Insulating Your Attic: What You Need to Know

Insulating your attic is an essential step in safeguarding your home and cutting down on energy bills. But it's important to know where not to put insulation in the attic, as well as the best materials and techniques for insulating. Never place insulation near water heaters, oil burners, or anything hot. The mount is especially combustible and will pose a serious fire hazard to your home.

Loose-filled fiberglass appears to be the most common attic insulation in newly built homes and has an R-value of approximately 2.5 per inch. However, a study conducted by Oak Ridge Laboratories in 1991 revealed that fiberglass insulation material for loosely filled attics lost much of its insulating value when temperatures dropped below 20 degrees, making it an inferior product compared to cellulose. The warm roof design makes it possible to install more insulation in the roof cavity, since the need for a ventilation gap is eliminated. If the inspection finds that your attic is uninsulated or insufficiently insulated, buyers may ask you to add more insulation or pay them to do so before continuing with the sale. The optimal materials for insulating foundations and their location vary depending on the climate, so consult a local insulation professional if you're planning to build a new home. Also install an air barrier to prevent cold garage air from short-circuiting the insulation below the subfloor.

Uninsulated attics have year-round condensation problems in all but the driest climates (although in these climates, an uninsulated attic can damage the air conditioning over time). There are a few things that can go wrong in this case, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully. Otherwise, you could end up being drenched by trapped moisture, or you could end up with an attic with little insulation because you packed the insulation too tightly or left gaps. Loose-fill insulation is usually less expensive to install than block insulation and provides better coverage if properly installed. If you check with the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association, they will assure you that cellulose is definitely your best choice for insulation.

If you are in a well-conditioned part of the house, remember to also isolate and hermetically seal access to the attic. To insulate foundation walls from tight heated spaces, use uncoated insulation when the building code does not require a vapor retarder, or insulation with a special coating, recommended for exposed applications. If you're in the design phase of planning your new home, consider using structural insulation panels, insulating concrete forms, and insulating concrete blocks. This type of insulation is also relatively simple to install if you have an attic without many hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. A ventilation deflector must be installed between the insulation and the roof cover to maintain the ventilation channel. If you want to protect your roof and reduce your energy bills, insulating your attic is essential. With proper installation and materials selection, you can ensure that your attic is properly insulated and safe from fire hazards.

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