Learn the Benefits of Insulating your Attic

Attic insulation is an essential part of building and maintaining an efficient home. Attics can be a major source of heat loss because they contain vents, chimneys, air ducts, and other areas of potential air leakage. Attic insulation helps prevent air leaks and stops hot air from escaping on cold days and cold air from escaping on hot days. Insulating your attic is a necessary and practical way to increase your home’s value, save money, and improve your daily life. Follow along as we answer common questions about the attic insulation process.

What Are the Benefits of Insulating the Attic?

A major benefit of insulating your attic is saving on energy costs. Attic insulation prevents temperature fluctuations in your home by stopping drafts and air leaks. Drafts and air leaks can change the temperature in the entire building and cause uneven temperatures in each room. This experience can be unpleasant and inconvenient for anyone living in your home. It also likely increases the monthly heating and cooling costs, as you and your family may need to adjust the thermostat frequently to correct the temperature. The more you adjust your thermostat, the more energy you use, and the higher your bill will be. Attic insulation helps to stabilize temperatures so you don’t have to pay for excess heating and cooling.

Attic insulation can also prevent weather damage depending on where you live. In snowy climates, it can help stop ice dams from building on your roof. Ice dams can cause severe water damage to the roof, attic, insulation, and walls of your house. When you have a layer of snow on your roof and no attic insulation, the heat from the lower levels of your house rises through the attic and melts the snow. The melted water runs off the side of the roof and refreezes at the edge near the gutters, forming an ice dam. The ice dam blocks any water from running off into the gutters. This means the water collects on your roof in large puddles and will likely cause leaks and damage to the attic floor and walls. A properly insulated attic stops the hot air from rising past your attic floor and prevents the snow on your roof from melting. Ice dam damage is extremely expensive to repair, so we recommend a combination of attic insulation and air duct sealing as a precaution.

While there are technical reasons to insulate your attic, attic insulation can also improve the quality of your daily life. Extreme and fluctuating temperatures can cause issues with sleep, irritability, energy, and focus, making you uncomfortable in your own home. Keeping a stable temperature will allow you and your family to make the most of the space you’ve built together.

What Insulation Is Best for Attics?

As with most home improvement projects, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to attic insulation. There are various insulation materials available and each material has its unique characteristics and benefits. Each material within these categories is given a resistance value (R-value) that corresponds to the material’s insulation performance. The higher the R-value, the better insulator the material is.

According to This Old House’s Attic Insulation Guide, there are two main categories of attic insulation – loose fill and batt (or blanket):

Both can be added to uninsulated attics or layered over existing material. Once you've decided which type is best for you, examine the material options and prices to home in on the right product.

Loose fill materials are loose fibers that are blown into the attic area using a machine. These loose fibers can be made of cellulose, mineral wool, or fiberglass. Loose fill attic insulation methods are best for attics with irregularly spaced joists, obstructions, and low clearance. Loose fill is the best option if you’re looking to save money or fill in gaps in your existing insulation.

Batt insulation comes in large rolls of material and various thicknesses. It is made of cellulose, mineral wool, fiberglass, or cotton. This type of insulation is best for large attics, and attics with regularly spaced joists.

There are also less popular attic insulation methods like spray foam and insulated panels. These methods should be left to professionals. Spray foam insulation is the best option when you want to create an airtight seal or get into hard-to-reach places. Insulated panels are the strongest and most energy-efficient method but are quite a splurge.

Any one of these methods can be used to prevent heat from escaping and entering your attics, making your home more energy-efficient. The right method for you all depends on how much you want to spend, the architecture of your home, and how much it costs to hire a professional.

Person in blue shirt and jeans working on batt insulation in unfinished wall

What Is the Average Insulation Cost for an Attic?

Depending on the insulation material, the price of attic insulation can vary. According to Forbes’ Insulating Cost Estimator:

The average cost to insulate an attic is between $1 and $7 per square foot. This equates to a typical price range of up to $1,500 per project including labor and materials. For attics with smaller square footage, costs can be as low as $500 while insulation for larger attics can cost up to $4,000.

The total attic insulation cost depends on many variables. Attic insulation can be an affordable project, but it can also be a costly one if you choose to use the highest quality material. The good thing about this is that you can tailor the material, method, and labor to fit your budget.

Is Insulating My Attic Worth It?

While you may have to pay an attic insulation cost upfront, this project will save you money in the long run and also increase the value of your home. Attic insulation can dramatically reduce your monthly heating and cooling bills, especially if you live in extreme climates. This cost reduction is long-term since attic insulation can last up to 80-100 years if taken care of properly. In fact, attic insulation was featured in Realtor’s List of Renovations That Pay Off the Most:

This is the only project that regularly pays back more than you invest, with an average 107.7% ROI.

Attic insulation actually ranked at the top of the list and is the only renovation with a return on investment of over 100%. Air duct sealing within the attic can also add to your home value and maximize energy efficiency in the attic.

Should the Attic Floor and Ceiling Both Be Insulated?

The more you insulate your home from the roof down to the basement, the less heat loss you will experience. The most energy-efficient attics have the floor, ceiling, and walls insulated, as well as their air ducts sealed. Insulating and sealing parts of the attic be a worthwhile project for many homeowners, but we understand that this may not fit into everyone’s budget. If this is the case for you, we recommend starting with the floor to reduce the most heat loss, then moving on to the ceiling, walls, and air duct sealing. Air duct sealing is not DIY-friendly, so we recommend using a duct sealing service.

What Are Attic Insulation Removal Costs?

Attic insulation removal should be done by a trained professional. This project is labor-intensive and time-consuming, so hiring a quality service is important. An attic insulation service will also ensure that the hazardous waste is entirely removed and disposed of properly.

To estimate the cost of attic insulation removal for your home, we return to Forbes’ Insulating Cost Estimator:

Average attic insulation removal costs are around $1 to $2 per square foot. If you need an electrician to ensure there’s been no damage to junction boxes or cables, most will charge an average of $80 per hour.

According to Forbes, the removal service could cost from a few hundred to thousands of dollars depending on your attic space.

How Long Does Attic Insulation Last?

Loose fill, batts, spray foam, and insulation panels can all last for up to 100 years if taken care of properly. Despite this long lifespan, these materials will gradually lose their insulating abilities over time. The 100-year lifetime expectancy only applies when the materials are in an optimum environment and never damaged, but this is unlikely to happen.

A more realistic estimate of how long attic insulation will last is between 15-30 years. This is a much shorter lifespan than 100 years, but there are precautions you can take to extend the life of your insulation.

Remember to check on your insulation regularly. Keep an eye out for mold, water damage, weather damage, excess dust, punctures, peeling, and tears. Be sure to nip the issues in the bud before they spread. If you detect issues early, you may be able to repair the insulation instead of replacing the entirety of it.

Icicles hanging on the edge of a roof

Will Insulating My Attic Make My House Warmer?

Insulating your attic will definitely make your house warmer when it’s cold outside. Without insulation, hot air rises from the lower levels of your house and escapes through the attic and roof. When you add layers of insulation in your attic, it creates a barrier that traps the hot air trying to escape and keeps it in the lower levels. It also helps seal any drafts there may be in the building. The more insulation you have in your attic, the less heat loss there will be.

Attic insulation can also keep your house cooler when it’s warm outside. The insulation once again acts as a barrier, but this time in the opposite way. The barrier prevents hot air from entering your home while keeping the cool air inside.

Attic insulation works double duty to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This means it can help reduce both your heating and cooling bills year-round.

How Much Can I Save in Energy Costs, by Insulating My Attic?

How much you save in energy costs by insulating your attic depends on how large your home is and the energy demands of you and your family. According to the US Department of Energy’s Guide to Home Insulation:

On average, you can save up to 20% on your home’s heating and cooling costs or up to 10% on its total energy costs by adding insulation to attics, floors, crawl spaces, and accessible basement rim joists, and by reducing unwanted air leaks all around your house.

It is important to consider that these averages are only part of the financial benefits of attic insulation. Remember that insulating your attic is one of the easiest ways to increase your home value and has a very high return on investment.

Attic maintenance is an essential part of home care and should not be overlooked. We suggest you start by assessing your unique attic situation, doing your research, and using a trusted service.

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