In general, attics may serve as a junkyard for all the clutter of your home but if you take a deeper look you will realize this tiny place below the pitched roof is far more useful than that. An attic can keep your home comfortable 24/7 provided it is properly insulated.
Why you need attic insulation?
Attic insulation is key to maintaining the heating and cooling of your home as it prevents air from leaving the house as well as external air from coming in. In improperly insulated homes, up to 85% of heat is lost through the roof. This is especially alarming in winter when the temperature drops, but your energy bills keep rising because of wasted heat. If you analyze your energy bill, you will observe than about 50-70% of the bill is heating or cooling costs. A properly insulated attic decreases the amount of energy required to stabilize the temperature in your home. This reduces the pressure on the air conditioner or heating system to work hard, thereby saving energy and costs.
Doing it right
You can insulate an attic by yourself, but in most cases it’s best to leave it to the professionals and hire a skilled insulation or roofing contractor. Either way, you must remember to do the following to keep your attic in good shape.
Know what kind of roofing is required
The insulation type and material are important considerations. If you are hiring a roofing contractor (and you probably should, if you are doing it for the first time), the process begins by sizing up the place, spotting leaks and making recommendations. By and large, you have two choices – loose fill insulation or blanket insulation (commonly known as matt).
a. Loose fill insulation– In case of loose fill insulation, the material is packed in bags and smeared over the place to reach the desired depth and density manually or using a special machine. This method works best for attics that have uneven joist spacing or too many gaps and joints. It also works best as a top-up for an existing insulation. The material options for this type of insulation include fiberglass, cellulose and mineral wool.
b. Blanket Insulation (or Matt) – This type of insulation material is packed in rolls of varying thicknesses. The width is usually between 16 and 24 inches that can comfortably fit in joists and studs. You can add as many layers as you like. Blanket insulation works best for joist spacing with no prior insulation, attics with fewer gaps and other obstructions. The material options for this type of insulation include fiberglass, cellulose, mineral wool and cotton.
c. Foam insulation – A special kind of foam is sprayed into the wall. You can use minimally expanding spray foam around attic windows and fire-blocking spray foam around plumbing pipes, wires, vents and ducts.
Clear the clutter – Clearing up the mess is one of the most difficult things to do, since we are so accustomed to piling up stuff here. However, the best way to insulate the attic is to remove the plywood covering and add insulation on the floor. You can also add insulation on top of an existing one, all of which require you to find another place for storage.
Get rid of bad stuff from existing insulation – Size up your existing insulation to check for water stained, grainy, moldy or compressed material. Discard them immediately. Use loose-fill insulation to fill in the gaps.
Seal Air Leaks – Seal all places with potential air leaks in the attic or between the attic and the lower floors. Specific types of foam can be sprayed into different parts such as windows, pipes, ducts and other places using special equipment. For chimneys and flues, furnace cement is a good option. Weatherstripping exterior attic doors and ensuring they are placed firmly in the frame can prevent air leaks.
Roof repairs – Fix all roof leaks especially water leaks as they create molds and mildews and reduce the efficiency of any kind of insulation. Check roof sheathing, existing insulation and attic joists for water leaks.
Ventilation Passages – Ensure that you are not blocking any ventilation passages when insulating the attic. Right amount of ventilation is as important as right insulation.
Attic insulation is important for every home – old or new. If you are buying a new home, always check the insulation and ventilation of the place. These are often overlooked and done sloppily. Make your living space clean, green and comfortable for yourself and loved ones.