Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray
There are many advantages to insulating an attic ceiling, from improved energy efficiency to fewer roof repairs. However, many homeowners are unsure of where to start when insulating an attic ceiling. We’re going to explain everything you need to know about attic insulation!
There are many insulation materials used for attic ceilings. Batt insulation, which is commonly made from fiberglass or cellulose, is ideal for attics with few obstructions and even joist spacing. For attics with many obstructions and irregular spacing, blown loose-fill and spray foam work best.
From what to do before insulating your attic ceiling to a post-installation inspection, we’re going to guide you through all your insulation options. We’re going to cover all the materials and methods that can be used for this process. This guide will allow you to choose the best insulation for your attic!
What To Do Before Insulating An Attic Ceiling
There are many benefits to insulating your attic ceiling. Not only will your home be more energy-efficient, but your overall air quality will be improved. In fact, insulating an attic is a great way of extending the lifespan of heating and cooling systems in a home.
Furthermore, insulating an attic ceiling allows you to preserve the integrity of your roof. For instance, an insulated attic prevents ice dams from forming in cold temperatures. In the long-term, an insulated attic allows you to avoid roof repairs and replacements.
While there are many advantages to attic insulation, there are also various aspects to consider before your attic ceiling can be insulated. Before we guide you through the attic insulation process, let’s consider the steps that need to be taken before your attic is insulated.
Examine Your Attic
If you want to insulate your attic roof, you’ll first need to examine your attic. Specifically, you’ll want to look for any areas that have been damaged. During your inspection, search for any signs of discoloration. This can indicate weak spots in your attic’s structure.
In addition to this, you’ll want to inspect for any wet or damp spots. You should also check for water stains on the attic’s floor and walls. Of course, these spots are indicative of moisture-related issues. If you locate any issues like this, you’ll need to address the problem before proceeding with the insulation process.
Finally, you’ll need to inspect your attic’s rafters to ensure they are not damaged or sagging. Moisture damage can compromise rafters in your attic. In turn, this can negatively impact your attic’s structure. These issues will need to be addressed before proceeding.
Seal Your Attic
As we discussed earlier, insulation is a means of maintaining temperature, which can make the heating and cooling of a home more efficient. However, if your ceiling isn’t appropriately air-sealed, insulation will not be as effective as it should be. Due to this, you need to make sure your attic is fully sealed.
Essentially, this forms part of the previous examination of your attic. You will need to find any cracks, gaps, and holes that can allow air to escape. These areas will need to be addressed for your attic ceiling insulation to be successful.
Choose Your Insulation Material
In the following sections, we’ll be taking a closer look at different insulation materials. However, when choosing the right material for your needs, there are three factors you’ll need to keep in mind: R-Value, available space, and material cost.
When comparing different insulation materials, you’ll notice varying R-values. Essentially, a material’s R-value is a measure of the material’s heat resistance. The higher this R-value is, the better the insulation material will be.
Some insulation materials take up more space than others. Due to this, when insulating a confined space like an attic, it’s important to consider the amount of space you have available. Ultimately, your attic’s available space will guide your decision when choosing an insulation material.
Last but certainly not least, your insulation budget is an important consideration when choosing the right material. Of course, some insulation types will be more affordable than others. In addition to R-value and space considerations, you need to keep material costs in mind when insulating your attic ceiling.
Inspect For Roof Leaks
When insulating an attic ceiling, you need to ensure that there are no roof leaks present. Of course, a leak can result in water damage and mold growth. When roof leaks are not dealt with before insulation is installed, mold can spread to insulation and ruin it. This costly mistake can be avoided by carrying out a proper roof inspection beforehand!
Consider Attic Layout
When insulating an attic ceiling, you need to consider the layout of your attic beforehand. When insulation material makes contact with light fixtures and other electrical outlets, wiring, and components, the material can pose a fire hazard. By considering the layout of your attic, you can ensure that a 3 to 5-inch gap is maintained around any fixtures or outlets.
Assess Attic Ventilation
Earlier, we discussed how water damage from a roof leak could impact ceiling insulation. However, humid air can also damage insulation. Due to this, you need to ensure that your attic is properly ventilated. All attic vents should be directed to the exterior of your home. By doing this, you ensure your attic is appropriately ventilated.
The Best Ways To Insulate An Attic Ceiling
Before we look at specific insulation materials available for insulating attic ceilings, it’s important to consider the different ways a ceiling can be insulated. The specific insulation material you choose will fall into one of three categories: batt insulation, blown insulation, and sprayed insulation.
Each type of insulation is installed differently, leading to unique benefits and drawbacks. You may find a certain type of insulation better suits your needs than another type. In turn, this can help narrow down your insulation material options, which we’ll look at in the following section.
Batt insulation is one of the most used types, which is attributed to its affordability. Insulation batts are made from long, interwoven fibers. These insulation batts are commonly made from fiberglass or cotton. However, despite the low costs of these batts, they don’t work as well as other types.
Due to the design of insulation batts, batts struggle to fill spaces properly. For optimal insulation, any gaps and voids need to be filled. Of course, care can be taken to cut batts to properly fill cavities. However, this is much easier to accomplish with the other types. Using batt insulation is also difficult when there are many wires, light fixtures, and electrical junction boxes in the space you want to insulate.
However, for attics with few obstructions and enough space to move around, batts are an ideal choice. If your attic does not have any insulation currently, batt insulation would be the best insulation solution for your home – it’ll also likely be the most cost-effective choice!
As the name suggests, blown insulation is a loose-fill material that is blown into spaces through a specialized hose. Compared to batts, blown insulation is a great way of filling all gaps and cavities. For a solid, complete layer of insulation, blown insulation is your best bet. For attic insulation, blown insulation is a popular choice.
For attics with many obstructions or irregular joist spacing, blown insulation provides the perfect solution. Loose-fill is also ideal for attics with limited space to maneuver during the installation process. Finally, blown insulation is ideal for attics with existing insulation that needs to be topped up. There are two main types of blown insulation: fiber and cellulose.
Compared to batt and blown insulation materials, spray foam is the costliest type. Of course, this is one of the biggest disadvantages of this type. However, when it comes to insulating attic ceilings, this type of insulation offers a great benefit: it allows homeowners to move the building envelope from the attic floor to the roofline.
For those looking to position their HVAC systems in their attic ceiling, moving the envelope is advised. By moving the building envelope upwards, an attic will be properly encapsulated. However, if you don’t have ducts or HVAC systems in your attic, this type of insulation is not necessary. Ultimately, the usefulness of this insulation will depend on the layout of your attic.
The Best Insulation Materials For Attic Ceilings
Above, we outlined the different insulation types. However, many of these types are available in different materials. In this section, we’ll be outlining all your insulation material options.
Fiberglass Attic Insulation
As we mentioned earlier, fiberglass is one of the most inexpensive insulation materials available today. Due to this, fiberglass is a favorite amongst homeowners across the globe. It is possible to use fiberglass for batt or blown insulation.
Fiberglass Loose Fill
Fiberglass loose-fill is typically made from recycled glass and sand. These substances are melted before being spun into fibers, which are turned into loose-fill insulation. In terms of R-value, fiberglass loose-fill typically has an R-value of 2.2-2.7 per inch.
When you compare this R-value to that of other loose-fill materials, fiberglass has a lower rating. Furthermore, fiberglass is lighter than those materials. This means that more fiberglass loose-fill will be required for proper insulation.
Fiberglass batts are a popular insulation material, which is made from recycled glass and sand. The popularity of fiberglass is attributed to its affordability. Fiberglass generally has an R-value of 2.9 to 4.3 per inch. Compared to other materials, fiberglass batts are not as effective at blocking airflow.
Cellulose Attic Insulation
Like fiberglass, which we discussed above, cellulose insulation is available in two distinct types. The first type is cellulose batts. However, it is also possible to purchase cellulose loose-fill for blown insulation.
Cellulose Loose Fill
Cellulose loose-fill is made from recycled paper, which is treated to be pest- and fire-resistant. In terms of loose-fill materials used for blown insulation, cellulose is the most popular choice – it also has the highest R-value of these materials. Cellulose loose-fill has a 3.2-3.8 R-value per inch.
Moisture has been known to cause cellulose insulation to rot and grow mold. Due to this, it’s important that roof leaks and ventilation issues are addressed before this material is used. Of course, we discussed this in the second section of this article.
Cellulose batts are made from post-consumer paper that is recycled and treated. Compared to fiberglass batts, cellulose is less likely to irritate skin or lungs. Generally, cellulose batts have an R-value of 3.7 per inch. Compared to other materials, cellulose batts can be hard to come by, which is due to the limited number of manufacturers who produce this insulation.
Mineral Wool Attic Insulation
In terms of insulation materials, mineral wool isn’t as popular as fiberglass or cellulose. Like the two previous materials discussed, both mineral wool batts and loose-fill are available for homeowners to use.
Mineral Wool Loose Fill
Mineral wool loose fill is made from rock. In some instances, this insulation is even made from recycled slag, which comes from blast furnaces. Typically, mineral wool loose-fill has an R-value of 3 to 3.3 per inch. This means that mineral wool offers a higher R-value than fiberglass but is slightly lower than cellulose.
Mineral wool is popular due to its natural resistance to fire. However, when this material is compared to other loose-fill options that are available, mineral wool costs more. Due to this, many homeowners prefer to use other materials.
Mineral Wool Batts
Mineral wool batts are also made from recycled slag and rock. Like the loose-fill variant, these batts are also naturally fire-resistant. The R-value for these batts will range between 3 to 3.3 per inch. Unfortunately, mineral wool batts aren’t the most cost-effective material choice for homeowners looking to insulate their attic ceiling.
Cotton Batts Attic Insulation
Another insulation material to consider is cotton. This material is considered an environmentally friendly choice, given that it’s commonly made from recycled denim cloths. That means blue jeans are commonly turned into insulation.
Cotton batts offer good insulation, with an R-value that ranges from 3.7 to 3.8 per inch. Unlike fiberglass batts, those made from cotton can block both airflow and sound transmission. Unfortunately, these advantages come at a higher cost. Cotton batts will cost more than other batt insulation materials.
Spray Foam Attic Insulation
In the previous section, we briefly looked at spray foam insulation. Of course, this is ideal for attics that house HVAC systems or attics with complex layouts. Spray foam can be used to fill all the nooks and crannies in your attic’s walls and floor. While this isn’t always necessary for attic ceilings, spray foam yields fantastic results. Unfortunately, it is more costly than other insulation materials.
How Much Does Attic Insulation Cost?
On average, the cost of insulating an attic ceiling generally ranges between $1500 and $3500. Most homeowners can expect to pay closer to the $2500 mark. When it comes down to insulating an attic ceiling, there are many factors that affect this cost.
Of course, your choice of material plays an important role in this. As discussed above, fiberglass is one of the more affordable material options, while cotton and spray foam is more expensive. The higher the R-value of a material, the more it will generally cost.
The size of your attic will also determine how much insulation material is needed (and how long it will take to install). However, there’s another crucial factor to consider here: the installation process. There are two options here: do it yourself or hire a contractor.
If you decide to use insulation batts, it is possible to install them yourself. Not only is this cheaper, but it’ll just require some patience to cut the batts to size. Of course, professional service would also be able to use batts to insulate your ceiling. However, with loose-fill and spray foam insulation, a DIY approach is not advised.
For both loose-fill and spray foam insulation, specialized equipment is needed. Most homeowners will struggle to correctly blow loose fill, which can pose a safety risk. Due to this, it’s advised that homeowners looking to use these methods hire a professional contractor to insulate their attic.
If you choose to insulate your attic using batts, you can save on the cost of hiring a contractor. However, if you decide to use loose-fill or spray foam, a contractor can cost up to $800 to install the material. Of course, this excludes the cost of your chosen insulation material.
How Attic Ceilings Are Insulated
As we mentioned above, there are two ways a ceiling can be insulated: by yourself or by hiring a contractor. In this section, we’re going to briefly guide you through these two processes and what to expect from them. Firstly, let’s consider batt insulation.
DIY Attic Ceiling Insulation
While contractors can be hired to install batt insulation, it is possible to install this type by yourself. If you decide to take a DIY approach to this, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve completed the earlier steps. This includes fixing any structural damage or roof leaks, as well as inspecting your attic’s ventilation.
Step One: Protect Fixtures
If you have light fixtures in your attic’s roof, you should ensure that they are rated for insulation contact. IC-rated lights prevent fire hazards. Alternatively, dams can be built around fixtures to prevent them from touching the insulation. A three- to five-inch gap is advised.
Step Two: Install Rafter Vents
Once you’ve protected light fixtures, you need to install rafter vents. This installation process is outlined in this YouTube video from Everybody Looks Up To A Roofer.
Step Three: Measure Attic
Once you’ve installed the vents, you’ll need to measure your attic. You can measure the joists from one side to the other. By measuring this, you can determine whether your batts need to be cut or not. If your batts are wider than the spaces where they will be installed, you will need to cut them to the right size.
Step Four: Install Batts
Finally, you’ll need to insert the batts between your attic’s joists. Firm pressure should be used to ensure that the material is snug. However, you should avoid compressing the material. Any relevant manufacturer instructions need to be followed, such as which side should face up. This will vary between different materials. You may also decide to use a second (optional) layer.
Contractor Attic Ceiling Insulation
For those homeowners looking to hire a contractor to insulate their attic ceiling, they might be wondering what to expect from the process. Essentially, this process can be broken down into three distinct stages.
Attic Is Inspected
Once you’ve hired a contractor, they will perform an inspection of your attic. If you have existing insulation, this will also be inspected. This inspection will allow the contractor to create a quotation based on the size of your attic, your chosen insulation material, how much material will be needed, as well as labor costs.
Attic Ceiling Is Insulated
Once you’ve accepted a quotation, your contractor will start insulating your ceiling. Ultimately, how long the installation takes will depend on your material. For instance, spray foam can be installed in under three hours. Generally, a contractor will be able to insulate your attic ceiling within a day or two.
Once your ceiling has been insulated, a roofer should inspect your gutters. Your contractor may perform this inspection themselves. The change in temperature caused by insulating your attic can result in swelling and shrinking. Due to this, gutters are inspected to ensure that water is being effectively drained.
There are many reasons to insulate your attic ceiling, from better air quality to fewer roof repairs. Whether you use batt, blown, or spray foam insulation, there are many great materials that can be used. Whether you use affordable fiberglass batts or splurge for spray foam, your attic ceiling will be insulated in no time!