Attic Insulation Project

Attic Insulation ProjectAdding insulation to the attic is generally a moderately difficult do-it-yourself (DIY) project, but the benefits can be substantial. If you are doing a major home renovation project, now may be a great time to tackle this project too.

The good news is that, even if you're not comfortable taking on this project yourself, there are many qualified contractors who can help you get the work done. Note that EPA recommends air sealing the attic before adding attic insulation.

Use the information below to determine if this project is a good fit for your home, what common problems it can help address, what the potential benefits are, what tools and materials you'll need to complete the project if you choose to do it yourself, important safety considerations, step-by-step instructions for getting the job done and when to seek professional help.

Questions to Consider

Does my home need this project?

Common Symptoms

If your home experiences any of these problems, it might be a good candidate for an attic insulation project::

  • Drafty rooms
  • Hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; uneven temperature between rooms
  • High heating or cooling bills
  • Ice dams in the winter

What to Look For

You might also consider hiring a home energy professional to perform a comprehensive energy audit to pinpoint specific solutions for your home and identify potential safety hazards.

Did You Know?

Many local utilities may offer rebates for a professional home energy assessment and certain home air sealing and insulation projects.

Be sure to contact your utility company before beginning a project to see what incentives are available in your area. You can also check for incentives using the DSIRE database for state incentives.

What are the potential benefits?

Savings in Energy and Money

4 out of 5 stars

The attic is usually where you can find some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. By adding insulation in your attic, you can maintain the desired temperature throughout your home much better. Combined with attic air sealing, it can also help to alleviate the formation of dangerous ice dams in the winter.

Compare with other projects

Should I do the project myself or hire a contractor?

If your attic is accessible and not too difficult to move around in, and you enjoy tackling bigger home improvement projects, attic insulating may be a good DIY project. Otherwise, consider finding a contractor to complete the project for you.

Doing the Project Yourself Hiring a Contractor
Ease of Project Time (days) Costs Time (days) Costs
Moderate − Difficult 1−3 $$$ 1−2 $$$$

Key: $ = <$100, $$$$$ = >$2,000

Compare with other projects

EPA's ENERGY STAR program provides great DIY resources to help you get the job done. However, if you find any of these conditions in your attic, it is recommended that you consult or hire a professional to correct these problems before proceeding:

  • Difficult attic access and limited space to work
  • Wet or damp insulation, indicating a leaky roof
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists, indicating moisture problems
  • Kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that exhaust moist air directly into the attic space instead of outdoors
  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Knob and tube wiring (pre-1930), which can be a fire hazard when in contact with insulation

Did You Know?

You may be eligible for financial assistance to make improvements like air sealing and insulating through your state's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

For more information, visit the following site on How to apply for Weatherization Assistance.

Project Instructions

Tools, materials, and safety

Safety Equipment

  • Safety glasses, gloves and dust mask/protective face mask
  • Flashlight or portable safety light
  • Boards to walk on, if needed
  • Hard hat or cap to protect head from sharp roofing nails

Materials and Tools

  • Insulation
  • Retractable utility knife and sheet metal scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge for cutting

Tips and Safety Considerations

warningSome attics have vermiculite insulation, which may contain asbestos. Vermiculite is a lightweight, pea-size, flaky gray mineral. Do not disturb vermiculite insulation unless you have had it tested by an approved lab to be sure that it does not contain asbestos. Contact your local health department for the name of an approved lab.

  • EPA recommends that you complete an attic sealing project before doing this project.
  • Gather all your tools and supplies before you begin to minimize trips into and out of the attic.
  • Be sure that the work area is well lit by using a drop light, and keep a flashlight handy.
  • During hot weather, start working early, as attics heat up as the day goes on.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Wear a lightweight disposable coverall, gloves and hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin.
  • Wear kneepads for attics that require crawling.
  • Watch out for nails pointing up through the ceiling or down from roof deck.
  • Walk on joists or truss chords, not exposed ceiling drywall or insulation, to avoid falling through the ceiling.
Step-by-Step Instructions
Step 1. Choose the right insulation

Step 1. Choose the right insulation.

Loose Fill Insulation:

When adding additional insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets, and vice versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no paper or foil backing; it needs to be "unfaced." If you choose to add loose fill, it may be wise to hire a professional, as the application requires the use of a blowing machine, although some home improvement stores offer rentals of this machine.

Batt Insulation:

Laying fiberglass rolls is easiest for a DIY job. If you have any type of insulation between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first (again, the second layer of roll insulation should be unfaced, with no vapor retarder). This will help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame. Also, when laying down additional insulation, work from the perimeter toward the attic opening. Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all insulation at least 3 inches away from recessed "can" lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal or wire mesh to create barriers around the openings for such lights. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

Step 2. Lay fiberglass rolls. Layer rolls of fiberglass insulation perpendicular to the joists.

Step 2: Lay fiberglass roles

Step 3. Create barriers.  Use sheet metal or wire mesh to help create a barrier around fixtures or vents. Insulation contacting recessed can lights can cause fire hazards. Some recessed lights can be designed for "insulation contact" or IC, in which case no barrier is needed. Check the fixture first for the IC designation before installing insulation.

Step 3. Create barriers

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