Potential Attic Disasters to Check for Now

An empty attic with light coming through a window.

If you have an unfinished attic, chances are you don't go in it too often. Unfinished attics are often dark, dusty, and dirty places that are hot in the summer and, if not insulated well, cold in the winter. However, there are several problems that can arise in your attic that if left unchecked can cause serious damage to your home over time. Following are common attic problems to look out for and fix before they become more costly issues.

Water Damage

Water damaged floor.

It's not uncommon for attics to have some amount of water damage over time. Roofing materials do not last forever, and if a roof is not installed properly water can often find its way in. Water accumulation can cause significant damage over time. It may cause wood to rot, inviting pests. Or, it may cause a mold and mildew problem. Water can also be problematic in areas where there is the wiring.

Check your attic frequently for wet or water-stained wood. If you do find wet wood, try to identify the source and fix the problem. You'll also want to remove and replace all damaged wood. If do you find water-stained wood, make sure to check back after the next heavy rain. It's possible the wood was stained when the roof was last replaced.


Most homes will have a pest invasion of some sort over time, especially older homes. Common pests include mice, rats, squirrels, carpenter ants, and termites. All of these pests can damage your home.

Mice, Rats, and Squirrels

A rat in an attic.

Mice, rats, and squirrels can enter your home from the outside through small openings in your siding or roof. This usually happens in the late fall or early winter, when these animals are looking for shelter from the cold temperatures (though some animals will use your house year-round). Once inside, these pests will forage for food and water, often chewing through whatever is in their way, which may include electrical wires. They will also look for a quiet place to make a nest -- attics are the perfect place.

There are several ways to tell if you have these furry pests in your house. One indicator is the presence of dark black or brown rice-shaped pellets near food sources, along the edge of walls, or in the attic itself. Another indicator is a scratching sound in walls or ceilings. If you notice any of the above signs, you'll want to take action immediately. The longer you delay, the higher the chance these animals will reproduce. A small problem can quickly turn into a large infestation.

You'll want to identify where the animals are and set traps. Snap traps are usually the cheapest and easiest to use, however, there are also traps that will trap the animal so that you can humanely release it outside (far away from your home). Bait the traps and set them along walls where you've witnessed activity. Be sure to keep snap traps away from pets and children, and check the traps once a day.

To prevent pests from re-entering, you'll want to inspect your home's exterior and seal up any small holes you find. Trim back any tree branches that hang over your roof. Also, keep the foundation plantings neat and trim. Vegetation around and above your home is an invitation to pests.

Carpenter Ants and Termites

Damaged wood eaten by termites

Carpenter ants and termites are two pests that can cause serious structural damage to a home if not dealt with immediately. Carpenter ants tunnel through wood to make a nest, while termites actually consume the wood. Both are attracted to wet and rotting wood. If you find that you are dealing with a carpenter ant or termite infestation, it's best to call a professional as both pests can be difficult to get rid of on your own. As mentioned above, be sure to remove and replace any water-damaged wood in your attic.

These are just a few potential attic problems to be on the lookout for. If you check your attic routinely and frequently, you'll save yourself a lot of time and money down the road.