Insulating an Attic

Rolls of Insulation for Insulating an AtticMost people are capable of insulating an attic on their own but it's more involved than many items on the Home Energy Checklist. That's because there numerous factors to take into account including safety considerations, and because insulation can be very itchy.

If you haven't dealt with leaky windows, checking the insulation for the rest of your house, and looked at some of the easier items on the checklist, you should do those first. They'll still save energy and be much easier.

That being said, if your attic is poorly insulated you're losing lots of energy right out the top of your home. Our goal right now is to determine the status of your attic insulation and what you need to do if there's a problem.

Before You Start—Attic Insulation Safety Tips

Attics can be dangerous places. There are electrical wires, nails coming through the roof, not to mention the possibility of putting your foot through the ceiling. If you aren't comfortable up there, don't go.

Checking Insulation Without Going Into the Attic

  • You can tell a lot just by looking through the attic opening. If you can see the top of the rafters (the wooden boards across the ceiling), you need more insulation.
  • If you have a temperature gun you can also measure the ceiling temperature and compare it to the walls and floor of your home. Any huge differences may indicate a need for more insulation (or more ventilation in the summer).
  • Look at your roof after a light snowfall. Where has the snow melted? For many attics that's a clue to where heat has escaped into your attic (unless your attic is very well ventilated). In the summer you can touch your ceiling with your hand. If it's warm that means you need more insulation and probably some attic ventilation.

Going Into the Attic

When working in the attic it is best to lay down strips of plywood that span three joists. You'll also want to:

  • wear a dust mask
  • wear clothes that cover your body to prevent contact with insulation, and possibly goggles to keep it out of your eyes
  • wait until the temperature up there allows you to work comfortably
  • watch for electrical cords and any nails sticking through the roof
  • have a good source of light so you can see well

Things to check:

  • How much insulation is there already? (Measure depth with a ruler.) What type?
  • In a darkened attic, can you see any holes coming up from the rooms below?
  • Are there any dark marks on the existing insulation? This probably means air is coming up from below, bringing dust with it.
  • Look at pipes, wires, recessed lights, the chimney, or anything that penetrates the ceiling. Are there any gaps around them?

Take note of what needs to be addressed. Based on what you find, you can plan what needs to be done.

Insulation RollsWhat To Do

First, any places where air is leaking into or out of your home need to be addressed. Insulation won't do much if you have air leaks. Second, you can add more insulation to your attic.

Sealing and insulating an attic is something you can either do yourself or pay a contractor to do. Rather than describing how to insulate your attic, we've compiled a list of exemplary resources.

Insulating an attic is one of the top energy saving items on the Home Energy Checklist. Check out other opportunities to save such as stopping window leaks, turning your hot water heater down, and using a programmable thermostat.