July, 2019
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Pans in the Attic: What’s Going On?


Eventually, all inspectors find containers set out to catch water in an attic. Is this a defect to be reported? 

Know the standards

Inspectors are required to inspect and report on readily accessible systems and components, and to report whether they are functioning properly or are significantly deficient. This includes roof structures, flashings, chimneys and roof penetrations. Some states require reporting on excessive moisture. A pan in an attic certainly indicates water leaks and functional issues.

Discovering buckets and signs of repair 

At times, we find buckets and a water-damaged area that has been repaired. Look at the chimney shown in Photo 1. It’s hard to tell what happened. The section of masonry chimney that extended above the roofline has been removed and the opening was patched. Have the leaks been stopped? If you can’t get closer, you don’t know. This needs further evaluation.

Chimney stains and leak-catchers 

The chimney or roof shown in Photo 2 obviously has leaked. Pans, trash cans and a coffee could have been set out to catch water. The wood and framing around and below the chimney are water-stained, and the chimney has efflorescence from water intrusion. Because this was a high attic with easy access, I moved closer to take a look. Inside the pans were several inches of water. The wood tested damp with a moisture meter.

This is simple to report: significant water intrusion, wet wood and water in pans around the chimney. The chimney, flashing or roof need immediate attention and major repair to prevent further damage. You should recommend engaging a specialist for further evaluation.

Snow below ridge and roof vents

In cold climates after a very cold and windy snowstorm, it is common to find a little snow below ridge and roof vents. Often, this snow will just melt and evaporate or disappear through sublimation. Your report should indicate that this situation must be monitored. If there is a foot of snow below a vent or compressed insulation, that is a major issue to report.

Owner gets creative: Pan and fan

It is also common to see a flat pan below a roof vent. It can capture wind-driven rain and snow that will evaporate without damage. The green pan with fan in the attic shown in Photo 3 is a creative solution. I imagine the fan is there to speed evaporation of water. This fan has mounting, safety and electrical issues. We should suggest evaluation of leaks and safety issues.


Pans set out in an attic always require further investigation and monitoring to determine whether repairs are needed. In an ideal world, we never encounter water or snow in an attic, right? If you see a pan, look for water to confirm your suspicion of leaks.

Tom Feiza has been a professional home inspector since 1992 and has a degree in engineering. Through HowToOperateYourHome.com, he provides high-quality marketing materials that help professional home inspectors educate their customers. Copyright © 2019 by Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It, Inc. Reproduced with permission.