Attic and Roof
There typically aren’t too many repairs the average homeowner can do in the attic or on the roof. The best thing you can do is to check out the attic once a month. Many water problems show up in the attic before the rest of the house. Frequently, most leaks occur around chimneys and other objects which go through the roof. Eves and valleys are another common source of leaks.
Many attics don’t have finished floors in them. If your attic doesn’t, we strongly suggest you take a number of planks or 3/4 inch plywood lengths to walk across. Every year, hundreds of people are injured by falling through ceilings while trying to balance on the joists in the attic.
How can I tell if there’s a leak around my chimney?
Most of the times there are telltale signs of a leak even when it’s been dry. These signs include water spots on the floor, drips, runs or discoloration down the sides of the chimney, or rotten wood surrounding the chimney. If you have any of these signs we recommend calling a roofing professional to check the flashing around the chimney on the roof. Flashing a chimney is very tricky, requiring not only roofing skills but also masonry skills too.
I have water damage on the walls and/or ceiling below the attic, but I can’t see any evidence of a leak. Where could the water be coming from?
Leaks in the roof can be very tricky to locate, especially if there’s insulation in the way. The best place to start is on the outside of the house. Look on the overhangs close to where the leak is; checking to see that the gutters are intact. If the gutters look good, then the problem may be that your gutters are clogged allowing ice to build up and back up under the roof shingles. If the leak is occurring around a valley area check to see if debris has built up in the valley, not allowing water to drain or permitting ice to jam up. If all these areas look good from outside, it’s time to go back to the attic with a flashlight and play super sleuth. The main thing to remember in the attic is that water always wants to travel downward. Start at the highest point on the ceiling (roof) and check all the rafters for signs of water running down them. This usually will show up as discoloration in a line down the board ending in a discolored puddle area on the floor. If your detective work turns up nothing, then the problem is most likely due to a lack of insulation on the floor of the attic. This causes snow on the roof to melt, run down, then refreeze on the overhangs backing up into the house.
Should I insulate my attic?
YES! Everyone, regardless of where you live should have insulation in the attic. In cold climates the insulation keeps heat from rising out of the living space during the winter. In warm climates the insulation has 2 effects 1) it keeps super-heated air from transferring from the attic to the living space 2) it keeps your cool house air from transferring up to the attic.
How much insulation should I have in my attic?
The amount of insulation varies with climate and type of heat you use. Your local home center or the Department of Energy (www.doe.gov) can tell you exactly how much you should have.
Can I do the insulation myself?
You sure can…but…we don’t recommend it. Insulation is a horrible job to do, especially fiberglass. Installing the insulation itself is easy, basically just roll it out and your done. The problems come from having to deal with the fiberglass itself. Fiberglass insulation is exactly what the name implies…glass fiber. The fiber is spun into a fluffy mat, which easily releases miniscule fibers into the air when disturbed. To deal with fiberglass, it is recommended you wear non-porous paper suits and cover all exposed skin and hair tightly to avoid skin irritation and rashes. Respirators are a must also; the fiberglass particles have been possibly linked to lung cancer. Most insulation contractors don’t charge much more than you’d spend to do it yourself. Insulation is still one of the best values you can find in contractors.
How can I prolong the life of my roof?
The life span of a roof is determined by many factors. Some things to look for that can substantially shorten a roof’s life are:
- Excessive shade from trees.
- Branches rubbing on the roof.
- Debris built up in valleys and flat areas.
- Loose shingles. (loosing just one shingle usually starts a chain reaction, letting the wind underneath the next row and ripping it off too and so on)
- Flat roofs in need of re-coating (not all flat roofs need coating, but most do)
- Poor attic ventilation.
Have a look at Roofery.com, a fine roofing information source.