New Homebuyer Tip: How To Inspect The Rafters In The Attic Crawl Space Of An Old House

Posted on: 17 June 2016


Old homes typically cost mush less than newly built homes and can be an attractive option for people and couples on a limited budget. The biggest concern is the condition of the house. A house in heavy disrepair could turn into a money pit and could end up costing you a lot more money than you had planned on spending. The two most important areas to look for potential trouble are the attic and the basement. In the attic, you are looking for signs of rotting and insect infestations. If you are a new prospective homeowner looking to buy an old house, here is what you should look for to tell if the rafters in the attic are any good. 

You Will Need:

  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver with a Hard Handle

Walking in the Crawl Space

You have to be careful when you walk in a crawl space if the joists are uncovered. Many people don't finish off a crawl space attic because space is so limited, and it usually doesn't serve any practical use except maybe for the storage of boxes. Crawl spaces often have open joist boards that aren't covered with any type of flooring material. If you end up stepping between the joist boards, you could fall at least partially through a ceiling. Make sure you stay on the joists when moving through the crawl space.

Performing the Inspection

Shine the flashlight up and down each side of every rafter so you see all of it from the peak to the eaves. You are looking for discoloration in the wood that would indicate water damage. You also want to look beneath each rafter to look for little bits of wood dust. Wood dust on the on the top of the joists is a sign that the house either currently has, or did have, an insect infestation.

Take a screwdriver, it can be a flathead or a Phillips-head one, and use the handle to pound along the wood that appears damaged. You are looking to feel if the wood is soft or if you can hear echo sounds. Softness means the wood has degraded from the water damage and has lost its integrity and strength. Echo sounds lets you know how much of the interior of the rafters have been eating out by insects. Use the blade end of the screwdriver to poke the wood. If the screwdriver goes into the wood, it means the wood has deteriorated so badly that it needs to be fixed.

For more information, or if you would like professional assistance conducting an inspection, visit or a similar website.