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Avoid basement blunders and attic catastrophes

February is the time when realizing New Year’s resolutions and tackling Spring Cleaning collide.

So whether you are a little late starting your New Year’s resolution to “Get Organized,” or if you are just early jumping in to Spring Cleaning, we’ve got some tips for you!

Everyone knows that having your belongings in order and properly stored can often save time and money. However, from our perspective as home maintenance and repair experts there are some things to keep in mind for the safety of your house!


Most attic spaces were not constructed to hold up the weight of box after box of old textbooks, National Geographics or other heavy items.

Most folks don’t realize that they could be creating a severe structural scenario of “the straw that broke the camel’s back” variety as they shove just one more box full of last year’s periodicals under the protection of the attic’s roof. Then boom, the ceiling caves in and someone gets hurt!!

Unless a ceiling’s joists are properly sized and supported, a few boxes of Christmas ornaments, an artificial tree, and maybe an empty suitcase or two are about the limit of what should be stored there, unless the weighty items are placed very close over a supporting wall below.

And, the more modern houses – those using manufactured roof trusses – are even less forgiving of an overweight condition.

Unless specifically engineered to accept storage-type weight, modern truss framing is only intended to support the roofing and a designed wind or snow load overhead as well as the sheet-rocked ceiling below. That’s it! It was never intended for more than that…so don’t be tempted to fill up the attic!

If that’s not enough, there are even more reasons to avoid packing your attic full with your treasures – you are likely to compress your insulation to the point it no longer functions. Too many “treasures” up there can also damage the house wiring or fan vents. And, it almost will certainly block the low roof vents and stifle the all-important under-roof air flow.

That air circulation not only makes your roof last longer and your house smell fresher, but also gives your whole house a chance to “breathe,” fresh air while removing moisture and pollution from the attic space.

Finally, have you considered what could happen to all your precious collectibles in the event of a fire?


Unless your basement is truly conditioned living space, you may want to avoid storing certain items there – think photo albums, wedding dresses – or any cloth or paper items that can quickly become food for mold.

Any space that has moisture and warmth with little airflow can be a great greenhouse for mold and mildew.

And, of course, if your basement is prone to flooding, nothing irreplaceable should be stored in the basement.

Any items that are prone to mold and mildew are not good choices for storage in an unconditional or musty basement. Think instead of things like extra wood furniture, sleds, bikes and other seasonal items.


Along the same lines, think safety when planning storage in a closet or on the garage walls. The shelving system used should be sturdy and fastened securely into the wall studs – not just into the drywall.

Shelves that bow are too thin for the weight and should be swapped for thicker ones or re-organized with the heavy stuff directly over the shelf support.

While you’re cleaning out closets, note if there are items that would do fine in an attic, basement or garage. Finding a new home for those items, will free up precious closet space for the treasures that can more easily be ruined by must, mildew and mold.


Another issue in any closet or storage area is the lighting. If you can’t see, then you won’t find what you want and you’ll probably go buy a new one instead.

Plus, stumbling around in the dark in the basement or attic is not a good idea for you or your house! (While you’re at it, clearly label what you are storing to save time and energy!)

The lighting should be bright, covered and fireproof if somehow broken. An LED unit is the best choice.

If you already have a regular (incandescent) light, be sure to protect any bare light bulbs with clear plastic protective lenses or better yet, swap it out for an LED unit -type fixture.


So, as you can see, a little planning and common sense will go a long way toward your goal of “everything in its place.” Even if you don’t get the whole house in order right away, fewer boxes, one cleaned out room, a tidied closet or better lighting will make a difference and should send you into 2017 feeling at least lighter!


We like to give some up-to-the-minute tips and reminders on our Facebook Page – NeighborWorks GH. Pay us a visit and “Like” us sometime soon.


Thinking about buying a new home? The happiest and most successful first-time homebuyers get educated through, first!

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.

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