November 2002 Edition

Attic Access Leaks

As the winter months come nearer, what can be done to cut our heating bills?
Sealing your home is the single most efficient way to cut those heating bills. Cold winter air can enter around all of the windows, doors and any other openings. Make sure the weather-stripping is air tight and all joints are properly sealed.
Also, make sure you have the proper amount of insulation in the attic and in the floor.
Attics should have a minimum of R-30 which is approximately 12" deep for blown fiberglass. Floors over unheated basements or crawl spaces should have R-19 which is 6" of fiberglass batt insulation. Be sure to turn the paper vapor barrier towards the heated area.
One of the most neglected areas for heat loss is through the attic access. Most attic access covers are only made out of 1/4" plywood. This is true for scuttle holes as well as pull down attic stairs.
Pull down stairs should be sealed around the outside of the cover with weather-stripping. The self-adhesive foam will stick directly to the plywood. Build a box to cover the stair opening out of 3 to 4 layers of 1/2" foam sheathing or cover across the opening with a fiberglass insulation blanket.
If you have a scuttle hole, you can build a double insulated box to trap the air. Start by making a shaft box that acts as an insulation dam and supports the hatches. Size the shaft box to fit over the existing opening (see drawing).
Make the sides at least 16" tall to hold back the attic insulation. There’s no need to make the shaft out of anything fancy, just as long as it’s solid. You can usually can find several pieces of oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood sheathing in contractor's scrap piles that need only to have the edges dressed up and to be cut to size.
Making the shaft 16" deep gives the space to install two insulated hatches and provides maneuvering room to remove or replace the bottom hatch. The top panel is larger than the shaft opening and sits on top of the shaft. Make it out of scrap OSB or plywood. On one side of this panel, glue and screw a 2" thick piece of rigid-foam insulation. The foam faces down when the panel is in place, trimmed to fit within the shaft so that the panel is oriented to the shaft opening. You also could add a piece of foam to each side of the top panel.
The bottom panel is visible from inside the house so make it out of a piece of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or finish-grade plywood for the panel. Glue and screw a 2" thick piece of rigid-foam insulation to the top.
Drawing courtesy of The Family Handyman Magazine

Sealing Crawl Space Vents

The crawl space under my house has a vapor barrier and quite a few vents, so I don’t have any moisture buildup. But the floor of my house is uninsulated. So, should I close off the crawl space vents during the winter to save energy?
In the South, moisture in the crawl space is a year-round problem, so the vents should stay open. If you’re concerned
about saving energy, a better solution would be to spend the money to add unfaced R-19 fiberglass insulation between the floor joists. For the occasional freeze, you should also insulate any exposed pipes in the crawl space.
Editor's note: If you experience excessive moisture and mold on the framing, completely sealing the crawl space may be needed. See the December 2000 edition of Home Tips at our website.
Source: December 2000, The Family Handyman

Heating System Inspected

Does our gas furnace need to be inspected by a professional or can we do it ourselves?
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urges homeowners to have their fuel-burning home heating systems inspected by a qualified service technician. Such an inspection could help prevent the more than 230 deaths attributed each year to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the thousands of residential fires that occur each year.
A complete inspection of the home’s furnace should include it's electrical and mechanical components, such as thermostat controls and automatic safety devices along with all venting systems.
Most U.S. homeowners are unaware that chimneys are an integral part of a home heating system and that they require regular evaluation and maintenance. In addition, U.S. homeowners seem to have little working knowledge of chimney and venting systems. Possible blockages such as birds’ nests and debris may prevent toxic gases from escaping and could result in CO poisoning. The inspector should make sure flues and flue connectors are tight and secure and that there are no signs of rust or cracks that could allow toxic gases to enter your home.
Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site at

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

Quote Of The Month

"A good marriage is like an incredible retirement fund. You put everything you have into it during your productive life, and over the years it turns from silver to gold to platinum."

- Willard Scott

A Tip Of The Hat To:

Roy Holman

Re/Max of Atlanta

2131 Pleasant Hill Road, Suite 148

Duluth, Georgia 30096

**** Thank You****