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How to Insulate Your Attic

Winters can be brutal on keeping your home heated, especially for off-the-grid living. You don’t want to deplete your power bank by pumping electric-based heat into the home, only to vanish through the rooftop. To ensure you’re not wasting your time and resources, insulating your attic is completely necessary.

We’re going to look at some great insulation products, alternatively make our own, and how to effectively insulate your attic to stop the winter from leaking in.

Earth Wool

This is an extremely amazing material. While it doesn’t conduct electricity, is non-flammable and soundproof, there doesn’t appear to be any other generated material like this on the market; a tier above the rest.

It’s a soft, durable material that’s one of the best insulation pieces on the planet, hands down. Energy efficiency comes from the sustainability of the product, filling in every crevice you can think of.

It works exceptionally well for thermal bridging, as well. Not just the basic padding along the floors and walls of your attic. You’ll save truckloads on your heating and cooling costs.

worm farming

You’re not going to have irritable, itchy skin lasting for the rest of the day, waking you up at night with scratching.

There’s no formaldehyde or other rough chemicals found in Earth Wool, so it’s safe to touch with your bare hands. It’s made with recycled glass bottles and sand, as well as other eco-friendly materials.

In the packaging, Earth Wool weights a hefty amount. It isn’t until you open the airtight packaging that it expands to eight times that of the package’s size.

It’s way better than buying sheets of that pink insulation from Home Depot; there’s no travelling storage capability. You can pack your car or truck without compromising space.

Spray Foam Insulation

A great alternative if you’re not too skilled with installing insulation or don’t want to purchase enormous bundles of Earth Wool. You can use a two-part spray foam insulation package that looks like the ones in the video above.

Depending on how thick you want to make your own insulation, you’ll have to do a bit of math in determining how much you’ll need. In the video above, he’s using a 200 kit, meaning it’ll cover 200 square feet of space at an inch thick.

For the most part, I’d recommend two or three inch thick insulation. You’ll have to weigh the cost to see if this is something you’d want to do with spray foam, or another type of insulation.

Get your spray gun ready by following the instructions inside of the packaging, and note one thing: this stuff dries pretty quickly. Your nozzle can get clogged when the two different foams mix, and ruin your nozzle entirely. Try and get all set up to use the entire 200 system all at once to minimize waste.

Get a face mask so you don’t inhale the chemicals; it’s got a funky odor to it, so even if you’re in a wide open space with plenty of ventilation, it’s still recommended to grab a box of masks to avoid the smell. Don’t worry; when it dries, there’s no persisting odor whatsoever.

When you spray this foam, it expands. Depending on where you’re spraying the foam (you can use it in your attic; the video just has him insulting his basement wall,). Be sure to remember that it expands so you don’t overspray and fill up areas with too much of it.

100% Recycled Newspaper Insulation

Recycled material is awesome, and most of the time it’s more powerful than standard materials that are loaded with unnecessary fillers. The newspaper fiber insulation is no exception, and fills in the walls absolutely perfectly. These insulations are blended with an aluminum-based chemical to prevent insects from settling in your walls, and to bring the fire safety standards up to par. You’ll definitely want to check this out; it’s versatile for a million different projects.

Making Your Own Insulation

Okay, so now we’re getting self sufficient. It’s time to make our own insulation, and we’ll try to make it on the cheap. This guide avoids any dollar amounts because it’s impossible to assume what you’ll need for your project. Every house is different in dimensions and required material. That being said, attempts to calculate costs at your leisure while reading this guide.

You’re not going to get fire safety regulated reports on this, but it’ll work all the same. As long as you’re exercising safety when installing these, then there shouldn’t be any issues.

Much like the corporate 100% recycled newspaper insulation, we’ll be making a high volume of recycled materials into effective insulation throughout your attic. For this, you’ll need to rent a hammer mill for grinding up the paper products effectively.

If you don’t have one, you won’t get that fuzzy, fluffy feeling we’re aiming for. If you can look at your insulation and make out the previous day’s newspaper headlines, you haven’t done it finely enough.

Feed paper, cardboard, and n newspaper through the hammer mill grinder. Or, if you’re feeling crafty, you can purchase a shredder and use it like the one in the video below.

 

You can do this for extremely cheap. Most of the time, local hotels and convenience stores—gas stations as well—will have the previous day’s newspapers to toss out. They don’t want to take up extra dumpster space; they pay for that, and businesses are terrible at recycling. Set up to come in on a rotating basis, whether each day or once a week to grab their old newspapers. If you can do this with a string of businesses, then you’ll gather your stockpile rather quickly.

You’ll need to ensure your mask is still on. Mix in the proper solution; borax and aluminum sulfate. You really don’t want to be inhaling this stuff. I can’t stress enough how you need to use proper masks and long clothing, gloves if you have them, too.

Installation

You need to make sure your insulation material is kept bone dry. Moisture will cause decomposition since it’s just paper. Get an insulation blower as seen in that video above. You can usually rent one for a small amount of money. Use a shop vacuum to suck up all the external stuff that blows around so you can put it back into the blower tank. If you’re smart, you should only need the blower for a one-day rental.

Once packed into the appropriate spaces, uses a broom or small brush to scrape the external insulation away so you can keep a nice even amount for the finish line: when you apply the sheetrock. No matter what, you’re going to find some of this after you put all the walls on. Like pine needles in January.

Additional Information

Before you go and run out to the Depot, take a look at the dimensions and areas you’ll be insulating in your attic. It’s important to measure, not just assume. This could lead to overstocking, and depending on how long you have the material in your possession, store policies or if you’ve already opened the packaging, you won’t be able to return it. Avoid this by taking your time to ensure measurements are accurate, and using an online calculator to determine the dimensions into a suggest purchase amount of insulation.

If you only insulate up to the floor joists, and you can see the wooden plans like little traffic lanes in your attic, it may now be enough. Thermal bridging occurs when the insulation on either side of a wooden plank are enough, so the heat only has one way to travel—through the wooden plank itself.

R-Value

You need to pay attention to the R-Value of the material you’re using. The higher the value the better the material is for thermal performance, ensuring you won’t be redoing the whole thing at a later date. Most materials have an R-1 through R-5 value per inch, which is something you’ll want to pay attention to. Energy Star recommends an R-38 value in total for proper insulation.

Below is a handy chart on R-Value usually based upon type of insulation used. Keep in mind; different manufacturers create different grade insulation, so their specific R-Values may be differently determined on their own packaging. Furthermore, there are innovations being made every single day. This is a basic chart using the types of material we saw when visiting stores to gather this information.

By Type

Blown Cellulose – 3.1-3.8

Blown Fiberglass – 2.2-2.9

Batts Fiberglass – 2.9-3.8

Spray Foam – 3.6-8.2

Loose Rock Wool – 2.2-3.3

Furthermore, here are the different types of climates and the recommended inches of insulation you should be using per area.

By Climate

Warm Climates

Blown Cellulose – 11” to 13”

Blown Fiberglass – 14” to 18”

Batts Fiberglass – 11” to 14”

Spray Foam – 5” to 11”

Loose Rock Wool – 12” to 18”

Cold Climates

Blown Cellulose – 14” to 18”

Blown Fiberglass – 19” to 25”

Batts Fiberglass – 14” to 19”

Spray Foam – 7” to 15”

Loose Rock Wool – 15” to 22”

Following these rules of thumb should yield excellent returns on your power saving.

Other Insulation Materials: Rigid Thermal Boards

You get an R5 rating with exterior foam rigid thermal boards. At only ¾ of an inch thick, they come with a super high rating and reflective surface along the front of the house. The reflective quality acts as a thermos, so to speak, keeping the exterior elements out, and keeping your heat or cool air inside. You’re not going to rip up your roof tiles or anything else like that; you’re going to install these along the inside.

If you have a steeple style attic, as most homes have, you’ll be cutting these boards to conform to the specific angles. Make sure to put the reflective sections facing outward, so that when you’re done with the installation process you can’t see any of the reflective material. If there are any leaks, or even just thermal bridging from the roof to the interior of your attic, this method will reflect the elements from leaking in. No holes, no sinking ship.

You can view this video below to get the know-how on R5 foam rigid thermal boards.

Nomex Fibers

Nomex is crafted by DuPont, and is a lightweight fiber designed specifically for insulation with an extremely high fire safety rating. Not only is Nomex flame retardant, but also it’s a great method of installation. While the sheets come in less than you’d get if you were to purchase standard fiberglass insulation, or Earth Wool, or anything else along those lines, it can be useful for quick and easy ways to insulate many different parts of your home aside from just your attic.

What Not To Do

There’s a great guide in the video below:

Don’t use your attic for storage. Leave it completely barren, not only to access each part of the flooring to install insulation underneath the plywood, if you have any, but to ensure you have no air leaks.

Don’t forget to check for air leaks before you even begin the installation process. Whether or not you’re using solid material or blown-in material, air leaks ruin the entire purpose of you insulating your attic in the first place.

Don’t hire someone else to do it. No matter how daunting the task may be, it’ll run you hundreds of dollars just for the cheap guys to come through and improperly place your insulation around.

Conclusion

With materials, do’s and dont’s, this guide should be all your need to properly install your new insulation, no matter what your specificity. We’ve covered replacements for fiberglass insulation, Earth Wool, as well as the 100% newspaper fiber. There are only so many ways to insulate an attic, and these are the best ones available.

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About Teresa Fikes

Teresa Fikes
My name is Teresa Fikes. I am a Homesteader, survivalist, prepper, historian, and writer plus much more all in one package deal. I was raised on a small family farm were I was taught at an early age to survive off the land without the help of modern conveniences. I am a writer by profession and a Homesteader by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

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