Before You Turn Your Attic Into A Room…

before you turn your attic into a room

Are you thinking of turning an unused attic into a room? It’s a great way for Bay Area homeowners to gain extra living space or create an income-earning rental space. In either case, it is worth the time to read these considerations before making the space official. 

We also recommend reviewing our post, Converting Attic Space to Living Space: How It’s Done, for more specifics about the actual process. 

7 Considerations Before Turning Your Attic Into A Room

From ensuring you’re building the space to code and keeping yourself well within the law. In addition to following these guidelines, you’ll also ensure your attic room is safe for occupancy, comfortable, and energy-efficient. 

Contact your local building department

If this is a DIY project for you, you’ll be working directly with your local building department. In order to be built to meet current federal and state building codes, you’ll need to know what the current fire, earthquake, safety, and energy efficiency codes are and adhere to them. To do that, you’ll schedule regular inspections pertaining to different phases of construction – framing, electrical work, sheetrock and drywall, fire sprinklers, etc.  

If you are hiring someone else to do the work, make sure you hire a licensed contractor (you can verify their licensure, insurance, and bonding with your building department). In that case, the contractor’s job is to ensure all of the work is done to code and that each of the permit cards is signed off so your attic renovation is finalized. 

There is a basic “rule of 7s” for attics, which means the finished attic space must have at least seven feet of height from floor-to-ceiling, seven feet wide from wall-to-wall, and be at least 70 square feet. If your attic won’t accommodate that, the project may be a no-go. 

WARNING: Failure to build your attic to code can have serious consequences ranging from large fines to diminishing the resale value of your home. 

Consider a durable ceiling finish

If your attic ceiling is on the seven to eight feet high (or has pitched, A-line ceilings) speak to your contractor about using a more durable ceiling finish to protect it from dings as furniture and furnishings are moved in/out and put into place. Some ideas include: 

  • Beadboard 
  • V-groove wood paneling 
  • Ceiling tiles (these can be as simple or ornate as your design taste) 

Think about skylights or solar tubes

This is a great time to consider skylights or solar tubes. They are a smart way to have “free” daylighting and can be added to your roof to gain a lighter, brighter, and more spacious feel in your attic space. If you do choose to add them, we recommend having the work done – or approved – by a licensed roofer to eliminate any risk of leaks or moisture control issues down the road. 

Be careful about lighting selections

Even the best of daylighting ideas fade once the sunsets. Most of our clients choose to install recessed cans as a way to gain the lighting they want without impacting the air space. Any fixtures attached to the ceiling will take inches off the headspace around the fixture. That’s fine if you’re dealing with an A-line or sloped ceiling with lots of room from floor-to-ceiling at the peak, but not so pleasant for people who are 6-feet tall or taller in a 7-foot space. 

Consider alternative insulation options to increase usable space

Instead of using traditional batt insulation, consider using insulated wall panels or spray foam options to minimize interior wall space and optimize the usable square footage in the room. In a small attic space, gaining a few extra inches on each wall makes a big difference in how the room looks and feels. 

Even more importantly, using spray foam insulation in the exterior walls and roof will exponentially increase whole-space comfort, minimize energy consumption, and will also help to dampen the sound when it rains. 

Think about quiet flooring when turning an attic into a room

Your attic was built with the idea that nobody would be living up there, so there wasn’t any attention placed on soundproofing. Once somebody’s living up there, the clomp-clomp of their steps, the scrape of a chair being pushed back from a desk or table, and even the sounds emanating from stereo systems or televisions can be obnoxious for whoever lives below. 

Make sure to take this into consideration. Consider amending or shoring up the existing floor joists to make them sturdier (and less squeaky),  and be extra generous with soundproof flooring options, such as thicker, sound-resistant padding under carpets or hard surface flooring. 

Take extra precaution with toilets/sinks/baths

If you’ll be adding a bathroom and/or kitchen area, you want to be extra careful that the added plumbing is done by a professional to minimize the chance of leaks. Often, plumbing issues in attic spaces go unnoticed for too long because the water seeps into the interior wall spaces. Also, make sure the new plumbing lines drain all the way down to the ground to increase drainage pressure and to properly vent the sewage gases. 

Are you thinking about converting your little- or unused attic space into a comfortable living space? Contact us here at Attic Solutions.

When You’re Ready, We’re Ready

We can help you every step of the way, from clearing out old insulation, cleaning up and sanitizing any evidence of previous pest, mold, or mildew issues, and keeping your insulation plans on track. We are local, licensed, and come highly vetted. Our team looks forward to providing a free quote and competitive prices. 

7 Harmful Molds That Could Be Hiding In Your Home

7 harmful molds that could be hiding in your home

Harmful mold and mildew growth is not only a structural rot issue, it is also an issue for healthy indoor quality. According to the Poison Control Center: 

…experts [have] found that being in damp indoor spaces seemed related to respiratory illnesses: nose and throat [upper respiratory] symptoms, cough, wheeze, and asthma symptoms. They also found limited evidence that these environments can be associated with shortness of breath, the development of asthma in people who did not previously suffer from it, and lower respiratory symptoms (coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath) in healthy children.” 

Signs Of Harmful Molds In Your Home 

All harmful molds and mildew are considered harmful as a result of the damage it does to your structure and furnishings, as well as the negative health impact that can occur by mold spores circulating through the home.  

The most common signs you have a mold issue are: 

  • Damp or moist areas of the home 
  • Evidence of mold in HVAC ducts 
  • A latent roof leak or plumbing leak that created damp or rot in the house 
  • Black or green spots, or other discolorations in walls or ceilings, particularly in the corners, along the joints, or near plumbing penetrations 
  • A damp or musty smell anywhere in the home – most common in closets, bathrooms, or cupboards where visible signs of damp are less likely to be noticed 
  • Condensation on interior window panes (if water is condensing inside the home, odds are it’s dripping down into the interior wall spaces and insulation where mold/mildew are likely to grow 
  • Chronic respiratory issues that don’t seem to be resolved by OTC allergy relief, inhalers, or antibiotics/antiviral medicines 

You can schedule a mold test with your preferred HVAC technician, an insulation contractor, or you can perform a DIY mold test with a high-quality kit sold at your local home improvement store.  

If mold is present, contact a specialist to clean and sanitize the area to stop harmful mold in its tracks. Then, repair any and all conditions contributing to mold growth in your home. 

Schedule An Attic Inspection To Look For Harmful Molds  

If you live in an older home and have not had the insulation replaced in the past 10 to 15 years, it is worth scheduling an inspection with a licensed insulation contractor.  

We’ll examine our attic and crawl spaces and let you know if we see any signs of these seven harmful molds that could be hiding in your home. 

Alternaria

These large but light spores typically travel into your home during the summer months. They settle on walls and scatter through the ducts. Once humidity levels rise, the rainy months begin, or your house has a leak issue, the mold begins to take off. It prefers a damp environment. 

The spores can be inhaled or ingested and are known for causing allergy-like symptoms and/or asthma attacks. 

Aspergillus

Although this mold is often found on food (a yellow-gray), it’s also just as happy to settle into a damp area in the home. It is so commonly associated with respiratory issues that it has an illness named after it: aspergillosis. It typically causes problems with the sinuses, leading to ear and eye infections. 

Chaetomium

This mold begins to grow like a white fluffy cloud but then turns olive-green and gray. This is the mold most often connected to that “musty” smell you notice in an older home. It prefers to grow in older or already rotting wood, in attics and insulation, behind wallpaper, and water-damaged attics carpet, walls, or window-frames. It can cause infections in finger- and toenails but can be dangerously fatal for newborn infants and those with weak immune systems. 

Cladosporium

This is one of the most common types of mold that circulates (and lives in) HVAC ducts and vents. Cladosporium is darker in color, ranging from green and brown to black. One, of its most unfortunate features, is that it is very hardy. It can survive in fairly dry conditions as well as extreme cold.  

The good news is that it is less toxic than other molds, although it does cause sinus issues, allergy-like symptoms, and asthma symptoms in those with more sensitive respiratory systems. 

Penicillium

Believe it or not, the same penicillium spores that grow the famous antibiotic, penicillin, can take up residence in your home. Even so, the type they turn into medicine is a very specific species. The penicillium most likely to take up residence in damp, water-damaged areas of your home – like attic insulation, walls, and carpet – is more likely to cause respiratory issues than heal them. 

Serpulalacrymans 

Serpula lacrymans make themselves more obvious than some molds because it’s a rusty shade of red. As it blooms and takes over walls, ceilings, floors, and even furniture, serpula lacrymans will look as if affected surfaces were sprinkled with rust dust. 

Those who are sensitive to it may feel like they have a sore throat or more sneezy than usual, and it can also cause breathing difficulty or asthma-like symptoms. 

Stachybotrys

This is the dreaded black mold we hear the most about. Stachybotrys is everything you think about when you think of mold: black, slimy, and musty smelling.  It is the most toxic version of mold, and it needs a super moist environment such as latent leaky pipes, persistent humidity, or condensation that permeates surrounding surfaces, and even your HVAC ducts. 

Stachybotrys is the mold most responsible for serious mold allergies and reactions, including difficulty breathing, dizzy attacks and fatigue, difficulty hearing, and chronic sinus infections. 

Afraid that one or more of these harmful molds could be hiding in your Bay Area home? Schedule an inspection and clean up with Attic Solutions. You can also give us a call at 1-800-556-9202. We’ve provided professional mold eradication and insulation replacement for Bay Area home and business owners for decades. 

Is Your Home Ready For Winter?

is your home ready for winter

The winter months are often the most energy consumptive for Bay Area homeowners as the result of colder temperatures that demand more from your HVAC system to maintain optimal indoor comfort. By ensuring your home is ready for winter, building occupants will be warm and cozy, while conserving as much energy as possible. 

Getting Your Bay Area Home Ready For Winter 

As we head into the colder, wetter months of winter, the following steps will help to prepare your Bay Area home for winter. 

Schedule an attic inspection 

When was the last time a professional inspected your attic and crawl spaces? These typically forgotten areas of the home play essential roles when it comes to keeping your home comfortable year-round. Inadequate or outdated insulation means heat loss during the winter (and solar heat gain during the summer), which leads to higher energy bills. 

Scheduling an inspection with a licensed insulation contractor is a good idea. We’ll let you know if your attic insulation is sufficient or if the insulation has been damaged through the years as a result of leaks, rodent or pest infiltrations, or thoughtless subcontractors that damaged insulation while working on plumbing, HVAC, electrical, or cable issues. 

Remove and replace outdated insulation 

If necessary, removing outdated insulation and replacing it with new insulation that meets current energy regulations goes a long way towards keeping your house more comfortable all year round. In addition to energy savings, upgrading your attic insulation also reduces wear and tear on your HVAC system, which leads to lower repair and replacement costs on that end as well. 

Read The Sure Fire Signs You Need Insulation Replacement to learn more about whether your attic and crawl spaces could use an upgrade. 

Seal any air leaks 

When we perform attic inspections in homes that are 15 years or older, we often feel a draft or two while we’re up there. That’s a sign that the home’s envelope needs to be resealed. A draft is an opportunity for conditioned air to leak out of your home, and for hotter/colder temperatures to migrate into your living spaces.  

Gaps in exterior walls are most common around windows and doors, at the roofline, or around penetrations (plumbing, chimney/vents, electrical, cable, internet, old phone lines, etc.). These need to be sealed (and re-sealed) on a regular basis.  

Visit energystar.gov’s page, Attic Air Sealing, to learn more about why sealing your home’s envelope is so important in regards to whole-home comfort as well as energy conservation. 

Schedule an HVAC maintenance appointment 

Efficient HVAC function is essential to energy savings and lower spending. Most HVAC warranties are dependent on proof of optimal maintenance records, which include receipts showing your HVAC was inspected and tuned up annually by a licensed HVAC technician. The more your HVAC has to work – as a result of inadequate insulation or a necessary tune-up or repair, the higher your utility bills will be – particularly during the peak hot and cold months. 

Correct any leak issues to be ready for winter

An inspection in the attic often reveals roof leak issues or moisture control issues that have been neglected for too long. Before we replace or update your insulation, we’ll determine the source of the leaks and work with you to fix them or contact the best-licensed professionals in our area if your roof or exterior walls require repairs.  

In most cases, moisture control issues lead to condensation that feeds mold and mildew infestations. If that is the case, your attic insulation professionals will remove all evidence of mold or mildew and completely sanitize the space before moving ahead with insulation replacement. Not only does moisture and condensation affect humidity levels and indoor air quality, mold and mildew spores lead to structural damage and are also known to cause respiratory issues for building occupants. 

Remove any evidence of current or former pest infestations 

Rodents and other pests love accessible attic spaces. Compared with the outside world, your attic is warm, dry, protected from the elements, and almost always safe from predators. It’s no wonder that everything from mice and rats to squirrels and birds make themselves right at home if they can gain entry to your attic. 

Unfortunately, these pest infestations are not ideal for the human occupants in the house. First and foremost, the noises from the upstairs visitors can be obnoxious – especially since most of them are nocturnal. Over time, an unaddressed pest infestation poses health issues because the accumulation of feces and waste products, rotting food materials they store in the attic, and decayed bodies affect indoor air quality and can become toxic. 

Finally, pests love insulation. They burrow in it, they shred it for nesting material, or they may even transport chunks of it elsewhere to make their nests. In almost all cases, an attic that has a history of rodent infestations will need to be cleared out, sanitized, sealed up to prevent future infestations, and then reinsulated again. 

Update your crawl spaces 

The combination of vapor (moisture) barriers and insulation can make a world of difference in your crawl spaces. While the ambient temperature of the earth is typically 50 to 60 degrees F, the temperature at the surface or just below the surface can be far cooler. Plus, a damp or wet crawl space poses other threats to whole-home comfort, humidity levels, and indoor air quality. We recommend updating crawl spaces as needed, installing vapor barriers as recommended, and considering insulation if the expense will pay for itself in energy savings.

 We’re Ready When You’re Ready 

Is your attic long overdue for an inspection? Would you like to make sure your home is ready for the winter? Contact us here at Attic Solutions. We have decades of licensed attic insulation experience and are happy to provide you with recent referrals from local, Bay Area home and business owners. 

Eliminate Toxins In The Home With Attic Cleaning & Ventilation

eliminate toxins in the home with attic cleaning ventilation

Energy efficiency and whole home comfort is one reason to schedule an attic inspection and replace outdated insulation. However, an attic inspection can also help to locate sources of toxins that compromise indoor air quality. If necessary, we’ll remove old or dilapidated insulation, eliminate pest, mold, or mildew infestations, sanitize the entire attic space, and install new insulation. 

We can also help you identify other toxic sources, eliminating toxins in the home so you benefit from optimized indoor air quality and can breathe easy again. 

5 Steps To Optimize Your Attic And Eliminate Toxins In Your Home  

Here are the five steps attic solutions contractors can optimize your attic space, eliminate toxins in the home, and keep improving IAQ. 

Schedule an attic inspection

The first step is to schedule an attic inspection with a local, licensed insulation contractor. You’d be amazed at what we have found up in attics. In addition to years, or decades, of dust and debris, we often find old paint cans or other household chemicals that are slowly off-gassing toxic fumes into your home’s air space.  

This means they are able to seep through walls or into HVAC ducts, polluting the home’s interior air. If you live in a home that is 10 years old or older, we may also find other toxic sources. These include things such as: 

  • Rodent and pest infestations
  • Mold, mildew, or rot
  • Water damage
  • Condensation indicating inadequate ventilation
  • Damaged insulation
  • Asbestos

Once we know what we’re dealing with, we’ll create a plan to remove toxins from the space, clean up the mess, and install fresh, new insulation. 

Remove the toxic offenders

When toxins have been located and identified, it’s a good idea to remove them. If you’re using the attic as a space to store old paints, varnishes, sealants, or other household chemicals, we recommend relocating those to a storage area or shed that is separate from your home. That’s the best way to keep the fumes out of your living space. Waste toxins can be taken away to disposal sites that accept household toxic waste. 

If the source of the toxins is rodent or pest waste, or mold/mildew infestations, the debris should be removed. Take precautions to prevent further pest infestations by removing access to the home and learning more about natural ways to repel rodents and pests from your attic space. Any damaged or water rotted insulation should also be removed. 

Perform a full attic clean out and sanitization

When all of the toxic materials and waste have been removed, it’s time to perform a full attic cleanout and sanitization process. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. While it can be a DIY project, we recommend using professionals. Our industrial, high-performance HEPA vacuums, combined with the right protective gear and expertise allow us to perform the entire attic clean and sanitation safely and without making a mess.  

Once the space has been cleared out and cleaned up, we use professional, eco-safe sanitizing products that eliminate odors and get rid of any residual toxins that may have settled into cracks, nooks, crannies, or structural wood grains. We’ll also clean out your HVAC ducts and crawl spaces upon request. 

Inspect your home’s ventilation system

The roof and attic system go hand in hand, and both of them rely on adequate ventilation to do their job properly. Without ventilation, the temperature differences between indoor and outdoor air make the attic vulnerable to condensation and moisture control issues. In addition to creating an unregulated humidity system, this makes your attic more prone to mold and mildew issues. 

And, of course, without proper ventilation, any toxic fumes present in your attic or home space have a harder time getting out. Over time, this leads to poor indoor air quality that can compromise your health. In fact, the EPA says that the average indoor air quality in American homes is often worse than the polluted air outside.  

Your insulation contractor can help you establish whether your attic is properly ventilated or not. If not, we recommend getting in touch with your local roofing contractor to provide adequate ventilation before replacing your insulation to protect your investment. 

Replace the insulation

Finally, replacing your attic insulation – combined with its sanitized foundation and upgraded ventilation – eliminates toxins in the home by preventing the development of mold and mildew, or the rapid breakdown of insulation products, which have the ability to compromise indoor air quality via spores or off-gassing. By replacing outdated insulation, focusing on more eco-friendly options, you’ll automatically eliminate potential toxins and help to improve indoor air quality.

Want A Safer Home?

Ready to eliminate toxins in your home with an attic makeover? Contact the pros at Attic Solutions and schedule an appointment.

Why Is Attic Insulation So Important During The Summer?

why is attic insulation so important during the summer

There is a common misconception that insulation is there to “keep your house warm” during the cooler months. In fact, adequate attic insulation is just as important during the summer months.

Attic Insulation Benefits During The Summer 

A free consultation with a licensed insulation contractor is the best way to determine if you need to install or replace attic insulation, as well as any other updates for a more energy-conscious home envelope. 

Attic insulation reduces solar heat gain 

The roof absorbs a tremendous amount of heat from the sun – called solar heat gain. This heat transfers directly into your attic space, which then migrates into the living spaces. On a hot summer day, attic temperatures can get as high as 150 to 160 degrees F, even if outdoor temperatures never go above the low-90s.  

The combination of convection (hot air rises) and the natural movement of hot air moving into cooler air spaces (because warm air particles move more and faster than cold air particles) means all that hot air is trying to move into the attic’s adjacent living spaces.  

With the installation of adequate insulation at the right R-value for your home’s exposure and microclimate, insulation products block this heat transfer, keeping your home much cooler. 

Hot air moves into HVAC ducts 

The attic is frequently the main pathway for HVAC ducts. If your ducts are not insulated properly, the heated attic air will transfer through the ducts and into the cool air stream. That means that it takes far longer to cool your home. 

Within a short amount of time, uninsulated ductwork means your HVAC system works overtime, all of the time. In the summer, the attic’s hot air will infiltrate the cool air stream, and in the winter the colder attic space will cool the duct’s warm airflow. All the extra work the HVAC system does to maintain your home’s thermostat settings means more wear and tear, more frequent repairs or issues, and more expensive annual repair and replacement costs. 

You’ll benefit from significant energy savings 

If your home requires updated or replacement insulation, the lifetime savings and cost benefits are well-worth the initial, first-time payment. According to energy.gov, your upgraded insulation costs will be recouped within as little as five years. For some households, it can take longer than that but is still gained back within the new insulation’s lifetime as long as homeowners have addressed all aspects of an energy-efficient home envelope. 

Inadequate insulation impacts humidity levels 

Insulation and home humidity control go hand in hand. When warm air meets cooler surfaces, condensation occurs. This is much more likely to occur in an attic with an outdated roofing system and/or inadequate insulation. The temperature extremes between the indoor and outdoor surfaces result in condensation issues. If your insulation is damp or wet as the result of unnoticed or untreated moisture accumulation, it can’t do the job it was designed to do. 

In addition to warming the interior, moist or damp attics and/or attic insulation also leads to fluctuating humidity levels in the interior of your home that compromise interior comfort. As you know, humidity makes temperatures feel warmer. So, if humidity levels are elevated in your home during the warmer months, household occupants will want to keep the thermostat even lower than it needs to be, which means more wear and tear on your HVAC and higher energy bill. If your home struggles with high moisture levels, we can talk to you about the use of radiant barriers and whether they’re right for your home. 

Over time, this can lead to mold and mildew growth. Once that happens, your home’s structural integrity is compromised and moisture damage that goes untreated for too long can lead to costly structural repairs and renovations. 

Improved indoor air quality (IAQ) 

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an umbrella term that encompasses the quality of the air in your home. Did you know that most Americans worry about outside pollution when, in fact, the air in their homes is much more polluted than the outside air? Proper ventilation is always a primary factor when updating insulation and sealing air leaks. However, the improved humidity levels as the result of updated insulation also mean your home is less susceptible to mold and mildew spores. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dedicates multiple pages on their site to the risks of untreated mold issues, how to clean it up, and how untreated mold/mildew can lead to health issues. They write: 

Molds are usually not a problem indoors unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. 

Your insulation contractor will completely clean up and sanitize any evidence of mold or mildew colonies – both previous and current. We’ll also determine why it occurred and create a plan to prevent it from the future. Proper sealing of your home’s envelope is key, as is proper ventilation. Finally, the installation of new insulation will work to minimize future mold colonization.

Let Us Help Improve Your Home

The team here at Attic Solutions offers a full-service menu to take care of your home’s attics and crawl spaces. From updating or replacing insulation to rodent/pest and mold/mildew removal and professional cleanouts and sanitization, we can do it all. Contact us for a free assessment and consultation and to learn more about the importance of attic insulation during the summer months.

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.