Up Up And Away! …Scuttle Hatches……..Part 3: Insulation as Air Filter


Up Up And Away! …Scuttle Hatches……..Part 3: Insulation as Air Filter

This is something that I see quite regularly. Most people forget that the modern attic is not a storage area of the home. It is a structural service area and is a cold zone. It is outside the thermal envelope of the home. For all intents and purposes it IS outside the home (It’s just rain sheltered.)

So what does this mean to home owners. Unfortunately, from the evidence I’ve seen, to a great many, it doesn’t mean a thing.

Why do I say that?  What evidence an I seeing?

Well, consider what’s shown in the photo above. Yes, it’s an open attic hatchway with the ladder positioned and prepared for the inspection.

Already, I haven’t even entered the attic yet, but I can see evidence of a chronic problem.

I can see the hatch which is well made of a solid board with rigid insulation glued on it. This is a good detail because it means that when the hatch cover is in the closed position, the hatch area itself is sure to be insulated.

Now look at the other insulation. The fiberglass. The colour. (Originally it was a bright yellow.) Doesn’t it remind you of a furnace  or car air filter? That’s because it is working just like one.

That means there is a constant air flow up arround the hatch to the out side. That’s air that you’ve paid for. No you didn’t buy the air but you paid to heat it or cool and filter it.

So that represents money leaving, ‘Up up and away’.

If that were happening at a window or door you’d soon be fixing that! So just like all the other openings to the outside it must have effective weatherstriping and latches to keep it closed.


Now please consider this:

If a fire or other source of smoke and/or gas originates in this room, most of the time, it is going to go right out the attic hatch. It will not set off the smoke detector untill much later, maybe only when it is too late.





Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

You found eves trough guttering inside! Where? An OMG File.

You found eves trough guttering inside!  Where?                                                        An OMG File.

rain gutter

Oh yeah. There it is. And where is it?     NO.  Not in the attic.!

Yup. That’s where I found it. The grey stuff you see is cellulose insulation.  The insulation you see in the gutter is stained and densely compacted.

And you know what that means, right?  Yup again, it means water!

Oh boy. This is news no one is going to want to hear. This is a million dollar mansion on a country estate, in horse country at that.  And this is not some MacMansion slapped up in a hurry, no this is well built and not very old.

I went to find the owner and told him what I’d found, showed him the photos. He was surprised. He’d never seen it and he had closely supervised the construction.

So I started asking him for details;


  • Was the insulation placed before the roofing? No. The roof shingling was done before the insolation was blown in.
  • Was the masonry done before the roofing?  Yes, all except the chimney.


There; we had the answer. The inside gutters were next to the chimney.

The chimney was not done before the roof and insulation were.  Masons…you have to take them when you ca get ’em.

So the chimney opening had a temporary cover and plastic sheeting and gutters were tacked up to keep the drippings off the insulation and out of the house until the masons finished.

So, of course, no one went back to remove the gutters when the work was done.


So when you need a full inspection……………………


Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

It Was, And There Was, Everywhere But That Was Not The Problem.

Tt Was, And There Was, Everywhere But That Was Not The Problem.

Yes, It was mid winter, it was a condo, and there was snow and ice everywhere but that was not the problem they’d brought me in for.

No their problem was quite obvious and visible, so they thought, but they didn’t understand why.

That’s why I was there.

They had water damage on the ceiling and sidewall of an archway, two distinct areas and a significant amount of water.

 The year before they had had water damage on the ceiling of the floor above and had the roof patched and the ceiling repaired and repainted. They couldn’t understand where the water came from. How it could be there while the floor above was dry.

There was no plumbing in that part of the house to leak.


This shows the arch between the dining area and the sunroom addition. The water, and therefore the damage, is concentrated to the left corner of the arch and to the right end wall. You can see this in the 2 following photos.

 In the photo above please take note of the position of the patio doors that can be see on the second floor (through the sunroom glazing.).

 water damage water damage 2

The room above (2nd floor, where the previous years damage had been) was in good shape. The ceiling was intact and unmarked except for one spot that looked like water at a seam/ joint in the gyproc. And there was some faint discoloration along the ceiling molding of the exterior wall.

The walls and floors showed no signs of damage. The areas around the sliding doors were particularly closely examined but no damage observed.

The exterior flashing, cladding and caulking were all in good order, properly installed and keeping the water out.

Then I looked up.    Icicles

icicles icicles centericicles gutter

Yes icicles are not rare, but they always tell a story. The kernel of this one is this;

              soffit icicles

These icicles show that water is behind the shingles. So once I was in the attic I verified that the soffit venting had not been done right and the insulation fully blocked what there was.

This means the heat loss from the home warms up the roof (instead of venting harmlessly to the outside).

The warm roof melts snow. That water freezes at the edge and gutter. This builds up an ice dam.

That ice dam holds water behind it, which backs up under the shingles and gets inside. The snow cover on top (light and fluffy) acts as an insulation and keeps it all from freezing. So with these conditions water gets in significant amounts.


Last years leaking had been around the plumbing and exhaust vents, slightly higher up the roof. The damage was more into the room ceiling on the second floor.

 This years damage was different. The ice dam formed more typically right at the edge of the roof, built up from the frozen guttering at the edge. The snowfall this winter was also deep and early. So this dam reservoir was well insulated for a long time. That allowed a lot of water to get in.

 Why did it not show up on the second floor this year?  And why did it go down to the lower first floor?

It wasn’t exclusive but most of it went down the walls rather than onto the ceiling under the attic because the water entered right at the bottom edge of the roof and once inside it went down the walls rather than over the ceiling.

  Remember the first picture showing the sliding patio doors above the sunroom?  The water could not run down where the doors were, so it flowed down either side.

That’s why there are 2 distinct areas of damage on the lower level.




Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post