Can I Insulate My Own Attic?

When it comes to insulation, you might be tempted to add it to the DIY column. After all, you can buy insulation at any hardware store. You might even know someone who has done it.

However, just like any home improvement DIY, insulating your own attic takes knowledge and tools that you might not have.

Upgrading your insulation is a project that pays for itself and then some over time. Better insulation means lower utility bills every month. You might save money doing this project yourself, but you won’t know for sure unless you get a professional quote. 

If you want a professional to insulate your attic, reach out to SoDak Insulation for an inspection and quote today.

Can I Insulate My Own Attic?

First, consider whether you have any limitations that will prevent you from completing the job. If you have any medical conditions that require you to avoid excess heat or dust, you won’t be able to work safely. 

If you’re confident that you can do the work without hurting yourself, the next step is to take a good look in your attic.

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Planning

Look at the layout of your attic. Are there shallow angles, multiple chimneys, or a complicated floor plan that will make it challenging to apply insulation across the entire space? Picture how you will access the edges of the attic floor.

Figure out what you’re starting with. Examine the existing insulation for any mold, water stains, or other defects and remove any bits that aren’t up to snuff.  

Some houses built before 1990 were insulated with a product called vermiculite. Vermiculite may have traces of asbestos in it. If you have loose, grainy-looking particles with shiny flecks, get the material tested. 

If you do have asbestos, you’ll need to hire a professional to remove it. Removing asbestos is never a DIY job. Once the old material is removed, you’ll have a clean slate for your new insulation. 

What Type of Insulation Should I Use?

You will need to choose the type of insulation that works best for your attic. 

Loose-fill is a DIY-friendly type of insulation. Think of this like the inside of a pillow. Loose-fill is an excellent choice for spaces with nonstandard spacing between the joists, a complicated layout, or tight spaces. 

When you insulate your attic with loose-fill, you will need to rent a machine to blow the material into all of the nooks and crannies. If you operate the tool effectively, this can be the fastest way to get the job done.

You can also spread around loose-fill insulation manually. That won’t give even coverage or as good of a result, though.

When you want to insulate your attic on your own, the type of insulation most commonly used is batt or blanket insulation. This type of insulation fits between the building joists of your house, which makes it easier to install.

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Measure

The Department of Energy suggests South Dakota homes should have attic insulation with a total R-value of R49 – R60.  

Determine the R-value of the insulation already in your attic. Push a tape measure or ruler to the floor beneath the insulation, and measure the insulation’s height. Multiply the thickness in inches by 2.5 to get an estimate of the present total insulating value. This number is your current insulation’s R-value.  

Here’s an example: if your attic insulation is 10 inches deep before you improve it, you currently have R-25 insulation (10 x 2.5). You would need to add another R-24 to get to the minimum recommended R-49. Two layers of R-12 would give your finished project the recommended total R-value (25 + 12 + 12.)

Figure out how much insulation to buy. Multiply the length by the width of your space. The result is your square footage.  Consider whether you need more than one layer of batts and add to your total as needed.

Prepping

You are ready to insulate your attic! Well, almost. There are a few more things you should do first:

  1. Seal air leaks. Check your attic for any air leaks. Insulate around window edges with a low-expansion foam explicitly made to insulate around windows. Check around any outlets, ducts, pipes, etc. for gaps. Fill ¼ inch gaps with caulk. Seal gaps around chimneys with a high-temperature caulk or furnace cement. 
  2. Examine your roof for signs of leaking. If there’s any moisture or staining, fix that problem before you install any insulation. You don’t want a roof leak to cause your new insulation to get moldy. 
  3. Examine any light fixtures that could come into contact with your insulation. Leave an empty space of at least three inches around any light fixtures to avoid a fire hazard. Check your home improvement store for barrier options.
  4. Check your attic space for any exhaust fans that aren’t routed to the exterior. Some DIYers take a shortcut when installing a bathroom or kitchen fan, routing it only to the attic space instead of the outside. Correct this to avoid moisture build-up and potential mold problems in the future. 

Stay Safe

These tips will help keep your insulation project safe and on-track:

  • Cover up from head to toe, including goggles and a dust mask. Wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin.
  • Lay down a sturdy board to walk on. It’s easy to lose your balance walking on the joists.
  • Use good lighting. Obtain lights or lanterns that illuminate the entire space, and that do not need to be held. 
  • Check the underside of the roof. It’s common to find some roofing nails poking through. If you have some spare packing styrofoam, you can use it to cap these. 
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Installation

You’ve gotten your attic and yourself prepared. It’s time for the insulation.

Apply your insulation, starting at the outer edges of your attic and working towards the exit. Try not to trample the insulation as you go- it works best when fluffy. Make sure your insulation completely covers the joists, or you will lose some heat through the wood.

 Be careful not to block your soffit vents. The underside of your roof (ceiling of your attic) needs airflow. Without it, you could find yourself dealing with ice dams on your roof. 

So Can You Insulate Your Own Attic?

Attic insulation might seem like a straightforward project that is good for a DIYer. However, it is a time-consuming job that typically requires tools the average homeowner doesn’t have readily available.  It also involves spending time in a hot and often dusty and cramped space. 

If you’re up for it, great! If not, reach out to SoDak insulation for an inspection and quote.

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