Heating & Cooling Services
It’s that time of year when people begin to notice cold spots and drafts in the home. While the air leaks around windows and doors are significant and most noticeable, you are probably losing a lot more air and energy in your attic and basement. In many homes, the combined air leaks in these two areas add up to a half-window being open all day long.
Think of all the money you are spending to heat and cool your home. If someone left a window or door open, you would be pretty upset, right? Well, that is effectively what is happening in your attic and basement. There are many little holes around doors, windows, soffits, and where utilities enter the home. Combine this with inadequate insulation, and are wasting hundreds of dollars’ worth of energy every year and creating an uncomfortable home for you and your family.
Increasing attic insulation is a fairly complicated DIY project (1-3 days or a full weekend), but is completely doable if you have the right materials and information.
Before you think about heading into your attic to seal air leaks and add insulation, here are the things you will need first:
- Insulation – you will need batt, roll, or blown insulation.
- Garbage Bags – fill the bag with insulation to insulate stud cavities under kneewalls and dropped soffits.
- Silicone or Acrylic Latex Caulk – use the right kind of caulk to seal any cracks or gaps smaller than ¼ inch.
- Heat-Resistant Caulk – use this type of caulk when sealing air leaks around fireplaces, chimney, and flues.
- Caulk Gun – you need a caulk gun and know how to use it in order to fill air leaks with caulk.
- Expandable Foam Spray – get several cans of expandable foam spray to seal larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches).
- Aluminum Flashing – this keeps the insulation from getting too close to the flue pipe, which can create a fire hazard.
- Utility Knife and Heavy-Duty Scissors – you will need to cut the tips of off caulk, excess insulation and air sealing materials.
- Measuring Tape and Staple Gun – use the tape to make accurate measurements and the staple gun to hold materials in place.
- Work Gloves, Safety and Dust Masks – always use these items for your health and safety.
- Head Lamp or Flashlight – there are a lot of dark corners and crevices that you will need to see.
- Thick Wooden Boards – you may need boards to lay across your attic joists in order to walk safely across your attic.
- Knee Pads and Appropriate Clothing – wear knee pads to avoid knee and back pain. Make sure you aren’t wearing any clothes that you care about. You WILL get dirty.
All successful projects are planned beforehand. Make sure you have all of the tools and materials you need before you begin. Ensure there is adequate lighting and safe conditions.
- Adding attic insulation can be a dangerous job if you’re not careful. Make sure you examine your work area and materials before beginning, and that you have a proper plan in place.
- Don’t work in the attic when you are home alone.
- When you are in the attic, always wear an OSHA-approved dust mask to avoid breathing in hazardous airborne particulates.
- Be on the lookout for exposed nails coming up for your roof deck.
- Walk on rim joists and boards that you have laid on top of the joists. NEVER walk insulation or ceiling drywall.
- Make sure the work area is well-lit. Have a powerful flashlight on hand.
Cover Dropped Soffits
After removing the old insulation from the dropped soffit, you can cut some reflective foil or other insulation blocking material (you can also use rigid foam board) and cover the opening with them. Use a line of caulk or other appropriate adhesive around the opening and seal the foil to the frame. You can also use a staple or nail gun if necessary. When you are done, cover with insulation.
Seal Behind Kneewalls
Insulate and seal the area behind kneewalls by filling a large garbage bag with a 24-inch piece of fiberglass insulation and stuffing it into the open joist space underneath the wall. You can also use a rigid foam board, combined with some spray foam to insulate the open joist cavities. After filling the kneewall cavities, again cover with insulation.
WARNING: Some attics have insulation that contain asbestos and other health hazards. Always use an OSHA-approved particulate respirator or dust mask to prevent inhaling airborne contaminates. If your insulation looks like small, flaky grey material, don’t touch it until you have had it tested. Contact your health department for approved lab references.
How to Tell if You Have Enough Attic Insulation
Attic insulation levels are rated according to their R-value. This measures the insulations ability to prevent heat flow. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation. According to the EPA, “the recommended level for most attics is to insulate to R-38 or about 10 to 14 inches, depending on insulation type.”
Watch this video from the Department of Energy to learn how to estimate your attic’s R-value with a ruler:
Adding the Right Insulation
You have two choices when it comes to DIY attic insulation: loose fill or batts/rolls.
Don’t worry about mixing different insulation types. You can mix loose fill with fiberglass batts and vice-versa. If you lack the proper insulation levels and wish to add loose fill insulation, hire a professional since this will require a large blowing machine. You can rent it, but it’s heavy and will require a truck and multiple people.
We recommend hiring a professional if you have recessed light fixtures or “can” lights. And don’t forget to create a barrier around your flues.
Click here for more Attic Insulation Tips from ENERGY STAR.
WARNING: After any significant improvements to your home’s insulation, make sure you call your local HVAC professional for a thorough inspection of your insulation and ventilation levels. In tighter homes, there is an increased risk of CO and other harmful gas buildup. Click here for more insulation, ventilation, and indoor air quality tips.
If you have any questions about how to properly insulate your home, don’t hesitate to give Hiller a call. We’d be happy to answer all of your questions and pay a visit to discuss your ventilation and insulation options.