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Attic Renovations

When we initially saw our new house, at 146 Katahdin Avenue in Millinocket, our first thought was that this is a very big house. With only the two of us, it seemed that we would always have room to spare.

Of course, this brings me back to a time when I purchased my first hard drive for a computer, a Tandy 1000 SL. Equipped with a whopping 10 MB of storage, I can remember thinking that Iíd never fill it up.

That was then, this is now, and it took me longer to fill my 10 MB hard drive than it took us to run out of room in our house.  We soon found that, despite two floors and ten rooms, there wasnít any place to put anything.  Closet space clearly wasnít a priority when our house was built at the turn of the last century. Despite turning one of our three kitchens into a dining room, a bathroom into a pantry, and a bedroom into a walk-in closet, we still had stuff piled up everywhere. We tore out the wall between the two back bedrooms, turning them into a library. That helped, but it wasnít enough. Shelves on every available wall space didnít alleviate the problem either.

Then our nephew came to live with us last month. Although we have a guest room, it was obvious that this wasnít a suitable permanent arrangement, not for him or for us.  The guestroom is to the immediate right of the front door and across the stairwell from our office, so it provides little in the way of peace or privacy, at least one of which is sometimes important to a 12 year-old.  That will become even more of a problem as he grows older.

In the ten months that weíve lived here, I had never paid much attention to the attic. Without so much as an attic stair, there was no easy means of accessing it, even with a step ladder. Nor was there much of an incentive.  There was no floor, and the only light was that which could make it through one dingy window on the north side.

Faced with a shortage, I could now see the attic as a potential living space.  But there was work to do.

Throughout this pictorial account of the attic renovation, the textual story will be told in alt-tags.  If you are unfamiliar with alt-tags, position your mouse over each picture and the words will appear in a text box.A graphical explanation of ice damming.

Our first winter in Millinocket proved that we had a significant problem with ice damming. While not uncommon, we seem to have had more trouble with it than most of our neighbors.

Researching the subject on the Internet, the reasons for it became clear.

As snow melts off the warmer roof, the water runs down to the colder eaves and refreezes. The ice forms ice dams that force the melting snow to back up under the shingles and run down into the attic and between walls, sometimes causing significant water damage to the home.

We had a failure in both insulation and ventilation. Not only was there inadequate insulation in the attic, but much of what we did have was stuffed down into the eaves, blocking air circulation through the soffits, small holes on the underside of the eaves permitting air to circulate into the prop vents, and keeping the roof cool.  I havenít been up on the roof yet, but from below I donít think we have any soffits.

The good news is that I think this will be a pretty easy proA graphic demonstrating proper insulation of an attic to prevent ice damming.blem to fix. Iíll drill some soffits into the eaves once I can get up on the roof, inserting soffit plugs, and Iíll dig the insulation out of the inside of the eaves as I install the pr
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op vents.

As an update, this wasnít as easy as I had hoped. Whenever the last roof was installed, insulation was packed into the eaves, most of which proved inaccessible without removing the roof, something that I wasnít prepared to do this year. Instead, I pulled as much of it out as I could, added prop vents to the attic portion of the house, trying to get as much circulation as I could It seems to have helped, as itís been a cold winter and so far, Iíve seen no evidence of serious ice damming. In the next few years, weíll be ready for a new roof, at which time Iíll do it right.