What Insulation Is Flammable With Recessed Lighting?

what insulation is flammable with recessed lighting

There are many reasons why it’s best to hire licensed contractors when replacing insulation of any kind. First and foremost, it ensures you adhere to building codes designed to keep you and your family safe from fire and other risks. And, as increasing numbers of homeowners opt to use eco-friendly insulation and lighting designs, it’s essential to understand that certain types of insulation are flammable when installing with recessed lighting options. 

Insulation Around Recessed Lighting Prevents The Chimney Effect 

Recessed lighting is touted for its fixtures’ invisible nature in interior design, and its ability to provide task, safety, and ambient lighting potential when installed with a dimmer. Because the recessed cans are installed in cylindrical canisters, they produce something called a chimney effect. 

Just as a chimney relies on its design to direct smoke out of a fireplace via the laws of thermodynamics (heat moving into cold pockets), recessed cans create a similar effect. When installed without proper insulation and sealing, warm air from your home moves in an upward draft, traveling through the canisters into the interior wall or attic spaces and eventually out of your living space. As a result, your HVAC system has to work much harder to maintain comfortable interior temperatures. 

Flammable insulation materials can ignite in overheated cans 

However, if the bulbs in the cans overheat and temperatures are elevated enough, any surrounding materials can ignite if they are flammable enough.  

Know The Most & Least Flammable Insulations

There are two things you can do to avoid unnecessary fires stemming from heated, recessed cans. The first is to know which insulation materials are the most flammable. Unfortunately, some of the most eco-friendly types of insulation are the most flammable. If you are building a sustainable home, you’ll want to know your options so you can opt to use less-flammable insulation around any recessed lighting fixtures. 

Most flammable insulation materials 

The most flammable insulation materials is cellulose. Also referred to as loose-fill cellulose insulation, the small cellulose particles are flammable and can ignite if they’re directly exposed to an overheated recessed can or electrical spark. The small insulation particles are predominantly made using recycled paper with a fire retardant. They are rated to 450° F, but smaller, older particles can smolder or catch on fire at lower temperatures. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use cellulose insulation. Rather, keep that insulation in the attic and other areas away from recessed cans and use a different, less flammable option around recessed lighting fixtures. 

Safest insulation around recessed lighting 

Rock wool (also called mineral slag or mineral wool) is the safest, least-flammable insulation option around recessed cans. It is fire-rated for up to 1800° F, so there is no way an electrical issue or a heated lighting fixture can cause it to catch fire. As you can imagine, this insulation type is regarded as the least flammable and most fire-resistant insulation option available. It rivals that of asbestos insulation (no longer legal in the U.S.), without any of the associated health risks. 

Rock wool is more expensive than other eco-friendly alternatives, so budget-conscious homeowners could opt to select a cheaper alternative for the attic, exterior walls, and crawl spaces, only using rock wool to surround the recessed cans. 

The next best options are fiberglass batts or sheets, without the paper backing. Fiberglass batts and rolls are still considered the American standard for safe, affordable insulation (although you should always cover up and wear gloves, a mask and safety goggles when handling it to avoid inhalation, penetration, or ingestion of fiberglass particles).  

Avoid Fire Risk Altogether 

Your lighting solutions are as important as your insulation choices. Work with a licensed, qualified electrician when selecting new lighting fixtures for your home or workplace and before installing the insulation 

Non-IC-rated fixtures 

Lighting fixtures have different rating tiers, based on their interaction with insulation. non-IC rated fixtures are compatible with higher-wattage bulbs, but they also have the highest fire risk when paired with the wrong insulation. 

If you opt to use non-IC-rated fixtures with insulation, there should be at least three inches of space between the fixture and the insulation. This requires the use of a special cover or an insulation dam – and the insulation’s fire rating is important. 

IC-rated fixtures 

IC-rated (insulation contact rating) fixtures are designed to be surrounded by insulation. However, to prevent the risk of fire, IC-rated recessed cans can only support lower-wattage bulbs. While this may be fine for nighttime safety or ambient lighting, it may not be bright enough to serve as task lighting. 

ICAT fixtures 

While installing less-flammable insulation is one way to minimize fire risk, installing ICAT fixtures is the best solution of all. While more expensive than their more standard counterparts, ICAT (insulated ceiling air-tight) fixtures are designed to seal internally. This prevents the drafts that cause the need for insulation in the first place. 

The sides of ICAT canisters remain completely cool, so you can use caulk around them, and they can come in contact with any insulation – including cellulose – without the risk of fire. 

Bulb choices 

The hotter your bulbs get, the more fire risk there is. Using LED or fluorescent lighting, both of which are on the cooler side, will further minimize fire risk when compared with incandescent bulbs.

You Have More Questions? We Have More Answers.

Want to make sure you’re making the safest insulation choices for your household? Contact us here at Attic Solutions. We have decades of experience removing and replacing insulation in Bay Area homes and businesses. 

How Older Insulation Can Pose Health Concerns

how older insulation can pose health concerns

Old insulation is a leading cause of poor indoor air quality and decreased interior comfort. Your outdated insulation can also pose health concerns, especially for occupants with existing respiratory issues. Insulation is everywhere in your home, your attic, your crawl spaces, even garages can be insulated.  

The reality is that all standard insulation options present some level of potential toxicity. This is why it’s so important to use a licensed insulation contractor when replacing insulation – ensuring proper precautions are taken at every step of the way. 

3 Main Health Concerns Associated With Insulation 

Not sure if your attic insulation needs to be replaced? Click Here to read about the sure-fire signs your insulation needs attention. 

There are three main reasons older insulation poses health concerns.

Fiberglass particles

The majority of insulation installed prior to ten years ago is fiberglass insulation that is laid down (or rolled out) in what looks like soft, puffy sheets or batts. Fiberglass batts comprise about 90% of the insulation used in U.S. residential and commercial buildings. 

Fiberglass sounds exactly like what it is made from – very small, glass fibers or filaments. This is one of the reasons handling fiberglass insulation requires adequate protection in the form of safety glasses, masks, and donning clothes/caps/gloves that cover exposed skin. 

While the filaments may not feel like much at first, they are as sharp as glass and will begin to irritate the skin and eyes. If inhaled, particulates irritate the lungs and – over time – continuous exposure to fiberglass leads to chronic health conditions. 

The glass particles don’t break down over time so they stay in your body until they work their way into your soft tissue or your body works the filaments back out again so they begin coming out of your skin/eyes/lungs – all of which are incredibly painful and uncomfortable. 

Fiberglass insulation is safe at first. Over time, though, it can break down and the filaments make their way into the air and ducts, infiltrating your home. This is why keeping an eye on your insulation, and replacing it when it shows signs of wear, breakdown, or age, is so important. 

Mold spores  

Mold is another concern for attics that are old and left largely unattended. Even if you’ve never had a roof leak, your older attic is still prone to moisture damage and mold/mildew growth from condensation. Usually, this is the result of imbalanced sealing, ventilation, and lack of a proper moisture barrier. In any case, any historic leaks or cumulative moisture damage can lead to mold and mildew growth. Bay area homes are especially vulnerable to this due to our higher humidity levels and a moderate climate that offers more warm days than not. 

Once mold gets established in your insulation, the airborne spores permeate through the house via cracks, drafts, or older/leaky ducts. While you may not see evidence of mold or mildew in your home, it typically makes itself known in the form of allergy-like symptoms. 

Symptoms of mold are: 

  • Unseasonable allergy symptoms 
  • Itchy, runny eyes 
  • Sneezing 
  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing 
  • Chronic respiratory infections 
  • Asthma-like symptoms (chest pressure, difficulty breathing) in persons who don’t have asthma 

Most of the time, those who are sensitive to mold notice their lungs clear and they feel much better when they leave the house, a sure sign that the trigger is coming from your home and not the environment-at-large. 

A simple attic inspection, looking for signs of mold or compromised insulation, will let you know if moldy insulation is the culprit. You can also visit, How to Test for Mold Even if You Can’t See It, to learn more.  

Other toxins associated with insulation that cause health concerns 

Just as mold spores permeate the air circulating through a building, so do off-gassing toxins. If your insulation products contain known toxins (most commercial products do), these can also pose potential health concerns. 

For example, homes built prior to the 1980s may have urea-formaldehyde and/or asbestos-based insulation, both of which are highly toxic and are now completely banned from use. If your home has this type of insulation, it needs to be replaced immediately by a professional who has the proper equipment to keep your family safe. REMOVING THESE INSULATION TYPES IS NEVER A DIY JOB. 

Spray foam insulation is touted for its eco-friendly properties due to its ability to improve energy efficiency using far less material. However, the chemical ingredients used to make the product, including polyurethane, are toxic. These toxins can slowly leach into your air space if the insulation isn’t applied properly and there isn’t a solid, sealed barrier between the insulation and your adjacent living spaces. 

If your attic has a history of pest infestations, you may also have built-up toxins as the result of the pests accumulated waste products. Rodent urine and fecal matter are notoriously toxic and can carry the hantavirus, which is spread to humans via direct contact or airborne inhalation of the virus from rodent nests. 

4 Signs To Identify Potentially Toxic Insulation 

The following are the most common signs your insulation is outdated and potentially toxic – posing a health concern for the building’s occupants. If you notice any of the following signs, contact your insulation contractor to schedule insulation removal and replacement 

  • Evidence of water damage. We mentioned before that water damage leads to mold issues. It also breaks down the insulation fibers, making it easier for fiberglass particles to make their way into your air supply.  Look for evidence of water damage on the insulation as well as the wood on the floor and the joints where the attic meets the roof. A musty smell or elevated humidity levels are also signs of attic moisture. 
  • Evidence of pest damage. From the scurrying of little feet or the chewing of wires/insulation or attic contents, you’ll typically hear signs of rodents before you see them. However, a visible inspection of the attic reveals droppings, signs of chewed up materials and even the nests themselves. All indicate the attic needs to be cleaned, pest prevention tactics put into place, and the insulation requires amendment. 
  • Discoloration or dilapidation. If attic insulation is visibly discolored, torn up, missing in places, or obviously old and broken down, it’s not safe. It means the chemicals and particulates are circulating through your forced air system and making their way into your interior air space via cracks and small openings in joints, structural materials, etc. 
  • Evidence of toxic insulation materials. If your insulation was installed prior to the 1990s, verify that the insulation is not urea-formaldehyde or asbestos based. Click Here to identify urea-formaldehyde foam insulation; Click Here for information on identifying asbestos insulation. Evidence of pest infestations, especially urine-stained/dampened areas and ample droppings also pose an insulation health concern.

Worried your home or business’s insulation may pose a health concern? Contact us here at Attic Solutions to schedule an inspection, or give us a call directly at 800-556-9202 to speak with a licensed insulation professional. 

How To Prepare Your Attic For Insulation

how to prepare your attic for insulation

Removing and replacing outdated or damaged insulation is a critical part of optimizing whole-home energy efficiency, interior comfort, and indoor air quality. However, it’s important that you prepare the attic ahead of time or you risk compromising all-of-the-above.

Prepare Your Attic For Insulation

Here are the steps required to ensure your attic insulation replacement does the job it was designed for. 

Clear out the attic if you use it for storage 

Your attic needs to be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the new insulation, and that requires a completely clean slate. Find a new location for all of the furniture, boxes, or other items stored in the attic. You can replace them after your new insulation is installed. 

Have old insulation removed by professionals 

Attic insulation – even batt form – begins to break down over time, and most of the insulation manufactured prior to the year 2000 is laden with fiberglass and/or toxins. This makes it difficult – and dangerous – to remove without proper training, protection, and equipment.  

We highly recommend working with professionals to remove your insulation to make sure the job is done right, and that the rest of your home is protected from potentially harmful particulate matters – not to mention a huge mess. 

Make sure your attic removal company takes all of the necessary precautions, including: 

  • Wearing adequate safety gear (full-body suits, masks, gloves, safety goggles, etc.) 
  • Sealing and taping off perimeter areas to prevent cross-contamination between spaces 
  • Using specialty tools and high-powered vacuums to suck up any debris as it’s stirred up, preventing it from making its way into your home and/or central air system. 

Failure to take proper safety precautions puts you at risk for inhaling fiberglass or toxic remainders of mold/mildew, prior pest infestations, or smoke/carcinogens leftover from previous fire damage. 

Complete any necessary roof- or attic-related repairs 

Now that the old insulation is gone, it’s the ideal window for having the roof and attic inspected by professionals. Is there a need for plumbing or electrical repairs? Is it time to have your HVAC replaced or to have the ducts cleaned or repaired? Is there adequate attic ventilation? When was the last time your attic ventilation was inspected? 

There’s no time like when the attic is empty, and before your new insulation is installed, to get everything in tip-top shape. Now’s a good time to contact: 

  • A home energy audit professional (often available through your HVAC company) 
  • Attic insulators can determine whether you need to clean, repair, and/or replace HVAC ducts 
  • Plumbing and electrical pros to address any obvious signs of leaks, wiring issues, outdated plumbing or wiring, etc. 
  • Roofing contractor to ensure attic ventilation is sufficient to prevent moisture accumulation (Read energystar.gov’s, About Attic Ventilation, to learn more about how important ventilation is for whole-home efficiency, comfort, and moisture protection). 
  • Scheduling an inspection from a licensed contractor if you notice any signs of potential structural issues such as rotting or broken attic floorboards, support beams, etc. 

Kill two birds with one stone when you prepare your attic for insulation. Taking care of these items now maximizes the benefits of your new insulation and that nobody needs to work in the attic space again for quite some time. 

Thoroughly clean the attic to prepare your attic for insulation 

If you’re replacing attic insulation, odds are your home is older, has experienced water or fire damage, or has had its fair share of pesky, pesty freeloaders over the years. Plus, dust and other debris are additional remnants of older attic space. 

Clean the attic as thoroughly as possible to create a blank slate. We recommend a professional attic cleaning, which removes all traces of pests, water/smoke damage, mold and mildew, and microscopic particulates using professional vacuum and disposal equipment. Your attic will look and smell like new, and your new insulation won’t be compromised by existing dirt, debris, or pests. 

Seal all the leaks 

Finally, the last step in preparing your attic for insulation is to seal any leaks. You can do this work yourself with a tube of caulking, or your attic professionals will do it for you. Energystar.gov’s resource, Attic Air Sealing, has detailed information as well as guidelines as to whether sealing your attic is a DIY job, or whether it’s worth hiring professionals. 

At the very least, energy.gov recommends having the proper materials on hand, which include: 

Safety equipment 

  • Safety glasses, gloves, and dust mask/ protective face mask 
  • Flashlight or portable safety light 
  • Boards to walk on if needed 
  • Hard hat or cap to protect the head from sharp roofing nails 

Materials and tools 

  • Large bucket to haul materials 
  • Batt or roll of unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags (for stuffing open stud cavities behind kneewalls and in dropped soffits) 
  • Roll of 14-inch-wide aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe 
  • Retractable utility knife and sheet metal scissors 
  • Tape measure and staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place 
  • Silicone or acrylic latex caulk and caulk gun for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less) 
  • Several cans of expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches) 
  • Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues and chimneys 
  • Roll of reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls and larger holes 

Any and all air leaks around windows, the roofline, and around penetrations made by vents, HVAC equipment, plumbing, and electrical work, etc., should be completely sealed off to mitigate heat gain and loss during peak seasons.  

That being said, air sealing must be paired with adequate ventilation (see above) to ensure there healthy fresh airflow that prevents air toxicity or contamination in the building from accumulating at dangerous levels. 

Now Your Attic Is Ready For Insulation 

Once you’ve completed the above steps, your attic is ready for new insulation. Contact us here at Attic Solutions to schedule a free, on-site estimate. We’re licensed insulation contractor’s with years of experience here in the Bay Area.

Everything You Need To Know About Insulation Replacement

everything you need to know about insulation replacement

The good news is that professional insulation replacement should last for decades, assuming your attic and interior wall spaces are well-maintained and barring no major damage. However, you never want to assume your attic insulation is A-OK. It’s best to inspect the attic space and insulation each year to make sure it’s in good shape. 

If your home is 15 years old or more, you’ve sustained water damage, or you feel your home isn’t as draft-free or comfortable as it should be – it might be time for insulation replacement.

Does Your Home Need Insulation Replacement?

Here’s everything you need to know about insulation replacement and how to move forward. 

Why does insulation need to be replaced? 

Some of the most common reasons a building’s insulation needs to be replaced include: 

  • The insulation is old and outdated, and no longer meets the current energy.gov recommendations for energy efficiency 
  • It has sustained water damage 
  • There wasn’t enough insulation installed in the first place 
  • The insulation wasn’t the best type or R-Value for your home’s geographic location 
  • Insulation is broken down or inadequate as the result of pest damage, or sloppy work performed by plumbing, electrical, and home A/V techs over the years 

Click Here for more sure fire signs it’s time to replace your insulation. 

It’s best to work with a local licensed insulation contractor or your HVAC company to schedule a home energy audit. These thorough inspections highlight whether or not insulation needs to be replaced, and the energy auditor will provide a list of energy efficient modifications for you to work on in order of their priority and impact on whole home energy efficiency. 

Do you have enough insulation? 

First and foremost, an inspection of your attic and crawl spaces will indicate whether or not your home has enough insulation. While a good look around the attic with your flashlight is a start, energy.gov recommends paying for a professional attic inspection or home energy audit, “because checking the condition of the insulation in other areas of the home proves more difficult, hiring a professional to perform and energy audit is recommended…” 

Read, How Do I Know if There’s Enough Insulation in My Attic?, for specifics on how to perform an assessment of insulation amount and sufficiency. 

Choosing the right type and r-value for your insulation replacement

Once you decide to replace your insulation, you have some decisions to make. The R-Value of your insulation is determined by the climate where you live. Then, there’s the question of which type of insulation is best for the space.  

Spray foam insulation is a popular choice right now because it’s energy efficient and can’t be moved around the same way batts and loose fill can. However, it’s still prone to pest damage so you’ll want to make sure you’ve completely cleaned out the attic and removed any sign of pest infestations. If your attic has odd or unusual nooks and crannies, loose fill insulation may be best. Your insulation contractor will discuss the various insulation options with you and help you make the best choice for your attic space. 

Take precautions removing old insulation 

Removing old insulation requires special care and precautions to keep you and your household safe. Unless you’re a pro yourself, and have all the right equipment, insulation removal should be handled by professionals. At the very minimum, you need a respirator and a high-powered, commercial vacuum with specialized filtration to keep harmful and toxic insulation particles from getting into your lungs or into your home’s forced air system. 

Once the old insulation has been removed, clean your attic from top to bottom. When you’re finished cleaning, there should be no traces of insulation or resulting particulate matter, dust, pest debris, moisture damage, mold, mildew, and so on. It should look like new. If there are obvious signs of structural damage from prior leaks or pest/mold issues, address and repair them now before replacing the insulation.  

Make safety a priority when installing new insulation 

If you’ll be installing the insulation on your own, make safety a priority. In terms of physical safety, you should wear a long sleeved shirt and pants, boots, gloves, and safety goggles. A respirator is also important to keep harmful particulate matter from getting into your lungs. 

Prevent any risk of fire hazard by keeping insulation materials away from recessed lighting, wiring, or from getting too close to your water heater. Loose fill insulation has a tendency to drift, so keep that in mind as well. If you’re at all worried about safety, hire a professional to do the job for you. 

Enjoy improved comfort and energy efficiency 

Once your new insulation is in place, your home benefits from immediately improved comfort and energy efficiency

Hire A Professional

 Looking for a licensed professional insulation contractor to remove and replace your insulation? Contact us here at Attic Solutions. We take care of every aspect of the job, from safely removing old insulation and cleaning your attic, to preventing pest infestations and replacing new insulation that will last for decades.

How Do I Know If There’s Enough Insulation In My Attic?

how do i know if theres enough insulation in my attic

The only way to know for sure whether your attic has enough insulation is to schedule an inspection with a licensed insulation contractor. We can tell you whether your insulation is sufficient, and we can also inspect the attic to look for any signs of potential water damage or pest infestations, both of which compromise insulation performance. Spring and fall are good times to augment it if needed to reap the most energy savings.

We recommend having a professional inspection if your home is 15-years old or more and hasn’t had an insulation update. If your home is 10-years old or less, it’s still worth taking a peek in your attic to see if you see any signs that the insulation needs some attention.

Access The Attic And Take A Look With A Flashlight

Even if your home is relatively newer, it’s incredible how quickly the insulation in the attic is disturbed or dismantled. Internet and cable technicians are notorious for penetrating, cutting away, or moving insulation to do their work – and failing to cover their tracks when they’re complete.

Any electrical or plumbing work performed in the past years may have also compromised your insulation’s performance. And, there’s always the chance that pest or water damage requires immediate attention.

1. Access your attic safely, using a ladder, and use a flashlight to look out across the attic space.

2. If the levels are just at, or below, the top of the floor joists, you need more.

3. If the levels are above the floor joists, measure the insulation depth in a variety of locations to determine whether the R-Value is adequate.

4. Every inch provides an average R-Value of 3. You can do the math and compare your R-Value with this map of recommended R-Values from energystar.gov.

OR

5. Use the 12- to 15-inches rule, which is the recommended level to achieve an R-Value of 38.

What Do I Do If I Need More Insulation?

If it’s close to the recommended guidelines, you can probably get away with throwing extra batts or blowing more loose-fill up there, depending on the type of insulation you have and whatever else your attic inspection might uncover.

If your insulation is far from sufficient, or you can tell existing damage requires further removal, repair or replacement, contact licensed insulation contractors in your area to get the job done right.

As Long As You’re Up In The Attic…

As long as you’re up in the attic, we recommend inspecting a little further, looking for signs of the following:

Air leaks

Air leaks are as detrimental to interior comfort and energy efficiency as inadequate or damaged. Look for signs of air leaks along the roofline, rafters, around plumbing or electrical penetrations, around vents, etc. If you see gaps or can feel a draft in any of these locations or elsewhere, it’s time to grab a tube of caulking and start resealing.

Visit energy.gov’s, Why Seal & Insulate?, for more on what you should be looking for. If the work is more than you’re interested in taking on, contact a local company to take over.

Insulation that is damaged beyond repair

If insulation looks flattened, shredded, or destroyed beyond what some augmentation would correct, you’ll need to remove the old stuff and replace it. Read, Signs That it’s Time to Replace Your Insulation, for more on that topic.

Evidence of water damage or pest infestations

While major leaks do occur, most water damage happens more undercover than that, slowly permeating through structural elements, and causing unseen mold/mildew infestations to spring up.

Any evidence of water or moisture damage requires immediate action from a licensed contractor or roofer to prevent more dramatic and expensive repairs.

Pest infestations are another problem that lead to damaged insulation, wiring or plumbing, not to mention toxicity. While small amounts of pest debris can be easily removed, large-scale pest infestations should be cleaned up and repaired by professionals.

Don’t Forget About The Crawl Spaces

Finally, if your attic requires additional insulation, or removal and replacement, odds are your crawl spaces need attention as well. Without adequate insulation, your wide-open crawl space becomes a vacuum for hot and cold, which then penetrates up through your floors and into your home.

We Can Do It All For You

Would you like a professional attic insulation contractor to determine whether there’s enough insulation in your attic? Contact the pros at Attic Solutions for local, experienced, and affordable service.

Do I Need To Insulate The Attic Floor Of A Pitched Roof?

do i need to insulate the attic floor of a pitched roof

In most homes, the ultimate goal of insulation – above and beyond energy efficiency – is to maintain year-round, comfort for the rooms below. As a result, we insulate the floor of the attic to optimize comfort in the main living areas. If we insulated the underside of a pitched roof, we’d be risking heat gain and loss between the adjacent rooms below and the attic space, compromising the home’s energy-efficiency and comfort. In this context the decision regarding attic floor vs. roof insulation is no-contest. The floor wins every time.

Insulating the floor is standard practice for an unfinished attic space. The exception to this rule takes place when families opt to convert an unfinished attic space into something usable or livable.

Insulation And Your Pitched Roof

Insulation needs changing if the attic space becomes livable

If the attic is a livable space, meaning you’ve converted it into an extra bedroom, a study, a man cave or a family game room, the insulation needs change. Now, in the attic floor insulation vs. roof insulation conversation – the roof insulation is the priority.

If you’re planning on converting or remodeling an attic space, we recommend visiting our post, Converting Attic Space to Livable Space: How it’s Done.

PLEASE NOTE: In order to be considered a livable or usable attic spaces, building codes require that the ceiling height be 7.5-feet from the for, for at least 50% of the finished square footage. Homeowners aiming to convert their attic into living space may need to renovate the roof, lifting/extending it by a couple of feet or more, to accommodate a finished floor, the insulation requirements, and finished walls and ceilings.

Always visit your local building department, and bring plans or existing measurements of your entire attic perimeter (length, width, height at multiple points along the walls or niches), and speak in person with one of their building inspectors. In an effort to keep attic dwellers safe, there are stringent rules and building codes pertaining to attic conversions, especially in older homes where rewiring or updated plumbing may be required for the project to move forward. It’s always best to complete a conversion or remodel by the book or you risk jeopardizing resale value down the road.

Insulate the attic floor if possible

Whenever possible, do insulate the attic floor, underneath the subfloor and final flooring materials. This is the best way to conserve energy in the main part of the home, especially if the attic is on its own zoned heating system or if it’s used infrequently and its cooler/warmer temperatures negatively impact the rooms below. Heat continues to rise, and move into cooler pockets, so failing to insulate the attic floor may result in higher heating and cooling demands for the rest of the home – particularly during peak hot/cold seasons.

If sound transference is a concern, focus on using cellulose, fiberglass, or foam insulation, as they are the best for mitigating sound between spaces. This may require removing and replacing old, dilapidated or outdated insulation.

Insulate the pitched roof and exterior walls

You’ll also want to insulate the exterior walls and the underside of the attic’s roof. Otherwise, space will suck up a tremendous amount of heating and cooling energy throughout the year, because all of that energy goes right up and out of the roof. Depending on the age of your home, you may also need to install an interior roof lining to protect the attic space from water, dust/debris, and weather damage.

Along with your new attic insulation, the attic roof also requires ventilation or else you’ll wind up with moisture control issues. Most insulation contractors – and your building department – will require that the converted roof space incorporates adequate attic ventilation and may also recommend a vapor or moisture barrier to further prevent moisture damage, including the development of mold or mildew.

Work with a licensed contractor before installing attic roof insulation

We highly recommend consulting with a licensed contractor before installing roof insulation in your attic. First and foremost, you want to make sure you actually need it, and that you aren’t wasting money, time, and energy. Secondly, insulating and finishing a ceiling and roof in a converted attic space often requires additional considerations – such as ventilation, replacing seals on any roof penetrations, and potential electrical work if the wires are old or if new electrical work is required.

The safety and energy efficiency of your home depends on doing the job right, and it’s always good to get the nod of approval from a licensed contractor, even if you plan to do the bulk of the work on your own or with the help of construction-savvy friends. The last thing you want is to fail your final inspection and have to start over again, or to wind up with a major leak or fire as the result of inexpert workmanship.

We’re Here To Help

Contact us here at Attic Solutions to schedule a free, in-home consultation. We provide expert, licensed insulation removal, replacement and installation for Bay Area homeowners. We’re happy to take a look at your attic and provide a professional opinion about the best way to proceed with a safe, energy-efficient, and comfortable attic conversion – including insulation on both the floor and the pitched roof whenever possible.

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Insulate Your Home?

when is the best time of year to insulate your house

Your attic insulation provides year-round protection from heat gain and loss, especially during peak times of the year. If your attic was never installed in adequate quantities or quality from the start, older insulation has broken down and no longer works, or the insulation has been damaged or removed destroyed as the result of pest infestations or water damage, you need to update it.

The question is, when is the best time to insulate your home? Busy schedules and the quick passage of time can mean losing the ideal opportunity to replace or update your home’s insulation in time to reap the cost-savings benefits.

Fall And Spring Are Ideal Seasons To Insulate Your Home

Updating or replacing insulation is best done during the more moderate seasons when your HVAC system is powered off or only working at bare minimum levels. That way, licensed insulation contractors can provide a thorough inspection, estimate, and services before it’s critical for your whole home comfort and utility expenses.

Here in the Bay Area, spring and fall are the best times to inspect and replace insulation as needed. That way, your home is adequately insulated in time for the peak heat and cold seasons. Upgrading your insulation before the year’s highest- and lowest temperatures mean you gain instant savings benefits from your new insulation.

Energy.gov’s Energy Star page cites that adequate insulation that meets the Energy Efficiency guidelines and R-Values for your region, combined with proper air sealing, can save you as much as 20% on your utility bills each month. In almost all cases, necessary insulation replacement pays for itself via energy savings within a handful of years or less.

Signs Attics And Crawl Spaces Need Insulation Replacement Or Updating

First, don’t forget that your crawl spaces – as well as your attic – should be evaluated when determining your home’s insulation needs.

If you know what you’re looking for, you can conduct your own DIY insulation to determine whether or not your home needs an insulation update or full-blown, insulation replacement. You’ll need to enter the crawl space under your home, and then take a good look at the insulation in your attic as well.

Signs that your home’s insulation needs repair or replacement include:

Energy bills seem higher than usual

If your energy bills seem higher than usual, and there haven’t been any notable changes in your programmable thermostat, inadequate insulation could be the culprit. Also, make sure you’re observing your HVAC manufacturer’s schedule for maintenance.

The age of your home

If the insulation is original, your home is on the older side (15 to 20-years old or more), and you haven’t had your insulation inspected in a while, you’ll probably benefit from supplementation. Today’s insulation is superior to the products manufactured even 10 or 15 years ago. Not only have energy efficiency standards evolved in the past couple of decades, but insulation quality becomes compromised over the years by moisture, mold/mildew, movement of humans or rodents on top of it, etc. This means that older insulation is almost always in need of updating, amendment, or a full replacement.

History of pest infestations

The large majority of insulation found in Bay Area home is batt-style (like puffy blankets of insulation) and spray foam insulation. Both types are very attractive to pests, which burrow into it or chew it up for nesting material. In addition to posing a health risk, the quality of insulation is diminished, and insulation won’t work as it was designed to. Any evidence of pest infestations or damage should be handled and cleaned up immediately, including the replacement of damaged insulation.

Moisture or water damage

Major leaks, burst pipes or other sources of water damage can instantly damage insulation. However, a chronic presence of moisture – even seasonal dampness – eventually leads to mold, mildew, and/or the inevitable breakdown of the insulation’s compounds. Once the cause of the water or moisture damage is identified and repaired, professional insulation installers can clean up the mess, remove the damaged insulation, and replace it.

The house feels drafty, then insulate your home

All of a sudden, you’re experiencing drafts that don’t seem to be coming from the typical exterior door and window culprits. This is another sign that old or damaged insulation is no longer serving as the buffer between exterior walls and your interior rooms. Once old batts are replaced, your home’s interior temperature will be more consistent from room to room.

Update Or Replace Insulation In Your Bay Area Home

The fall season is a great time to update or replace insulation in your Bay Area Home. We recommend scheduling a consultation with at least two to three different contractors to learn more about what your house needs, to get a competitive estimate, and to get a feel for which company feels like the most trustworthy and qualified team for the job.

The team here at Attic Solutions has decades of experience under our belts, and we pride ourselves on being honest, hardworking, and dependable. Contact us to schedule a consultation and determine whether it’s the right time to insulate your home.

Why You Should Insulate Your Crawl Spaces

why you should insulate your crawl spaces

Insulation is a key player in your home’s energy system. Sufficient, geo-specific insulation can reduce your home’s energy spending because it reduces heating/cooling costs. When you consider that 40% to 70% of a home’s energy consumption is directed towards heating/cooling – air sealing and insulation becomes a significant priority.

Crawl Spaces Need Insulation Too

Most people understand the need for insulation in the attic and exterior wall spaces, but they often forget that insulation is necessary for crawls spaces as well. These wide-open spaces – many of which are ventilated – can act like heating/cooling vacuums when they aren’t adequately insulated.

There’s another reason why crawls spaces require insulation: moisture control. Many crawl spaces are susceptible to the moisture or condensation that occurs due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity – or water that collects below and around the foundation. If your ventilated crawl spaces are insulated but don’t have the right moisture barrier in place, they provide the perfect environment for mold, compromising your home’s structural integrity and negatively impacting indoor air quality.

If your home was built before the 1990s, we can almost guarantee your crawl spaces require an insulation upgrade if one hasn’t been done already. If you live in a home that is 20-years old or less, it’s still worth a peek underneath the house and any additional crawlspaces to establish whether your crawl spaces are insulated or not.

Signs Your Crawl Space Insulation Needs to be Replaced

Here are some of the most common signs indicating the insulation in crawl spaces and other locations needs replacing or an update:

  • Your heater is on, but your feet are cold
  • Energy bills are going up – even though you’re HVAC is regularly maintained, and your thermostat settings haven’t changed
  • Humidity levels are going up
  • Evidence of mold
  • You’ve taken a peek and notices it looks flat, shredded, spotty or dilapidated
  • There is evidence of water or pest damage
  • Odd drafts in your home that don’t seem to align with window and doors
  • You know the insulation pre-dates 1990

Any of these signs mean it’s time to schedule an inspection from a licensed, insulation contractor who can let you know what – if any – crawlspace insulation modifications are necessary.

There’s a Difference Between Ventilated and Non-Ventilated Crawl Spaces

Not all crawl spaces are created equal, and knowing what you’re dealing with ensures you insulate them correctly.

Insulating ventilated crawl spaces or subfloor crawlspaces

Some are ventilated, which means they’re vulnerable to moisture and are typically found underneath the floor of your home. In addition to the insulation, you’ll want to seal any gaps or air leaks from electrical, plumbing, venting, or other penetrations in the subflooring. As long as you’re underneath the house – or in the crawlspaces – use the opportunity to insulate air ducts and plumbing pipes to further optimize efficiency.

Then, install a vapor (moisture) barrier between the exterior and interior crawl space surface, before adding the insulation, to keep inevitable moisture from seeping through.

Non-ventilated crawl spaces

If a crawl space isn’t ventilated, you’ll only need to insulate the walls, rather than the subfloor above.

Additional Tips for Professional-Quality Crawl Space Insulation

Here are additional tips for obtaining professional-quality crawl space insulation:

  • Use a licensed insulation contractor. Hiring a licensed insulation contractor with a reputable reputation ensures the job is done thoroughly and complies with current energy efficiency/building codes and guidelines for the Bay Area climate.
  • Eliminate any water or moisture. If there is water or moisture evident, eliminate it and/or dry the space completely before proceeding. SmartPipe Systems, crawl space-specific sump pumps, and drainage matting designed for dirt floor crawl spaces are all helpful for keeping the bulk of underground water or moisture from accumulating in the space.
  • Install water- and mold-proof insulation. Fiberglass insulation batts are still a standard because they’re the most affordable in terms of first-time costs. However, if moisture is at all an issue, invest in higher-quality, water-resistant insulation options, such as spray foam, ridge board or cellulose. These products are more durable and efficient – which means they’ll save money in the long run.
  • Address any maintenance issues you notice. If there are signs of structural damage or obvious repairs, stop and address those first.

DIY Insulation Jobs Are Not The Ideal

While insulation can be installed in DIY fashion, it’s not recommended. Firstly, insulating attics, walls and crawl spaces isn’t an easy task, and it takes non-professional contractors far longer that blogs or YouTube videos may indicate. Replacing insulation also requires a level of agility and physical ability (not to mention tolerance for small, enclosed spaces) that a DIYer may not have or be able to sustain. You may wind up spending money – and hours – attempting the feat, only to cease the project and hire a professional anyway.

Installing crawl space insulation also requires protective gear, finesse, and specialized equipment to help the work go smoothly, and to not make a mess. Finally, with a home repair as essential to whole-home energy efficiency, moisture control and indoor air quality as updated insulation is – it’s essential that the job is done right. Otherwise, all that time, energy and cost will have been wasted.

Would you like to schedule an insulation inspection with a licensed, Bay Area insulation contractor? Contact us here at Attic Solutions to schedule a free estimate.

mold in air ducts

The Hidden Dangers Lurking In Your Air Ducts

Are you a neat freak? Do you clean the house on a regular basis?

Keep at it—that’s actually a great thing! After all, dust and debris can easily trigger coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms.

Don’t just clean the floors and call it a day, though—there are other areas that you be cleaning as well. Take the air ducts, for instance, allergens can easily build up, which can make you sick.

Mold in air ducts is an issue as well. As you can imagine, that can significantly impact your health in various ways.

But wait, how can you tell if your ducts need cleaning? Want to know? Then be sure to read the rest of the post—we’ll be going over everything that you need to know below!

How Often Should You Clean Your Air Ducts?

As a general rule, you should clean your air ducts every three to five years. Why? That’s how long it takes for the ducts to fill up with grime after a thorough cleaning.

Keep in mind, however, that this time frame does not apply to everyone. How often you need air duct cleaning will depend on various factors such as how often you use the HVAC system and where you live.

Do you or someone else in the house have asthma or allergies? If so, that’s another reason why you should clean the vents more frequently.

How Can You Tell If Your Air Duct Needs Cleaning?

You can tell whether or not your ducts need cleaning by looking at them. Is there any noticeable debris on the outside? Are there “poofs” of dust near the vents?

If so, you’re probably overdue for a cleaning.

It’s also a good idea to clean them if you notice a vermin infestation. After all, the critters may be entering and exiting through the ductwork.

Mold in Air Ducts: Why It’s a Problem

Mold is a common issue with air ducts. This makes sense when you think about it—after all, condensation easily forms along the vents (more on this later).

As it is, this poses a major health risk. For one thing, it can lead to various symptoms such as sneezing, cough, and watery eyes.

There’s also toxic black mold to worry about. As implied by its name, this variety releases toxic spores that can be detrimental to our health. In severe cases, it can cause nausea, vomiting, chronic fatigue, and persistent headaches.

The worst part is that the spores can easily spread to other areas of the home via the ducts!

What Causes Mold to Form in the Air Vents?

It’s not uncommon for mold to grow in your HVAC system. After all, there’s plenty of moisture and condensation.

For instance, water vapor from the air conditioning can easily make its way inside the vents. Assuming that humidity levels are high, the moisture will not be able to evaporate—instead, it will stay in the ducts.

As you can imagine, that would facilitate mold growth. Over time, the colony will grow bigger and bigger as it feeds off organic materials.

How to Tell If There’s Mold In the Air Ducts

Assuming that there’s mold in your air ducts, the first thing that you’ll probably notice is a pungent odor—something that resembles old gym clothes. It’s hard to miss!

You can also tell by checking for visual signs. Grab a flashlight and peer inside the vents. Do you notice any irregular splotches? If so, it’s probably mold.

In severe cases, mold can grow outside the ducts and onto the wall. If that’s the case, call a professional right away as the problem may be too difficult for you to handle yourself!

Last but not least, examine the vents for standing water. Remember, mold thrives on humidity—if there’s moisture in the ducts, chances are, there’s mold somewhere.

What to Do If You Suspect Mold

It can be quite challenging to remove mold from air vents. For one thing, you can easily inhale the spores when you’re doing the cleaning!

Given that the infestation is mild, however, it is possible to remove the mold yourself. Most of the products that you’ll need can be found at your local home improvement store.

Generally speaking, however, it’s much better to just call in a professional—they’ll be able to remove the mold from your home quickly and safely.

Other Contaminants in Air Ducts

Aside from mold, other contaminants can build up in your ductwork. Take dust and dirt, for instance—these particles can easily become airborne. In other words, there’s a great chance that they can get sucked into the ducts!

Another thing that can accumulate is dander. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a material that’s shed from the body of humans and animals. In large amounts, it can exacerbate allergies and other respiratory conditions.

There’s also a chance of pests in air ducts. After all, the vents are a conduit for warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer—that makes them the perfect nesting spot for critters!

Keeping Your Air Ducts Clean

Hopefully, that gives you a better idea as to why mold in air ducts is an issue.

When in doubt, call in a pro—they’ll be able to identify and solve the problem for you! Remember, your health is worth it.

Need some help in the Oakland area? Feel free to contact us for a free quote!

signs that its time to replace your insulation

Signs That It’s Time To Replace Your Insulation

The insulation in your crawl space and attic serve a very specific purpose. It works to slow the transfer of heat into your house when it’s warm, and out of your house when it’s cold.

When your insulation isn’t working properly, your energy costs are bound to go up. Insulation can save up to 11% on your home’s energy costs. It may not seem like much, but that amount can add up to significant savings over time.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your insulation is working well. If not, it’s time for an insulation replacement.

Is It Time For Insulation Replacement?

How can you tell that it’s time for an insulation replacement? Read on to find out.

Look at your energy bills

The first thing to do is to take a look at your energy bills. Have you noticed a big jump in cooling or heating costs?

That’s a sign that something is amiss in your home. Energy could be escaping through the insulation in your attic or crawl space. There could also be energy leaks in windows and doors.

If you notice that your energy costs are out of line, conduct an energy audit where you examine the insulation in your home, along with other areas of the home that can be vulnerable to energy leaks.

Bugs and other creatures

Your insulation can be a host for many types of unwanted creatures in your home. You can have any types of bugs or critters living in the insulation and not even be aware of it.

That’s why you want to inspect your insulation regularly. These pests can get into the small spaces of your home and raise a family of critters.

That can turn into a pest infestation, which can turn into a health hazard. These pests can leave behind urine and feces which can get into the air of the home.

You can have a team of professionals inspect the insulation, deal with the pest hazard, and then replace your insulation.

Strange drafts in your home

Have you ever walked into a room in your home to find that it’s much cooler than other rooms? Like there’s a draft in the room?

That is a sure sign of insulation failure. The way that insulation works are that it provides a buffer between the air inside your home and the air outside of your home. Insulation that’s failing can limit that buffer of air.

When that buffer no longer exists, it’s easy for cool or warm air to blow inside your home, which will create that draft.

Moisture in the attic or crawl space

Moisture inside your home can lead to a tremendous amount of issues. Bacteria like mold and mildew thrive in these wet environments, and they can lead to health issues. Wet insulation is the perfect place for mold to grow, too.

That can turn into a health hazard, leading to respiratory issues and impact the overall air quality inside your home. If your home or parts of your home smell like mold or mildew, inspect your attic and crawlspace insulation right away.

Not only that, wet insulation is a bad thing for your home. Insulation that’s wet will break down and deteriorate much faster. Insulation works because it traps air in the tiny crevices and air pockets. If these pockets are trapping water instead of air, the insulation won’t work.

Take a look at the insulation itself for signs of water damage. You’ll also want to check other areas around your home, such as your roof and ceilings. You’ll need to schedule an insulation replacement immediately if you suspect that the insulation has become wet.

Age of insulation in the home

Do you know when the last time your insulation was replaced? Insulation is built to last, but it doesn’t mean that it always does.

Many manufacturers will say that insulation will last for 100 years or for the life of the building. That’s enough to let you breathe a sigh of relief. However, just because the insulation is built to last for 100 years, doesn’t mean that it’s in proper working order.

You want to make sure that the insulation in your home doesn’t compact down over time. It needs to be “fluffy” so there are many crevices and air pockets to trap air. If it doesn’t, then it simply won’t work. That will create drafts in the home.

You also have to factor in technology. Older insulation simply wasn’t made with the same technological advances that you’ll get with today’s insulation. That means that insulation that was made today is more durable and energy efficient than what was produced 10 or 20 years ago.

How To Replace Insulation In Your Home

Now that you know that it’s time for an insulation replacement, how do you start? You have a couple of options. You can go the DIY route, or you can hire professionals to handle the job.

A professional company can handle just about any situation whether that’s pest infestation, insulation removal, and installation.

Going the DIY route would require that you know how to remove and dispose of insulation in a safe manner.

Time For An Insulation Replacement

The level of comfort you feel inside your home depends largely on the insulation in your attic and crawlspaces. If the insulation is breaking down or hosting unwanted guests, then your energy bills can go up while the level of comfort goes down.

It’s time for an insulation replacement when you notice certain rooms are colder or warmer than others, the insulation is full of pests or is wet.

If you know that you need to get your insulation replaced in the Bay Area, we’re here to help. Contact us today for a free quote.