Two Novices Take on the Attic

Two Novices Take on the Attic

Posted on 27. Sep, 2012 by in Real-World Ideas

When the Energy Squad assessed my home for inefficiencies a while back, it was noted that my attic insulation was a little sparse. Since then, adding more insulation has been on my to-do list. During the course of a busy year, however, the task got pushed out. But with another winter approaching and the promise that this was going to be a particularly cold one, I made a firm commitment to get it done.

The first step was determining whether or not my husband and I were capable of undertaking this kind of project ourselves. We thought it might help to discuss the matter with a few neighbors who had recently completed their own insulation projects.

The first neighbor is a single female homeowner who annually disassembles the carburetor of her lawnmower or her snow blower—I can’t remember which (and this clearly sums up my mechanical expertise). At any rate, she suggested blowing in insulation as she had done. This approach would require renting a blower that would have to be set up outside and fed into the attic via the attic’s single window. Truth be told, we weren’t sure this window even opened.

I also wasn’t keen on being the person tasked with standing outside in the bitter cold emptying bag after bag of insulation into the blower. Another neighbor explained that she and her very handy partner opted to roll out insulation. This approach would require several trips to a home-improvement store to bring home enough rolls of insulation to complete the project.

We preferred the second option because we wouldn’t have to contend with the weather and we also wouldn’t have to work with a vendor’s timeline to rent machinery. We could now check off the first critical decision from our project list.

The next thing we needed to tackle was basic research. I was delighted to find a simple how-to video from This Old House, which I watched repeatedly until I had the dialog memorized. With confidence bolstered, we turned our attention to insulation products.

During a bathroom remodel several years ago, our contractor introduced us to recycled blue-jean insulation. We needed to reinsulate a 2’ x 2’ space in an exterior wall and were eager to incorporate as much green technology as possible. Unfortunately, reinsulating our entire attic with recycled jeans was beyond our budget.

We needed to find a product that satisfied our need for environmental and health safety at an affordable price. After reading many product reviews and specs, we settled on Owens Corning EcoTouch R-30, which is made with 99.4% natural ingredients and contains a minimum of 50% total recycled content (with a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content). It’s also formaldehyde-free.

Having made important decisions about type of insulation and honing in on a specific product, we began the somewhat arduous process of purchasing rolls. We loosely estimated (without actually measuring the space) that we’d need 40 rolls. Our first load netted just six rolls. The second trip wasn’t much better with seven. Clearly getting the insulation home was going to be a project in and of itself. I was already tired.

We casually discussed making a few more carloads before heading to the attic, but our plans changed when Christmas morning dawned bright, warm and quiet. It seemed like the perfect day to spend a few hours getting the lay of the land in the attic. We could see what challenges awaited us and perhaps even get some of the rolls down. Armed with goggles, gloves, long sleeves, flashlight and facemask, my husband shimmied up through the tiny trapdoor entrance. Soon things were rolling, and a short two hours later, I fed the last of the thirteen rolls up the ladder to my husband. By his account, we would only need one more roll to complete the entire project. The news of our miscalculation was delicious.

Later that evening, we sat down with friends to enjoy holiday dessert and share details of our project. It turns out that these friends, too, had undertaken a reinsulation project, leaving me to wonder if there’s anyone I know who hasn’t worked on one.

I’m certainly happy to have a new experience under my belt in home maintenance, but what really makes me merry is knowing that additional attic insulation will reduce our heating and cooling costs, effective immediately.

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