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Attic Maintenance is an Important Part of Home Upkeep

Updated: Jan 4, 2023


photo of attic wood attic joists

Inspecting and maintaining your attic's integrity, ventilation, and insulation is an often neglected yet important part of our home's upkeep. Addressing any issues is far more comfortable in the cooler Autumn months ahead.


Here are some of the important considerations and myths regarding attic care you should know.


Ventilation

Regulating the heat and moisture in your home isn’t just the job of your HVAC system. The attic plays a vital role in helping minimize mold and dry rot. Roof replacement costs can double without proper ventilation due to brittle and damaged wood sheathing under your shingles.


Here are some simple steps you can take to help improve the ventilation in your attic:


  • Ensure kitchen and bathroom fans vent outside and not into the attic.

  • Install a ventilation fan in your attic to draw cooler air from the outside and hot air from the inside during the summer months.

  • Make sure you have enough vents in your attic. You should install one vent for every 150 square feet of attic space, distributed evenly between the soffit and roof vents. A professional roofer or home inspector can check to see if your home has proper ventilation.

Many homeowners have a few misconceptions about attic ventilation that are worth mentioning.


Myth 1: Roof vents offer adequate ventilation.

Not all roof vents are ideal for all homes. For example, ridge vents may be the most cost-effective type available. Still, they'll provide little to no ventilation without baffles that keep air out. Gable vents circulate air effectively, but only in their immediate area. Static, roof-line vents are adequate in terms of ventilation, but generally have issues with leaks. Lastly, soffit vents may leave air trapped at the top of your attic. This might all sound very technical, but the bottom line is…

  1. There are various kinds of vents that work differently from one another.

  2. Installation can also affect the amount of air circulation.

  3. Roof vents' efficiency varies in different roof types.

Effective ventilation systems use a "ridge-and-soffit" continuous system, which uses a continuous, weather-shielded opening at the peak of the roof in combination with continuously screened openings along the house's eaves. It allows air movement under the roof that is exhausted out the top through the ridge vent.


Myth 2: Vents are only needed in hot climates Vents are needed in all climates to improve attic ventilation and energy efficiency while preventing the build-up of moisture and condensation in the attic. In colder seasons, homes need an unvented roofing system and insulation to prevent condensation and the moisture damage that follows.


Myth 3: The more ventilation the better

While insufficient attic ventilation can lead to moisture problems and decreased energy efficiency, you can have too much of a good thing. Attic vents are just more places where leaks can occur, and too many can potentially cause blowouts during a hurricane.


Myth 4: Attic vents remove warm air in winter

While heat does rise into your attic and escape through vents, this costs you money only when your attic and roofing system has insufficient or degraded insulation. At the end of the day, attic vents will not create a drag on your heating system, but you should make sure your attic insulation is doing its job.


Insulation

Yellow insulation on attic floor between joists

The right amount of insulation can reduce your energy bill and help prevent mold and limit noise transfer. One of the easiest ways to check the effectiveness of your attic insulation is to look at your roof after a snowfall.


If your home’s roof is clear while your neighbors’ roofs still have snow on them, you probably don’t have enough insulation. Uneven patches of melting on the roof (assuming you don’t have shade trees) is another sign that you may need to improve your insulation.


Allowing the roof on your home to be warmer than the outside air will create ice dams which can cause water to seep into your rafters and down your interior walls.


The EPA estimates that the average homeowner can save 15% on heating and cooling costs (11% of total energy costs) by adding insulation in attics, crawl spaces, and basement rim joists. For most folks, that's about $200 in savings per year.


Fixes

Consult your local building code to find the insulation rating required for each area of your home. The proper insulation is not only the type but also how it is installed. A professional roofer or home inspector can provide the right advice.


This is good time to remind you that Dominion Energy provides its customers with a free home energy audit, which includes inspecting your attic insulation. You can sign up for your free audit here.


Making sure your attic is in top shape can save you thousands in repairs and energy costs - money you can use in other important areas of your home.




 

Sources: This Old House, Dominion Energy, SustainableSources.com, Mad City Window

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