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FHA Inspection-Off to the attic

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Ben Vukicevich SRA

Senior Member
Feb 9, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
New Jersey
Well, now we're inside. Technically, I leave the attic for the last interior inspection. If I'm lucky, they have a stair to the attic or a dropstair, If not, it's back to the car for the 4' aluminum ladder. Check for a handrail if there is a stairway.

So up we go with the flashlight for a peek. Here's what I look for:

1) Insulation: depth or R-factor.
2) Condition of roof sheathing-don't want to see any signs of leakage, mositure, mold, frost, dew, delamination of plywood, rotted sheathing.
3) Framing check: Don't want to see undersized framing for the roof-2x4 roof rafters are scary (not trusses but rafters) evidenced by sagging. Don't want to see a sagging roof ridge. Look for proper bracing. We don't want to see trusses that have been cut to allow attic storage or 1x6 bracing removed from roof rafters to the ceiling joists. Rafters should not be cracked.
4) Check the chimney if there is one. Does it go through the roof? If brick or stone, are the mortar joints in good shape. No cracks in chimney. No evidence of exhaust gas leaks. No evidence of water leakage down the sides which will end up in the basement.
5) Make sure the plumbing vent stacks go through the roof-we don't want a stinky attic or a chance of explosion if methane gas backs up in there from the sewer system: Especially important if the home is older and an additional new bath has been installed-sometimes they don't want to cut through the roof and just leave the vent stack in the attic. Not good. Make sure the fans in the baths are vented through the roof not into the attic. If the dryer is upstairs, make sure that it is vented through the sidewall if the vent line is in the attic.
6) Upclose look at attic ventilation; roof ridge vents, windows, gable end vents, attic fans, whatever. Ventilation is important. As Dick Dolman mentioned, make sure there are insect screens on the vents. The powder post beetles will find a home in the attic if not screened-out.
7) If an attached home. Look at the party wall. There better be one. No common attics with the unit next door as this is a fire hazard. If the party wall is there, is it intact-no holes? Damn, it better not be wood panelling-not good. Does it go all the way to the roof-line? If not there, require a fire-proof party wall to be installed as per local code. I always define the party wall type/contruction on Page One of the URAR
8) If the attic is finished as in a bungalow or cape COD, you must have access to the areas behind the kneewalls so you can take a peek in there for the same stuff mentioned above.
9) The attic is always the place that you will see the amateur electrical wiring of the homeowner (along with the basement). If you see any strange wiring, junction boxes without covers, loose wires with wire nuts on the ends, it's a clue to call for an electrical certification.
10) Unfinished, walk-up, floored attics-look for the same stuff but insure that there are handrails on the stairs and a railing around the stair opening. Look for signs of peeling, chipping lead based paint which would require correction.

I'm sure I've left out stuff. Any additions would be appreciated.


Wally Jones

Senior Member
Jan 23, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser

As usual, a thorough list.

I might add the following:

1) Check for evidence of fire (need a strong flashlight and look at all those dark corners).

2) Turn off all the lights and see if any light shows through the roof that can't be explained.

3) Check around air handlers (especially overflowing drip pans) for dampness, puddling, etc.

This sure is more informative than any Continuing Education class I've ever had! Thanks again, Ben.


Mountain Man

Elite Member
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
Good additions Wally,
RE: #3, most homeowners don't think about periodically checking the lines to be sure the drip pans are not leaking in their attic.

One additional thing that comes to my mind is excessive material stored in the attic, like boxes from 30 years worth of Christmas presents or stacks of old news papers. This is a major fire hazard, and a safety hazard if it is a truss roof system. Trusses just are not built to hold up all of that stuff.

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