What is your standard for attic accessibility?

My standard for getting into attics: If I can (1) fit in the access, (2) place my ladder safely below it, (3) when moving the access cover, if I see excessive insulation falling. Especially if there are clothes hanging nearby.
I will often not use pull down stairs if I am not impressed with the install or the integrity of the steps.

What is your standard for accessing the attic?

I go into almost every attic I encounter. The only time I don’t is if I have to “push-up crawl” along the ceiling joists (which one time I did). I also once crawled through a whole house attic fan (between blades/paddles) that had been installed in the attic access.

Had a row/townhouse the other day where upon lifting the attic hatch, large amounts of blown in fiberglass insulation began to pour out onto the carpet below. There was no insulation dams, no weather stripping and long section(s) of fiberglass batts laying on top of the hatch. I deferred the attic spaces beyond and explained the situation to my clients who were present and saw first hand.

If I can fit myself in the hole.

Many times I stop right and inspect from there as best as I can. I will not belly crawl. I tell folks if there is a walkway designed for people to move about on I use it. If not I observe from hatch. Some times I will walk trusses if I can do so standing up and relatively safely.

I carry a hand held Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner for the insulation…

My question for everyone is if the attic access is in a closet full of clothes do you remove the clothes and the shelf to access? I decided a long time ago not to and find I get alot of greif from realtors and clients over this.

Im not moving a bunch of stuff. an item here or there- no sweat. I go in almost all attics. im not crawling in insulation though.

I am also reasonable. I have taken a couple of things off the shelf and flipped the shelf against the wall. I had a real estate agent tell me yesterday in front of a client that I was lazy for not wanting to move a closet full of clothes. I told her it was a liability issue and I was willing to return(house was a block from my house) once the contents were removed. The agent just put her head down and mumbled something to her client. I found out later she had told her client that I should be doing the inspection for free cause all I was doing was another tour of the house.

I do what I can. Some are impossible to get into. Do what you can and document lack of access. I use a Dewalt Vac.

As for walking the attic space, my standard is: height must be about 5-6 feet (I’m 6’ 4") or a crawling boards installed before I will inspect past the opening. Here in Michigan it is not uncommon to see 14-16 inches of insulation, thus making it very hard to find joists with your feet. If is apparent that I will not get out of the attic without taking a bunch of it with me, I wont go past the opening, and I state that in the report.

I like the dust buster idea.

One time in particular I had to return home for a full size shop vac, it seems building an insulation dam was too difficult. Huge mess.

Throw a drop cloth over the clothes and get er done. Most of the heating units and or water heaters are in the attic around here so I gotta go if at all possible.

I have a little mini 1.5 gal shop vac though i have only had to pull it out twice… I bought it the day after I opened a hatch that was completely blown over and not used (there was a second entrance)

As much as I don’t like to remove a closet full of clothes I usually will to inspect the attic. The way I look at it is it’s not my client’s fault and it’s what is best for them. If they are present they will usually help.

I do not move their crap. I will wait for them to move it it If it does not take to long.

I had a guy ask me TODAY to wait for him to run to home depot to replace a few shingles that I told him we going to cause a problem with his roof condition report.

I do not move it but ask the seller rep to do so.

Insulation falling means get my blanket from the suv.

Weak ladder/use mine then

Car in garage/forget it

Too small then that is what a camera is for /arm up the hatch.

I think there has been one attic I couldn’t get in (log home, vaulted ceilings, no access at all). Yesterday, I get up in the regular attic and got over to the vaulted area, had to use the zoom on the camera to get any pics at the other end. I thought about crawling along the vaulted trusses, but wasn’t sure I’d get turned around to head back out again. Being 5’9, 140 and a runner has advantages when getting into tight spaces…

Case by Case:

Move 3-4 pairs of pants yes … Remove boxes, unscrew shelves, unload a ton of storage … No.

Raise hatch … 12" + of insulation, 10/12 pitch roof with no rafters close AND collar ties 7’ up in attic (nothing to hold onto), and no walk boards … Nope / inspected from access.

AND with realtors like the other inspector talked about

I very politely bring out my SoP so they know why I can’t do that, then generously offer to let the agent and client move the stuff for me while I go on doing the rest of the inspection OR I’ll offer to let the seller empty everything out and let me come back for $85. Always give them an option … A or B


When it comes to used house salesman and “grief” … I often give it. I never take it.

I hate removing that damn shelf.
A word of advice
If you move the access hatch make sure you take a close look at what falls down. If you see what maybe poop (this has happened more than once to me)use your inspection mirror to look at what in there first before you go up!
I found a mother raccoon with babies up an attick on Tuesday, she was not pleased to see me and I almost fell off my ladder!
It was all kinds of suck, wish I had video though, I screamed like a girl!

I stand my ground when it comes to this. I am not willing to be held liable when the shelf scrapes up the walls when it was taken out or a hidden gem that falls when removing the clothes or whatever they store. I send a letter out on every inspection asking that a list of things be done. One of them being the obstructed attic access. I have only been to one home where they had moved everything out of the closet.