Blown-in Insulation in the Attic *Messiest Project EVER*

Jan 3, 2015 | Whole House

A couple years ago we had our home energy audited.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s where a company comes in and assesses how much energy your home consumes and they also evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient.  One of the things that they noticed is that we had almost no insulation in the attic.

No insulationYou can see the bare spot we had in the corner and those spots were all over the attic

Even without the energy audit, I knew that we were lacking insulation because the top floor was always freezing in the winter and blazing hot in the summer.  It got so bad in the summer, that we thought of moving our room to the basement to escape the heat.

I had seen videos of people blowing in insulation and thought that it was do-able especially since the energy audit company quoted us a hefty price for them to blow in the insulation.  The labor was a little over a thousand since our attic is so big.

I won’t go into all the details of how to blow in the insulation especially since there are such good tutorials online.  The one I found most helpful was this one.

The short of it is that it is a super messy job that requires two people.  One person blows in the insulation and the other feeds the hopper.  Walkie talkies are must for communication.


This is the hopper

I chose to work with recycled insulation because it’s more environmentally friendly (super important) and also because I hate working with fiberglass. Even if I cover myself from head to toe, those annoying fibers get everywhere and make me feel like a cactus.  They also lodge in my throat and I end up coughing for hours afterward.  I’d rather pay a little more money to not feel like I was poisoning myself with fiberglass.

The insulation comes in packages that are easy to transport and aren’t heavy to lift in and out which was important to me since I mostly did that part myself.  The hopper is really heavy and it takes two people to lift it into and out of a vehicle, but it was free to use from Home Depot if you buy 10 or more packages of insulation.  I think I bought about 200 packages so they let me have it for a few days to finish my project.

InsulationThis is just a small sampling of the packages of insulation I used.  All these fit in my van (that’s right, I’m a master van packer!).

The insulation needs to be fed into the hopper and it goes through a long tube up to the place where you want it blown.  The kids, my husband, and a friend (thanks Donna!) helped with this while I blew.  The process of blowing was LONG because I wanted an R60 rating up there and that means I had to blow in 20 inches of insulation all over the attic.  Home Depot gives you measuring guides that you attach to the ceiling, but I found that a measuring tape worked much better.  I just measured every few minutes to make sure I was at 20 inches.  A thin stick with a mark at 20 inches would have actually worked even better.

Prep work was fairly straightforward.  The only thing that I had to do was to replace the cardboard rafter covers with styrofoam ones so that the insulation didn’t creep into the vents under the eaves.

Before and After Covers

The styrofoam covers were easy to install with my electric stapler.  I just had to remember not to put down the stapler pointing toward me since it has a sensitive trigger.  I almost got a staple to the arm that way.

I was also super grateful for the tetanus shot I had to get a couple years ago after a little incident involving a razor blade when building our treehouse because I got stabbed and scraped in the head numerous times by rusty nails poking out of the ceiling.  Wearing a hard hat is not a bad idea.

Gloves are also a must for splinters as well as a respirator so that you don’t breathe in the insulation.  The insulation dust goes EVERYWHERE and you don’t want it in your lungs!

Also, this might be a no-brainer, but don’t drink a lot before you head up to the “job site” since it’s a pain in the rear to stop and dust off to use the bathroom.  I learned that lesson the hard way and had to vacuum the path from the attic to the bathroom a few times.

By the time I was done with day 1 of the project, I looked like this:

Insulation HairI look like a snow princess… at least that’s what I told myself.  The kids said I looked like an old lady…  They’re mean.

My last piece of advice is that you have to be very clear communicating with your hopper loader.  At the very end of the job, I lowered the tube into my closet from the attic, and I told my hopper loader that we were done. He thought I said to turn on the hopper and this happened:

Closet DisasterDOH!  I spent an hour vacuuming all our clothes and shoes.  The insulation was everywhere!

Overall, despite the huge mess and cost (about $1,500), this project was a winner.  The first night we noticed the difference in how much warmer the top floor was than before the insulation.  We have a programmable thermostat and by the second night, I programmed it to be 4 degrees cooler at night because the first night we were sweltering.  It’s almost stuffy on the top floor whereas before it was drafty.

We now have to find a way to make the basement and main floor as comfortable as the top floor because there’s a 5 degree difference between the floors.  New windows on the main level are part of the solution, but that’s down the road.

By the way, there’s no “after” pic in this post because I couldn’t take it right after I was done since there were dust particles everywhere and you couldn’t see ANYTHING.  I sealed up the door with insulation on the sides and on top and trying to get up in the attic again would mean getting insulation all over my now clean clothes in the closet, so no pic!

Just imagine an endless sea of gray, puffy, warm cloudiness…