Top 5 Attic Finds Problems in the Pacific Northwest

Here in the Portland metro area, we contend with a lot of rain. The amount of rain might not be the same as 30 years ago, but Portland is not without its fair share of downpours. On 4/11/2022 we woke up to 2-6″ of snow throughout the valley. Many people look at their shingles and think “My shingles look good, I probably have another 5-10 years before I’ll need to change my roof.” I can’t tell you how many attics I’ve been in of a home high-quality home with a poorly installed roof where the shingles look good but the attic is a disaster. We like to say that “the attic tells the truth.”  As professional roof inspectors and installers, these are the top 5 things we look for to tell if your roof might need to be replaced or some repairs.
These pictures are all from one home in Beaverton that had many problems with it. The roof and the home were only 21 years old, built in 2001. The roof should have not failed as it did but it’s more common than we think. Often times roofs fail due to poor installation practices but builders. Builders are not professional roofers and often go cheap on the roof. This home is a 4 bedroom, three bathroom, 2800 sq ft home that Zillow estimates at over $800k.

1: Water Damage/ Water Intrusion

When we get to someone’s home, we will usually ask if the customer has any known issues with their roof. Often the first response is “well, it’s not leaking or anything.” What we need to realize is that if water is hitting your ceiling, it’s either been leaking for years or you have a large hole in your roof letting water pour in. Water is almost an inevitability in Portland. It’s a rare siting when we don’t see water intrusion in an attic. What we look for are patterns of darkened wood as the plywood will soak up intruding water for years. After that, it will make its way to the insulation which will also stop water from getting to your sheetrock for years.

Usually, water is seen around eves, skylights, chimneys, valleys, and pipe jacks. When we inspect an attic we also look for signs of water hitting the insulation. In the insulation picture, it’s hard to know if that water-damaged insulation is from the condensation of the HVAC system or if it’s from a small leave from above.

The issue with water coming into your attic is not the water itself, it’s the potential for mold. If your attic is not well ventilated and you have water coming in, you most likely will have some mold growth. The term we use is “organic growth.”

2: Mold/ Organic Growth

Mold in an attic is common. I would say about 50% of homes that we inspect will have some signs of mold. Mold is often seen as either black speckles all over the plywood or as large gray/white patches. If the mold is strictly on the surface of the plywood, that plywood does not necessarily need to be replaced. When you put a new roof on your home and change the conditions of the attic (remove water intrusion and decrease the temperature) then the mold should die out.

3: Rotting Plywood

Although it is rare to see it in the attic, it does occur. Usually, the rotten wood associated with a roof is the barge boards or fascia boards which are examined from an external inspection. In this 21-year-old home, the plywood in the attic has already begun to rot. This water intrusion is not a new thing with this roof. This water damage appears to have been going on for possibly 5+ years. These three areas below are in different stages of deterioration however, whenever the water intrusion and rot is happening right where the trusses are, this is cause for even greater concern as the trusses are at risk of rotting too. It’s like keeping a rotten banana with a bunch of good bananas, the good ones will rot faster.

4: Plywood Delamination/ Sagging

Plywood manufacturers often paint the edges of the plywood. When these are installed as brand new sheets, we often can’t see the edges of the plywood. If we do see the painted edges, it’s often a small line. In the picture below, this is not the worst amount of line we have seen, but it will give you an idea of what can happen. Over time, as pieces of plywood retain water they can delaminate or sag from the weight of the water.

5: Ambering

Ambering is when the sap in the 2×4 structures in your attic seeps out of the wood. This is due to excessive heat in your attic. Even during the winter we will look for ambering which will tell us that during the summer, it gets very hot in the attic. Because heat is a component of mold growth, we know that we will need to mitigate the heat in your attic in order to prevent mold growth as well as assist in cooling your home as our summers continue to get hotter and last longer here in Portland.

If you would like a roof and attic inspection, give us a call or text at 971-500-5190. We offer free inspections because if you don’t know what’s going on with your roof, things will continue to get worse. It’s better to prevent problems than have to pay more to fix them.

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