Part of any pest control techs/sales persons job is to get into attics. Whether inspecting,treating, setting traps, pest proofing or just being a nice guy and brining down some Christmas stuff, it’s what we do. So with as much time we as an industry have to spend in this void of a home, it seems only logical we should have some idea how to do it safely. While I’m sure there’s a manual out there somewhere on the subject–in my 28 years I haven’t found one. So just based on my experience and what I teach my guys, here’s 5 golden Rules Of Crawling Around An Attic.
You have to be able to see. Not only to do your work but also so you can move safely. In a perfect world I’d say head lights are a must so you can be hands free. However, sometimes to see something all lit up at a distance head lamps can leave you a bit disatisfied. I also see techs going into this dark abyss with mini mag lights, their phones or low tech plastic fuzzy beamed type lights. (usually with a cute company logo on them) It may suffice to get you around but his can’t be good for your work and after all, that’s why we’re up there. A good flashlight and a holster (along with a head lamp) would be ideal.
#2 Do A First Floor Inspection First;
In Florida we don’t have a whole bunch of two story homes and even less basements but the same rule applies if you do. With most of my treatments and termite wdo inspections I check the whole place out and save the attic for last. So while looking around on the first floor (the floor just beneath the attic) I look for clues of places I’m gonna want to see when I get up there. It could be a water or urine stain, chewed hole in the ceiling, cracked drywall or bowed ceiling etc. I also look outside around the roof area for things like entry points, rub marks, concave indentions or where trees touch the roof. Seeing these things and depending on the target (reason I’m up there) I’ll have an idea of where I’m going before I get up into the darkness. This saves so much time and quite often solves the problem quicker since I have a more complete ‘snapshot’ of what’s going on.
#3 Three Points of Contact Rule;
When I teach my techs this rule I always get the rolled eyes. I say, unless your last name is Waldena and you grew up on the high wire- this rule is a must. It means that at all times you have three points of contact. That could be two feet and one hand, two hands and a knee, your thigh and two hands (usually when you’re trying to squeeze toward the soffit/eave area) or any number of combinations. Now if you’re carrying a flashlight that may limit you. This is where the holster and the head lamp come in handy. So if you’re straddling some duct work and you don’t want to crush it you’re going to need each hand on a truss or other firm hold as well as one foot solid while you swing your leg over the duct. Trying to just swing over with both feet while holding on with your hands suddenly means your are unstable and that’s when trouble can set in quickly. Three points gives you a solid foundation and options to catch yourself should you slip or a board gives away. (I’ve had that happen a few times)
#4 Never Trust Your Eyes:
Now we all pretty much know the roof trusses are shaped like a triangle so where your hand is-there should be a 2×4 directly below for your foot. DON’T rely on that, instead test it with your foot. Construction is a whacky thing and I’ve caught myself plenty of times almost walking on drywall or a recessed lighting fixture. Add to this 14 inches of insulation, sweat in your eyes and your 15 minutes behind schedule… could be a recipe for disaster and a quick trip to the first floor, the hard way. Sure, know which way the trusses run but with each step tap your landing spot to make sure your foot is on that 2 x 4. Never release your third contact point until you’re sure you’re on solid footing.
#5 You Gotta Break The Rules Sometimes;
Somewhere, somehow you are going to HAVE to go against a rule. It’s just a fact. Whether you can’t get close enough to confirm wood rot along an edge or get to a hole to seal high up along a peak with nothing but furring strips that aren’t there for support but were for spacing during the build, or even trying to get through a spaghetti maze of flexible duct work. Somewhere down the line you’re going to have to fudge a little and make a move to get the job done. It’s always important to realize this when it comes up. At that time you should take a moment to look around and see if you can accomplish what you need anyway other way-if not, plan out ahead of time what your next landing point is, head lamp on and put your flashlight in its holster and make your points of contact are as sure as they can be. Then smoothly get across or to a point where you can re-establish a safe posture, grab your light or whatever and continue on. You must realize, this is the time when you’re most vulnerable to a mishap. Taking a moment to think it through will be your best ally.
While I’m sure there are other good practices in traversing attics, these have been most helpful to me over the years. Be safe, kill bugs and always obey the golden rules.