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MCL Nov/Dec 2013 - The Efficient Attic
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The Efficient Attic

Why Insulating Saves You Time and Money

by Mike Baker, Complete Building Solutions

Insulating an attic is not an aesthetically pleasing or enjoyable project for homeowners, and often is an expense that is not covered by an association. However, there are several reasons why undertaking this type of project is not only advantageous for individual homeowners; it can also help associations save money and protect one of their most precious investments.

Snow Removal
We find that associations incur large snow removal costs during bad winter storms, and this is increasingly the case when attics are not properly insulated and ventilated. When premature snow melt occurs on roofs due to heat loss in an attic, associations are left with a decision to leave the snow where ice dams may occur or remove snow from roof eaves to prevent ice dams. This cost is hard to predict and often hard on the reserve funds when winter months leave us with excessive storms. Having a properly insulated and ventilated attic space can eliminate the need for snow removal on roofs and save the association money in the long run.

Roof Life
When attics are poorly insulated and ventilated, we see roof life expectancy reduced and sometimes cut in half. A new roof assembly should be expected to last 25 years, but excessive heat loss and poor ventilation can quickly eat away at those years. The temperature of an attic needs to remain at or near the outdoor temperature. Unfortunately most attics we encounter remain rather warm during the winter months and get excessively hot in the summer. These temperature swings, sometimes as much as a 70 degree difference, will cause building materials to expand and contract at different rates and wear down the roof deck and shingles prematurely. Creating a proper attic system will protect the roof life and help associations protect one of their most expensive investments in their buildings.

Moisture Damage
Another symptom of large temperature differences between outdoors and the attic and improper ventilation is condensation in the attic. One of the most common occurring issues in attics during the winter is frost on the underside of the roof deck. This frost eventually melts and can compromise the insulation below it and in some cases finds a way into the living space, causing damage. This type of leaking is often mistaken for a roof leak. Ice and water barriers protect the attic from leaks, but also trap moisture in the attic; this creates a need to ensure proper insulation, bypass sealing and ventilation to ensure moisture does not become an issue in attic space. Eliminating this moisture can protect an association from spending money on roof maintenance that may be unnecessary.

Energy Efficiency
Properly insulating the attic is one of the best ways to save energy in a home or building. We have tracked energy costs before and after insulation and ventilation projects and in some cases have seen up to a 20% savings in heating and cooling during peak months. In condominiums this can save associations money on common area heating and cooling bills. It also makes investing in attic insulation and ventilation one of the only construction projects that can actually pay itself back to the homeowners over time in energy savings.

Attic insulation can be an important project for any association, whether you are preparing for a re-roof project or want to reduce snow removal costs. The first step is to consult a professional to inspect your attics and find out the proper scope to remediate any issues. Remember, proper insulation and ventilation can save your association money in the next winter and protect the investment in your roof system.

Published by Community Associations Institute — Minnesota Chapter, copyright 2013. All articles and paid advertising represent the opinions of authors and advertisers and not necessarily the opinion of either Minnesota Community Living or CAI–Minnesota Chapter. The information contained within should not be construed as a recommendation for any course of action regarding financial, legal, accounting, or other professional services by the CAI–Minnesota Chapter, or by Minnesota Community Living, or its authors. Articles, letters to the editor, and advertising may be sent to Chapter Staff Editor Joanne Penn at, or at CAI–Minnesota Chapter, 1000 Westgate Dr., Suite 252, St. Paul, MN 55114.

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