Catch That Secret Energy Thief: Your Attic Door

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ January 6, 2011

You know that convenient, pull-down door in your closet that leads up to the attic? It's also a convenient passageway for energy. In the summer, you lose cool air from your home through the hatch (sometimes called a scuttle hole), where it's vented into the greater outdoors. In winter, the attic door is a causeway, transferring warm air outward and cold air down into your home. It's a stealthy thief.

Add in those "secret" little patches where visiting critters can burrow into your roof or attic insulation, and now you have an extra zone that pushes and pulls air in and out of the roof and your home interior. You might consider calling in an insulation or general contractor to build an insulated box to serve as an airlock between your attic door and your home.

Do-It-Yourself Attic Repair

The first step toward fixing the leak is to ensure that the door seals properly, then apply self-adhesive insulating foam or weather stripping around the perimeter of the opening. It costs around $30 to build a box around the attic side of the door, according to home improvement writer Danny Lipford, who provides step-by-step instructions. The box is made of foam board, foil duct tape, foam tape weather stripping and optional caulking. There are also a number of pre-made attic door covers, built in a number of sizes at home improvement stores. Measure carefully before you go shopping.

Sealing Your Attic Door

The Federal Energy Savers website reports that a typical unsealed door creates a 1/4-inch perimeter gap that can suck out air as quickly as a room duct can deliver it. Scary, isn't it?

Adding a latch bolt on the scuttle hole can also promote tighter sealing. You can download the Energy Savers' diagram for the project. Knee walls can also be an unsuspected energy thief because they're typically installed without insulation. It's a good idea to apply weather stripping here as well.

With the balance of winter ahead of us, doing a few fine-tuning projects can be well worth your while. Check out my earlier suggestions for quick energy efficiency projects you can do on a weekend.

And don't forget, if you haven't already done so, dial in your winter heating.

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