For some people, the attic is just a place to stash a few empty boxes. It certainly isn’t living space and to call it storage is, well, stretching things a bit. The truth is, the attic can provide excellent storage for little used items and those that don’t need special storage conditions. There’s just one catch though.
Before you use your attic as a storage space, you need to make sure it can do the job right. That means making sure it is clean, free of wildlife, and relatively dry. Those may seem like simple requirements, but attics have their own special set of needs as explained below.
Keeping the things you store in your attic dry should be priority number one. Most people know to check for roof leaks by looking for stains and obvious water damage. Unfortunately, moisture entry into attics is more complicated than just rain from above, water can come from below as well.
After checking for roof damage and ceiling stains that would betray an obvious leak, you’ll want to check for signs of rot in the beams and joists supporting the roof. You can poke at the wood gently with a small knife. If the knife is hard to insert, you’re in good shape. If the knife goes in easily or large chunks of wood break off, you may need professional help to address rot.
After checking the roof, the next place to check for water damage is around any bathroom vents, kitchen vents, or other pipes that pass through the attic. Note that the phrase says “through” the attic and not “into” the attic. If vents open into the attic, you will need to extend them to the outdoors where they can release their moisture without damaging your home or creating an environment in which mold can grow.
Before leaving the topic of moisture, you will need to check one more thing and that is the quality of ventilation. Ventilation in an attic serves two purposes. First, it regulates temperature on hot days and prevents the attic from turning into an oven. More important for storage, however, is the second use of ventilation.
During winter, hot air rises from your living space into the attic, carrying with it moisture. When that warm, moist air hits the cool air of the attic, it condenses and forms liquid water if it doesn’t have a way of getting out. If you don’t have adequate ventilation, then you could be looking at serious water damage and a lot of mold from this condensation. The best solution to assessing ventilation is to hire a professional, like the ones at InterstateAir.com, to evaluate your attic ventilation and tell you if it is adequate. If it needs improvement, they’ll be able to give you an idea of just want kinds of changes are needed and how much they will cost.
Attics are often home to mice, birds, and other wildlife. Depending on the size of the holes that let these critters come and go, you could even be looking at pretty large animals like raccoons. Checking for wildlife is pretty easy. You’ll want to look for damage they have done by scratching, food and bedding material they may have left behind, and feces.
Unfortunately, determining if wildlife lives in your attic is much easier than determining how that wildlife was able to get in. The smaller the animal, the harder it will be to track down entry points. You may need to hire a professional depending on the scale of the problem.
This is the easiest of the three tasks to accomplish. Basically you just want to get rid of dust, debris, insects, and spiders. You don’t have to make the area as clean as a kitchen, but you will want to make it clean enough that your favorite sweater won’t be crawling with spiders when you put it on. Many people put up thin plastic if the walls and ceilings of an attic are unfinished. The plastic will prevent debris from falling onto your belongings and can serve as a little extra protection if the roof does spring a leak. Just be sure not to block ventilation routes with the plastic.
If you have met all three criteria above, you are ready to use your attic for all sorts of storage. Of course, you’ll probably want to keep things inside bins that seal well against water and air. While your attic is now clean and dry, there is always dust settling and you don’t want it on the items you store. What is more, you’ll want to protect against disaster, like a surprise roof leak. Take a few precautionary measures now to make your attic a top-notch storage location.
John Young remodels homes. He enjoys finding ways to increase efficiency and usefulness of houses.