We decided to blow our own insulation!!
And yes. We are crazy.
Because our attic currently looks like this:
Yeah. It’s a hot mess. There are wires and cables spiderwebbing everywhere, insulation that was yanked off the walls and left in piles, recessed lights without any protection… and tons of other issues we uncovered. When we first got our house inspected, the inspector poked his head in and said said “Whoa… This is not good.” But our main concern was the already-here Texas heat and the fact that our insulation was pretty wimpy (like, 4-5 inches in some places, and completely nonexistent in others).
So we started doing research on how to beef it up. Basically there are two types of insulation people add themselves- fiberglass batting (the pink stuff) and blown insulation (which can be fiberglass or cellulose). Batting is cheaper, but with blown it’s easier to get it into all the nooks and crannies. With batting, you have to split it whenever you come up against a pipe or wire in your way (and as you can tell from the pictures, we’ve got lots of stray pipes and wires.) This picture from Family Handyman shows it pretty well.
But with blown insulation, you just rent the blower and go to town. Here’s anoter pic from Family Handyman.
We opted for the blown-in method, and we’re leaning toward cellulose over fiberglass. Fiberglass, using the AttiCat system, is more traditional and you have to buy less of it to get the same R-value (apparently it fluffs quite a bit more when you blow it). But it was about $150 more expensive for the amount we needed than cellulose, and we weren’t crazy about breathing in all that fiberglass dust.
Cellulose, using the GreenFiber system, is made of 85% recycled paper treated for fire resistance. You need a lot more bags of the stuff to get the same R-value, but in the end it was still cheaper for us. Plus, even though it seems like both are good options, opinions on the internet seemed to be leaning slightly more toward cellulose. Also, you can get both of these at Home Depot or Lowes, and you get the blower for free if you buy enough bags (20 for the GreenFiber, I think 10 for the AttiCat).
But before we get to blow the stuff, we have a buttload of prepwork to do. As in a week+ of sweaty, dirty, itchy physical labor. But we know it will be worth it because of the huge amount of money we’ll save. Based on our research, it would cost us around $1500-$2000 to hire a professional JUST to blow it. That’s not including the hours and hours of prep and cleaning it would take to get our attic ready. We estimate that would have easily added another $1000-$1500. Oh yeah and we uncovered more issues when we were up there with our exhaust vents and air ducts, so that would be another $1000-$1500. So our estimate is that overall it would cost us anywhere between $3500 and $5000 to hire out the entire project. And on top of that, based on the previous owner’s contractor’s attic work, we are afraid there would be a lot of corner cutting and half-assing if we hired it out. I don’t think most home owners are super familiar with their attics, so contractors get away with more up there.
We’ll give you the budget breakdown of how much it ends up costing us when we’re done, but just know that it will be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper: we’re aiming for well under $1000. So it’s totally worth being sweaty messes for a week. Plus, it more than pays for itself in the resale value we gain and in the electric bill savings.
Blowing the insulation seems easy enough… but it’s the prep work that’s gonna kill us. We have to add flashing around all heat sources, seal any air leaks with expanding foam, add vent chutes to our eaves where our soffit vents are, clean up the messes left behind by the previous owner (and messes from the contractors that did the kitchen and bathroom renovations for her), plus more. We’ll get into more detail as we accomplish each step. But for now, wish us luck!
Psst – To see the whole process from start to finish, check out our other posts! You can see all the prep in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, and the actual blowing of insulation. Big project!
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