Seattle Home Inspector's Blog

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Why is your Attic Access smiling at you?

People love to install pull down stairs as the means of attic access,  Stairs tend to make the attic space more useful as one is not teetering on a step ladder to get things up and down.

Before I go further in this discussion, I want to state that attics are for insulation–not storage or other purposes even though commonly done.  There are numerous problems with using attic space for things other than insulation and this article is NOT about all of those things.

At this time I only want to discuss the pull down stair attic access.

As you can see by this infrared picture, the pull down stairs is staring right at us and gives away the problem.


I am smiling because of how much I am costing you!

 

The two beady white eyes are all that shows of the zipper seam of the insulating cover between the poor seal of the lid.  This picture is what the lid looks like without the infrared.



The foam zipper cover made to improve energy efficiency is a whopping R-3.8 at a cost of around $116.00 from the Big Orange Toolbox.  Modern standards require that attic hatches be insulated to the same level as the rest of the attic.  In other words R-38 to R-49.  Some sort of thick foam cover would be necessary.  And, of course with that much insulation in the attic any storage floor system gets quite complicated.

This next picture is what the R-3.8 foam cover looks like with the infrared camera and with the stairs pulled down.  As you can see, it represents little resistance to heat flow from the warm attic.



This greatly increases energy consumption due to heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.

Like I started out at the beginning of this conversation, it is best to leave the attic to insulation–and find a better place for the Christmas decorations and stuff your kids will have to deal with when you are gone.

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comment balloon 7 commentsCharles Buell • June 12 2017 10:48PM

Comments

Almost every buyer asks if there is room for storage in the attic especially if they see a pull down stairs. The problem is we have too much stuff and need places to store it. The extreme heat in attics isn't good for storing items and they will break down and ruin over time.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) over 1 year ago

Great illustration.  I hae talked to buyers and sellers about this type of entrance many many times.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) over 1 year ago

That attic access door is not only smiling at you, it has an aura about it!

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 1 year ago

Charles Buell You speak my language!

Posted by Lauren Williams, CPO, Professional Organizer: Puget Sound homes (Casual Uncluttering LLC) over 1 year ago

I had an attic pull-down door yesterday that was 123F.  The metal ladder assembly was really hot!

And plywood was spread all over the attic floor for storage!  So, the insulation was compromised, the door was not insulated, and the upper level not comfy. 

It got up into the 90s yesterday so the thermal images were instructive!

Oh, the ladder door wasn't smiling.  It looked like it was suffering in the heat.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 1 year ago

Good morning Charles. I learned a lot from this. Attics are generally storage areas.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) over 1 year ago

I don't think I've seen an attic (ever) that wasn't used for storage. This is interesting.

And I totally agree with the "stuff your kids will have to deal with" comment. When my dad passed away, I was up in his attic going through boxes of paperwork and other items. It wasn't a fun experience!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) over 1 year ago

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