Author Topic: Insulating the attic: encourage me!  (Read 922 times)

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« on: June 08, 2019, 03:05:38 PM »
Happily, I don't actually have to do the entire attic. Most of it is already insulated, but there is an area that is totally bare(!) and some others that I think might not be of ideal thickness. So we are planning to get one of those machines that blows cellulose insulation, the kind that they loan you free at Home Depot if you buy a bunch of insulation.

My husband has a debilitating fear of heights, so I will the one actually in the attic. We are not very handy. Words of encouragement?I mean, there are plenty of legit-looking online resources saying what to do, but what tips and pitfalls should I know?

Fishindude

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2019, 03:21:26 PM »
It's a real nasty job.   I'd try to find someone with experience and hire them to do it.

Candace

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2019, 03:46:41 PM »
My husband and I did this last year! You can totally do it. A few things to note. First, make sure you seal leaks and gaps with that spray stuff (also sold at Home Depot/Lowe's). This is actually as difficult as doing the spraying and takes a while to do thoroughly. Look for leaks and gaps where any light fixtures are attached to the ceiling under the attic, or where wires or ductwork come through, and where walls intersect ceilings. If you don't do this, the insulation won't help with air that's passing through the leaks. You can also spot them if there is existing insulation that looks like a dirty filter, because that's pretty much how it's been acting.

When you go to get the insulation, make sure you get the masks. You don't want to breathe that stuff in. Wear long sleeves and long pants, and gloves. You will get the stuff all over you. Make sure your hose is going to be long enough between where the hopper will be and the furthest point in the attic where you'll be spraying from.

Close all the doors you can along the path of the hose. The stuff will get on the floor and on the walls as a thin covering of dust.

Obviously, the hose can't have any kinks or the insulation won't flow.

When your husband puts the stuff in the hopper, don't fill it more than a couple of inches above the thing that spins to break up the bale of insulation before sucking it into the hose. Otherwise, it gets stuck or the material doesn't flow easily into the intake from the hopper into the hose. Ask me how I know.

Have some way of communicating to each other, if you can. Voice calls won't work as it will be loud at both ends. Text might work. We didn't have this and it made things difficult.

If it's hot, please be careful. My husband decided to do this on a hot day and I can't believe he was okay up there. He had to keep emptying his mask when it would fill with sweat (yuck).

Let me know if you have questions!

secondcor521

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2019, 05:32:46 PM »
I've got this project on my list too and I hope OP doesn't mind if I chime in with my own questions.

How do you check for leaks under existing insulation?  I've got about a foot of insulation in there already, and if it's leaking through I would think that the dirty insulation would be on the bottom and not visible from the top.  I think I noticed some of these spots before when I was up there for something else, so maybe it's sort of obvious?

How far does the spray reach from the end of the hose?  I'm planning on taking the hose up through the attic access door and want to reach the farthest corner which happens to be one of the kids' bedrooms.  If the hose is, say, five feet short will I be able to reach it with the spray?

What is your opinion on putting baffles between the roof trusses to keep the insulation over the ceilings and away from the eaves / soffits?

OP:  One general caution that I'm sure you've already read is to be careful walking around in the attic.  It is easy to miss or slip from standing on the roof trusses to putting a foot through the ceiling.  Not only does this create a hole in the ceiling that needs repairing, it can also hurt the person whose foot / leg / body comes through the ceiling.  Go slowly, be careful, and test each foothold before trusting it.

LaineyAZ

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2019, 08:25:11 PM »
It's a real nasty job.   I'd try to find someone with experience and hire them to do it.

+1  Definitely call the professionals.  It's not that expensive and you'll see immediate savings on your utility bills. 

nereo

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2019, 06:10:13 AM »
This is a very easy DIY project, though you will get covered in insulation fibers (thankfully not nasty fiberglass) and if its a warm day outside it will be very warm working in your attic, so the only question I'd ask yourself is whether you are the sort of person who is ok with getting dirty for a job.

For starters, wear a decent-fitting mask that can filter out particles.  FWIW I used the same RZ-M2 mask I use when woodworking (~$30 on amazon, filters out particles down to 0,1Ám.) The person loading the hopper will probably want ear plugs or ear muffs, and both people should wear gloves. I'd also recommend getting a Tyvek disposable jumpsuit or wear old clothes that go right into the washer as soon as you ar finished (that's what I did).

Beyond that there's not much too it.  Prep work will take longer than the actual insullation-blowing, and involves taping up cracks, extending/covering vents (e.g. soffits) and recessed light fixtures (cans) if there are any. then figure out how deep you want your insullation to be and mark that depth on the rafters with a Sharpee pen.  The insulation itself is very cheap, so might as well fill out the entire attic to an R value appropriate for your climate (https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_insulation_table).  In most cases you want 12-16" of insulation in attics.

Start from the back corner and work towards your exit.  You can estimate how many bags you need based ont he sqft and depth, but have a system worked out with the person loading the hopper (we went through the first two bags, then paused to make sure it was going, then went through the remaining 80% before stopping and judging how much more we'd need to use).

g'luck!

ETA - some things I learned:
1) spend a few hours the day before getting everything prepped (marking how high you want the insulation, extending and capping vent covers.  Plan where the path/order where you will blow insulation (making sure your exit is last).  Consider where you will put the blower moter (outside is best) and whether you need an extension cord in that locale). Calculate how long a hose you will need. Then show up early the next day to rent the blower.

2) buy ~25% more insulation than you think you will need; you can return unopened bags when you return the blower, and it's much better than having to make a mid-day run to pick up another 3 bags to finish the job (ask me how I know).  Get/rent an additional 10-15 feet of hose beyond what you think you might need.... a hose that's too long is much more preferable than one that's too short.

3) the actually blowing of insulation is fairly quick; we did an entire attic in less than two hours.

4) start EARLY and/or choose a cool day.  If its hot outside it will be much, much hotter in an attic.  Pre-hydrate.

« Last Edit: June 09, 2019, 08:50:00 AM by nereo »

Papa bear

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2019, 08:27:44 AM »
I much preferred blown in fiberglass to cellulose from and installation perspective.

Make sure you have long sleeves and pants, safety glasses, a respirator, etc.   and try to pick a cool overcast day or you will melt up there.




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ender

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2019, 08:37:27 AM »
Funny, I am researching this right now too.

Literally procrastinating going up into the attic to look at how deep it is and to check on the status of the soffit vents/baffles :)

misshathaway

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2019, 09:51:20 AM »
I had it done by professionals. I've been through 2 winters with it now in New England. The house is so much warmer. Should have done it years ago. Also, you might not care about this, but mice can no longer live in the walls or the attic.

I had cellulose dust everywhere that required washing walls and every other surface afterwards. So do your leak homework before you start. But STILL worth it.

Candace

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2019, 08:13:02 AM »
All good comments upthread. Thank you to @secondcor521 for the essential safety cautions and the good questions about where to look for leaks when doing the sealing.

To the OP - yes, make sure you feel confident making your way around the attic by going between solid wood pieces. Please do not try to walk on the ceiling layer, because yes, you will go through. If you're not feeling good about making your way around that way, it might be a good idea to get a friend to help or call a pro, since your husband has already said he's not going in there.

As to the price difference, having it done professionally would have cost me over $3k. Materials and rental for DIY were maybe $400-$500, and we used a LOT of insulation because our attic only had several inches' worth to start. The quote I got was crazy high because the company wanted to remove all the old insulation first before putting in new insulation. I just gave them my best "do you think I'm stupid" look and said no thanks.

As to finding spots for leaks, here's what we did. We looked at where walls meet ceiling, and where there are penetrations due to lighting fixtures etc, especially those "can" fixtures, which tend to be leaky if they're not installed properly. Then we looked in the attic in those places. Additional places are where there are wires or anything else coming through that you wouldn't have noticed from below the attic. We did find one leak by the color of the existing insulation, but that was because the existing insulation was only a few inches thick. If it's more than a few inches thick, then no, you may not be able to find the leaks due to discolored insulation. Keeping track of where the ceiling penetrations are (walls, lights, fans, etc. as mentioned above) is the best way to find them.

As for baffles or vents, there were already vents installed in our attic and we just made sure not to fill them up. We didn't install any additional baffles, but they just didn't seem to be needed. Your situation may vary.

The cellulose insulation would spray around 3-4 feet beyond where the hose reached.

I didn't have a jumpsuit, but I wore long sleeves, long pants and gloves. In hindsight, a hair net would have been nice! I was at the hopper, and did not use ear protection although it was loud. It was only used for a few hours so I didn't see the need. We did have the hopper outside, and yes, it makes a mess. Please put it outside. Not inside. I think I peeled my clothes off afterward and threw them away. I might have washed them. I don't remember. I might have hosed them off on the porch outside, let them dry, and then washed them. It's best to wear clothes you can sacrifice.

Good luck whatever decision you make, OP!
« Last Edit: June 10, 2019, 08:27:05 AM by Candace »

Fire2029

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2019, 03:01:54 PM »
Another key spot to look for air leaks is anywhere where walls are open to the attic below the top plate.

Areas where the ceiling drops down, like over stairs and over cabinets. This lets a ton of conditioned air into the attic. To seal these you take a 13 gallon kitchen bag, stuff it with a doubled over batt of fiberglass insulation, and stick that down into the top of the wall cavity.

Another area where you can use this technique is anywhere you have conditioned space and unconditioned space on the same level (like an attic over a garage with 2nd floor bedrooms next to it. If any of the joist spaces run from that attic under conditioned space you want to seal the end with a bag to keep unconditioned air from running under the conditioned space.

Greystache

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2019, 07:16:33 AM »
A couple things to be aware of when blowing insulation in the attic. If you have exposed recessed light fixtures, make sure they are rated for direct contact with insulation.  Also, make sure you don't block any attic vents to the outside of the house.

newloginuser

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2019, 01:35:10 PM »
Not to hijack the thread but it is on topic with insulating the attic. I have an attic entrance cover (not sure if that's the technical name, but it's a small square entrance) that is in one of my closets that grants access to the attic. What is the best way to minimize heat getting through the cover?

secondcor521

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2019, 01:51:31 PM »
Not to hijack the thread but it is on topic with insulating the attic. I have an attic entrance cover (not sure if that's the technical name, but it's a small square entrance) that is in one of my closets that grants access to the attic. What is the best way to minimize heat getting through the cover?

Make sure there's insulation on the attic side of the cover.  Normally there is a "box" into which the cover fits which keeps any blown in insulation from tumbling down through the cover when you open it.

If you don't intend to use it very often, I suppose you could caulk it shut.

Agg97

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2019, 01:54:43 PM »
Not to hijack the thread but it is on topic with insulating the attic. I have an attic entrance cover (not sure if that's the technical name, but it's a small square entrance) that is in one of my closets that grants access to the attic. What is the best way to minimize heat getting through the cover?

Make sure there's insulation on the attic side of the cover.  Normally there is a "box" into which the cover fits which keeps any blown in insulation from tumbling down through the cover when you open it.

If you don't intend to use it very often, I suppose you could caulk it shut.

Weatherstripping and rigid insulation on the back side of it would be my vote. 

BicycleB

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2019, 02:26:30 PM »
Paid someone long ago with some sort of city deal; happy with the result. Solar salespeople stop selling me systems when they find out how low my existing electric bill is ($45/mo average, using AC in hot hot Texas, 1600 sq ft).

Good luck with your install. Let us know what happens. Maybe I'll follow suit when it's time to redo my own attic.

fixie

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #16 on: June 23, 2019, 04:31:09 PM »
absolutely the worst job I ever did in my own house.
with that said, anybody can rent the machine and blow in the insulation.  just mask off everything, create a clean room if access is from the inside of the house.  wear a tyvek suit, respirator, gloves, safety goggles.
hire somebody
-fixie

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2019, 04:40:32 PM »
I'm glad this popped up, because I forgot to update! This went fine. We did it all in one day. Morning to caulk and fill gaps, afternoon to blow (it was cloudy and not too hot). It was hot and dirty and loud and unpleasant in the attic, but I survived. We got 18 bags in and saved the other 2. (You got the machine free if you bought 20.)

It was a pretty satisfying job and worth it at this phase in our lives, when we are youngish and limber (well, I did strain a muscle or two, but nothing serious) and not exactly awash with cash. I think we spent less than $500 for the materials, including truck rental. And it was satisfying. It did get some dust in our house. My husband was concerned about dust in the air and insisted we go out to dinner, but there was a place I wanted to try anyway :-).

I did not wear Tyvek, just long sleeves and pants and a respirator and gloves. I did get a tiny hole in the pants. I also got a head lamp, which none of y'all mentioned but which turned out to be a lifesaver.

My verdict is "anyone can do it," where "anyone" is defined as a couple of people with no major mobility issues. I'm really proud of myself. Would recommend.


ender

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #18 on: June 23, 2019, 04:48:52 PM »
I think we're going to do this soon(ish).

I am probably going to go up in the attic when it's cool out and look around. We have 7 can lights that I will likely get something like this too to go over them - https://www.menards.com/main/building-materials/insulation/insulation-accessories/insulmax-reg-cancap/001a/p-1444444944460-c-5776.htm

secondcor521

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2019, 05:01:00 PM »
Thread drift question:

My house was built by professional builders and the insulators seemed to do a pretty decent job.  But I'm not sure they got all the holes caulked in the ceilings the way I would.  But there's already 12-15" of blown insulation up there, and I don't want to shift it around looking for places to caulk.

How bad would it be to just blow in a bunch more insulation without sealing all the small holes?  Alternatively, for the person above who just did it, how many places did you end up caulking compared to what you thought you would?

ender

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2019, 06:44:44 PM »
Thread drift question:

My house was built by professional builders and the insulators seemed to do a pretty decent job.  But I'm not sure they got all the holes caulked in the ceilings the way I would.  But there's already 12-15" of blown insulation up there, and I don't want to shift it around looking for places to caulk.

How bad would it be to just blow in a bunch more insulation without sealing all the small holes?  Alternatively, for the person above who just did it, how many places did you end up caulking compared to what you thought you would?

I have the same question - there is some blown in insulation in our attic now but not a full amount.

Candace

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2019, 09:20:03 PM »
I'm glad this popped up, because I forgot to update! This went fine. We did it all in one day. Morning to caulk and fill gaps, afternoon to blow (it was cloudy and not too hot). It was hot and dirty and loud and unpleasant in the attic, but I survived. We got 18 bags in and saved the other 2. (You got the machine free if you bought 20.)

It was a pretty satisfying job and worth it at this phase in our lives, when we are youngish and limber (well, I did strain a muscle or two, but nothing serious) and not exactly awash with cash. I think we spent less than $500 for the materials, including truck rental. And it was satisfying. It did get some dust in our house. My husband was concerned about dust in the air and insisted we go out to dinner, but there was a place I wanted to try anyway :-).

I did not wear Tyvek, just long sleeves and pants and a respirator and gloves. I did get a tiny hole in the pants. I also got a head lamp, which none of y'all mentioned but which turned out to be a lifesaver.

My verdict is "anyone can do it," where "anyone" is defined as a couple of people with no major mobility issues. I'm really proud of myself. Would recommend.

Congratulations! I hope you feel proud of yourselves for doing it. I'm glad you had the lamp. We didn't need one but I can see how many attic setups could benefit.

nereo

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #22 on: June 24, 2019, 04:23:33 AM »
Thread drift question:

My house was built by professional builders and the insulators seemed to do a pretty decent job.  But I'm not sure they got all the holes caulked in the ceilings the way I would.  But there's already 12-15" of blown insulation up there, and I don't want to shift it around looking for places to caulk.

How bad would it be to just blow in a bunch more insulation without sealing all the small holes?  Alternatively, for the person above who just did it, how many places did you end up caulking compared to what you thought you would?

I have the same question - there is some blown in insulation in our attic now but not a full amount.

THere's no harm in addint more insulation on top of the old, and it will help... some....  However, if you want an easier way to check for leaks rent a thermal imaging camera (or find out if your muni offers free 'energy home audits' and ask the inspector to image that area. That way you can mark where they are instead of digging around for them. Leaks impact the insulative capacity of your home much more than another few inches of blown cellulose will.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Insulating the attic: encourage me!
« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2019, 11:58:50 AM »
I'm pretty sure that 12 settled inches of cellulose is an adequate R value for most areas of the country. I was only going for 12 FRESH inches, although some areas developed "drifts." Well, it's a hard job!

The package said that 12 freshly blown inches is enough for an R value of I think 38, which is generally advised as adequate for Colorado, where I live. YMMV. I was blowing over batts with an R value of 11(!).