywood or sheathing boards. A well-built roof is usually a sign of good construction practices and a well-built house.


We check the underside of the sheathing boards for any discoloration that would indicate high humidity in an attic due to poor ventilation. High humidity can allow for mold growth which could compromise the structure of the roof sheathing. Roof vents can be either soffit, gable, or roof vents. We check to make sure there is a functional arrangement and number of vents.  A well ventilated attic can also help keep those air conditioning bills low and prevent shingles from overheating.


Attics are out of sight, out of mind for many people. During an inspection it is our job to help educate the buyer about what the condition of the attic is and how to improve its functionality if needed. Keeping wildlife out is step one.