Sunday, August 29, 2010

DIY: Insulate Your Attic

Adding a new or replacement layer of insulation to your home’s attic can reduce your winter heating costs by as much as 20%. Studies have shown that typical attic insulation is about three inches thick. When efficiency is a top priority, experts recommend quadrupling that thickness to twelve inches.

What You Need to Insulate Your Home

  • Protective clothing and gear, including face masks, safety glasses and gloves 
  • A stepladder, although in some cases a larger or smaller ladder may be required 
  • Plywood, particularly if your attic does not have a solid floor 
  • A staple gun and PLENTY of staples! 
  • A utility knife

Plan to work on this project for one weekend or more, depending on the size and condition of your attic. Factor in the time needed to clean out your attic or move things around as necessary.

Insulation is relatively inexpensive. Most home attics can be insulated for a few hundred dollars.

Project Difficulty

Easy to moderate – Installing insulation is not difficult, but be prepared for lots of moving and lifting, working in close quarters for hours at a time.


As with any home-improvement project, proper preparation is the key to success. Do not cut corners with attic insulation. Read the insulation manufacturer’s installation instructions. The manufacturer knows the best way to install the product while maximizing the insulation quality of the material.
Move materials into the attic in their original packaging. For example, if you have purchased rolled insulation, never open the cellophane covering until the material is safely in the attic. The roll has been compressed for wrapping. In addition, you don’t want to breathe in fiberglass particles while moving the material through your home unprotected.

Wear protective clothing at all times. Long sleeves and a face mask are extremely important.
Be familiar with your attic. Low ceilings with exposed beams, sparse flooring with exposed joists, and areas with no flooring at all can be dangerous. Forgetting where floor joists are can result in serious injuries, first when you come through the ceiling and second when you recover from the fall. Be careful at all times.
Put plywood sheets on the floor to cover the area between joists. This will help you avoid the dangerous situation described above.

Getting Started
Locate every window or vent in the attic space. Ventilation is critical for property attic insulation, because the intention is to keep heat down below in the living area. To avoid potential roof damage, keep your attic as well ventilated as possible. Replace any vents that are in bad repair to keep nature’s creatures out of your home. 

Install a vapor barrier. If you have purchased rolled insulation with a lining, this step is less important, because that lining serves as a vapor barrier. If your insulation does not have a lining, install a layer of vapor-barrier material or 4- or 6-millimeter polyethylene sheeting. This will deter moisture and prevent damage to the insulation. 

Locate outlets, light fixtures and switches on the walls. Insulation is flammable. Therefore, always ensure that there is a safe distance between the electrical fixture and your insulation.
Install the insulation. If you are using rolled insulation, install several layers to obtain a twelve-inch thickness. Install the first layer, stapling it in place between the rafters. Additional layers should be placed perpendicular to one another in order to increase the R-value of the insulation.

If you are using loose insulation instead, maintain uniform thickness of about twelve inches in all areas.

Failing to carefully install the material with the right thickness will result in less efficient attic insulation.

Cleaning Up

Congratulations on completing the steps necessary to insulate your home! Once the installation is complete, remove all the scraps of insulation from your attic. Place them in bag that can be sealed before leaving the attic. This is very important for protecting your family’s health.

With the right tools, material and know-how, insulating a home is a straightforward process. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and always wear protective gear.