Today, I’d like to take a moment to discuss attics. We never think of them, but they can, if neglected be a huge source of problems.
The two main items of importance are insulation and ventilation.
Insulation will keep your attic at an “unconditioned temperature”. This the purpose of proper attic environment and saves on your heating bill.
Ventilation is also important as your house needs to “breathe”. An attic that does not breathe can create a host of issues including mold growth.
Lets look at the opposite seasons to illustrate…Remember, in Rhode Island so it gets hot enough and cold enough to induce this entire scenario.
In the winter, the heat should not rise into the attic, insulation should prevent this. Any heat that does get up there should leave through the higher venting (ridge vent or gable end vent), the soffit vent will allow the air to rise and circulate so the warm air does exit. If the attic isnt vented and insulated correctly, warm air will rise heating the attic. The attic will heat the roof melting the snow and ice. The melted snow (water) will run down the roof until it refreezes. The eave of the house will still be cold causing this re-freeze. The frozen water will build an ice dam and block the water as it flows down, the water will then back up under your roofing shingles. The shingles are only designed to shed water flowing down, not back up. This can damage your roof and cause water to penetrate into your attic area. This water will cause rot, decay, and possibly mold.
In the summer the attic can reach temperatures of over 150 degrees. If the higher vents are working the hot air will rise and exit, the cooler outside air will flow up through the soffit vents. This cycle also gets the humidity out of the attic. If this cycle is interrupted, the attic temperatures can really escalate, so much so that it can actually damage your roofing shingles. The damp environment that ensues, along with the heat make ideal conditions for mold growth, which can be very expensive to remove, and cause serious breathing hazards.
What can you do to keep your attic healthy?
-Ensure there is adequate insulation.
-Ensure the insulation does not block soffit vents.
-Ensure ridge, roof, and gable end vest are clear and open.
-Ensure your bathroom vent fans COMPLETELY exhaust to the exterior. Many homes are vented into the attic, this increases the moisture level dramatically.
-Take a look up there a couple times a year, look for mold growth, critter entry, and signs of staining on roof sheeting, chimneys, and vents.
I hope you found this helpful.
RI Home Inspector