Homeowner's Guide to Attic Maintenance

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Homeowner's Guide to Attic Maintenance

Attic cleaning may not be your idea of a good time. But dust, mold, and allergens can start to nest in this often-neglected room if periodic cleaning is not established. Which is why hiring a seasoned professional is the best route to both clean an attic and to take the dirty work off your hands.

Unless you have remodeled and finished the space in your attic, chances are you give it little thought except when you go looking for holiday decorations or mementos. However, you really should be giving more thought to your attic! Regular attic maintenance helps keep your home in good condition and can even save you lots of money in the long run. Start by contacting professionals who specialize in attic clean up, then have them complete these three attic maintenance steps.

Remove Old or Damaged Insulation and Install New Attic Insulation

One of the first things homeowners should look at during attic cleaning is the insulation. If there is any damage from water infiltration or rodent infestations, it’s important to have the damaged repaired as quickly as possible. For starters, old or damaged insulation can have a significant – and negative – impact on utility bills.

Water leaks are a common cause of insulation damage. Leaks can cause mold, which can spread throughout the house if not remedied. If home owners do find mold or any other unknown organic substances, it’s highly recommended that they contact a professional for further testing and remediation. Mold can be toxic, so it should be abated in a professional manner so that it does not cause health problems.

Winter is the season when attic insulation is important. Heat will rise directly through the floor of an uninsulated attic, and your heating system will have to work overtime to keep the house warm.

Seal Any Holes or Leaks

If you have an older home, there are likely air leaks in the attic. During warmer weather, these air leaks can cause moisture condensation inside the attic, which can damage any exposed wood framing elements and the underlayment of your roof. Also, rodents that run along power lines or across tree branches can enter your home through small holes in the attic, so attic sealing is an essential step in rodent proofing your home.

gray and brown brick wall house

Ventilate the Attic

Though this may seem to contradict the advice above, attic vents are different than holes or leaks. Vents are typically covered with wire mesh to prevent rodents from entering, and ventilation can be controlled by means of an attic fan. At the very least, have your attic care professional make sure that the air ducts from your HVAC system and your bathroom and kitchen vent fans are routed completely outside, and do not simply ventilate all that moist air into the attic.

During the attic cleaning process, home owners should also make sure that all vents are clear and the air is able to flow freely. Trapped air can cause condensation, which is another breeding ground for mold.

Soffit vents can become blocked at the rear by insulation, so home owners should make sure that baffles are in place to keep them clear. In addition, the sheeting under ridge vents should be cut back by at least three inches to ensure proper air flow. Roof vents can also become blocked by bird and animal nests, so those needs to be inspected and cleaned out, if necessary. Bath fans must be vented to the outside, otherwise moist air is released into and trapped by the attic.

An annual attic cleaning and inspection is probably not high on most home owners’ lists. But it makes sense to tackle it during the holidays when they are already making multiple trips to the attic to retrieve stored items. As ignored as the space usually is, the attic is an important part of the home and is often the first place to show signs of needed repairs.

Can I Do This Myself Or Should I Hire a Professional?

The first order of business is to establish what kind of cleaning your attic needs.

Contaminated Insulation and Rodent Removal

Rodent droppings contaminate attic insulation and in some cases, soak into the surrounding wood.
Attic cleaning during the holidays can also reveal tiny “pellets” – one of the first signs that mice or other rodents have found a home in the attic. Rats, squirrels, raccoons and other animals can enter the home through the eaves, loose boards, or gaps around pipes, so make sure that there are no holes. The spaces don’t have to be big, either. Mice can fit through holes the size of a dime, and rats can squeeze through openings the size of a quarter.

In addition to leaving behind disease-carrying excrement, rodents can chew through wires, pipes and duct work, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Some estimates have found that rodents chewing through electrical wires are responsible for somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 residential fires every year. Many of these tragedies could be prevented by vigilant home owners who regularly inspect their attics for signs of vermin.

Rodent and insulation contamination are the most common issues in attic maintenance. Rodent excrement and the resultant air contamination can create health concerns for your entire household. Even if you have managed to get rid of the rats by yourself, hiring a professional service to ensure that your attic is completely disinfected is of utmost importance.

If your attic is not cleaned out by a professional, bacteria can fester leading to not only unsanitary conditions but also potentially increasing the temperature in your attic; making it uncomfortable to be in, and possibly compromising other energy systems in your home. When you hire Atticare, the entire attic is sanitized with hospital-grade disinfectant, ensuring elimination of 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.

Once all animals and rodents have been removed and their entrances and exits have been sealed, the next step is to remove contaminated insulation. In addition to being a health concern, damaged insulation also has a lower R-value, making it less efficient at retaining heat. After removing the insulation and the cleaning has been completed, new padding and insulation is installed.

brown rat on green textile

Organization

After completing a thorough cleaning, it comes time to sort and organize all of your personal items. Once you’ve identified what you want to keep and what you want to discard, be sure to follow these organization guidelines:

  • Store items near the eaves, so that there’s a clear path through the middle
  • Stack boxes and other containers neatly
  • Label all your items and store related items together
  • Avoid covering up vents
  • Avoid storing temperature-sensitive items

Waste Removal

Waste Removal is the final piece in attic maintenance. Items that are unwanted but still good can be given to Goodwill or placed in a garage sale. For the other stuff, considering calling your residential trash company and ask about their junk removal services. Some offer bulk services or dumpster rentals. This is an efficient, and easy way to get rid of bigger items you no longer want.

Although attic cleaning can be daunting, when you can determine what is your job, and what you can leave to the professionals, home maintenance can get a whole lot easier.

Most home owners rarely go into their attics…Until the holiday season starts and they start hauling down the decorations! The holidays are actually a great time to look around for anything in the attic that needs to be cleaned or repaired. Once the boxes of decorations are removed, home owners can see around the space enough to notice any damage. Doing this regularly can help home owners tackle problems while they are still small and inexpensive, rather than after they have spread to other parts of the home and become a major problem.

Many homeowners make housecleaning a priority, doing chores weekly or more often to keep the interior clean. However, fewer people think about the condition of their attic. Attics can harbor dust, mold, allergens, and even pests such as rodents that will leave urine and droppings behind. Instead of trying to clean up a potentially hazardous situation yourself, rely on professional attic cleanup to make your home a safer place. Mold can irritate allergies, while rodent droppings can spread diseases such as hantavirus and leptospirosis. Many diseases are spread through breathing in contaminated dust, so don’t take chances. Take a look at this infographic to learn why you need an attic cleanup from the experts. 

 

A Customer’s Testimonial on The Importance of Attic Maintenance

Our customer’s attic insulation was contaminated by years of squirrel activity. We recently had the opportunity to assist in an attic restoration for our customer. He worked with another contractor who gave him a world of headache and unfortunately missed some major issues, like all the rodent activity, which he just covered up with new insulation, and we found some evidence of mold. (Eek!)

When we showed up, our customer was at his wits end and did not have the time or energy to deal with any more incompetence.
At 2700 square feet, his attic is one of the larger ones we have worked on. The attic clean up requiring a full-team and a full day to complete. In total, we removed all 50 yards of contaminated insulation, complete with three dead animals, mold spores, and excrement. He also had several pipes and electrical access points that the squirrels were using as a super highway.

After the initial cleaning, we proceeded to vacuum and bleach everything to eliminate the bacteria and the odor. We used Concrobiun to kill the mold. We also had to maneuver around some tight spaces, including two nooks that were didn’t see in our initial investigation. We actually had to disconnect the air ducts so that we could get the vacuum into all the corners.Fortunately, one of our technicians was able to squeeze back there. At 5’2, he was the best man for the job. (Truthfully, he was the only man for the job. He was a great sport about it!)

After a thorough cleaning and disinfecting, our customer’s attic was ready for new insulation. We used installation with a high R-Value, or thermal resistance (level 30) for the exposed areas and r-13 grade insulation within the attic rooms. To make sure those pesky squirrels couldn’t bother our customer again, we used wire mesh to block attic vents to allow air flow but to prevent critters from re-entry.