Have an Attic? Tips for Keeping Your Belongings in Optimal Shape

By Megan Wild, author of Your Wild Home 

If your new home has an attic, it’s likely you plan to use the area as storage space. Out-of-season or outgrown clothes, old photographs, books, videogames and toys are just a few things often found in attics.

Just be careful. Unfinished attics can be subject to wide swings in temperature. They get very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. These extremes can ruin photographs and books and aren’t great for the other items stored in an attic, either. If the attic isn’t properly ventilated, the temperature extremes can get even worse. Pests like bugs or mice can invade attics and not be noticed, since attics don’t have people in them often.

You need to have a strategy for keeping your belongings in an attic in optimal shape. Here are some tips on how best to do that.

Insulate Your Attic

In many homes, attics are outside of the thermal envelope that the rest of the house sits in. In practice, that means they are not insulated. That’s part of what makes the colds cold and the hots hot in attics, coupled with the fact that heat rises. A workable attic, though, should be insulated.

Heat and cold can destroy many of your belongings, including anything made of paper. CDs, DVDs and photographs can all be hurt. In addition, if you ever want to use the attic as a bedroom or study, it will already be insulated.

Ventilate Your Attic

Ventilation is needed in attic space just like everywhere else. Without ventilation, moisture can build up. Attics are, after all, right below the roof. Rain, snow and ice falling onto the roof can reach the attic really quickly if there’s a leak or the gutters get blocked up.

Again, because most homeowners don’t visit their attics frequently, moisture can cause all kinds of damage — mildew, mold, warping and other structural impairment — before anyone notices. Make sure your attic has a ventilation system.

Store Away From the Sun’s Rays

Many times, people will store material in an attic without paying attention to where the sun falls. But the sun’s rays can do major damage to many items stored in attics. If clothes, books or cloth-covered furniture are stored where the sun falls across them for part of the day, for example, you may have faded streaks across all or part of them. The sun can damage photographs, DVDs and CDs.

Pay attention to where the sun falls throughout the day and store all your materials away from the sun.


Use Plastic Storage Bins

Since many people have cardboard boxes when they move, there’s a natural tendency to reuse those boxes for attic storage. Don’t! Items stored in cardboard boxes can fall prey to pests like mice or bugs, who like to nest in these boxes. Plus, cardboard boxes are no protection against moisture. They just get wet and so does anything inside them. Buy plastic storage bins to store materials in an attic. They will keep dry and safe from pests.

Choose a Durable Roofing Material

Your roof is the top of the top of your attic. What you choose for a roofing material matters to the whole house, of course, but your attic is going to be first and perhaps most affected if the roof develops a problem such as a leak or needs to be replaced. The solution? Choose a durable roofing material.

The three most durable materials for roofs are metal, slate and clay. Both metal and clay roofs can last 50 or more years, which is significantly longer than the 25 to 30 years an asphalt roof will provide. Slate has even greater longevity — it can last 100 years! All three materials are flexible and beautiful in terms of design and appearance.

Develop an Orderly Storage System

Because attic spaces are out of sight — mostly — they are mostly out of mind, too. Most homeowners have a great propensity to stack storage items in any order that is quick and convenient at the time of storage. Books go on top of boxes holding old toys. Furniture is put wherever it fits, even if it blocks access to storage containers.

The problem is, sometimes homeowners or contractors need access. They may need to examine the walls or the ventilation system. They may need to explore where moisture is coming from. Access is much harder if stuff is stacked haphazardly and takes a long time to move around. To combat this danger, develop an orderly storage system. Clearly mark all material in bins. Keep a rough map or schematic drawing of where things are. Plan for quick access if needed.

It’s natural to use your attic for storage. Just be aware that attics can be hard on the belongings stored in them. These six tips will keep any belongings piled in the attic in good shape.


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