- Supporting Truss or Rafter Damage
Roof inspections won't necessarily turn up defects in the structural members inside the attic. While the roof might look sound and secure, inside the attic you could find broken trusses or rafters. An inspection would disclose stress cracks that could lead to a loss of integrity and would also give buyers peace of mind that the size of the lumber was correct and up to code.
- Previous Fire Damage
If the rafters are any other color than natural wood, that could be a sign that the home was on fire. If the wood is black, scorched and sooty, that's almost a sure sign it had been burned in the past. However, if the wood is painted white, that could indicate that the smoke and burned damage was covered up because painting wood helps to eliminate the smell.
- Adequate Insulation
Attics can be insulated in a number of ways, including blowing in insulation or laying fiberglass batts. Insulation is rated with an R factor, meaning the higher the R number, typically the higher the insulating factor. Ask your home inspector if the batts are facing the right direction (paper up or paper down).
- Water Damage
Water flows from the top down and rarely enters a home sideways. Inspectors will look for staining on the wood supports or on the walls which would provide evidence that water had leaked or is leaking through the roof somewhere. Condensation can form around pipes, which can cause wood to rot.
Of course, one cannot inspect the interior of the chimney from the attic, but an inspector can note whether the structure itself is solid within the attic. That portion of the chimney that is not exposed to the elements can also weather and deteriorate, and this especially holds true for older homes. Inspectors will look for cracks in the bricks and whether the mortar has crumbled.
- Squirrel, Raccoon and Rodent Damage
The first sign that a critter has been living in the attic is often evidence discovered in the form of tiny pellets. Squirrels, raccoons or rodents often enter attics through the eaves or loose boards and can cause considerable damage.
In the attic photo above, squirrels ate through the insulation around pipes and they chewed through the Romex plastic coating, down to the bare wires. The seller had tossed poison into the attic, then forgot about the situation and did not disclose any of it to the buyer. As a result, the inspector removed three dead squirrels in the bucket photo. On top of the damage and potential for fire from exposed wiring, the insulation now posed a health risk and required replacing. All together, this job was priced at almost $5,000 to fix. And guess who paid it? It wasn't the buyer, thank goodness!
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.