A Guide To DIY Attic Insulation

It’s time for homeowners to face the facts, heating your home in the winter can get expensive quickly, especially if you live in a cold climate. Once again, the US Department of Energy is predicting that the price of gas and oil for heating will rise this year when compared with the year before. That’s in addition to price increases which have already been experienced throughout the nation.

Keeping the thermostat low and dressing up in your warm comfy’s while you are home is a good way to keep your costs down, however, if your attic is uninsulated you could be missing out on one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut down on your energy bills during the winter. According to the Department of Energy, an attic that has been insulated well can save as much as 50% on your heating bills. The benefits don’t stop there, you will also benefit from attic insulation in the summer which will allow you to more easily keep the temperature inside your home cool.

If you had the extra bucks and you really wanted the job to get done right, you’d hire a professional energy auditor to tell you exactly how effective the insulation you already have is, and help you zero in on issues like air leaks or other problems that you might be able to fix in order to ensure your insulation is performing optimally. But, if you’d like to do the job yourself, this article can be used as a guide and includes all the important information you may need about costs, materials, and installation.

Costs

On average, adding attic insulation can cost between $1,700 and $2,100, that’s according to Home Advisor, a trusted Authority when it comes to home remodels. There are three main variables that will contribute to the overall cost of your insulation project, they are as follows:

  1. Which type of insulation material you decide to use
  2. The size of your attic is in terms of square feet
  3. The cost of hiring a contractor or whoever will do the actual installation

Select Your methods: Insulation Materials and Types

For a do-it-yourself insulation installation in your attic, there are really only two choices at hand. you can go for a loose fill insulation or batts. Both of these materials are relatively easy to work with and can be applied to attics that are uninsulated or added to old insulation which is already existing and installed. Once you’ve made your decision, you can check out different options and compare prices in order to zero in on the product you think will work best for your project.

Loose Fill

Loose fill insulation comes loose in bags and is blown into the desired areas using specialized equipment that you can rent from your local tool store. If you choose not to rent the insulation blower you can complete this process by hand, but it will take a lot more work and you may not be satisfied with the results.

Great for:

  • Attics which are ever in irregular or atypical construction
  • Attics with many physical obstacles that limit your work space
  • Attics where insulation already exists and just needs to be topped off
  • Attics with low headroom which can make installation difficult

Material choices

Fiberglass:

R-value up to 2.7

Made of recycled glass

Typically more lightweight than alternative materials

Cellulose

R-value up to 3.8

Made from recycled paper, treated with chemicals to repel insects and fire.
Most commonly used, and the cheapest, but is vulnerable to mold in damp environments.

Mineral wool

R-value up 3.3

Made from rock or slag

Holds up the best against fire, but is the most expensive choice

Batts

This is the classic fluffy pink or yellow insulation that most people probably think of when they hear the term. It comes in sheets or rolls making it easy to install between the house’s studs and framing. They can also come with a liner that works as a vapor barrier in order to protect the insulation from moisture. It is possible to stack multiple layers in order to achieve the desired thickness and R-value.

Great for

  •  Attics which enjoy a standard construction
  •  Attics that are wide open without too many obstacles
  •  Attics with lots of working space

Material Choices

Fiberglass
  • R-value up to 24.3
  • Made of recycled glass
  • Easy to find at your local hardware store and cheap, but can be irritating to the skiing and lungs.  It is also less effective at blocking the flow of air when compared to other material choices.
Cellulose
  • R-value up to 3.8
  • Made from recycled paper, treated with chemicals to repel insects and fire
  • All natural and the most eco friendly, but may be less widely available due limited manufacturer options.
Mineral wool
  • R-value up to 3.3
  • Made from rock or slag
  • Best against fire, but most expensive option
Cotton
  • R-value up to 3.8
  • Made from recycled denim products
  • Great at reducing the flow o air and soundwaves, but can be costly

See What Insulation You Already Have, and Get Ready to Overhaul Your Attic

It’s time to dive into the bowels of your home and see what kind of stuff it’s made of.  Pop up into your attic and see what type of insulation is there already, if any at all. Use a tape measure to see how deep it is. Once you know the type and the depth you can use the chart included here to estimate your R-value.

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Next examined for any material that may be compromised, this will be insulation that is compressed, waterlogged, or growing any mold or mildew. throw that stuff out it’s not doing you any good and may even be harmful.

If you have an older house beware: If you see a granular loose type of insulation that shimmers it may contain asbestos. Be careful. Asbestos is highly dangerous. If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your attic you will need to call a professional to get rid of it.

Figure Your Ideal R-Value

Next, you will want to determine the R-value that you are looking to achieve with your new insulation. The Department of Energy has provided these numbers for unfinished attics. Check the chart to determine your ideal R-value based on your home’s climate.

Investigate for Any Potential Tax Credits 

There were federal tax credits available for individuals who were taking measures to increase their homes’ energy efficiency some years ago.  Unfortunately, they have mostly expired. However, it doesn’t hurt to check with your State’s local Energy Office or your local utility provider to see if there are any tax credits, rebates, or discounts that you may be able to take advantage of.

How Much Insulation Do You Need?

To answer this question the first thing that you are going to need is the area of your attic. If you are using loose fill insulation you should be able to find the required number of bags needed to cover 1000 square feet at your desired r value.

If you are using pads or rolls you will need to figure out the length and width of each unit of the product you’ve chosen. It may be wise to pick up an extra bag or unit so that you don’t fall short of completing your project.

Preparation

Seal off Air Leaks

Any gaps you may have will allow conditioned air to easily escape, greatly reducing the effectiveness of any insulation you might add. You’ll want to do a quick assessment of any areas that need to be sealed before you start adding insulation to your attic.

  1. Windows:  Windows can be a common place for gaps that produce air leaks. You can use some cheap do-it-yourself spray foam products and or weather stripping to seal any potential air leaks around windows in your attic.
  2. Pipes, fans and ducts: Just like windows, any pipes, exhaust fans or ducts that you have leading from the outside into your attic can be a potential source for air leaks. Use caulk or some easy to find spray foam from your local hardware store to seal up these problem spots.
  3. Chimneys: If you have an area around a chimney that you need to seal off, you will want to make sure that you use a metal flashing combined with an adhesive material that can hold up to high heat.

Fix Roof Leaks

If you have a leak in your roof, it can turn out to be a big problem for your insulation later on. Any water coming in from the outside can cause mold and mildew to take hold in your attic, ruining all of your hard work. Look for signs of leaks in your attic and on any existing insulation to figure out if you might have a leak, and make sure it’s fixed before you start to install any new insulation.

Make Sure Vents and Exhaust Aren’t Leading to Your Attic

Make sure that your home is up to code by directing all exhaust fans or vents outside of your home and not into the attic space. Venting exhaust air into your attic can increase humidity and ruin your insulation down the road.

Practice Personal Safety During Installation

  • Wear your personal protective equipment: A respirator, gloves and goggles are a must for installing insulation in your attic. You will probably also want to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs (no shorts and a t-shirt) to keep the irritating insulation away from your skin.
  • Don’t try to balance on roof joists: Just don’t. If you lose your balance you could fall right through the ceiling. Use some plywood or sturdy planks to give yourself a solid platform to work on. Your platform should come into contact with at least three joists to avoid damaging your roof
  • Bring plenty of light: Make sure your attic is well illuminated to ensure a workspace that is sufficiently safe, as well as by allowing you to do a thorough job.

Avoid the Hassle and Choose Spray Foam for Your Attic Insulation

We hope this has been a comprehensive guide to completing your attic insulation project yourself, but honestly, all of that sounds like a lot of work! We recommend going with spray foam insulation. Spray foam will give you a better value because it lasts forever, and it can provide you with a higher R-value than any of these other options. Plus, you can just sit back and let us handle all of the work!

So if you’ve finished reading this guide and realized that installing insulation in your atttic is a little overwhelming, no worries. Give us a call at Evergreen Insulation for a free estimate!