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Removing and replacing outdated or damaged insulation is a critical part of optimizing whole-home energy efficiency, interior comfort, and indoor air quality.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.

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