This past weekend J and I tackled the task of insulating my attic for a couple of reasons: 1) my current insulation isn't doing my home (or my heat bill) any favors and 2) you can receive a 30% tax credit up to $1,500 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. My home is a 1000 sq. ft. Ranch so the layout of my attic is much simpler than that of say a Cape Code or a Bungalow. After evaluating the current insulation in my attic (fiberglass blown-in insulation with an R-value of only 15) we decided to buy GreenFiber Natural Fiber blown-in cellulose insulation from Home Depot. They have a promotion going on where you can rent the blower for free if you buy at least 20 bags of insulation. To get my home to the desired R-value of 49 I would need at least 30 bags of cellulose so we were all set. (Go here to learn about R-values for your home based on where you live. In the Midwest, an attic should have an R-value of 49 to meet code.)
I was incredibly excited to use the blower since it seemed like a fun tool to use and I'm a geek when it comes to power tools or power anything really. We excitedly showed up at Home Depot at 8am to pick up the blower...only to find out that the only one they had in was the heavier one that would take three of my boyfriends to lift. My puny arms could only lift one side a couple of inches - not nearly enough to lower it from the truck bed to the ground and then to my house. So we contemplated our options (call in reinforcements? beg a neighbor? just go with the fiberglass rolls of insulation instead?). We sadly opted not to use the blower, grabbed a wheelie cart and loaded it up with 26 bags of R-30 unfaced pink fiberglass rolls (bonus - the rolls are now half price at only $9.37 a roll!). We loaded up J's company truck and my car and away we went.
In preparation of installing the insulation, I gathered the following:
- scissors and/or razor blade (to open the rolls of insulation and cut the insulation)
- eye goggles
- face mask
- protective clothing
- knee pads
- head lamp (optional)
- lighting so you can see what you are doing
- a helper (or in my case - my hunky boyfriend, J)
- whatever kind of insulation you want to lay/install (cellulose, fiberglass) - in my case, 26 rolls of R-30 unfaced fiberglass insulation (why unfaced? Since I already had insulation in the attic, it is recommended to use unfaced so that moisture is not trapped in the attic or between layers of insulation)
After I gathered all of my tools and materials, I had to clear access to the attic. My attic door is located inside the closet in the master bedroom. I'm not sure who thought that was a good idea because it's not. I had to clear out all of my clothing, remove the clothing rods and shelf and then try to wedge a ladder in the small space.
Before climbing into the attic, I blindly stuck my camera up there to take some before pictures (and also to scare any critters if any were up there).
We quickly set up some lights, cleaned up the remnants of a bird nest (see picture above) and got to work. I handed all of the tools up to J before the painstaking task of lifting all 26 rolls of insulation up so he could then pull them up into the attic. We figured that it made sense to lift all of the rolls into the attic at once rather than go back up and down since it was hard to get into the attic in the first place.
J then began filling in the space where the ceiling and roof meet (near the soffits) with the old insulation while my first task was to staple heavy cardboard over the open cavity above the kitchen ceiling. Where the stairwell leads from the kitchen to the basement, there was a huge, empty cavity without any insulation or even wood to cover the hole so in order for the insulation to remain in place I needed a way to cover this 5'x5' hole (sadly I didn't take the camera into the attic at this point so I don't have a picture). We figured we could just staple cardboard up there and then mark off where the area is so that people don't walk on it and fall through. Another option would have been to install wood boards across the opening but you saw the size of my attic door - wood would not have easily fit up there and I wanted the cavity to still be accessible since the kitchen wiring was located in the cavity.
Once those tasks were complete, we started rolling out the new insulation directly over the old blown-in insulation. We fluffed up the pink insulation a little since it works better when fluffed than when compacted.
Two and a half hours after we started, the attic was complete! We ended up using only 23 of the 26 rolls of insulation so I gave the extra to J to use in his attic.
We installed bamboo sticks at the four corners of the cavity in the attic (where I stapled the cardboard) and attached bright orange flags from Home Depot to each stick. When I move, this picture will be given to the next home owners with the caution to NOT walk over this area!
J even stapled some insulation to the top side of the attic door so I had every inch of my attic covered with insulation. Once we climbed down, I used Frost King Shrink Film made for windows to further insulate around the attic opening (something I do every winter). This prevents any cold drafts from drifting from the attic to my living space.
Insulating your attic is quite easy but time consuming and tough on your body (I woke up with aches I have never had before). Is anyone else planning on tackling this project yourself and taking advantage of the tax credit this year?