There is a lot for an inspector to see in an attic, provided that it is
accessible and visible.
The underside of the
and the roof support system are usually visible and can be inspected.
In addition, attic insulation, ductwork, and ventilation can often be seen
However, flooring and insulation may obscure water pipes, electrical
conduits, junction boxes, exhaust fans, and other components.
Even in attics that have flooring, the attic insulation is usually
In our area, we find many different types of attic insulation.
Here are some of the more common types we see:
Batt or Blanket Insulation -
Blanket insulation, the most common and widely available type of insulation,
comes in the form of batts or rolls.
It consists of flexible fibers, most commonly fiberglass although some can
be made with mineral wool, plastic fibers, and natural fibers, such as
cotton and sheep's wool.
It is a popular attic insulation because of its relatively low cost
and ease of installation.
The U.S. Department of Energy publishes additional
information in Batt and Blanket insulation and other
attic insulation topics.
Blown-in or Loose-fill Insulation -
Loose-fill insulation consists of small particles of fiber, foam, or other
materials that are blown into place.
These small particles form an insulation material that can conform to any
space without disturbing any structures or finishes.
The most common types of materials used for loose-fill insulation include
cellulose, fiberglass, and mineral wool, and contains a varying amount of
The US Department of Energy publishes additional
information on loose-fill insulation, as well as information on
other types of insulation.
Vermiculite Insulation -
Vermiculite is a mineral that expands at high temperatures and can be used to
produce loose-fill insulation.
It is similar in appearance to loose-fill insulation made using another
Both of these were popular attic insulating material in the 1940's and used
well into the 1960's.
They became less favored as newer materials were developed with superior
Perlite had very similar insulating properties although the minerals are
replaced with glass.
In 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closed vermiculite
mining operations in Libby Montana because the deposit was shown to contain
significant amounts of asbestos commingled with the vermiculite.
At the time, the EPA estimated over 80% of the world’s vermiculite
production came from this one deposit.
Unfortunately, insulation marketed under the name Zonolite had been
produced from ore from this deposit for decades.
Although not all Vermiculite contains asbestos, if this or any similar type
of insulation is present, we recommend that you contact an insulation
specialist to positively identify the materials used.
For more information, visit the EPA website and read the
EPA fact sheet on vermiculite insulation or the
EPA Vermiculite Insulation FAQ.
There are a number of ventilation issues that can be discovered in the
The most obvious is the ventilation of the attic itself.
However, ductwork from bathroom and kitchen vents as well as the vent for
the plumbing system may all run through the attic and be visible for
Attic Ventilation -
Proper attic ventilation can make your home more comfortable in the
summer, reduce moisture levels and extend the useful life of your roof.
Many modern homes employ a system using vents in both the soffits as well
as at or near the ridge to allow air flow through the attic.
As the air in the attic heats, it rises and exits through the upper vents
drawing cooler air in through the soffit vents.
Additional airflow may be achieved by installing an exhaust fan near the
ridge to help draw air through the attic.
Older homes were generally built with less attic ventilation and may only
employ gable vents or windows.
Black or gray mildew stains, or excessive moisture are all signs that
air flow through the attic needs to be increased.
Additional Ventilation -
In many homes, fans are installed in the bathroom ceiling to vent moist
air and smells away from the living area.
Sometimes ventilation fans also appear in kitchens.
The fan should exhaust into ductwork that carries the
air outside of the home.
A damper is used to insure that air only flows in one direction.
Exhaust systems that vent into the attic could be adding unwanted moisture
to the attic.
A home’s plumbing system requires venting as part of the waste
These vents allow the waste to properly drain, help prevent harmful
sewer gas from entering the home,
and are often observed running through the attic.