Some people have scenes of wrapping themselves up in warm blankets, nice and cozy, sitting on the sofa, and watching a good movie with a cup of hot chocolate in hand in winter. The mini-marshmallows are a nice plus. Other people are just the opposite, counting down the days until spring arrives. Either way, there is another consideration for you to be thinking about, and that is what is going on above your head in your attic. It is getting cold outside, and the furry critters that want to get warm are looking for a place to call home. Your home.

mice-feces-and-urine

Mouse Feces and Urine

It isn’t just the damage rodents can do with their teeth to your ductwork, electrical wiring, and anything else stored in your attic, but the real health concerns relative to the feces and urine that they are depositing there, not to mention the legion of babies being produced. Attics and More does not claim to be in the pest management business, but we will inspect your attic for signs of these issues so you can have it managed by a proper pest control company. When the pest control company has completed their portion of the work by catching anything that is still alive in your attic and blocking ways for them to return to your warm and inviting home, Attics and More will return and remove the gross and messy insulation that still holds health hazards, sanitize your attic, and place fresh insulation down to make your attic, and by extension the people who reside there, healthy again.

Mice Feces and Chewed Wires

Mice Feces and Chewed Wires

 

mice-chewed-water-piping

Water Piping Chewed by Mice

A standout of our removal process is that we will professionally remove your existing insulation and sanitize the attic. Most insulation companies will skip this step and place new insulation over existing disintegrated and possibly toxic insulation to avoid this mess. Our method is a clean one wherein the equipment is left outside as we remove the debris from inside your home. We take every precaution to ensure cleanliness and the safety of you and our family.

After the sanitization process is complete, we blow in our fiberglass insulation, which is 100 percent recycled and is the only insulation in the world guaranteed to remain at its original R-value level for as long as you own your home. If at any point – for as long as you own your house – your insulation fails to live up to our high standards of energy efficiency, our insulation team will refill your attic to the appropriate level for free. This fresh Johns Manville fiberglass will be at a depth of 15 inches or R-38, which is appropriate for our region. When you invest in this quality product, you can rest assured that you are purchasing insulation that will help increase your home’s energy efficiency, cut down on monthly electric bills, and reduce your carbon footprint.

This approach to an attic infestation is a real win-win for the homeowner having peace of mind that the attic is free from pests and harmful materials in the attic, and can look forward to comfort and energy savings with the installation of our level R-38 blown-in insulation. Attics and More offers complimentary home inspections, so why not let us take a peek in the attic and see what is really going on up there?

As the housing market begins to recover from the COVID-fueled downturn, many people are just settling into a new house or are seriously considering putting the ole homestead on the market.  

According to Realtor.com: “Buyers are still out shopping for homes, which suggests they think [the recession] is a temporary blip,” said Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. 

With interest rates reaching all-time low (3.07% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan in the week ending July 2), new and prospective homeowners keep the market healthy. In fact, mortgage applications have surged 18.1% annually as of mid-June, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. 

However, new homeowners and house shoppers may want to tread carefully amid all this optimism. Finding the perfect home (not just a house) involves careful investigation, regardless of interest rates. And one of the most vital areas to carefully inspect is right above your head – the attic.  

Attics are sometimes overlooked during the home-buying process – “It’s just a place to store our junk!”  

However, an attic reveals visual cues that point to potential issues with the structural integrity of a house.  

“An attic reflects the history of a home. It can provide clues to serious problems that might not be disclosed or even known by the current owner,” Realtor Elizabeth Weintraub said in a blog post.  

Rafter and truss damage could be a warning sign the households some serious problems. In addition, a closer inspection may reveal substandard wood quality or haphazard construction, and that can lead to leakage and water damage.  

That’s why it’s vital to have your attic inspected by a trained professional. But what will an inspector be well inspecting? Let’s look at some basics.  

Out with the Old 

Nothing scares away potential home buyers more than a house with an old, worn-down look – outdated appliances, period-specific décor (must we discuss the avocado fridges from the 70s?), and decrepit insulation.  

Not only can old insulation ramp up energy costs, but it can also be hazardous to your health! As we learned in our recent blog post, older homes may be rife with unsafe insulation consisting of dangerous material such as vermiculiteasbestos, and, the appropriately scary sounding, Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI). A trained inspector can advise you on your modern, safer options. 

Under-Insulation 

Unless your home is in the top 10-percent in the Awesome Insulation League, your house – old or new – is probably under-insulated. 

The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association estimates around 90 percent of existing U.S. homes are under-insulated.  

“If all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), residential electricity use nationwide would drop by about 5 percent and natural gas use by more than 10 percent,” Jonathan Levy, professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health, said in an NAIMA statement.  

The U.S. Department of Energy agrees

“Unless your home was specially constructed for energy efficiency, you can probably reduce your energy bills by adding more insulation. Many older homes have less insulation than homes built today, but even adding insulation to a newer home can pay for itself within a few years.” 

So how can you know if your house is under-insulated?  

EnergyStar advises looking for:  

  • “Drafty rooms 
  • Hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; uneven temperature between rooms 
  • High heating or cooling bills 
  • Ice dams in the winter” 

Use a ruler to measure the depth of your insulation. From there, you can estimate what’s known as an R-value.  

The energy department adds: “R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.”  

And Don’t Forget… 

Finally, a professional attic inspector may also check for wildlife damage – that’s right, critters may sneak into your attic looking for a cheap place to crash. Gnawed wiring, shredded paper nests, and feces are a pretty straightforward set of clues that an amateur attic inspector may miss.  

In addition, an inspection may look into proper chimney access and quality, as well as signs of water damage.  

What’s Next?  

Before you sell your home or place a contract on a new buy, it’s a fantastic idea to launch a professional attic inspection.  

Understanding the intricacies of attic quality and insulation gets complicated quickly. An inspection by a qualified attic professional can save time and money.   

Why crawl around a dark, dusty (and maybe spooky!) attic without knowing the warning signs.  

Contact us today to discuss how we will provide the next level in attic inspection for your home – before the SOLD sign goes up.  

Most homeowners never consider what kind of chemicals are literally over their heads. And by chemicals, we mean attic insulation material.

There’s a myriad of choices when it comes to insulation. What most customers don’t know, however, is that several types of insulation may contain hazardous material that can fuel long-term health problems.

For the sake of space, we’re going to place two types of insulation under our “blog microscope” (blog-oscope?) – Closed Cell/Spray Foam and Blown-in Fiberglass. Spoiler alert: blown-in fiberglass turns out to be safer AND more energy efficient.

Danger Above: Spray Polyurethane Foam

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF), as the name implies, is, well, spray foam composed of polyurethane. SPF’s are classified as high, medium, or low density. Attic insulation falls into medium or low. Medium-density SPF’s are sometimes called “closed-cell foam” because they are contained within an internal closed-shell configuration to improve thermal resistance. To make this simple: All closed-cell foam is SPF but not all SPF is closed-cell.

SPF has been a popular attic insulation choice because of its high R-value. Readers may recall the term from previous posts. EnergyStar defines R-value as “a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.”

Sounds great, right? Well, here’s the problem. SPF contains a harmful chemical scarily named
isocyanates. Now, if isocyanates stay locked inside the insulation, it’s probably not an issue.

However, the EPA notes: “If SPF was not applied properly, chemical contaminants may have migrated to hard and/or soft surfaces elsewhere in the building and may be the source of residual odors; therefore, removal may not resolve the issue.”

Think about your attic for a moment:

• What do you know about the composition of your attic insulation?
• Was it installed before you bought the home?
• What were the qualifications of the installer?
• Why do you have 5 years’ worth of magazines up there?

It’s likely the answers are “Not much,” “No idea,” “Dunno who installed, “Hey, those special editions of Good Housekeeping will only increase in value!” Therefore, most homeowners have no way of knowing if they have SPF or if it has been properly installed and, as such, don’t know if isocyanates have seeped out. Yikes!

What’s the worst that can happen if your attic is a ticking isocyanate time bomb? Let’s ask OSHA:

“Health effects of isocyanate exposure include irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficult breathing. Isocyanates include compounds classified as potential human carcinogens and known to cause cancer in animals. The main effects of hazardous exposures are occupational asthma and other lung problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.”

According to Metropolitan Engineering Consulting and Forensics:

“We do know for sure that the prevalence of asthma in the overall United States population has
increased by almost 100 percent since the early 1980’s and links have been reported between these foams and the asthma or dermatitis incidents. A study that was done by Krone, et al. and published in the publication Environmental Contamination and Toxicology in 2003 showed that isocyanates in foam containing consumer products were present 30 years post-manufacture.”

Stay Safe with Blown-in Fiberglass

Commonly composed of fiberglass or cellulose, blown-in insulation is (surprise) blown into attic spaces like confetti. The tiny particles seep snugly into any space and can fill existing walls with minimal damage to any desired depth.

Of course, no insulation type is 100-percent without potential health risks. However, blown-in fiberglass offers maximum benefit with minimum risk – especially when installed by a qualified pro.

  • Blown-in insulation keeps indoor attic temperatures cooler in summer. In addition, blown-in stops heated and cooled air from leaking out. Since it fits into the smallest spaces, blown-in maximizes HVAC performance. Consumers report blown-in insulation often saves so much in energy costs that installation pays for itself in a couple of years.
  • Blown-in fiberglass insulation also reduces the risk of fire. Since it creates a tight seal across the attic, air can’t flow through small spaces to stoke a blaze.
  • Blown-in is easy to install quickly by a qualified installation team – often within a few hours.
  • Because blown-in creates such a tight seal, overall household noise is reduced. And, in these trying times when we’re stuck at home, a quiet home is a peaceful home.

Choose Wisely: The Right Pro for the Job

If you’re convinced that perhaps your attic needs some attention, the first step is an inspection. Attics and More offers a free attic inspection to determine if you have the safest and most efficient attic insulation, as well as uncovering other trouble spots. If blown-in installation is the best option, we’ve got you covered.

EnergyStar notes: “It is easier to get complete coverage of the attic floor with blown-in loose-fill insulation. It is best to hire an insulation contractor for this job.”

Contact us today to discuss how we can identify what’s above your head and … how safe it might be.

There are few places in the home that attract mold easier than the attic. They often have the perfect conditions for mold growth – hot or humid air, and an abundance of wood sheathing just waiting to grow mold. Furthermore, homeowners rarely check the attic and find themselves with a mold problem that they don’t even know they have.

In this article, we discuss how to identify attic mold issues, their typical causes, and how to act on them before it’s too late.

How to know if you have mold in your attic

You can avoid an attic mold problem by either routinely checking the area for mold, or by taking necessary precautions to make sure it never happens. But you don’t know if you have an attic mold if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so here are the telltale signs of an attic mold problem.

Getting into an attic and completing a detailed inspection is tough work! Don’t want to deal with the hassle? Schedule a free attic inspection today and learn how to save energy and improve comfort in your home.

Hot and stuffy attic

Ideally, you attic should be breezy and have good air circulation. If you have proper ventilation this shouldn’t be a problem, but when you have a stuffy attic you’re increasing the chances of accruing mold.

Frost buildup on the underside of roof sheathing

During colder months, poor ventilation can cause the water vapor in the attic to freeze on the underside of the roof. This frost buildup is easy to spot and a clear indication of future mold.

Wet attic insulation

This is not only a surefire way to get yourself a mold problem, but wet or damp insulation hinders its abilities. This is going to cost you extra money to heat or cool your home.

Water dripping from smoke detectors, fans, and light fixtures

If water is coming out from these ceiling fixtures, that means the floor above you – in this case the attic – has moisture that needs to be addressed.

Mildew smell in the attic

A musty or moldy smell in the attic generally means that there’s mold already developing. Trust your nose!

Dark staining on wood surfaces

If the wood in your attic has any black discoloration, that means the problem has moved beyond moisture, and that there is mold that needs to be removed.

What causes attic mold?

Mold is a type of fungus that thrives on moisture and reproduces through lightweight spores that travel through the air. Therefore in most homes, a mold problem is likely a moisture problem. You can’t have a mold issue without first having some sort of moisture issue.

In most cases, attic moisture problems are due to three different elements: blocked or insufficient ventilation, improper exhaustion of fans or dryer events, and roof issues or leaks. Let’s discuss each of these three issues so you can have a better understanding of how to fix a mold issue before it occurs.

Blocked/Insufficient Ventilation

You may have figured out by now that the most common cause of attic mold is blocked or insufficient ventilation. Attics generally have a passive ventilation system in which outside air comes in through eave vents, warms up the attic, then escapes through a can or ridge vent at the top since warm air rises. This creates a nice, breezy airflow for your attic – until your eave vents become blocked.

This disrupts the entire ventilation system, and your attic becomes hot and stuffy. The warm and humid air in the attic will stagnate and condense along the cold wood sheathing in the winter. This then causes wet wood and mold growth throughout the attic.

Mold growth can also occur if there aren’t enough vents, as 1 square foot of venting is needed for every 100 square feet of attic space. Most home inspectors or contractors will check your house’s ventilation system whenever there’s a mold problem, so be ahead of the curve by checking if your house has a proper system unblocked by insulation.

Improper bathroom fans or dryer vents

Dryer exhaust vents, bathroom exhaust fans, and kitchen exhaust fans are designed to pump moisture out of your home. Always make sure that they’re terminating outside of your house, and not into your attic. Plumbing stacks can be a source of condensation in the attic, which often lead to mold growth. Since plumbing stacks can release hazardous substances, make sure they’re not terminating inside your attic either.

Roof issues and leaks

Roof leaks often lead to smaller, more centralized areas of attic mold near where the leaks are occurring. Here are a few ways to check for roof leaks:

  • Check for dark discoloration or staining of wood like rafters, joists, sheathing, etc.
  • Check roof valleys (aka where two roofs join at an angle), as they are susceptible to roof leaks
  • Observe vents, plumbing stacks, chimneys, and anywhere else where dissimilar materials join each other, as they are hotbeds for moisture intrusion.

Does attic mold affect indoor air quality?

Given all these precautions for attic mold, you might be wondering why it can be so hard to notice until it’s too late. Part of that is because attic mold doesn’t necessarily affect the quality of air inside your home.

This is due to the simple fact that warm air rises, a phenomenon known as the “stack effect,” in which air rises from the lower levels of your home to the attic. Since mold spores don’t have wings – as in they can’t fly against the upward flow of the stack effect within a house – it’s extremely rare for attic mold to affect the indoor air quality.

However, attic mold is a common issue that homeowners don’t know they have until other issues arise. Although there are plenty of professionals that can remove attic mold, it’s also better to prevent it from happening in the first place, even if it doesn’t directly affect the air in your house.

How to prevent mold in your attic

Air Sealing

We’ve already identified how bathroom or kitchen fans can end up dumping moist air into the attic instead of outside the home. In the wintertime, the cold wooden sheathing in the attic combined with the moist air can cause wet wood which results in an ideal environment for mold to form.

To prevent moist bathroom or kitchen air from exiting into your attic, technicians can seal the attic and make sure that vent fans and dryer vents are ducted to the outside. This way none of the harmful moist air enters the attic, and instead is redirected outside the house.

Proper Ventilation

Similarly, make sure that all of your appliance, plumbing, and house vents are all directed to vent outside, not the attic. Your vents might also be venting to vent ports installed in the soffit, and warm air might not be traveling in the downward motion that they’re designed for. Check for stains and discoloration above where the vent enters the soffit areas to diagnose potential issues.

Air constantly moving through the attic will ultimately prevent mold from developing, so it’s hard to overdo the ventilation up there.

Proper Insulation

Another key component to keeping mold out of your attic is proper insulation. Insulation prevents warmer air from entering a cold attic, as that causes condensation and moisture buildup. Check that there is insulation on and surrounding your access panel and your attic floors. Heating ducts and any empty space between the attic and other parts of the house (such as crawl spaces).

Don’t over-insulate your attic, as warm air is ultimately needed to dry out some of the moisture in the attic’s air. No heat to dry out moisture means mold growth in your attic.

Benefits of preventing mold in your attic

When unattended, attic mold can lead to structural deterioration of attic sheathing and the roof. Repairing these components can get expensive depending how widespread the damage is. Preventing mold through proper ventilation and insulation can save homeowners a fortune.

Furthermore, properly ventilating your home and preventing mold from forming around ventilation in your attic will allow better overall air circulation. This will make your attic less stuffy in the summer, which contributes to a cooler house overall. As such, preventing mold through proper ventilation can help save you money on electric bills.

It’s always best to check your home for any warning signs and deal with them accordingly so that your house is free of mold and you are free of worry.

Every summer and winter season brings its own unique challenges each year, but trying to keep your home well insulated during the hottest or coldest months is always an annoying hurdle.

No matter what you try, there’s always a stretch of days or even weeks where you just can’t get the temperature where you want it. Having to crank your home’s AC during the summer or bundle up in blankets to combat the winter cold should never have to happen.

One of the biggest reasons why you can’t seem to control your the temperature in your home can be the attic. Attics often trap heat from the sun and transfer it into your home, or let heat generated from your air conditioning escape outside. Luckily, installing insulation in your attic allows you to reverse many of these effects.

In this article we discuss how reflective attic insulation works, their uses and benefits, and even some of the myths surrounding them to give you a comprehensive understanding of this innovative home-insulation method.

Reflective Attic Insulation

What is reflective attic insulation?

During summer months, the sun’s radiant energy heats your roof shingles, which then transfers that heat into the attic through conduction. The temperature of the attic increases, and the heat is eventually released down towards the rest of the house.

During the winter months, heat can have a similar effect but from the inside. The warmth generated from your heaters can escape in various ways, keeping your home from being as warm as it can be. This process makes your hot summer months that much hotter, and your chilly winter that much colder, driving up your air conditioning and electricity bills.

Reflective attic insulation addresses this issue by reflecting radiant heat rather than absorbing it. This system consists of highly reflective material – usually foil – that reflects heat from the sun to keep it from entering your home, while keeping heat from inside your home from exiting. They generally take the form of sheets of foil that are placed on the ground or walls of your attic.

How reflective attic insulation works

Heat travels through conduction and radiation. Heat flows by conduction from a hotter location within a material to a colder location. Radiant heat travels in a straight line away from a surface and heats anything solid that can absorb its energy.

Reflective insulation systems work by reducing radiant heat gain. When the sun heats a roof, its radiant energy makes the roof itself hot. Through conduction, the heat travels from the roofing material to the walls of an attic. The hot roof material then radiates that gained heat energy onto the cooler attic surfaces. The reflective attic insulation reduces the heat transfer from the hot roof material to the attic surfaces. Similarly, radiant heat generated from inside the home can be reflected back through the same reflective insulation material.

Benefits of reflective attic insulation

The most apparent benefit to reflective attic insulation is a cooler attic, which translates to a cooler home. Because heat isn’t getting trapped inside the attic, less heat is being transferred to the lower levels. Multi-layer reflective attic insulation can block up to 97% of radiant heat transfer, translating to an attic heat reduction of almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

This reduction in heat during summer months can be extremely beneficial for homeowners during the summer, where you’re already having to turn on air conditioning. By reducing radiant heat from entering through the attic, your home becomes that much cooler, and your electricity bills decline as a result.

Science dictates that heat moves up from warm areas to cold areas, so heat generated by your heating system naturally moves up toward your freezing attic. If you have reflective attic insulation installed, it transfers that heat back down and keeps the house warmer.

The reduced attic temperatures increases the efficiency of attic ductwork. This reduces cycle time and takes the pressure off your home’s heating and cooling systems, thereby prolonging their life cycles.

Myths about reflective attic insulation

There have been a number of myths about reflective insulation over the years, particularly with how the design affects the overall performance of reflective attic insulation.

Neither the color nor the reflectance (effectiveness of reflecting energy) makes any reflective attic insulation more efficient at doing its job, as the typical foil used in most systems gets the job done. And while reflective attic insulation certainly helps reduce air conditioning costs for many homes, it’s not the end-all-be-all of efficient energy design. It must be integrated as part of a larger cohesive building plan centered around energy efficiency.

Also, many think that NASA invented reflective insulation materials – they did not. But they have used it on spacesuits and spacecrafts for insulation, which speaks to the system’s effectiveness for trapping heat inside and outside of homes.

Is reflective attic insulation right for your home?

Every home is different, so the best way to determine if a reflective attic insulation makes sense for your home is through a detailed attic inspection. Aside from assessing your existing insulation systems, an attic inspection can provide a number of other insights.

Attic inspections can uncover problems in the attic, such as mold growth from poor ventilation, and energy efficiency issues due to poor air sealing and insufficient insulation. If you’re interested in getting a free attic inspection and quote for reflective attic insulation, please contact us. We’ll be happy to come out to your home and determine if our reflective insulation products make sense for you and your home.