Is It Time For An Insulation Upgrade For Your Commercial Building?

is it time for an insulation upgrade for your commercial building

How old is the insulation in your commercial building? Have repeat episodes such as roof leaks, electrical or plumbing work in your business’s attic spaces, or pest infestations compromised your existing insulation? If so, your business should consider insulation retrofitting. 

An article on building.com discusses how a three-story, East Coast business with 19,000 square feet reaped a 15.6% savings in annual energy spending after upgrading their outdated insulation. And that’s only the beginning of the benefits you gain when replacing old insulation with new insulation that complies with your state and local building codes and energy efficiency guidelines. 

Signs It’s Time For An Insulation Upgrade In A Commercial Building 

The cost of upgrading or replacing insulation, bringing it to the current energy.gov recommended energy efficiency levels, will have a positive impact in multiple ways.  

First, you’ll experience energy savings because your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard to keep your building comfortable in peak hot and cold seasons. That has a positive effect on the environment. And, improved insulation and airflow mean improved interior comfort and air quality. 

Here are some of the signs that it is time to consider retrofitting the insulation at your place of business: 

Your building is 20 years old or older 

It’s hard to imagine that we are already two decades into the 21st century. If your building was built before the year 2000, there is a good chance it is time to amend or replace your insulation. In addition to choosing from more modern, energy-efficient, and planet-friendly insulation options, you’ll bring your building up to date with current building codes, which makes it more attractive to future tenants or buyers. 

The building was constructed prior to the 1980s 

Was your building constructed prior to the 1980s? Do you know firsthand whether the insulation has been replaced since the original build? If you have any doubts, we highly recommend scheduling an inspection with a licensed insulation contractor to ensure you do not have asbestos materials in your attic or crawl space. 

Read our post on How Older Insulation Can Cause Health Concerns to learn more.  

Temperatures are inconsistent throughout the building 

Have employees commented on the fact that one side, wing, or floor of the business is hotter/colder/stuffier than another? This could mean there is an HVAC system issue, and that’s worth looking into. 

However, if your HVAC is maintained at least once a year, and you are still having issues maintaining consistent interior temperatures and comfort, there is a good chance the insulation is the culprit. 

You’ve had a major roof leak or a history of small roof leaks 

Roof leaks can be devastating to certain types of insulation, especially fiberglass batts or blown-in cellulose insulation. If your building suffered a major roof leak in the recent past, or you’ve had a series of small leaks, do your business a favor and schedule an insulation inspection to make sure it is all in good shape. This includes the crawl spaces and exterior walls. 

The interior spaces are showing signs of mold, mildew, or pest infestations 

Mold or mildew infestations need to be addressed immediately. In addition to compromising the structural soundness of your building, elevated humidity levels have a dramatic impact on interior comfort. More importantly, mold and mildew compromised indoor air quality because the spores recirculated through the forced air system, via drafts, or that erupt during mold/mildew blooms affect the respiratory health of your employees and customers. 

You should have your attic, crawlspaces, and/or basement spaces inspected at the first sign of a mildew or mold infestation in your building. Once the moisture source is located, have it repaired, and amen or replace compromised insulation to restore healthy humidity levels. 

Similarly, pest infestations need to be addressed because the toxins released from accumulated pest waste or decomposing bodies compromise indoor air quality. In almost all cases where pests have settled into the attic, some level of insulation removal, clean up, and insulation replacement is required to get things back in shape. 

Energy bills are steadily increasing beyond normal rate hikes 

Energy rates are always subject to hikes, but that isn’t the only reason you may notice increased prices on your bills. The older and more dilapidated or broken down your insulation becomes, the more energy is required to maintain your thermostat settings. As a result, your energy bills will continue to go up in cost until you update your insulation. 

It’s time for an insulation upgrade when the acoustics are terrible 

Does it seem like sound transference from one room to another or one section of the building to another, is louder than it should be? Retrofitting your business’s insulation can reduce noise pollution inside the building, and can protect the interior from exterior noise pollution as well. Improving the acoustics simultaneously improves working conditions for employees as well as customer experience if you have a brick-and-mortar main street business. 

You are updating or replacing your HVAC system and

If you are planning to update or replace your HVAC system, we recommend coordinating the work with an insulation upgrade. Together, you will experience exponential improvements in energy efficiency. Your HVAC contractor will be the first to tell you that updated insulation protects your HVAC investment.  

If you purchase a new HVAC but have outdated insulation, the system will work extra hard to make up the difference, and that translates to increased wear and tear and repair costs. 

You are interested in making your building more “green” 

Is eco-friendly or running a green business a part of your mission? Retrofitting outdated insulation will help you achieve those goals and prove that you honor the tenets you outline to the public. 

What Type Of Insulation Is Best For My Business? 

There is a wide range of insulation options out there, and all of them have their own pros and cons. To get started, we recommend visiting our brief guide on the various types of attic insulation. That is a good way to learn about the insulation basics and will help to guide your conversation when you meet with prospective insulation contractors. 

Suspect your business should consider an insulation upgrade? Contact Attic Solutions. We will help you determine whether your insulation is adequate or not. If you need to update or replace it, we will also help you select the best type of insulation for your needs and energy efficiency goals.

What You Should Know About Blown-In Cellulose Insulation

Blown-in cellulose insulation is one of the most common insulation types now used in attics and in an existing closed wall. It is considered preferable by many as a result of its eco-friendly properties and its ability to conform to corners, uniquely shaped spaces, and around obstructions such as ducts or electrical wires and other penetrations. 

If you are still in the process of deciding which insulation material is best for your upcoming project, we also recommend reading our post, A Brief Guide to the Various Types of Attic Insulation. 

What is Blown-In Cellulose Insulation? 

Blown-in cellulose insulation is quickly surpassing batt style or blown-in fiberglass insulation as the construction standard for homes and businesses.  

Why Blown-In Cellulose? 

It is eco-friendly 

While fiberglass insulation is not nearly as toxic as other types of insulation, it cannot be considered eco-friendly either. The fiberglass particles are an irritant to the skin and can be dangerous if inhaled into the respiratory or digestive tracts. Plus, batt style insulation must be cut to fit penetrations, tight corners, or irregularly shaped spaces, which leaves gaps that increase the transmission of heat or cold. 

Cellulose insulation is made from almost 100% recycled wood and paper products, which means it meets most green building certification requirements. There is no danger or irritation associated with working with the material, and its ability to more comprehensively insulate every available inch of the intended space means the R-value is consistently upheld. 

In addition to its lack of toxic chemicals or particles, cellulose insulation is considered eco-friendly because: 

  • It can boast a much cleaner and pollution-free production process when compared with other alternatives 
  • When it is removed from a building as the result of a renovation or remodel, it degrades without contributing harmful chemicals or off-gassing into the soil, water, or air. 
  • It has high energy-efficiency ratings 

Blown-in cellulose insulation is fire retardant 

Also called loose-fill cellulose insulation, this product is very fire retardant. This is because it is treated with borax, boric acid, and/or ammonium sulfate (all of which are considered non-toxic in this application). In fact, cellulose insulation has a Class 1 Fire Rating 

It is completely safe to use it around contemporary light fixtures and/or recessed cans. However, you may want to speak to your insulation contractor about other options if your wiring is outdated or you are installing it in direct contact with antique or vintage light fixtures that were not produced to the same fire-rated standards as their counterparts are today. 

It is affordable 

You may have seen that blown-in cellulose is more expensive than fiberglass, but that is not necessarily the case when you consider the big picture. The products themselves are fairly comparable in price, especially if you are comparing the price between blown-in fiberglass insulation and blown-in cellulose. 

The installation fees (labor charges) are typically higher for cellulose than they are for fiberglass batts. However, this difference will pay for itself in terms of energy savings during the first several years and there is the invaluable benefit of a more eco-friendly product. 

Beyond r-values 

While R-values are the industry standard for “grading” insulation materials, there is more to it than that. R-values only taking the specific product into consideration. The draftiest home in the world won’t benefit from much by replacement insulation with a high R-value because the home’s insulation system – air sealing, moisture control, ventilation, and insulation – all work together as a whole. 

Cellulose insulation goes beyond R-value because it also reduces air infiltration and convection more effectively than fiberglass, which further enhances its insulation properties. In fact, studies have shown that cellulose insulation can reduce airflow by as much as 30% when compared with other products. 

It’s better for high-moisture areas 

Here in the Bay Area, we are just as concerned about products that work to prevent moisture accumulation as we are about heat conduction and air leaks. If you do experience a significant roof leak or a burst pipe in the attic, cellulose fibers are better at absorbing the liquid and preventing it from seeping into structural components, which lead to further damage and costly repairs. 

That said, if the situation is left untreated, that absorbed moisture can lead to mold and mildew issues, so always consult your insulation contractor after roof repairs or plumbing leaks are fixed to make sure your insulation is standing up to the job. If not, it’s always better to replace damaged insulation sooner rather than later. 

How Is Blown-In Insulation Installed? 

Even though it winds up being a loose-filled product, cellulose insulation comes in tightly-packed bales. These are loaded into hoppers after which: 

  • Rotating prongs are activated to loosen and fluff it all up 
  • The loose fill is then blown through long flexible tubes that are directed into the attic or wall spaces 
  • It is blown in until it fills the desired space or covers existing insulation 
  • It is allowed to settle over time (no pressure is needed to “press” it into place or compact it into a more dense product. In fact, its lack of density is part of what makes loose-fill insulation work so well 
  • The walls or patches used to get the tube into the wall are closed up and patched and painted to look like new 

Once it is installed, we recommend that homeowners take a peek into their attic space(s) at least two times per year to keep an eye on red flags such as moisture, signs of a pest infestation, or any pockets where insulation has shifted or “blown” into a new formation – a sign that you may need to enhance air sealing. 

Would you like to learn more about blown-in cellulose insulation and whether it’s the right insulation replacement product for your home or business? Contact us here at Attic Solutions.

5 Great Reasons To Insulate Your Crawl Spaces

5 great reasons to insulate your crawl spaces

Replacing and updating attic insulation goes a long way towards whole-home energy efficiency and comfort. As long as you’re at it, we also recommend insulating your crawl spaces? Already updated your attic or exterior wall insulation? Then take a peek in your crawl spaces and make sure they were included in the retrofit.  

Crawl spaces are notoriously overlooked and that can negatively impact your home in multiple ways. Without regular checkups and attentions, crawlspaces become catchalls for: 

  • Known allergens that infiltrate the home and circulate through the forced air system 
  • Rodents and other pests 
  • Mold and mildew infestations that compromise indoor air quality and can potentially compromise structural components 

Insulate Your Crawl Spaces For A Cost-Effective Home Improvement Project 

Most people seem to shy away from the crawl spaces beneath the home because their dark, enclosed, and cobwebby nature is the stuff of childhood nightmares. However, because crawl spaces take up the layer between the ground and your first floor, it is never a good idea to leave them unattended or uninsulated.  

Insulating crawl spaces, or replacing old, outdated, and insufficient insulation, is a simple home improvement project that will pay for itself via four notable benefits.

You’ll save money

Installing insulation in your crawl spaces is a nominal home improvement cost that yields a lifetime of benefits in terms of savings. Every year thereafter, you’ll notice a reduction in your heating and cooling costs because conditioned air will be more likely to stay put between your walls, maintaining a more consistent temperature (more on that below).  

If your crawl spaces are creepy and full of mold, mildew, cobwebs, or the remnants of pest infestations, you’ll want to clean them out first. You can do this on your own, or contact a local insulation company that performs crawl space cleanups and prep. 

You’ll save energy

Bay Area homeowners are working harder than ever to reduce energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint. The more adequately sealed and insulated your home is, the more you reduce the amount of energy required to heat and cool your home.  

While most people are focused on the $$ savings, we like to remind people that the same 20% less money spent on heating/cooling costs due to updated insulation also means 20% less energy you consume. That’s a win-win for you and planet earth. 

Health Tip: If your home was built prior to the 1990s, OR existing crawl space insulation looks ratty, moldy, damp, or has pest damage, take careful precautions. It could be toxic. Read our post, How Older Insulation Can Cause Health Concerns, to learn more so you can protect yourself. If you suspect it is a potentially toxic situation, contact a professional to do the job to protect your health and the health of your family or other household occupants.

Enjoy improved whole-home comfort

Once you’ve updated the insulation in your crawl space, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in whole-home comfort, especially during peak hot and cold months. The rooms above an uninsulated crawl space often feel warmer or cooler than other rooms in the house. This is a sure sign of missing or inadequate insulation 

It’s also a sure sign that you’re spending more than you need to on heating/cooling. Rooms that are hotter or colder than other rooms affect the home’s interior temperature, which causes the HVAC to work harder to compensate. In the end, adequate insulation means improved whole-home comfort no matter which room you’re in. 

Reduce moisture potential and insulate your crawl spaces

Here in the Bay Area, homes are particularly vulnerable to unhealthy moisture levels in the home. If your home isn’t well-sealed and insulated, there’s a good chance you will find evidence of mold or mildew in the crawlspace and in darker, more closed-off areas of the house such as closets or the attic. 

Mold spores can be toxic at best, and mild irritant at worst, known for contributing to allergies, asthma, respiratory complaints, and compromised immune systems. If you do decide to insulate your crawl spaces, learn about the importance of installing a vapor or moisture barrier to optimize moisture protection. 

Improve your home’s indoor air quality

Most people worry so much about outdoor air pollution, they aren’t paying attention to the quality of the air indoors. From the off-gassing of home finishes and furnishings and lack of fresh airflow to the previously mentioned mold/mildew issues, homes are often found to have worse indoor air quality than the air outside – even if it is polluted. 

If you have unaddressed rodent issues, indoor air quality may be even worse as a result of the toxic particulate matters that become airborne from pests’ urine and fecal matter. Cleaning your crawl space and eradicating existing pets, plus the addition of a moisture barrier and adequate insulation will improve indoor humidity levels, also improving indoor air quality.

Do Yourself A Favor And Hire A Pro

Does your crawl space need some attention? Is it a line on your list of things to do that never get taken care of? Contact us here at Attic Solutions and we’ll come and take a look. We’ll let you know what needs to be done and can provide a competitive quote for cleaning, insulating, and more. 

A Brief Guide On The Various Types Of Attic Insulation

a brief guide on the various types of attic insulation

When you’re ready to replace the insulation in your home, you’ll need to choose the best types of attic insulation for your budget and your overall goals. Some insulation works better than others, some types are more expensive (and, typically, more energy efficient), and some are more eco-friendly than others. 

Which Of These Types Of Attic Insulation Is Best For Your Building? 

This guide is dedicated to helping home and business owners choose the best types of attic insulation for their building, after weighing the pros and cons. 

Understanding R-Value 

Attic insulation is one part of your home’s comfort and energy-efficiency systems. In addition to keeping you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, reducing your demand on the HVAC system, your attic insulation also protects your home from moisture issues when paired with a good roof and ventilation system. 

The key to all of the above is to install insulation with the right R-value for your geographical location.  

The Department of Energy (energy.gov) explains: 

An insulating material’s resistance to conductive heat flow is measured or rated in terms of its thermal resistance or R-value — the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. The R-value depends on the type of insulation, its thickness, and its density. The R-value of some insulations also depends on temperature, aging, and moisture accumulation. When calculating the R-value of a multilayered installation, add the R-values of the individual layers. 

Here in the Bay Area, professional insulation contractors use the energy.gov R-value map as our guide. We are in Zone 3, so we use the following R-value guidelines. 

 Add Insulation to Attic   
Zone Uninsulated Attic Existing 3-4 Inches of Insulation Floor 
    
3 R30 to R60 R25 to R38 R19 to R25 

Today, we’re going to discuss the four most commonly used insulation types. 

Fiberglass (batts or rolls) 

Fiberglass insulation is by far the most widely used insulation in today’s homes. This is because it’s cheap, effective, and it’s easy to install on your own if you know what you’re doing. Fiberglass insulation comes in loose batts or rolls, and these come faced or unfaced. Faced means the batts are lined with a paper layer for ease of application and to minimize contact with the thin fiberglass particles. Unfaced batts or rolls leave the fiberglass exposed on both sides. 

It is an ideal option for attic insulation, especially if you have an attic with standard-spaced joists and beams and minimal obstructions. It can be cut to size/fit, but will still leave marginal gaps here and there. To maintain its R-value around vents, you need to cut it very accurately. 

Fiberglass batts are not considered eco-friendly because the fiberglass particles can loosen over time, especially if they are chewed up by pests, dampened by leaks/moisture, or manipulated over time via subcontractors (HVAC, plumbers, electricians, cable, internet, etc.) working up in the attic space. The particles irritate the skin, respiratory passages, and stomach/g.i. tracts so always wear full protection, including mask and safety goggles when working with fiberglass. 

COSTTypically, fiberglass batts cost between 20¢ and 60¢ cents per square foot. 

Loose-Fill Insulation 

Loose-fill insulation options are starting to take over where the fiberglass batts are leaving off. This is because many options include eco-friendly alternatives made from recycled paper and scraps. Because the particles are loose, loose-fill insulation is also a wise choice for older homes with flatter roofs (less headroom), unique shapes, or multiple obstructions such as pipes, vents, and crossbeams.  

NOTE: Loose-fill insulation should not be used around recessed cans as it can be a fire hazard. Click Here to read about the safest insulation to use around recessed can lighting. 

While it can be spread manually, contractors always use machines to blow loose-fill particles into place, and these can be rented for around $100/day. Loose-blown cellulose is considered one of the most effective insulation options out there because it easily fills spaces and surrounds pipes, vents, ducts, etc. That said, it is very sensitive to moisture and gets moldy when wet for too long. If you choose loose-fill, we recommend having your roof inspected and ensuring your roofing system, attic vents, etc. are in top shape so moisture isn’t a concern. 

COSTLoose-fill insulation runs around $1 per square foot. 

Spray Foam Insulation 

Spray foam insulation has one of the highest R-values of all (3.5 per inch for open-cell, 6.5 per inch for closed cell). As a result, it’s often advertised as the most eco-friendly option. This is not necessarily the case. While spray foam insulation is one of the most energy-efficient options, the chemicals (mostly polyurethane) used to make it are by no means eco-friendly. Keep that in mind so you can weigh which side of the eco-friendly coin matters more to you. 

This is not a DIY material, and it should always be sprayed in place by professionals. 

That stated, contractors and homeowners love sprayed foam insulation because it seals all those gaps, hard-to-reach places, and crevices that are often impossible to get to with any other product.  If a vapor barrier is neededclosed-cell insulation is the better choice.  

COST: Open-cell spray foam runs around $1.25 per square foot, closed-cell costs around $1.50 per square foot. 

Rock Wool (Mineral Wool) 

If eco-friendly insulation is the goal, rock wool batts are probably the best option for you. They are made from mineral wool and recycled products. Although they come in blanket or batt form, like fiberglass insulation, they are heavier and firmer, which makes them easier to work with. Rock wool batts/blankets can be cut to size and shape more accurately, allowing for more precise installation around obstructions, vents, and outlets/penetrations. 

Rock wool is both moisture and heat resistant, which is also appealing to homeowners. In fact, they’re so heat resistant that rock wool batts can be used to create one hour, fire-rated assemblies, and also help to slow the spread of flames. This is one of the reasons they are rapidly increasing in popularity, proportional to California’s fire season threats. And, if the blankets get wet, they are just as good as new once they dry – which is not the case for fiberglass or loose-fill options. 

COST: Rock wool batts are roughly 80¢ per square foot (only 20¢ more than fiberglass).

Let Us Do The Hard Work For You

Are you interested in consulting with a Bay Area insulation contractor as you determine which of the various types of attic insulation is best for your project? Contact us here at Attic Solutions for a free, no-obligation consultation. 

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.