Attic clean up professionals always look for signs of moisture in attics, and homeowners should regularly do this as well. While many homeowners usually associate dampness with basements or crawlspaces, attics can suffer from moisture problems just as easily, which can lead to damaged insulation, structural issues, and problems with mold.
Common signs of excess moisture in an attic include musty smells, frost or ice on cold surfaces in the wintertime, foggy windows, condensation on windows or other smooth surfaces, visible mold, wood rot, the deterioration of masonry, and the staining, discoloration or warping of construction materials. If any of these signs are apparent, it’s best for homeowners to determine the cause right away and fix the source of the moisture before it causes expensive damage.
How did it get there, anyway?
Unfortunately, finding the source of moisture can be a difficult task, even for attic clean up specialists. One sign of excess moisture can be created by several sources, while one source of moisture can create multiple, seemingly unrelated signs. Here are some of the some of the common causes of attic moisture that attic clean up professionals will usually evaluate first:
- Roof leaks: These leaks may be small enough that evidence of water damage is not yet visible in the home’s living quarters. Attics are often one of the first places to show signs of a leaky roof.
- Pipes: Pipes that run through the attic can sweat and leak. The pipes should be checked to ensure that water vapor is not condensing on cold pipes and that the pipes are not dripping.
- Foundations: Believe it or not, water in a home’s foundation can create signs of moisture in the attic. Water in the ground can easily travel through basement or crawlspace floors and walls. This water then evaporates into the air inside the house and travels to the attic through “bypasses” – any area where warm air flows into the attic. These bypasses can be anything from openings around light fixtures to cracks in the ceilings, and these seemingly small passageways can allow enormous amounts of warm, moist air into the attic.
- Ventilation to the exterior: Attics should be properly ventilated to the outside so that moist air does not become trapped. This is particularly important during times of high outdoor humidity. However, sometimes attic ventilation systems stop working or become blocked by debris such as leaves or animal nests.
- Interior ventilation. Moisture from appliances like clothes dryers – and from areas like the kitchen and bathrooms – commonly leads to problems in the attic. Sometimes, ventilation pipes are inadequate or become disconnected. In these cases, the warm, moist air is being pumped into the attic, rather than being carried to the outdoors.
- Air conditioners. Air conditioners typically operate by sensing the indoor air temperature, not the humidity level. If the indoor temperature drops enough and the humidity stays high, moisture can condense on the ducts that move the chilled air. This is common with air conditioners that are too powerful for the space.
What can you do about it?
In order to solve these moisture problems, attic clean up professionals most often suggest stopping the water infiltration at its source and increasing the amount of ventilation in the attic, if it’s inadequate. This is often easier said than done, though. Some of the fixes for attic moisture could be relatively simple – such as patching the roof or repairing some pipes. Other fixes could complex tasks like improving the drainage around the foundation, or installing a crawlspace vapor barrier. Each problem needs to be carefully analyzed by the homeowner and an attic clean up specialist in order to determine the cause and the best approach for permanently fixing the issue.