How to Insulate an Attic

insulate an attic

Heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, accounts for more than half of the energy consumed in an average home. This means that an attic that is not properly insulated could be costing you big bucks as heat rises. Taking steps to prevent this loss is good for the environment, good for you, and good for your wallet. Use the following information to insulate an attic.

How much does it cost to insulate an attic?

According to this year’s Cost vs. Value report, which compares the average cost of 29 popular home improvement projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets, hiring a contractor to install insulation in your attic will cost $1,343. On the upside, you will see a 107.7% return on investment (ROI), should you ever decide to sell or refinance your home. In addition, you may qualify to receive a federal tax credit of 10% of the cost, up to $500.

How much material do I need?

That depends. Insulation levels are specified by R-value. R-value is a measure of an insulation material’s ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-values are required in colder areas, whereas, R-38 is the recommended value for temperate and hotter climates. Take a look at ENERGY STAR’s recommended home insulation R-values guidelines for more information. Keep in mind that R-values vary depending on material.

Armed with this information, you will then want to measure the length and width of your attic to determine how many square feet of insulation you’ll need. To complete this job, you may also need other materials, such as silicone caulk, metal flashing, and weatherstripping, as it is important to first seal off any existing air leaks or drafts. Sealing off these leaks will provide benefits for years to come.

Tips for Working in the Attic

  • Have a plan in place. The key to any successful project – especially a project of this magnitude – is adequate planning. Before beginning, gather all necessary tools and supplies, including a flashlight. You’ll also want to ensure the area is well-lit by using a work light.
  • Protect yourself. Insulation can be itchy and irritating to the skin, as well as harmful to the lungs, which is why it’s important to wear the proper gear to protect yourself. We recommend wearing safety googles, work gloves, a face mask, and a lightweight disposable coverall in addition to using knee pads.

3 Steps to an Insulated Attic

Step 1: Seal Air Leaks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you or a professional air seal your attic before insulating it. There are many benefits to air sealing including reducing heating and cooling costs, improving durability, increasing comfort, and creating a healthier indoor environment. Caulking and weatherstripping are two effective air sealing techniques that offer quick returns on investment.

Step 2: Choose Your Insulation

Loose Fill Insulation – No one says you have to use the same type of insulation that currently exists in your attic when adding additional material. You can easily use loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets. If you choose to use loose fill insulation, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional as this type of material requires specialized machines and techniques.

Batt Insulation – Laying fiberglass rolls is an easy to moderate do-it-yourself project. Sold in various widths, this type of insulation is designed to fit easily within most typical joists, although layering is required to get the proper R-value for your zone. When laying down additional insulation, work from the perimeter, moving towards the attic opening. Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents.

Step 3: Create Barriers

No matter the material, if you’re installing insulation near recessed lights or soffit vents, you’ll want to use sheet metal or wire mesh to help create a barrier. Insulation and recessed light fixtures do not mix! Some recessed lights, however, are designed for “insulation contact” or “IC,” in which case no barrier is required. Check the fixture first before installing insulation.