Not Sure How or When to Replace Attic Insulation?
We’re going to be honest, attics aren’t sexy. They’re not at all exciting — if anything they’re a little creepy — and if you’re afraid of the dark, there’s no way anyone could ever convince you to go up there. But we’re here to try.
You might not know it, but your attic needs you. And unfortunately, it’s one of the most ignored spaces in the entire house (along with the crawl space). See, your attic does so much for you and it serves a very important purpose, especially the insulation. If your attic insulation isn’t doing it’s job, you’ll notice some unwanted effects like cold drafts.
Below are common attic-related questions to help you understand its role and how to properly maintain the space.
Why Does Attic Insulation Matter?
Mainly, attic insulation helps with controlling the temperature inside of your home. Without proper insulation, our home’s temperature would be too uncomfortable for us. The blanket of insulation prevents the temperatures inside our home from fluctuating by keeping the temperature-controlled air produced by heating and cooling systems inside.
Insulation is essential. Think of it as a cozy blanket for your home that keeps everything nice and comfortable.
Protection from the Elements
Not only is attic insulation meant for keeping comfortable temperatures, but it also keeps away unwanted pests. By working as a blanket to cover any holes or gaps leading to the outside, pests are unable to enter the attic.
Attics themselves also lend a hand in protecting your home. In cold climates, the attic stops ice dams from forming and keeps the roof clear from ice. Whereas in warm climates, such as the Carolinas, the attic serves as a catch-all for any warm air inside. The attic space also acts as a buffer between the roof and the outside world, protecting the inside from the elements.
Reduce Heating and Cooling Bills
More importantly, a properly insulated attic can reduce heating and cooling bills by about 15 percent! This is a nice bit of savings that could go toward a renovation project like that outdoor fire pit you’ve been dreaming about.
Better Air Quality
Insulation also provides safer indoor quality by blocking out dust, mold, mildew, and other harmful elements that can have negative effects on your health. A nice layer of insulation will stop these pollutants from entering your home through your roof and making its way to you.
Related: 3 Ways To Protect Storage In Your Attic and Basement
How Do I Know When to Replace Attic Insulation?
While attic insulation is great to have, it’s not very useful if it’s old, broken down, or improperly installed. Yet over 90 percent of single-family homes are under or improperly insulated! This means there’s a good chance your own home is included in that statistic. If you’ve noticed your utility bills have been more expensive lately, that’s usually a tell-tale sign your attic is in need of some TLC in the form of new insulation.
Signs Your Insulation Needs To Be Replaced
Knowing when to replace attic insulation is a skill every homeowner should possess. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to tell your attic is in need of new insulation just from where you stand in your home. Take note of fluctuating temperatures inside of the home. For example, you may notice your bedroom is boiling hot but your bathroom is oddly cool. Another sign is random drafts, even when all windows and doors to the outside are closed. If something’s not adding up temperature-wise, head on up to the attic for a quick look.
How To Check Your Attic’s Insulation
From there, check the insulation and make sure there aren’t any gaps or areas that haven’t been insulated. The R-value of the insulation — or how well it reduces cold or hot air into your home — is also important to check. In the South, an R-value of at least 38 is recommended. Otherwise, your attic isn’t insulated enough. Measure the thickness of your current insulation in inches and multiply by the R-value of your specific insulation type. Then, you’ll have a clear idea if your insulation is in good shape or in need of replacing.
You might also want to keep an eye out for torn pieces of insulation or even feces which could point to pests — wildlife such as raccoons and squirrels can also take a liking to the insulating material.
Finally, make sure the material is dry. Wet insulation is ineffective and must be replaced. Wet insulation means there’s water coming from somewhere, so also take a look at your roof and look for potential holes or cracks. Water in your attic is never a good sign as mold may be present, which is why we recommend consulting a specialist before moving forward.
If there are signs of animal activity in your attic, we can help with that, too. Read our blog, What To Do About The Animal in Your Attic, for more information.
Should I Replace Old Insulation?
Many wonder, “should I replace old insulation” and the answer is a resounding, yes! If you're exceptionally handy, you may be able to tackle this task on your own. Just know you’re going to have a big job on your hands!
There are two types of insulation to choose from: fiberglass or cellulose insulation. The first type is pre-manufactured and comes in sections of varying lengths you can buy at a big-box store. To install, you simply lay these sections across the attic floor and cut the pieces to the desired length and shape for a proper fit.
On the other hand, cellulose attic insulation is a better option for those wanting a more effective treatment that’s professionally installed. This insulation type is blown-in using high-powered blowers. Cellulose is not only pest-proof and water-resistant, but it also seals cracks — so it’s like killing three birds with one stone!
As for tips on doing this task yourself, remember to always walk on the joists, or the wood structures, rather than the areas where the insulation is. Otherwise you could potentially puncture the ceiling of the room below you! Always wear a face mask, goggles, and gloves to protect yourself from the materials as they contain irritants that can harm your skin and lungs.
Be sure to never cover the soffit vents, or the vents that come from the outside. Also, only insulate areas of the attic that are adjacent to the inside spaces of the home. Any areas above external structures like an outdoor porch aren’t necessary.
How Can I Make Sure My Attic Stays Properly Maintained?
The fun doesn’t stop here. Having an idea of when to replace attic insulation isn’t the only component to proper attic maintenance.
Visit your attic regularly and keep up with maintenance so it can continue to function correctly. Start by keeping the entire area clean to deter rodents and pests from inviting themselves in. Plus, it will hinder the formation of fungal growth, which can get into the rest of the house and damage structures.
How to Inspect Your Attic The Killingsworth Way
Now that you’re inspired to get up there and give your attic a good sprucing up, bring our DIY Attic Inspection checklist with you! This checklist will guide you through completing your own attic inspection, step-by-step.
Want more information on attic insulation, or need to schedule a service?
This content was originally posted August 2017 and was refreshed May 2020.