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Charlie Glahe WIN Broomfield

Adding insulation to the attic: Part II

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Properly insulating your attic can cut monthly energy costs down significantly. Taking on the task yourself can be moderately difficult. However, attics may be the easiest locations to insulate in your home and with proper equipment, knowledge and technique, you can manage this job.

Before moving forward, speak with a home inspection company and have a professional determine if a more difficult type of insulation is necessary to better cocoon your home. And remember, if you have doubt or lack confidence, do not hesitate to hire a contractor. Improperly installing insulation will not effectively save you money. 

Supplies for installing insulation 
Aside from the proper safety materials, you need a few tools for the actual process of installing this material. According to Energy Star, your supply list should include

  • Insulation 
  • Tape measure 
  • Proper cutting material such as a utility knife that retracts and a straight edge 

Depending on the type of insulation you select for your home, other materials may be required. Loose-fill may be properly installed with only specific equipment. When purchasing insulation, speak with a knowledgeable employee at your local hardware store regarding any additional materials required. Energy Star also indicated that some stores offer rental options for tools . 

Composition of insulation 
Insulation can be made of cellulose, fiberglass or mineral wool. Each has various and unique advantages.

Recycled paper makes up cellulose insulation. This type boasts the most post-consumer recycled content, according to Professional Industries. It also has the ability to save 40 percent more energy than fiberglass or mineral wool. Cellulose also does not allow for mold, fungus or mildew growth and can even repel insects. 

Fiberglass insulation is often appealing due to its affordable price. Homeowners can also easily install fiberglass in their houses. 

Mineral wool primarily absorbs sound. Typically, using this type of insulation in an attic is uncommon. 

Installing the product 
Installation varies depending on the type of insulation selected. Note that your new insulation does not have to match the existing type of insulation in your attic. Feel free to mix and match loose-fill and blanket. 

First check if any light fixtures or vents are exposed in the attic. Ensure that these are either marked "IC," meaning they are designed for insulation contact, or properly shielded from any insulation using something like wire mesh. 

If installing blanket roll insulation, uncoil the product perpendicular to the joists in your attic. Ensure that there are no gaps and before cutting the product, fit it to the space. Leaving a little extra length will allow for a snug fit. 

Loose-fill insulation serves as a great option for attics with spaces that are difficult to reach. Lowes suggested using a polyethylene vapor barrier when working with this type of insulation. Installing a polyethylene vapor barrier will slow migration of water vapor and enhance the effectiveness of this project. Staple this barrier across the rafters before blowing any loose-fill into the space. Also make sure the film is at least three inches away from any chimneys or light fixtures. 

When setting up the blowing machine, read and follow the instructions specific to the hardware you are using. Once you begin, blow in the same directions as the joists and make sure to hold the hose so that it is parallel to the floor. 

The depth of this type of insulation dictates the R-value. As you are performing this task, stop periodically to measure how close you are to reaching the necessary depth. 

Note that using the machine also fluffs the bags of tightly packed insulation when it blows the product into a space. Avoid compressing the fresh insulation by walking, sitting or laying tools on it. If this occurs, the insulation will lose effectiveness.