We kicked off our Halloween weekend with a good ol’ fashioned panic attack. Why? Because this happened:
Ohhh, the horror!! How are we going to survive winter with an uninsulated attic?
OK, it’s not completely uninsulated. But it might as well be. There are only 4 inches of the fluffy stuff upstairs. That’s an R-value of approximately 9. Or basically nothing. With snow falling and temperatures dropping, we decided it was time to stop fighting the inevitable. We needed to insulate.
Once we insulate the attic, we won’t be able to use it for storage anymore, so we had to make sure and completely empty the attic. We also won’t be able to walk around the attic anymore because it would crush the insulation. We had to figure out a way to access the wires and other stuff we might need someday. And, finally, we needed a way to insulate the entrance to the attic:
We started by building a ledge to keep the insulation contained:
Bradley showed me how to install baffles along the edge of the attic:
I took over that job while Bradley built the catwalk:
The catwalk is basically an elevated trail that we can crawl along to access anything we might need without disturbing the insulation.
Here’s how we sealed up the entrance:
We stacked two sheets of 4″ foam right on top of the ledge. That gives us an R-value of 20. The staircase leading up to the attic will also act as an air pocket and hopefully help retain some of our heat downstairs.
While we were working, we heard a rustling noise in the corner. And then a squirrel popped out out of the old insulation:
He took a few steps towards us and just stood there. But something was off. The squirrel seemed…drunk? He was teetering and his eyes were all droopy. Before we could figure out what was happening, he climbed back into the insulation and hid under the floor boards.
Bradley checked out the situation and it seemed like our new squirrel friend was napping. We gave him a few gentle prods with the end of a broomstick and he refused to budge. So we grabbed a hammer and pried the floor boards up to see if we could scare him out:
And that’s when we realized our squirrel was actually not napping, but dying. Rapidly. We got him out just in the nick of time. Poor little guy. We actually feel really lucky that he came out and warned us rather than just dying quietly under the floorboards. That could have been really gross and smelly.
On a less sad note, here’s how the baffles looked when finished:
After that, we used Great Stuff to seal up the cracks between the floor and the ledge:
Next up: insulating!
Before we rented the insulation blower, we measured out the square footage of our attic — it’s 950 square feet. Then we went to Home Depot to buy our insulation and pick up the blower. The rental desk employee helped us figure out how much insulation we would need to add another 12 inches to our attic. It would cost us $750. Not bad! Unfortunately the blower was checked out by someone else, so we went to Lowe’s instead.
This is where our whole squirrel-died-Home-Depot-was-a-bust day turned around. Lowe’s had a blower available. They also had a different brand of insulation that was formaldehyde-free. That brand ended up being waaaaay cheaper than the brand Home Depot carried. Adding 12 inches to our attic would cost us only $435 at Lowe’s! That’s $315 cheaper. Whee! We love saving moolah!
The only catch with Lowe’s was that we had to buy a minimum of 20 bags to get the blower for free. We only needed 15 bags to add 12 inches, so the other 5 bags would be extra R-value. We loaded up and drove home.
We had a 100-foot hose to work with, so we didn’t even have to carry the insulation upstairs. We just ran the hose along the banister and up the stairs.
The attic is dark and creepy and smelly, so I volunteered to load the machine while Bradley sprayed. I was a little worried that I’d somehow hurt myself. Maybe the machine would eat up my fingers. Maybe my sleeve would catch on a gear, and I’d get swallowed up.
Every project starts with me wondering if I’m going to fall into a machine and get eaten. It’s totally irrational. Especially when the blades are covered with an inch of soft rubber. So, I flipped the switch and let ‘er rip.
I fed the machine with a quarter block of insulation at a time. The blades fluffed up the insulation and blew them up to the attic where Bradley sprayed it in soft piles:
It looked like a winter wonderland up there.
The next step was to carefully clear the catwalk so we knew where it was:
Bradley used a small broom to gently push insulation off and to the sides. Here’s how it looked when we finished:
We started out with 4 inches of insulation and an R-value of 9. We ended up adding 16-20 inches. We’re not sure what the R-value is now, but it’s over 44. The recommended amount for our area is 38, so we’re geeked. And we can feel the difference already. The second floor used to be so cold, we couldn’t hang out there for long unless we were working. Now? Nice and toasty.
The whole process took us about 6 or 7 hours. It was one of the easiest, most mindless jobs we’ve done around the house. The hardest part was not getting bored to death. Even if you’re not handy, you can totally insulate your attic in a day. Best part: you’ll save a ton of dough. Check out our budget breakdown.
What we spent
20 bags of insulation = $580
Blower rental = $0
Grand total = $580 for more than R-44.
Cost of buying R-38 insulation at Home Depot = $750
We saved $170 by going across the street.
Cost of having Lowe’s install R-38 = $1,881
We saved $1,301 by doing it ourselves.
What we learned:
- Shop around.
We got lucky that Home Depot didn’t have a blower available so we had to go to Lowe’s. We saved a ton of money. Check both places before you rent!
- Prep your attic the day before you rent your blower.
On Saturday, we cleaned our attic, built the ledge and catwalk, and went to Lowe’s to pick up the insulation and blower. On Sunday, we insulated for 6 hours straight, then took the blower back.
- You will feel scratchy all over.
It’s unavoidable. Wear long sleeves, pants and gloves. And, for the love of Pete….
- Wear goggles.
We didn’t and we’re still regretting it. Our eyes are totally scratchy and raw.
- Dress your dog up for Halloween.
It has nothing to do with insulating, but it’ll make you feel good. Trust us.
We’ll be back with some more updates on what’s going on in our casa. Hint: it’s getting hot in here. We’ll take off all our clothes. Not really.But at least we’re no longer going to bed in sweaters and wool socks. Stay tuned for that, coming up soon!