Most six-year-olds can draw a house. The typical child’s depiction of a house shows a rectangular building with a door and a few windows, topped by a gable roof.
This type of house is fairly common in most areas of the U.S. If the house was built 100 or more years ago, it usually had a cellar or basement underneath the first floor and an attic above the top floor.
In the middle of the 20th century, modern architects attempted to do away with basements and attics. They designed flat-roofed homes on slab foundations. While many Americans are happy to live in this type of home, others feel that basements and attics are useful spaces, and have no desire to see them go away.
As originally conceived, attics were supposed to be outside a home’s conditioned envelope. Because of their location, however, attics (along with basements and unheated mudrooms) actually represent a type of in-between area that isn’t quite outdoors and isn’t quite indoors.
There are several kinds of attics:
Traditional attics under steep-sloped roofs are easy for builders and insulation contractors to work in, while cramped attics with difficult access are not builder-friendly.
A house with a traditional attic has several benefits compared to a house without an attic:
A well-built attic shouldn’t have any moisture sources like dripping plumbing pipes or roof leaks. Since most roofs get good solar exposure, attics tend to be dry spaces.
If an attic has signs of moisture problems — for example, sheathing rot or mold on the underside of the roof sheathing — something is clearly wrong. It’s usually fairly easy to identify a roof or flashing leak; telltale signs are soaked sheathing, especially after rainy weather.
If you’re seeing mold on the underside of the roof sheathing,…