Attics inspections are important, though often overlooked by home Inspectors. It is not unusual for a homeowner to have never entered their own attic. Attics can hide a lot of problems-from mold and insulation problems to electrical and fire concerns.
Attics come in two main styles: Full and Crawl attics. Full attics are large enough for a person to stand and walk around in and may have a full floor. The walls and ceiling of this type of attic may or may not have exposed beams. A Crawl attic is usually smaller than a full attic and may not have a floor. In such crawl attics one must support themselves on the ceiling joist or you may step through the drywall ceiling into the room below.
The attic should be inspected to identify the type and amount of insulation present in the house. Insulation directly pertains to heating and cooling costs, so make sure there is an adequate amount of insulation present. Insulation should lie between the roof rafters, with the vapor barrier facing the heated portion of the structure, namely the ceiling of the room below. The vapor barrier is usually attached to the insulation bundle and may be made of a number of impermeable materials. All of these barriers reduce the amount of moisture moving from the heated portion of the house into the unfinished attic.
Air ducts should be insulated to increase the efficiency of the heating and cooling system. Metal air ducts are often insulated on the inside. Insulation and proper attic ventilation will minimize moisture concerns, like mold from condensation, by maintaining a more constant temperature in the attic. You should make sure air ducts and exhaust pipes from appliances, like the stove top and bathrooms, are not broken and do not vent moisture, gas, or fumes into the attic. Nothing should vent into the attic itself. Bathrooms that are not properly vented to the exterior ultimately blows moisture straight into the attic.
Modern home science has promoted attics sealed from the outside and air conditioned like the rest of the house. This arrangement reduces the differences in temperature between the two sections of the house. In doing so eliminates condensation and therefore mold from the attic by moving the condensation point to the exterior wall and roof where moisture can dissipate.
Your roof should be inspected from the inside for leakage or past water damage. Water damage will appear on the underside of the roof as brown rings on the wood or insulation or at roof penetrations such chimneys, exhaust flues and plumbing vents. Any structural disorders should also be addressed like broken trusses , damaged or missing gusset plates , sagging joists , bracing deficiencies etc.
Fire hazards are a major concern in an attic inspection. Such dangers can come from poor maintenance and substandard electrical installation. Visual and accessible electrical boxes should be inspected to make sure all connections are done correctly, leaving no loose wires. Extension cords connecting ceiling lights or fans are not approved of and are a fire hazard. If there is any evidence of burnt wood around the furnace or chimney, this signals a major fire concern. Attic fans should be installed properly with no loose or exposed wiring. Any improper electrical work in the attic may not be noticed from occupants in the house as a result it puts all of home's occupants at risk from fire. Proper electrical work reduces this risk!