7 Ways to Prepare Your Attic for Fall Weather

By Vernon Trollinger, September 30, 2013, Home Improvement

iStock_000008460535MediumYour attic might not be the first thing that leaps to mind when you think about preparing for cooler fall weather. Still, it should be a key part of your home improvement efforts as you’re preparing to keep your home comfortable in the fall and winter months.

Most attics are unheated spaces that perform two important functions: they protect and enclose insulation, and they circulate air to prevent moisture from building up in the living space below. While that sounds pretty unexciting, attics still still should be inspected periodically. So, here are 7 things to be on the lookout for as you prepare your attic for fall weather and into winter.

1. Bathroom and other ventilation exhaust fans should exit through either the roof or the side of the house. Those that vent directly into the attic cause mold or mildew to grow during cool weather. According the Dept. of Energy’s Building America Solution Center, the duct vent “should be located to the side wall slightly below the fan, allowing the duct to slope down and away from the fan housing to direct any condensation away from the fan.”

2. Look for white or cloudy staining on rafters or near roof ventilation openings. These indicate a leak in the roof or maybe part of a condensation problem.

3. Check the condition of the insulation. Look for discolored, matted, or wet insulation as these are signs of a possible roof leak or a condensation problem.

4. Dusty or dirty insulation means air has been moving through the area, and this typically indicates an air leak where heated air from below is escaping into your attic. Make certain that all openings for pipes, wires, and cables are completely sealed with caulk or expanding foam. Be sure sure to block over and seal dropped soffits, as well. Be sure your attic hatch or door is properly insulated and seals snugly. Loose doors that close poorly allow heated air from your living space to escape.

5. Check gable vents (openings at each end of the roof) as well as soffits for holes that might allow animals (like mice or rats) to enter. Most gable vents use 1/4″ galvanized hardware cloth to keep animals out. Rodents can cause extensive damage to your home, especially by eating the electrical wire insulation as well as pose a disease risk. Be alert for traces of animal droppings, plant material, or even feathers. If you suspect large rodents such as squirrels, opossums, owls, or even a raccoon have entered your gable vents, call your local animal control office. After the animal is removed, you will need to thoroughly clean the contaminated area by removing any insulation that is contaminated by urine or feces. Next, seal off holes by plugging these with steel wool or sealing them over with metal flashing.

Please note: Sometimes birds will attempt to build nests in chimney pipes, fan exhausts, or sewer stack pipe openings. Never plug these up with anything because doing so could back up harmful gases into your home. Instead, use enclosed vented caps or secure hardware mesh over the opening to discourage birds.

6. Be sure that the soffit openings are not blocked by insulation or other material. This allows your attic to circulate outside air and remove excess moisture from the living space.

7. In southern states, it’s not uncommon to have duct work, your HVAC, and/or your water heater in your attic. So in addition to your attic inspection, you should:

  • Inspect your duct work joints to be certain they are air sealed and insulated.
  • Check your HVAC to be sure the condensate drain is not clogged. Pour a little bleach down the drainage tube to keep it free of mold and bacterial growth that could clog it.
  • Flush and fill your water heater and install an inexpensive water heater blanket.

Remember, your attic is probably a dusty and dirty place, so be prepared for a mess by wearing a filter mask and comfortable work clothes. Plus, you’ll also want to bring a few basic tools with you: a flashlight, measuring tape, and a bucket containing caulk and cans of expanding foam. EnergyStar.gov also lists some more great tips that will help you prepare your attic for fall weather.

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