Home Repair and Improvement: Indoor Projects for the Winter

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
At this point in the year, it’s a little too cold to do a lot of home improvements outdoors, but there are plenty of tasks to take on inside! Judith Siers-Poisson learns about a great checklist for interior home repair and improvement projects.

Featured in this Show

  • Attic Conditions Tell A Lot About A House's Health

    It can be tempting to think of winter as the off season for a variety of chores. But it’s actually a great time to take care of projects inside the house. A local home inspector said one of the most important things a homeowner can do is to take a look in the attic.

    It’s important to know what to look for though. John Freiburger, of Freiburger and Associates in Fitchburg, Wis., is a registered Wisconsin home inspector, and he said that a spell of very cold weather like Wisconsin is currently experiencing is actually a great opportunity to see what’s going on.

    He suggested checking for frost on the nails in the attic is one important item. The points of those nails are visible poking through the wood of the underside of the roof. Frost on the sheathing in the attic might indicate an even more severe problem than if it’s only visible on the nails. If there is frost in either or both areas, that can indicate one or more problems.

    One possibility is a lack of venting, Freiburger said. That could be caused by closed soffit vents. Another cause, which could be working in concert with the lack of venting or on its own, is lack of insulation. Air leaks are also a possibility. Any or all of those issues could cause the type of frost on the nails that he advised looking for.

    Freiburger said that the pattern of snow on the roof can also indicate what type of heat loss might be occurring, and what kind of condensation might be occurring in the attic.

    Often, the snow is melted around the chimney. One might think that it’s because the chimney itself is hot, but that’s not accurate. Freiburger said that’s because “the chimney is one of the principle places where we have air leaks in the house. There usually is a space in the framing that goes all the way from the attic to the basement. So, that warm, wet basement air is coming up around the chimney, it’s condensing in the attic, causing this frost, and it’s also melting the snow on the roof and starting these ice dams.”

    To really get a sense of the severity of the air leaks, Freiburger recommends a blower door test. Using that technique, the home is depressurized and then measurements are taken to determine how many cubic feet of air are moving in and out of the structure.

    Ken Adams, of Adams Design Construction in Madison, agreed. He said that while you might not be able to immediately take on all of the work that needs to be done, “this is a great time of year to plan for the work that can be done in more moderate temperatures.”

    Adams also recommended checking the state of insulation as well. He said to check for “gaps in the insulation, and if the top of the insulation is wet or frozen.” He added that sometimes people can see if there are vents at the eave ends, at the lower ends of the roof “that allow air to move from the soffit up, through and out. And that’s a good thing to have. If you have your insulation on top of your ceiling, you want that air flow above it.”

    Adams also recommended checking for evidence of pests in the attic. That can include birds, squirrels or raccoons. Looking and smelling to see if there’s an evidence of an infestation is a good idea. Visual clues can include insulation chewed up and nesting spots when viewed inside the attic. But staining on the ceiling below and the accompanying odor can indicate a serious problem.

    Ignoring the signs of pests can be costly, Adams said. The longer the problem goes on, the more it is likely to cost to fix.

    A full, downloadable checklist of interior and exterior home improvement and repair items is available on the Adams Design Construction website.

Episode Credits

  • Judith Siers-Poisson Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Ken Adams Guest
  • John Freiburger Guest

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