Follow This Checklist for Inspecting and Repairing Your Insulation

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated November 24, 2021
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If your insulation isn't up to snub, your energy bills will skyrocket

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Poor indoor air quality, noticeable too-warm or too-cool temperatures in your home, and rising energy bills are all indicators of insulation problems. But there are several ways you can quickly check for insulation issues in your house to get the problem solved.

A Note on Safety: Insulation work can be messy and even dangerous, so consider hiring a local insulation professional to thoroughly inspect and repair your insulation for you. That said, most homeowners can inspect and repair basic insulation issues, like air leaks, themselves.

Inspecting Your Insulation

Make sure to wear long sleeves and long pants as well as safety goggles, a face mask, and protective gloves anytime you’ll be touching your insulation. Fiberglass insulation, one of the most common types of insulation, can easily break off into sharp shards when you touch it. If you’re not sure what type of insulation you have, err on the side of caution.

Determine Your Insulation Type

Cellulose, fiberglass, and spray foam insulation are among the most common types of insulation. If you’re not sure what type you have right off the bat, get a closer look. You can generally tell what type of insulation you have by looking at it. Use the same type of insulation for repairs and replacements.

Check Air Ventilation

Make sure no insulation is blocking the vents in your home, especially in your attic. Air cannot easily flow through blocked vents, which leads to poor ventilation and poor air quality. Water stains on your ceiling may also indicate roof leaks or poor ventilation, so check those too. 

Improper ventilation can cause ice dams on your roof in the winter, leading to leaks, roof damage, and damp insulation. Proper ventilation regulates your home’s temperature, meaning you and your family will be nice and cozy regardless of the conditions outside.

Check for mold and mildew while you’re looking in your attic. If you notice any, that can be a sign of a more serious ventilation problem. Mold is challenging to deal with, so hire a mold removal professional near you to help you fix the problem.

Look for Air Leaks

Don’t worry about tracking down every tiny air leak in your house, but look for evidence of significant leaks draining warm air or allowing cold air in. Areas where leaks are common include:

  • Attic floors

  • Attic doors

  • Dropped soffits

  • Vent fans

  • Dryer vents

  • Crawl spaces

  • Outdoor faucets

  • Duct registers

If you’re unsure what could be considered a leak, a local insulation contractor can help you determine weak spots (if you have them).

Check Insulation Levels

You can use an electrical outlet to check if your exterior walls have adequate insulation.

  • Head to your breaker and turn off the power to the outlet

  • Remove the outlet cover and shine a powerful flashlight into the crack around the box. You should be able to see any insulation in the wall.

  • Repeat for every floor of your home, checking the insulation

  • Make note of which areas don’t have any or enough insulation in them

The Department of Energy recommends that all exterior walls be insulated and full, but recommended insulation levels vary depending on where you live.

Repairing Your Insulation

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If you noticed air leaks, poor ventilation, or general insulation problems during your inspection, these issues need to be fixed. If you have experience in sealing leaks and working in insulation, you can tackle this yourself. But it’s always best to hire a pro when dealing with insulation. This will cost about $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot for labor and materials.

Repair Air Leaks

How you fix a leak depends on where it is:

  • Caulk and weatherstrip air leaks on doors, windows, and around plumbing, ducting, and electrical wiring

  • On larger leaks, use foam sealant

  • Seal leaks around your chimney, furnace, and gas-powered water heater vents with fire-resistant sealants like sheetrock and furnace cement caulk

You can seal most air leaks on your own, but don’t hesitate to hire a contractor to get the job done if you feel uncomfortable working with these materials (or if you just don’t have time). Plugging air leaks in your house can save you a lot of money on your energy bill in the long run.

Add Extra Insulation as Needed

Hire a professional to do this part if you aren’t experienced at working with insulation. While insulation looks fluffy and harmless, it can actually be a health hazard if it comes in contact with your skin or you accidentally breathe it in. And if you make a mistake, you could damage your home’s ventilation, which will lower the air quality over time.

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