Attic question, creosote??

Here’s an attic from a home built in 1950. All of the rafters and ceiling joists look to have been spray painted white. Underneath the white the wood is dark, almost black. If you can zoom in enough you can see how some of the rafters look like the white paint is cracking, almost like a blistering. I don’t believe there has been a fire. My question is does anyone know what a creosote covered piece of lumber really looks like?



From the picture it really looks like there was a fire. Many of the attics here in Florida are 150 degrees and I have never anything like that.

I agree with Mathew, looks more like soot that’s been painted over. You cannot mistake the smell of creosote…scratch and sniff it, you’ll know. I’d describe it but how do you describe that smell if one is not familair with it? Wait, I know…go smell a telephone pole, just do it up high. :smiley:

From my recollection, it would take long term heat in the 250- 300+ deg F range to cause that type of pyrolysis. Must have been a fire and the paint is the smoke odour suppressent treatment.

good advice!!! i think the 5’ rule applies

and location may come into play

Thanks for the help guys !! :slight_smile:

Hey Brian,
I have to agree with the rest of the guys. I have seen something similar here. They white paint is probably an odder suppressant. I’ll check and see if I have a picture.

Yep…I’ve seen this condition before. I scraped the paint off and there it was, burnt members. These appear to be damaged from some sort of past fire and simply painted over.

I’ll bet that if you went over to those cracked areas (on the far rafters) and scraped it with a scewdriver, it would crumble.

I was hoping I could call the fire department and get some info. Unfortunately they keep all their data sorted by date and not by address. I was hoping I could give them the address and get some info. on it. Of course it can’t be that easy.

Told the client that there was likely a fire at some point in the past.

The weird thing was the entry to the attic was through a scuttle in the rear porch, and directly at the entry the lumber was also painted white and I could see the charred wood beneath. But the only lumber that had the blistering were the rafters in the picture. The scuttle entry was a good 15 ft from those blistered rafters.

I zoomed a photo and printed it out and swung by the Fire department and they said thats definetely a burn.

Hi Brian…My personal opinion would be to not even worry about something like that in the attic.
The stuff has been around forever and is not so toxic that the attic location would cause problems with health.
“Heck” I use the stuff to treat a small patch of psoriasis.

I’m not worried about it. But it is my responsibility to tell my client what I saw.


I hope your psoriasis is better. Do you use Windex for all your other ailments? :mrgreen:

What would you use this stuff for?

Knowing Robert, probably for his chapped lips!! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :wink:

My first guess would be a burn, but when I inspected my father-in-laws place in KY, I found that all of his rafters were creosoted, intentially. The previous owner nfelt that by applying creosote to the rafters, the structure would last longer. He figured it worked with his fence posts, so… Of course, he probably didn’t need to worry about it; the original section of the house was built arounf 1780.


You need to take a closer look at the far rafters on the left. I can see exposed black cracks where they applied the white paint. That’s totally indicative of charred rafters.

Also, you’ll notice that the paint stops at the worst portion of the charred members.

“Click to Enlarge”

The insurance company computer has an awfully long memory. Maybe someone involved in the closing, or the new company to provide insurance, can access past records.

There isn’t any information in the disclosure?

There has to be a paper trail somewhere.

A neighbors house had burned partially, and for 2 years afterward, it was noted in the tax rolls of the damage, and not completely restored. :wink:

David, My screen is too small for that much definition. As I said, it appears to be a burn. I don’t have enough screen definition, and haven’t seen it up close, to say for sure.

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