This is part 7 of the prep work we did to get everything ready to blow GreenFiber cellulose insulation in our attic. At the bottom of this post we have a link to every post in this series if you want to check out the whole shebang :)
We took a little break from all the attic posts to share a little update about what’s been going on in the actual part of the house that we live in. More of that coming next week! But first, back to the sweat fest (joy!).
After our soffit vents were protected, we turned our attention to protecting our recessed lights too. A lot of new recessed lights are insulation contact (IC) rated, meaning they can come into contact with your insulation without being a fire hazard. But if “IC” isn’t stamped into the metal, you need to keep insulation a minimum of 3 inches away from the light on all sides. Even though ours look more like IC-rated than non-IC rated based on our Google images search, we couldn’t find the IC stamp anywhere so we decided to play it safe and protect them. Even though it added many sweaty hours of work to our to-do list.
Most tutorials suggest using metal flashing to create a box around your recessed lights, furnace exhaust, and any other sources of heat. So we picked up several rolls of 14″ wide aluminum flashing (so our boxes would be 14″ tall), though if you live in a colder area and need deeper insulation you might want to get one that’s wider.
To figure out how big to make our boxes, we went up into the attic and measured 3 inches our from our recessed lights to see how big of a square we needed. Turns out each side needed to be around 9.75″, plus we wanted to add a 1″ tab on the 4th side to close up the box with. I forgot to take a picture during this part so I illustrated our measurements instead. You’ll need to push creepin’ insulation away to get a clear view of your lights! Some of our lights were so covered by the stuff that we would not have known they were there if we didn’t have a count from downstairs of how many to look for.
We have 15 recessed lights in the house (five in the kitchen, three in the entryway, two in the hallway, and five in the master bathroom). Of these, we had access to 14 of them (one of the hallway lights is under our AC unit/furnace in the attic). The 9.75″ x 9.75″ x 9.75″ x 10.75″ (the side with the extra inch) squares we measured would work for eight or nine of our lights, but there were some lights that required slightly different measurements due to obstacles in the way (more on those later).
We found the easiest way to make our boxes was to roll out the flashing and use a sharpie to mark every 9.75″, adding an extra inch to the last side. In the picture below, we had two rolled out next to each other (which is why it looks so wide).
Then Evan would use the edge of his work table to make a 90 degree fold at each of the places we marked.
Then we cut off the excess and had a little box! In this picture you can see the 1″ tab we used to hold it together.
We used gorilla tape to tape the box closed at the tab. To reinforce it even further, Evan popped a little screw through the top and bottom of our joined side through the tape.
Once we had a batch of these guys we went up to the attic to protect our lights!
So here is one of the lights that our “standard size” flashing boxes fit onto. Since there were still about 3 inches between the light and the joist and between the light and the pipe, the standard size worked.
But there was still the junction box to work around. So what I did was hold the flashing box above the light and mark with sharpie where it looked like I needed to cut. One-handed straight lines are not my strong point, but you get the idea.
So I used my clippers to cut along that mark that sorta looks like a bacon strip and I was able to slide the box over the light. One down, 13 to go!
When doing this, it makes it a lot easier to have a designated area by each light to put your tools and clippings. I later wised up and got a plastic grocery bag for the clippings.
Here’s a batch of standard size flashing boxes over our kitchen! These were pretty easy overall.
When we got to my favorite (sarcasm) area over the master bathroom, things got a little more interesting. Four of the five lights there could be fitted with a standard size flashing box, but one of those four was wayyyyyyyyyy back on the edge, near where Evan had to squeeze in to attach the vent chutes.
Working back here was pretty tough since I couldn’t maneuver enough to cut the flashing. And we had to cut the top of the box so that it fit under the sloped roof but was tight enough that it didn’t let insulation in. We also had a pipe to cut around (you can kinda see where the box is cut to go over the pipe two pictures down). I would attempt to draw the cut lines and then reach the box back to Evan. He’d cut the lines and hand it back up to me, and I’d draw the next batch of cut lines. We did a few rounds of this but eventually got it to fit, yay!
Speaking of pipes to cut around… we had several lights in spots like this:
With pipes, joists, and wires to deal with, some of our boxes got pretty complicated. I would draw the first round of cut lines and see how it fit, then draw another round or two and go from there. You can see in the two pictures below how the cuts had to get closer and closer to the top in order to let the box sit on the ground.
These lights took quite a bit longer so when Evan came home we tackled the rest of them together. This task is definitely a test of the durability of your leg muscles- hours of kneeling and squatting, oy!
But finally we finished all the boxes! Then we grabbed our foil duct tape (but you could use normal duct tape or gorilla tape too) and we sealed up around the cuts we had made. Check out that master workmanship.
After sealing them all up with tape, we came up with an idea of something we could temporarily add to the tops to block insulation from falling in from above. But we didn’t want it to be something permanently taped down just in case we needed access to the lights later for any reason. So we lightly taped plastic wrap over them, so that as Evan completed blowing insulation in different areas of the attic he could remove the plastic wrap from the completed areas.
Psst – To see the whole process from start to finish, check out our other posts! You can see our overall plan for blowing insulation, and check out all the prep in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8, Part 9, and the actual blowing of insulation. Big project!
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