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Attics, Basements, Garages: Safeguarding Your Home’s Neglected Spaces

By Michelle Hopkins Feb 10, 2015

Ensure those often neglected spaces in your home – attics, garages and basements – are safe, well ventilated and weatherproof. Here, looks to ways you can safeguard your home against unforeseen and potentially expensive damage.

Up In the Roof

The attic. Home to cobwebs, dust and a multitude of useless junk we can’t part with … and who knows what else. But did you know it can also be filled with mold and mildew? Because attics are dark, often moist and humid, it is the perfect breeding ground for mildew and mold to thrive in.

Driving rain can also mean wet and damp attics. Checking for mildew and mold is crucial to maintain your home’s indoor air quality. Trapped moisture will soak the insulation and that is how mildew grows.

That’s true, says Steve Seaborn, seasoned contractor and owner of The Little Contractor, but the number one reason for mildew and mold is poor ventilation.

“Poor ventilation from improperly vented bathroom, kitchen and drier exhaust fans are common causes for attic molds. The fans should be vented directly to the exterior to prevent warm, moist air traveling into your attic … so check those to make sure they are,” he says. “Your attic should also be the same temperature and humidity as the exterior air.”

According to Seaborn, another common mistake many home owners do is to place insulation too close to the roof’s eaves. That obstructs the air circulation in your attic. If there is no circulation the end result is again mold and/or mildew.

Here are Seaborn’s other tips to control or avoid mold and mildew:

  1. Fix any and all moisture problems in your home. Repair leaky roofs and plumbing fixtures.
  2. Get an energy audit assessment. The auditors are independent, government certified and do not sell you anything. “An audit cost roughly $350 and the BC government offers renovation grants of up to $7,000,” says Seaborn. “There are thousands of types of molds and seven toxic ones. Having an inspection is an inexpensive way to keep your home and family safe.”
  3. Ventilate and insulate your attic.
  4. Vacuum and clean your home regularly.

If your attic is not finished and is just being used as storage, make sure you clean the attic regularly. Most people don’t realize that mildew can also form within dust, dirt and debris. So, besure to dust the walls and the floor and do so after removing the contents of the attic.

Declutter … yes, even more decluttering! Remove paper and boxes because as moisture seeps into cardboard, it will rot and breakdown … another perfect breeding ground for mildew.

If the attic is the only place you have to store papers, store them in plastic tubs and containers, says Kimberly Watt-Senner, a professional organizer and founder of Everything Organized.

P.S. If moisture has been around for a while, a tell-tale sign is discoloration (often black) on the roof deck.

What Lies Beneath

As in the attic, good ventilation is key in your basement as well.

“Your basement should be well ventilated so there is plenty of air movement,” says Seaborn. “In addition, go outside around the basement and make sure there is no earth piled up against the house. That’s where bugs and moisture can come in.”

Efflorescence is a common problem in concrete floor basements.  

“Efflorescence is that white fluffy looking stuff, sometimes looks like crystallized sugar,” adds Seaborn. “It isn’t dangerous but it does mean you have a moisture problem.”

He went on to say that it is easily removed with efflorescence cleaners or by hosing down your basement floor.

“You can avoid this by regularly cleaning your basement floor,” he adds

Parking Your Problems

For many of us, the garage is relegated as the dumping ground for whatever we aren’t using in our homes anymore. We stash so much junk in there because we can’t bear to part with it. In fact, if you were to ask your neighbours, probably more than half can’t park one or both vehicles in their garage. This makes your garage the perfect hiding place for mice and rats.

“Our issue on the West Coast is vermin nesting in your garage,” says Seaborn, adding use the seal up, trap up and clean up approach. “Look for ways rodents can get into your garage and seal any openings.”

The inside of your walls are another one of their favourite places to hide.  

If you suspect you have little rodents, look for droppings and make sure you don’t leave your garage opened and unattended.

Besides being carriers of numerous diseases, bacteria and viruses, rats and mice can cause untold damage in your garage. Back to purging and decluttering your garage!

In the end, it’s all about keeping these often neglected spaces free of junk, clean and well ventilated.

Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.
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