Most homeowners, admittedly, don’t go up into their attics very often. For many, it’s a place to store out-of-season holiday decor, old kids clothes, and keepsake boxes filled with photos, artwork, and macaroni necklaces. With such sentiments comes the need for protection from the elements. Unfortunately, because of the low-traffic nature of the space, early warning signs of attic water damage are less likely to be noticed than in your living areas. When problems go undetected, especially for an extended period of time, they tend to get worse, potentially compromising the structural integrity of your home.
To help prevent extensive damage, it’s a good idea to periodically look in and around your attic to check for signs of water damage. Stains on your ceiling are a sure sign of a leak, but there are other less-noticeable signals to look out for, as well as preventative measures you can take to protect your home.
According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, plumbing supply-system failures are the number one source for water-supply loss and damage. Keep in mind, even if there are no appliances located in or around your attic, their plumbing lines could be. Be sure to regularly check your toilets, pipes and water heaters for leaks and faulty parts or worn-down materials. With an average life of only 10 years, minor leaks from the water heater tank can often indicate corrosion that may eventually result in a total tank rupture. Leaking or burst pipes on your sinks, toilets, showers, or other water-driven appliances could cause costly damages, especially if left undetected for an extended period of time. Always be prepared. Knowing where the main shut-off valve is located in your home could end up saving you thousands of dollars in damages.
Learn More: 5 Tips to Prevent Water Damage In Your Home
Roof leaks can be caused by damage from a storm, lack of maintenance, or even poor construction. If you go into your attic and see sunlight shining through the ceiling, that’s a big red flag indicating that your roof isn’t sealed properly. Always keep in mind that if you can see out, water can get in. Many times, however, the signs of attic water damage will be much less obvious. Check the wood and insulation for any discoloration or unwanted growth. Even if it’s dry, any amount of staining is cause for concern. Common problem areas you should check include:
- Places where two roof lines join at an angle
- Skylight wells
- Plumbing pipes
- Roof sheathing
If you find any cracks, holes, or openings, make sure you seal them right away to prevent further damage. If you have any recessed light canisters, you should check them for rust, corrosion, or stains. These things would indicate the presence of moisture, which could easily cause electrical dangers as well.
Preventing Roof Leaks
There are several steps you can take to help prevent roof leaks. Using an oil-based waterproofing compound on your roof is a great way to keep water from penetrating in between shingles. Before you use it, make sure it’s compatible with your type of roofing. Neoprene cement can help waterproof the flashing around your chimney and vents. After it dries, use roofing cement to cover the seams for added protection.
Proper insulation is another important defense against attic water damage. When an attic is sufficiently insulated, it will measure 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature in the winter. There should also be insulation in the attic’s floor to keep the house’s warm air in the living areas.
Without proper insulation, ice dams may form on the roof. An ice dam begins when freezing rain, ice or snow accumulates on the eaves or lower edge of the roof. Because the attic temperatures are warmer, the snow or ice melts into water, then refreezes on colder eaves and gutters. When it does this, it turns into icicles. After several days of running through this cycle of freezing and unfreezing, an ice dam may form. The ice dam traps a pool of water between the ice and the roof and, because the water is trapped, it will eventually leak through the shingles and into the attic.
Though proper insulation is important year-round, it’s an especially good idea to examine it after a rainy season. Remember to check the heating ducts, as well.
How do I know when to replace my insulation?
Insulation should be thick, soft, and dry. If you find insulation that is thin, flat, or moist, it should be replaced. Most insulation is ruined if it gets wet. Wet insulation isn’t just ineffective – it can also cause more attic water damage. The insulation holds on to moisture for a long time, which keeps your attic humid and damp. Wet insulation is also very heavy. Adding extra weight to your ceiling can lead to sagging, drooping, or caving in.
Vents in your bathroom and kitchen are designed to remove moisture. But where does the moisture go? A functioning vent should be taking any and all moisture outside your home. However, sometimes these vents are designed to route moisture into the attic. Even an efficient ventilation system struggles to address this added load, which means moisture will accumulate quickly. It’s a good idea to ensure your vents direct all moisture outside.
Moisture can actually build up in your attic if it doesn’t have the proper ventilation. This is especially important during the colder winter months. Warm, moist air rises. When it gets to the attic, the moisture condenses on cold surfaces, like pipes. Your pipes can be insulated with foam pipe wrap to prevent condensation from forming. In the warmer summer months, humidity can get trapped in your attic. A dehumidifier can reduce the amount of moisture in the house.
Installing vents allows for airflow that can prohibit moisture build-up and prevent attic water damage. If you already have vents installed, make sure they aren’t blocked. Part of designing a ventilation system is controlling the direction of the airflow. You can increase the effectiveness of your vents by sealing any air leaks you find. Remember, even though these leaks may seem small and insignificant, if air can enter so can moisture. Be sure to seal air leaks where the walls meet the ceiling and floor, as well as holes that allow for electrical wiring. Caulking is an easy way to seal small holes or cracks, and expanding foam is great for larger spaces.
When it comes to protecting your home, start with your attic. Rainy weather could draw attention to problems you didn’t even know you had. And, if left unnoticed, those problems could multiply and grow in size over time. If your home has been affected by the rainy, North Texas weather, give us a call. Our PuroClean professionals are on call to lend a helping hand.