Many homeowners don’t give much thought to their attic. It’s simply the place where last year’s holiday decorations go, where family only ventures when they need to sift through dark and dusty boxes for something long-forgotten. In other homes, the attic is an essential part of daily living. Some families like to convert this space into a bedroom, study or other functional room rather than a simple storage space. Whichever is true for you, you probably want to protect the stuff that’s inside your attic. Heavy rains and other inclement weather can put your attic through a serious test, because it is the room in closest proximity to the roof. If the roof leaks and allows water into the attic, you and your family heirlooms might be in trouble.

Water damage is incredibly common in attics nationwide. The funky smell of mold and mildew caused by moisture is quite commonplace, and even more commonly brushed off as “nothing.” But it is the first telltale sign of water damage, and something should be done to prevent it from getting any worse. Fortunately, you’re not helpless in this situation. There is a lot that the average person can do to minimize the risk of water damage and the nasty side effects of it-like toxic mold.

Check your vents to find the cause of damage.
So you can smell that faint but unpleasant aroma of water damage somewhere in your attic, but you don’t know where the damage is actually located. The first thing that you should do is go to the vent/s in your attic. Loose vents especially can pose a problem, so make sure to tighten any that need to be secured. From there, you can touch the surrounding area (sponginess or dampness are surefire indicators of a problem). If you have detected an issue around the vent, try and follow the damage as best you can to find the source. This might not work 100% of the time, but it is the easiest way to figure out what’s going on.

Note: If there are any blockages in the vents, like a bird’s nest for example, promptly remove them.

Visually inspect insulation.
Like in the case with vents, the insulation in your attic can be visually inspected for signs of water damage and leaks. Insulation should be of a fluffy and soft appearance, but can become flattened and rough when wet. If the moisture is located in an isolated area, you may be able to figure out the source of the nearby leak yourself.

Address any pest concerns.
If an animal can get into your attic, then water can as well. Squirrels, bats, raccoons and many other manners of wildlife have a tendency to make their homes within our homes when they find it suitable for living. And while their presence in your attic can be aggravating enough, you should also concern yourself with sealing up the pathways that they are using to get inside. Any path that allows the outside into your home invites the risk of water damage and other unwanted elements.