Inspecting For Water Damage in the Attic

Continuing on with our series on water damage detection and prevention, we’d like to talk about the Attic. If you haven’t checked out our other articles on Avoiding Moisture Damage in Your Kitchen and Preventing Water Damage in the Utility Room, be sure to review them as well.

The attic is especially prone to water damage for a number of reasons. First this area of the house typically gets very little traffic – mostly just to place or retrieve things in storage. Second, is its vicinity to the roof, which is exposed to more water than any place in the house. Third, is the number of “pass-throughs” (electric, phone lines, cable, chimney, etc) that are routed through the attic. It’s important to make regular inspections, or to at least look for the following things every time you are up there.

Attic Water Damage Inspection Points:

Roof Pass-Throughs: Make sure to check out any place in the attic where things pass through the roof or walls of the attic. This includes any chimneys, plumbing, vent pipes and cable or phone lines. Look for wet spots or stains from previous leaks, feel around to make sure there are no damp spots, look for daylight through cracks, look for mold and visible mildew and smell for any musty odors.

Attic Vents: Check for the same signs above, and physically check to make sure the vents are securely fastened. Wind and natural house sway can loosen vents over time, and this can lead to moisture damage and water damage if there is not a tight seal.

Insulation: Look at all your visual insulation, it should remain thick and fluffy. When insulation gets wet or damp, it shrinks or disintegrates, which is a visual indicator that you may have moisture damage. Pay close attention to the areas near the eaves and soffits. These are particularly prone to leaks, and if any of the insulation looks flat or thin in these areas, take a closer look and even feel around to make sure it’s not damp. NOTE: Be sure to wash your hands well after contact with fiberglass to avoid irritation.

HVAC and Ductwork: This is an obvious one – any passageways where water, steam or hot/cool air travel are potential points of moisture damage. Do the same inspections as other points in the attic. Insulation that surrounds the ductwork typically needs to be replaced more frequently than other areas of coverage.

Tip: Walls that connect the attic all the way down to the basement are typically utilized for electrical, plumbing and ductwork chases – these can be points for hidden moisture problems, so feel around the walls and look for any discoloration to detect it.