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When was the last time you visited your attic? A long time ago ? Read this.


The vast majority of homeowners will probably never or very infrequently go to their attic. However, I believe a visit should be made every 2 to 3 years.


I can't count the number of times I've come down from an attic during my inspections and startled homeowners by telling them what I saw.


What ? Is there mold in my attic? - Yes sir !


Mushrooms you say? - Indeed !


Mouses ? - This too !


What else ? - Water infiltration sir!


All that is not to mention the vermiculite, the lack of insulation, the cut electrical wires that are still live, and so on.


As you can see, there are many problems that can be found in an attic. So for you today, I'm going to walk you through in detail how to do a basic attic inspection yourself and spot the most common problems. (Note that your inspection will never replace that of an inspector, but it can still help you prevent / detect some problems)

Step # 1: Know where to step.


If you don't want to smash the ceiling and end up on the living room floor, you'll have to walk on the roof trusses / rafter. Roof trusses are usually made in a triangle. So be sure to walk on the bottom chord or on the corners.


Step # 2: Check the ventilation.


An attic must be well ventilated to avoid several problems, for example overheating your attic, which could prematurely damage your asphalt shingles. The most common way to ventilate the attic of a house is through the soffits (air inlet) and comes out higher through the maximums. So it is imperative to make sure that your soffits are clear. Basically, the insulation should not touch the roof, ideally a 2 '' clearance is recommended. If the insulation is in contact with the roof, we recommend that you have this situation corrected.

Already in winter, if you see ice at the bottom of your roof, this will be strongly due to poor ventilation / insulation. Such ice barriers can cause water seepage, so get it fixed right away.


Step # 3: Look for signs of water infiltration.

Signs of water infiltration can be active or passive. The majority of water infiltration will take place when your roof covering is damaged, or by roof emergences (around the chimney, plumbing vent, ventilation etc.). Over the years, the sealant around the emergences tends to dry out and eventually crack. The good news is that most infiltration will stop when you repair your roof covering. Hence the need for regular maintenance of your roof.

Step # 4: Look for signs of mold and fungus.

Mold in an attic is probably the least desirable problem. Mold will generally be caused by excess moisture or water infiltration. In short, all of this can be caused by different reasons. Here are two:


1. A waste pipe that drains into the attic.

Inspect your ducts for leaks







Here is an example of mold that can be found in an attic


Here is an example of mold that can be found in an attic


2. Poor ventilation of the attic. (See step # 2: Clogged soffit)

 Example of mold

The good news for mold is that it can be removed. Specialized companies will take care of you. (From experience, beware of scammers and favor a company with good references).

Here is an example of mushrooms that can be found in an attic

If you see any fungi, we recommend that you have them tested by a certified lab, as some of them can be very damaging. For example, weeping rot (cancer of the house) could end up costing you dearly, in the worst case demolition of your house.

3. A poorly sealed vapour barrier. 

A vapour barrier is the membrane (Polyethylene, black paper, aluminum foil, etc.) that is found on the warm side of your house, so inside. This membrane will prevent the migration of heat / humidity from the house to find its way inside your walls or attic.  

When you see a ventilation pipe, light fixture, plumbing vent or other, go through your ceiling, lift your insulation to check the hole that has been made is watertight and correct if necessary.

Step # 5: Insulation

Today's standards require an R-41 insulation factor. This equates to approximately 10-12 '' of wool / cellulose.

In older construction, you might find sawdust insulation (about R1 for every inch of thickness.

Otherwise, if it looks like this,  




Do not panic ! But don't just sit there without the proper protection. This is vermiculite. The problem with vermiculite is that it could contain asbestos. It is therefore better to have it tested by a certified laboratory.


When asbestos is stationary, it does not cause a problem. But when you handle or walk in it, it can cause serious illness if you breathe in the released particles (normally over a long time).


And if it contains asbestos, DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE IT YOURSELF. There are companies specializing in the field.


To conclude,


all of this can be scary, but my goal in this article is simply to help you make the necessary checks to keep your home healthy and to avoid unpleasant surprises. So be careful, take a good flashlight, a mask, watch where you step, then finally, watch out for the nails on the ceiling.


PS: The problems mentioned above are the most common. Unfortunately, there are several others. A certified inspector will always be preferred for a complete and thorough inspection of your home.

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