Attic Insulation photos: P 134-P 136, P 185
Check to see if there is insulation between the floor joists of the attic area. Sometimes you'll find insulation between the roof rafters in a house. The roof rafters don't need to be insulated because once heat has escaped through the upper level ceiling it's lost anyway. There's no sense trying to trap this heat in the attic. If you do, you'll only be trapping unwanted moisture in the attic by installing insulation between the roof rafters. You will also rot the roof sheathing due to the trapped moisture.
The benefit of having attic flooring is that you can use this area for storage. However, flooring prevents you from seeing if there's insulation throughout the attic area. Sometimes there's only insulation in the visible floor areas that aren't covered. The owner may have installed this insulation without bothering to remove the attic flooring that was there to insulate the entire attic.
Check to see how thick the insulation is. The insulation should be at least eight inches thick. If it isn't just recommend that the client install an additional layer of insulation for better energy efficiency. Newer construction will have about 12 " of insulation in the attic. This will pay for itself due to the energy savings. If there are any air-conditioning or heating ducts in the attic make sure they're insulated. Insulation is required on the exterior or the interior for energy efficiency.
Make sure the vapor barrier is installed properly. The vapor barrier is the aluminum foil layer on one side of the insulation roll. It must always be touching the heated side of the house.
Newer construction has pink fiberglass insulation. Make sure the vapor barrier s installed properly. The vapor barrier is the aluminum foil layer on one side of the insulation roll. It must always be touching the heated side of the house. For example, if insulation is installed in an unheated basement or crawl space, the vapor barrier must face upwards. If insulation is installed in an attic, the vapor barrier must face downwards. The reason for the vapor barrier is to prevent any moisture from getting trapped in the insulation and condensing. Any condensation will decrease the energy efficiency of the insulation. The vapor barrier prevents moisture by reflecting the heated air, which has moisture in it, back toward the heated portion of the house. If you notice that the vapor barrier is installed upside down, the client has two options. He can either turn the insulation around or use a knife or razor blade to cut openings in the vapor barrier. Openings in the vapor barrier will allow the moisture to escape without getting trapped between the layers of insulation.
If you recommend that the client add an additional layer of insulation in the attic or any other areas, make sure you tell them to purchase it without a vapor barrier. Another option is to cut openings in the vapor barrier, if there is one, before putting the insulation on top of the existing layer. While you're in the rooms below the attic, take a look at the ceilings. On some inspections I found small, round water stains on the ceilings below the attic. When I went into the attic, I found these stains were caused by a vapor barrier that was upside down. The moisture from the warm, humid air in the house had condensed between the vapor barrier and the ceiling below. Over time, small water stains developed.
In older houses you may find Rockwool or Vermiculite insulations. This is a fibrous material and may have some asbestos in it. So warn the client about this and let them decide if they want a lab to analyze the insulation for any asbestos content. Ask the owner if he/she has installed, or knows of any prior owner's having installed, insulation in the house. You want to warn your client about any "blown-in" type of insulation. In the past, some houses had UFFI insulation blown-into the walls and floors. UFFI stands for Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation and the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), has issued warnings about this type of insulation. The chemicals from this foam are a health hazard because they seep out into the air in the house. If there's UFFI or any unknown type of foam insulation in the house, recommend that an air sample be taken to see if there are any health concerns. You should also tell the client to contact the Environmental Protection Agency office to obtain more information about foam and other hazardous insulation.