How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
What are the common problems with attic insulation?
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Homebuyers today are concerned about rising energy costs and always want to know about the level of insulation in a house. One of the first questions they ask us at the beginning of a home inspection is “Are you going to look at the insulation in the attic?” Yes we do, and here’s our “Top 10” list of defects we find:
- Vent baffles at soffit are covered or no vent baffles - When new loose insulation is blown over older batt insulation, sometimes the vent baffles at the soffit get buried. When that happens, you end up with an attic that is less energy efficient than before a second layer of insulation was added. Natural convection air flow from soffit vents up to the roof vents is important in a Florida house, especially in the summer. An attic that is poorly ventilated is immediately recognizable on a hot day by the blast of super-hot air that hits you when you pop the attic access panel.
- No well at attic scuttle opening - A well is a raised barrier, usually plywood or OSB, around the attic access opening to prevent loose insulation from collecting over the access panel. Customers sometimes find it amusing when we open a cover panel at an opening without a well and, for a second, it looks like the inside of a Christmas snow globe. But it won’t be funny when it happens to you. Also, the cover panel inside the well should have a piece of batt insulation attached to it.
- Uneven blown insulation - The big-box home improvement stores rent machines for do-it-yourself blown-in insulation, but homeowners are not always concerned with distributing the material evenly throughout the attic, leaving hills and bald spots.
- Areas of missing insulation at skylight wells - The enclosed shaft that runs through attic to connect the skylight to a room below requires insulation too. It is sometimes overlooked, or the insulation batts come loose and fall away onto the floor of the attic.
- Missing insulation at repaired areas in attic - It seems pretty obvious that insulation should be put back in place after being pulled back for a repair in the attic, but that doesn’t always happen.
- Compacted insulation - Insulation that has been compressed by being walked over or storing boxes on it loses part of its insulation ability.
- Old and deteriorated insulation - Fiberglass batt insulation tends to gradually collapse over the years, along with its R-rating.
- Insulation under a roof leak, or rodent damaged insulation that has not been replaced - Once it is soaked from a roof leak, or shredded and soiled by rodents, insulation should be removed and replaced. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that “if exposed insulation has become contaminated with urine and droppings, it should be placed into plastic bags for removal.”
- No insulation over areas that have been converted to living space - There’s a good chance that a porch, carport, or garage that was remodeled into interior living space without a building permit will not have attic insulation above it.
- Vermiculite insulation with asbestos content - The EPA has determined that the asbestos content in vermiculate insulation that was still being installed in homes as late as the 1980s is a health hazard and should be removed. See our blog post Why is vermiculite attic insulation a problem for both buyers and sellers of a home?
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