The structural integrity of your home is strongly connected to how functional your attic is. Not the most recognized part of your home, but attics do an awful lot in protecting your beautiful home from humidity, heat, and cold. But with 9 in 10 single-family American homes inadequately insulated, you may ask: is attic insulation really worth it?
Attic insulation is critical to preventing moisture and heat from tampering with your home. A properly insulated attic prevents heat accumulation in the attic, typically reflected in swollen roofs and deck plywood deterioration. Also, insulating your attic saves energy consumption, reduces irritating temperature fluctuations, and ultimately improves air quality in your home.
Knowing how important attic insulation is to your home is just one tiny slice of the cake. What types of insulation are best for your attic? How much can you budget for insulating your attic? How long will such insulation last, and how soon can you project to replace it?
You definitely have to read on to find detailed answers to these questions.
What Kind of Insulation is Best for the Attic?
There are many types of attic insulation with varying advantages and disadvantages. Let us enlighten you on the best you can get and why.
Foam inarguably tops the list if evaluating by performance. There are two types of foam insulation commonly used in the attic.
These are the open cell and the closed-cell. For the closed variant, the high-density cells are typically sealed and fitted with gas.
The cells are not shut off for the open type and are typically filled with air.
Foam provides exquisite protection against air leakage and moisture. Its longevity is another major attraction.
Foam has extraordinary capabilities, expanding to shut off cavities in the attic from air penetration. With such a virtually impenetrable seal come reduced chances of contaminants being dispersed from your attic into the house.
Foam also holds its own against water. As you will know, foam doesn’t soak water. Also, an attic that is insulated with foam has little hospitality for mildew and mold.
Lastly, foam insulation stands the test of time in your attic. It will replicate its performance and efficiency over decades (with minimal maintenance needs), even in the face of extreme temperatures.
However, foam attic insulations are best suited to commercial applications – say in industries and not in homes.
For all these beautiful qualities, foam insulation has its downsides. The first is that it mostly needs a professional installation for you to maximize its strengths.
Also, foam shrinks with time, although its R-value never wanes.
Fiberglass doesn’t measure up to foam in performance, but it beats foam in affordability and availability.
This explains why fiberglass is the most commonly installed insulation in attics of residential homes. Fiberglass‘s R-Value can get as high as 4.3, but it rarely falls below 2.2.
Aside from how affordable it is, fiberglass also has commendable moisture resistance properties. Therefore, in high-humidity climes, it is often the insulation material of choice.
Unlike foam, fiberglass suffers zero shrinkage over the years. Being fiberglass, you can be confident insects will stay clear from it.
Lastly, fiberglass has impressive fire resistance.
Mineral Wool Insulation
Mineral wool batts are formed from refurbished slag (commonly from steel mills) and liquefied stone. Attics insulated with mineral wools are more prominent in Europe and Canada.
Its quality is superior to fiberglass. And, of course, you can deservedly expect to pay for more mineral wool.
Let us look at some reasons why mineral wool excels for insulating your attic.
We will begin with the water-resistance excellence of mineral wool. Should moisture penetrate your attic, you can expect your mineral wool insulation to hold firm.
Mineral wool batts are also impressive for their anti-inflammability. It will take heat – running as high as 1,8000 degrees Fahrenheit – for your mineral wool to catch fire.
The audio impermeability of mineral wool is also worth applauding. Mineral wool does well at shutting off exterior noise from your home.
Unless being installed by a professional installer, ensure you never inhale mineral wool. The chances of developing cancer are substantial.
Cellulose – as an insulating material – is basically made from recycled paper or wood.
Cellulose is one of the cheapest materials you can use for insulating your attic. For context, it is 25% cheaper than what you would pay for insulating your attic.
We must point out the relative propensity of cellulose insulation to catch fire. Manufacturers often suppress this natural flammability by treating such cellulose with significant anti-inflammable chemical content.
Also, cellulose settles. It is not unnatural for your cellulose insulation to sag across the years. But you shouldn’t have to worry about such sagging if you exclusively use cellulose for your attic insulation instead of walls.
How Much is Attic Insulation Cost?
In the United States, an attic insulation project can cost you as low as $1,500 or as high as $3,500. The average cost of attic insulation is pegged at $2,500.
Several factors contribute to the variation in the price. Some of these include how big your attic is, the type of insulation you are going for, the accessibility of your attic, and ultimately the quantity of insulation the project would take.
Of course, you agree that labor costs would also vary depending on the contractor – or if you choose to procure the materials and do it yourself.
Which Insulation Do You Want?
The insulation type is a core determinant of the cost you would pay for insulating your attic.
Fiberglass batts are the cheapest you can get. You can budget anywhere from $2 to $4 to install fiberglass in each square foot of your attic.
If you lack sufficient insulation and desire to enhance the R-value, you may go for blown-in insulation. For this, a professional installer would charge you between $1 and $4 for each square foot.
Spray foam insulation tends to cost the most. They can cost as much as $5 for just a square foot.
How Much Insulation Does the Project Need?
The installer could simply consolidate the existing insulation for homeowners whose attic is not entirely rid of insulation (or the insulation has not significantly deteriorated).
As you would expect, this would cost way lesser than overhauling well-damaged or non-existent insulation.
Paying the Installer
The installer will inevitably charge you for his labor. Understandably, there are differences in prevailing labor charges from each locality to another.
Traditionally, spray foam insulation is more technical, something you or an installer without specialized education can’t do.
Aside from the cost of procuring the foam insulation, the installer can charge you (for just labor) anywhere between $0.25 and $2.50 for each square foot in a spray foam project.
Does Insulation in the Attic Really Help?
Of course, insulating your attic profusely helps. While we will be diving deeper into the benefits of attic insulation down the line, insulating your attic can prevent an unchecked exchange of air (and moisture) between your home and the outside.
This means less of those temperature spikes which correspondingly shoot up your energy bills. You can more efficiently conserve your home’s inner cold or hot air with attic insulation.
Insulating Your Attic Saves Your Energy Bills
With your attics decked with insulation, you can pay less for heating or cooling your home.
By minimizing air exchange with the outside, much heat doesn’t leave your home when you so badly need it in the winter. Also, heat doesn’t penetrate your home that much in the summer.
Saves You from Air Leakage
Let us face it, air leakages from the attic into your home can be frustrating. This makes you spend more on heating.
Analysts have found that 40% of what American homeowners spend on heating their homes arise from leakage through the ceilings, walls, and floors.
Consequently, if you can fully shut off such air leakages by insulating your attic, you can save a premium.
Improved Air Quality in Your Home
Few things can upset the hospitality of your home as severely as contaminated air. And yes, contaminants in your surrounding like mold, dirt, and smoke are persistently trying to invade your home.
Insulating your attic (and possibly your walls) goes a long way in shutting off these pollutants.
How Long Does Attic Insulation Last?
It depends on the type of insulation material and the installation technique. For example, a standard blown attic installation will take at least two decades before deterioration sets in.
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, if your attic insulation is done with cellulose and fiberglass, it can keep you warm for over a century!
Can I Insulate My Attic Myself?
Yes, you can do your attic insulation yourself, especially for less technical installation projects. With basic roofing and DIY experience, you can pull off mineral wool and fiberglass attic insulation.
However, attic insulation types like spray foam are highly technical, and you will need to hire a professional installer with specialized training in spray foam insulation.
For your regular batt insulation, ensure you correctly have your home’s R-value before you get the process started.
Check or ask a more experienced roofer if you would need vapor retarders. And lastly, aggregate all necessary tools before starting.
How Much Money Can You Save by Insulating Your Attic?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, by insulating your attic, you can save as much as 15% of what you spend on cooling and heating your home.
More specifically, attic insulation can save you up to 11% of your total energy utility bills. For the regular American family, you are looking at saving up to $200 annually.
Not a bad deal, is it?
Is Attic Insulation Flammable?
Some attic insulation materials are flammable, while some have high resistance to fire.
Mineral wool and fiberglass are some of the most fire-resistant insulation materials you can get for your attic.
In the case of fiberglass, its plastic polymer composition goes a long way in preventing it from catching fire.
The same can’t be said for cellulose. On our list, cellulose is the most fire-prone attic insulation you can get. Unless further fortified with anti-flammable chemicals, cellulose catches fire too quickly.
Also, batts made from paper and foil have a significant vulnerability to catching fire. When these batts and cellulose are exposed to burning material, they quickly take on fire and disperse it.
Electrical malfunctions are among the most prominent causes of such fire outbreaks in the attics.
Overloaded circuits commonly provoke such malfunctions. This results in insulation sparks, setting up a fire.
It is not also uncommon for rodents like rats to chew on electric wires in the attic. Such trespass could trigger short circuits, which could culminate in attic fires.
Can Mold Grow in Attic Insulation?
Yes, mold can grow in your attic. But when insulated, the chances of mold growth become incredibly slim.
That said, once your attic insulation begins deteriorating, mold can grow there. Specifically, mold growth signifies that your attic needs renovation or outright replacement.
But how can you know if mold is growing in your attic insulation?
You can tell if you perceive a distinctly musty odor whose strength increases as you approach your attic.
If you can inspect your fiberglass insulation, you can tell the mold growth from splotches on the fiberglass. These splotches – as triggered by mold – are commonly brown, green, gray, or black.
When to Replace Attic Insulation?
A properly installed attic insulation can last you more than 80 years if it is not damaged.
Nonetheless, fiberglass batts can experience deterioration after 20 years. Normally, you would observe the batts shedding their insulation.
If you insulated your attic with cellulose, you should inspect it after 25 or 30 years to see if deterioration is setting in.