Now is the best time to think about insulating your attic. As the air becomes more cool and dry, working in your attic won’t be a pain to work on during the day. The question is: What sort of material should you use to insulate your attic, and how much do you need to provide maximum comfort for a reasonable price?
First Things First
Before considering what type of insulation you should use, be sure to seal any cracks in the attic to prevent leaking air. Apply caulk around electrical boxes, holes drilled for plumbing or electrical wires and space where the chimney stack comes into the attic. It’s also a good idea to place weather stripping around the attic door.
Some older recessed lights are rated as non-insulation contact, meaning the bulbs get too hot to come into contact with insulation without risking fire. For your safety, these fixtures should be replaced with insulated-can, airtight or ICAT fixtures. There’s no need to caulk around these fixtures as they are already airtight.
Other Things To Keep in Mind:
- Install rafter vents to keep insulation from clogging eave soffit vents.
- Avoid putting insulation with a vapor barrier over a layer of insulation that’s already in place. This can cause high humidity and encourage the growth of mold. Remove the old insulation first.
- You will need to measure your attic if you don’t already know the dimensions and layout. The insulation should be bought prior to installation and kept in a cool, dry place. When it’s time to install the insulation, start at the front of the attic and work backwards toward the door.
- Dress appropriately with long sleeves, sturdy pants, safety glasses, durable gloves and a mask to guard against dust. Don’t forget to keep your knees protected by wearing kneepads or resting them on a padded kneeboard. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to insulate the attic all at once, so the job can be spread out over a long weekend.
About “R” Values
“R” values stand for how well a certain type of insulation materials resist heat transfer. According to the Department of Energy, most homes use cellulose or fiberglass as insulation and often do not use enough of it. They recommend that the R value range between 30 and 60, depending on the location climate of the home. This would range between eight to 16 inches of insulation as opposed to the three to six inches found in most homes. For many homeowners, this seems like a lot of insulation, but keep in mind that installing a thick blanket of insulation not only keeps your house warm in the winter, but keeps it cooler in the summer as well.
Types of Insulation
The two most common types of insulation are the blanket type or batt and loose fill. There’s also a soybean-based insulation option that is sprayed in between the joists, swells and hardens. However, this option is more expensive, requires special equipment and is not typically a DIY job for a homeowner.
Loose fill comes in bags and is blown into place using a blower that can be rented or purchased from home improvement stores. Loose fill can also be poured and spread out by hand, but this method takes more time and effort. Loose insulation is great for attics with irregularly spaced joists that already have existing insulation or for attics with obstructions and low ceilings.
Types of Loose Fill
- Cellulose is made out of recycled paper that’s treated to resist insect damage and fire. It’s important to note that cellulose insulation must be kept away from moisture in order to prevent mold.
- Fiberglass is lighter than cellulose but needs to be laid on thickly because it tends to settle more after time has elapsed. Fiberglass is made of very fine melted, spun glass which, if inhaled, can irritate the lungs. If you’re working with fiberglass, but sure to wear the proper protective goggles and face masks to prevent inhalation.
- Mineral wool is made of slag, the by-product of smelting, from blast furnaces and is naturally fire-resistant. Mineral wool is more expensive than loose fill cellulose or fiberglass insulation options.
This type of insulation comes in rolls ranging from 16 to 24 inches wide and is made to fit between the framing of the attic. Batts can come with or without a vapor barrier, designed to keep the moisture in your home from getting into the walls and attic. One or two layers of batting is usually needed to ensure that the attic is properly insulated.
Batts are perfect for uninsulated attics with regular spacing between the joists and few obstructions, as well as attics with high ceilings. However, some blankets may still need to be cut to fit your attic.
Fiberglass, cellulose and mineral wool are all offered in batting form, as is cotton. Cotton insulation is made from recycled denim which does an excellent job of dampening sound and stopping leaks but can be very expensive.
Installing insulation in the attic is quite doable for DIY homeowners. Not only does adding insulation help your home retain its internal temperature, it also helps it to run more efficiently, saving you money. The Department of Energy estimates that a well-insulated attic can lower the month energy bill anywhere from 10 to 50 percent—the perfect reason to make sure your attic is well-insulated this winter season!
Visit any of our Doug Ashy locations and speak with our experienced team members to find out more information about our insulation offerings and to see if it’s time to refresh your own insulation!