What is the best kind of insulation to add to an attic?

Answered by Brett ~ October 22, 2010 ~ Comments

I own a house, built in 1978. The attic needs more insulation insulation to help winterization. What is the best type of insulation? Is there a particular brand? What should I be looking for in insulation material?

Marcia ~ Boston, Massachusetts

Brett Kulina

Marcia, adding attic insulation to your old house is a simple way to increase the overall comfort and energy efficiency of your home. Two types of insulation that work well in attics are blown-in loose fill cellulose and sprayed-in polyurethane foam, but there are several important factors that you need to consider before choosing what type of insulation to purchase for your home's attic:

1) You need to determine what type of insulation is currently in your home's attic. If you are going to add new insulation on top of existing insulation, it is important that the existing insulation not get compressed under the weight of the new insulation, or it will not perform at its designed R-Value.

2) You need to locate and seal up any air leaks in your attic if the new insulation is going to benefit the overall energy efficiency of your home.

3) As your home becomes more air-tight, and therefor more energy efficient, you may need to install some mechanical ventilation equipment in your home as a way to bring fresh air into your home, expel stale indoor air, and prevent moisture problems.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish these tasks, and get a better understanding of your home's specific insulation needs, is to have a professional energy auditor inspect your home and develop a plan for where you go from here. Many utility companies offer free energy audits to their customers, so I would start by talking with your utility provider and asking what options are available to you.

Once you have a better understanding of how well your home's existing insulation is performing and reduce any unwanted air infiltration, then you can choose the appropriate type of insulation for your home's attic. I personally like the available spray-in options, but this type of insulation doesn't work well for every situation and it can cost twice as much as loose-fill insulation. You can get specific project costs by consulting with a contractor who works in the Boston area and has inspected your home. Good luck with your project!

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