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Installing Or Replacing Attic Insulation Pays Dividend

by Gabby Hyman
Repair-Home Columnist

Depending on the climate where you live, you can save energy costs by adding, replacing, or increasing the insulation in your attic. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), up to 45% of home energy is lost through the attic, which means if your attic is poorly insulated, your heating and air conditioning bills can go through the roof. Before taking on an attic insulation home improvement project, it's wise to speak with contractors as well as the local building department to determine which R-rating insulation is best for your region.

R-values that identify thermal resistance are assigned to all insulation products. In general, attic insulation with an R-value of approximately R19 is sufficient in southern climes, with values of R49 being more appropriate in colder northern states. You can check with the DOE's Energy Audit Program to determine the right type and appropriate R-value for your attic insulation as well as calculate the return on your investment.

Contracting for Attic Insulation

If you're considering hiring a contractor to insulate your attic, you can choose between batt or loose-fill insulation. Loose insulation tends to cost less and can offer a greater coverage area than batt insulation. A combination of batt and loose-fill insulation provides the best coverage. Pre-cut batts fit snugly between joists, attic doors, and hatches, while loose-fill spreads uniformly across the attic floor between joists and bulkheads.

You can reduce your overall costs in any attic insulation home improvement project by sealing up your home ahead of time. Make sure all your attic bulkheads, baffles, and soffits are sealed tight to the walls and ceiling. You may want to supervise any work to ensure that the soffit vents remain free and clear: insulation still needs to breathe. Ventilation helps wick moisture from the insulation and out of your home in winter and allows heat to escape in the summer.

Any good contractor can tell you that the first layer of your attic insulation should be applied atop a polyethylene vapor barrier that faces down toward your lower floors. You can buy insulation that has a facing treatment. After the first, or lowest layer, you can use un-faced insulation. Most contractors recommend installing a second layer of insulation in perpendicular rows on top of the primary layer.


U.S. Department of Energy

DOE Energy Audit

About the Author

Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.