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As the calendar flips towards the months of summer, the temperature and humidity rise and people seek relief from the heat. For some this means searching around in the basement or attic for the place where they stored the fans and A/C units last year. For those who have for whatever reason decided to store their cooling equipment in the attic, the hunt will be a hot and hopefully brief one.
It may also be a moment of discovery.
A common condition I find as a home inspector in attics is lack of adequate attic ventilation. I believe attic venting is one of the top misunderstood components in a home. I still find home made covers for gable vents in homes built prior to the first oil crisis back in the early 70s. Some people believed that blocking their gable vents would help save on their heating bills. What they didn't know was they were slowly causing damage to their house.
The reason for attic ventilation is two fold, the first and the one I believe to be the most obvious is to expel excess heat from the attic when the mercury is high. The second and just as important reason for attic vents is to expel excess moisture, especially in the months when the temperature is frigid.
Often a homeowner or a client of mine will see water stains around the roofing nails and below on the insulation and flooring in the attic. These stains are usually mistaken for roofing leaks. The cause for these water stains is actually coming not from above, but below. These stains are caused not by rain, but by condensation forming on the roofing nails and in extreme cases on the roof sheathing itself.
Moisture is being constantly produced in every house. Just breathing releases moisture. Add to that cooking, bathing and the dampness from the basement or crawlspace and it all equates to a significant amount of moisture. A good portion of that humidity finds its way into the attic. If everything is in balance all the dampness is vented to the exterior through the attic ventilation. If not you see stains like those in the photo. In extreme cases portions of or even the entire roof sheathing can be stained black.
One "solution" I find to the problem of elevated moisture in the attic is a thermostatically controlled attic fan. This fan is great as long as the temperature set point is reached and the fan kicks on. The trouble is these fans won't run in the cold because they are designed to remove heat not moisture. So while the homeowner now believes their problems are solved, in reality nothing has been fixed. Condensation will assuredly continue until more passive ventilation is added. Often other repairs are required along with the increase in ventilation.
So if drips and water stains are present in the attic, don't make the error of installing a fan hoping to dry out the space.
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.