Start at the Top | Attic Insulation


If your home has an adequate amount that’s installed correctly, insulation delivers comfort and lower energy bills. You can choose to add insulation any place your house meets the outside. Adding needed insulation to attics, as well as basements, is pretty easy and provides a solid return on your investment. So, let’s talk attic insulation—specifically, does your attic need it and, if so, do you want to add it yourself or hire a certified contractor? Let’s begin ”¦

Do You Need to Add Attic Insulation?

ENERGY STAR® has an easy test. Simply look across the span of your attic. No matter what kind of insulation you currently have, if it’s level with or below your floor joists, you should add more. If you can’t see any of the floor joists because the insulation is in the way, you’re probably fine. Also, the insulation should be evenly distributed, with no low spots.

So, You Need to Add Insulation

The next step is to figure out how much you have and how much more you need. (Even when I hire a professional contractor to do work around my home, I like having a good idea of what I need first.) I suggest you start by getting an energy audit, either in home or online. You’ll learn about energy efficiency measures you can take throughout your home, the cost estimate and the rate of return on your investment.

Or if you want to be more hands-on, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s ZIP-Code Insulation Program, which is actually an online calculator. Start with finding out how much insulation you have. Then find out how much you need by plugging in your ZIP code, lifestyle factors, building design and energy costs. You don’t have to use the same type of insulation that currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets, and vice-versa.

DIY Do or DIY Don’t

Whether you lay batts or blow in insulation, the prep work is the same—seal leaks and holes, create barriers around vents and fixtures, insulate can lights and install rafter vents, at a minimum. While the prep takes some skill and patience, laying fiberglass batts is about as easy as an attic DIY job gets, albeit time-consuming, dusty and sweaty work. Blown-in, loose fill insulation is harder: it’s dirtier; takes more equipment in the form of a blower and a good respirator; and you should ask a friend help you. We provide a free booklet on insulating your home and safety tips for DIY insulation projects.

Whether you choose batts or loose fill insulation, doing it yourself will save you a substantial amount of money because the job is labor intensive (if you aren’t sore and tired after the job is over you probably didn’t do it right).

You May Need Professional Help If ”¦

On the other hand, a certified professional can identify and troubleshoot any problems right away and get the job done much faster; and in some areas, rebates may be available (including Xcel Energy rebates in participating states) to help you save quite a bit of money when hiring a qualified and approved contractor. Xcel Energy rebates are generally not available for DIY projects, check your states rebate pages for details .

If you have any of the problems below, you should consider hiring a professional.

  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Wet or damp insulation (a sign of a possible roof leak)
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists (a sign of moisture problems)
  • Kitchen, bathroom and clothes dryer that vent air directly into the attic     instead of outdoors
  • Ice dams in the winter (a sign of air leaks)
  • Knob and tube wiring, which can create a fire hazard

Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, ENERGY STAR® estimates that most homeowners can save 20% on their energy bills just by insulating their attics properly.  Again check out our website for your state’s rebates requirements before starting any insulation project. I would love to hear about your experience installing insulation on your own or hiring a contractor. Please leave a comment for all to read.

By Connector, Mary LaLone.