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What Is Attic Insulation and Why Is It Important for Your Home?

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated November 12, 2021
Teenager's bedroom in a finished attic
ostap25 - stock.adobe.com

There’s more to your attic than grandma’s magazine collection

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Attics are the often forgotten space between your roof and your main living area, serving as a long-term home to boxes you’d rather keep out-of-site. But it also plays a role in keeping your home comfortable throughout the seasons. If every winter has you shivering, attic insulation upgrades can help. Luckily, insulating your attic is an easy process that will have you warm and smiling again in no time flat.

What Is Attic Insulation?

Insulation may not always be pretty to look at, but it does an important job. Insulation serves as a barrier between the conditions outside your home—helping to maintain the desired temperature inside. Good insulation keeps out hot air during the summer and freezing air in the winter.

Why Should You Insulate Your Attic?

Insulating is good for your wallet because you’re spending less money on heating and cooling your home. Using less energy to maintain the indoor temperature (thanks to insulation) also reduces the need to overwork your home’s HVAC systems. Here’s how it breaks down.

Attic Insulation Saves You Money

In the case of attic insulation, you can DIY install it or hire a roofing professional in your area to get the job done. The estimated cost of installing attic insulation, dependent on materials, is between $1,500 and $2,500. According to HomeAdvisor, properly installed attic insulation can shave as much as 50% off your heating bill. Talk about work paying for itself.

Additionally, many power companies offer rebates for customers who install insulation. Reach out to your local utility company to see if they have any deals or offers that could benefit you.

Attic Insulation Conserves Energy

The science of insulation is simple: empty spaces in the home mean open spaces for cold or hot air to fill; insulation fills in those empty places to prevent the transfer of air from outside. Good insulation means you don’t have to crank the AC during those hot summer months and that those chilly winter days won’t require you to over-use your furnace either.

How Does Attic Insulation Work?

Like other insulation, attic insulation serves to redistribute heat coming from outside the home. In the summer, when it’s hot outside, good insulation blocks heat from getting inside your home and raising the temperature.

But good insulation should be just as effective in the winter months. When it’s cold outside, the insulation keeps the warm air inside your home. Different types of attic insulation tackle this task in different ways, which we’ll cover next.

What Are the Different Types of Attic Insulation?

If you’re insulating an attic yourself or you’ve hired a professional to do the job, you may see different attic insulation materials used. Here are some of the most popular types of attic insulation used today.

Blanket Insulation, $2 to $4 per square foot

A popular DIY choice because, as its name indicates, it comes in blankets or sheets, which can be easily affixed in unfinished parts of your attic. It’s also a more affordable option. The sheets are usually made of plastic, fiberglass, or natural materials like wool and minerals.

Loose Fill Insulation, $1 to $4 per square foot

This is another popular option for attic insulation—both professionals and DIYers use it. Also known as blown-in insulation, this method involves taking bags of loose material (usually cellulose, fiberglass, or metal wool) and blowing them into place with a machine designed for this purpose.

Spray Foam Insulation, $2 to $5 per square foot

Spray foam is a great solution if you’re adding insulation to an already insulated portion of your attic or if the space is oddly shaped and other forms of insulation are a little trickier to install. The foam dries solid and can be just as effective as other insulation methods for your attic.

Panel Insulation, $4 to $7 per square foot

These panels are much larger than other options (they are sold as 4-foot-by-8-foot boards), making them a better fit for new construction projects than your average attic renovation. They are one of the strongest and most energy-efficient options, which explains the price tag.

How Much Does it Cost to Insulate Your Attic?

The cost of insulating your attic varies according to what materials you use to get the job done. As covered above, the cost of the insulation material itself can range from $1 to $7 per square foot. The average homeowner will spend between $1,500 to $2,000 to insulate their attic.

What to Know Before You Install Attic Installation

Man insulates attic with foam and puts plywood on top
The Good Brigade / DigitalVision via Getty Images

Know Your R-Values

R-values are a measurement of how resistant insulation is to heat. The higher the rating, the better the insulation can do its job. Before you buy insulation, double-check which R-value is recommended for the area where you live. The standard recommendation is an R-value rating of 38, though that can vary.

Don’t Skip the Attic Floor

Because attics often become a place for storing stuff, it’s normal for them to be covered in boxes. If you’re insulating your attic, remedy the clutter first! Find another place, even a temporary one, where those boxes and doo-dads can live. If you’re hiring a pro, they may want to start with the floor of your attic, which often requires removing existing flooring because the insulation is often placed under attic floorboards.

Don’t Skip a Vapor Barrier

Vapor barriers are warriors in the epic battle between homeowners and water damage. Your roof will see quite a bit of water in its lifetime, and if there are leaks, they will affect the attic first. Vapor barriers can be installed in tandem with attic insulation to prevent moisture from causing any structural damage or shortening the life of your attic insulation.

Don’t Touch Asbestos

In homes built before 1970, there is a high likelihood that the attics have asbestos insulation, which is a serious health risk. If your home’s attic hasn’t been touched since then, resist the urge to start inspecting your attic and pulling out old insulation. Contact a professional who can take the appropriate measures and remove the asbestos safely.

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