Clues to inform you of attic mold BEFORE the home inspection
All too often we have realtors calling us in a bind—a home they were this close to selling was flagged for attic mold during the inspection. Rather than a quick close, they’re now wildly scrambling for a solution so they don’t lose the sale.
In our experience, the attic is the most common mold blind spot for home sellers, probably because it’s among the least trafficked sections in the home—it’s too bad that it’s also among the most problematic when it comes to mold.
When selling a home, you want to catch any and every problem before the home inspection occurs. Letting an issue slip by only to be discovered by the inspector late in the selling process is a great way to lose a sale at the last minute. As a realtor or a homeowner, it’s your job to find these hidden faults so that—when it’s finally time for the inspection—the home passes with flying colors.
Easy-to-identify signs that there is definitely a moisture problem in your attic
There are a few things you can look for when performing your own pre-inspection which are easy tells that you have an attic moisture problem, and perhaps even an attic mold problem. If any of the following are spotted, don’t ignore it:
- Dark black staining on wood surfaces — If the wood in your attic shows any black discoloration, the problem has moved beyond moisture; you have mold that should be removed.
- Attic feels excessively hot or stuffy — Attics should feel breezy if they are properly ventilated. When an attic is stuffy, that indicates you have a ventilation problem, which often results in mold problems.
- Frost buildup on the underside of the roof sheathing in winter — When it’s cold enough outside, water that has made its way to the underside of your roof can freeze. This makes it especially easy to spot.
- Wet insulation in the attic — Not only is this a sign that you may (or soon will) have a mold problem, but when insulation gets damp or wet its ability to insulate becomes significantly diminished, costing you extra money to heat/cool your home.
- Water dripping from smoke detectors, light fixtures, bath fans — This is a sure sign that the floor (or attic) above you has a level of moisture that needs to be addressed.
- The smell of mildew in the attic — Trust your nose. A musty or moldy smell in the attic means there’s a moisture problem somewhere.
How improper attic ventilation leads to attic moisture and mold
The average household of four generates 3-4 gallons of water vapor per day. That water has to go somewhere, and if it’s not being properly ventilated to the outdoors, some of that moisture is most likely going to gather in the attic. There are several issues that can cause attic mold, but much of the time, a house’s problem stems from a bathroom fan or the dryer vent running right into the attic when it should instead be directly connected to the exterior of the home. Even if the attic itself has proper ventilation, it is not acceptable to vent directly from the home into the attic.
And it’s not just a warm weather problem. In the cold Chicago winter, the heated air from inside your living space naturally rises into the attic. When this warm air comes into contact with the cold attic sheathing (underside of your roof), condensation occurs. Once the weather heats up, this moisture is primed to turn into a mold problem.
Effective ventilation systems can either be active, requiring an electrically powered ventilator, or they can be passive systems that let the wind do the ventilating work, such as a combination of soffit vents for intaking cool outside air and ridge vents for exhausting the hot attic air.
Any home inspector worth their salt will check a house’s attic ventilation system. To pass an inspection, and to ensure that an attic stays cool and dry, make sure there’s a proper system in place that’s unblocked by insulation.
Knowing the proper signs of attic mold, and how to prevent it to begin with, can save you a major headache during the sale of your home.