Going into hot, dusty attics is something we do every day for our Green ID energy audits, all year round. While crawling around all those attics we get asked a lot “does my insulation need to be removed?” Many homeowners notice dust streaks around their registers or a thin film of powder on their furniture and think their source of dust is from the insulation in the attic. Other homeowners feel like the dirty insulation becomes useless with age, especially after settling below the attic studs. This may be true, but is insulation removal necessary? This is such a common question I decided to go into more detail on when attic insulation should be removed and when it can stay and the costs you can expect.
When Insulation Removal is Necessary
The Attic Was Infested With Rats Or Other Critters
Roof rats are a common problem around neighbors with fruit trees. You may even hear them tapping around your attic at night. These critters will build nests and use the insulation as their home while seemingly multiplying and inviting all their friends to their new home. Rat urine and droppings are hazardous and need to be removed along with all the insulation in the infected areas. If a rat has been in an area, a trail of droppings will follow them. In this situation, insulation removal is necessary and the attic must be disinfected before blowing in new insulation. For our Green ID insulation service, we prefer using cellulose blown in insulation because of the fire retardant chemical borate that’s used is also a rodent deterrent. Currently, it can be sucked out using an extraction machine. If the attic has fiberglass batts, they can be taken out by hand.
If you’ve had a roof leak or the condensation from your air conditioner has spilled out of the drip pan onto your insulation, the insulation can hold moisture for a long time and become a source of mold spores or mildew. It also will lose its effectiveness at slowing down the transfer of heat into your home once it’s wet. If a small area was affected, only that portion should be removed, the entire attic insulation does not have to be removed
With Spray Foam Insulation To Air Seal The Attic
In hot dry climates like Phoenix, we typically use open cell spray foam and remove all the insulation from the attic floor (we explain why below). Spray foam is an insulator and air sealant in one and with the attic ventilation completely closed off, there’s no more dust coming in from the outside. We want to create a completely sealed attic space which will naturally also improve the air quality of the home plus reduce your energy bills
When You Do NOT Need To Remove Your Attic Insulation
There are times when we would not recommend removing your attic insulation. This may contradict what some companies tell you but hear me out
Having old insulation may settle over time and you may be shocked to see the studs of your attic floor showing, but the insulation does not have to be removed. Yes, you probably need more insulation added (air seal the attic floor first) but even old insulation still has its R-value, or insulative properties. Unless it’s water damaged or rodent-infested, you do not need to remove your attic insulation. Remember, if you are concerned about dust and air quality, you need to have your attic air sealed to separate the attic from the house before you add more insulation, otherwise you’ll just make the dust problem worse. A thorough Green ID Energy Audit can help identify whether your attic needs sealing or additional insulation.
When Your Energy Audit Company Tells You They Need To Remove All The Fiberglass Batt Insulation Because It Is Misaligned
Of the few insulation companies that actually know what the problem is with “misaligned insulation,” I would wager that most are energy auditing companies. And of those energy auditing companies, there are some that are lazier than others and would recommend you remove all the fiberglass batt insulation in the attic to fix the misalignment problem. The problem with this approach is that it will cost you twice as much and unnecessarily add a day to your job. You’ll also be charged an extraction fee to remove the insulation, which takes at least one day. Then you’ll have to pay to have your entire attic reinsulated, which will take another day. Green ID is always looking for the best solution for YOUR particular home, not just the quick fix.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO REMOVE YOUR FIBERGLASS BATT INSULATION. It still has its insulative properties and just needs to be installed properly to work right. What I recommend to our customers when we encounter misaligned insulation is a process called lift and fill. This method does not require more man power, but it does require more skill. This is why I perform all our lift and fill jobs myself or someone I’ve trained and worked with for over a year. Lift and fill requires us to lift and blow loose fill insulation under each fiberglass batt, then replace the batt and blow loose fill insulation on top, creating a sandwich of fiberglass batt insulation. The loose fill insulation is able to form around canned lights, under electrical wires and cross studs and in-between stud cavities. If done properly, the difference in comfort is night and day. We end up saving you money by not charging you double to properly insulate your attic. If you believe your attic needs this kind of insulation service, you can contact us today to schedule an appointment
How Is The Insulation Removed From The Attic?
For loose fill or blown in insulation, we use an extraction machine to suck out the insulation. We use the same machine to suck out the insulation when we are applying spray foam along the roof decking. Many homeowners have tried to remove the insulation by hand in trash bags but anything over 500 sq ft is a monumental task and has always proven too much work. The extraction will suck out the insulation from a 6” hose and fill 20 gallon bags. A typical 2,000 sq ft home will use about 6-10 extraction bags. For fiberglass batt removal, it must be done manually, one batt at a time
How Much Does Insulation Removal Cost?
If, during your Green ID Home Energy Audit, we determine that insulation removal is necessary, the cost will depend on the existing depth of insulation, square footage, attic access and offshoots, and if it is rodent infested. The cost will range from $0.70-$1.50 sq ft for extraction.
Will Removing My Insulation Make My Air Quality Better?
If your home has lots of air leakage and connections from the attic into the house, then yes. But, the attic floor must be air sealed after the insulation is removed or spray foam applied to the roof decking. Simply removing the insulation, then blowing new insulation is not guaranteed to improve the air quality because all the leakage pathways from the attic into the house will still be present. Once all the insulation is removed, the attic floor needs to be air sealed to stop the transfer of attic air from going into the house. I also recommend having each room pressure balanced and ductwork sealed. Room pressure balancing is important if you notice doors close by themselves when the air or heat comes on, or you notice a rush of air under the door with the HVAC system running. Not fixing a room pressure imbalance can cause outside air to come in the home from the outdoors or the attic because that room becomes pressurized while the rest of the house gets put under a negative pressure and sucks air in from the outside.
Having spray foam applied to the roof deck creates a sealed attic space with no ventilation. This creates an air tight attic where the insulation cannot collect dust from the outside and it cannot enter the home. Spray foam does off-gas for about 6 hours after it’s applied but once it’s cured there is no ongoing off-gassing. In Phoenix, our attics are vented to the outside so many layers of dust can accumulate in the insulation, especially fiberglass insulation. That dust can then find its ways into your home through air and duct leakage pathways. Attic insulation dust is a carcinogen and harmful to breath.
Making The Decision To Remove or Repair
It can be challenging and overwhelming to know what to do about whether you need insulation service, ductwork repair or other home improvements. That’s why we offer a straight-forward Home Energy Audit that will assess the airflow of your home and help determine any necessary work. Contact Green ID today to get started. We’re happy to answer questions and demystify the process of making your home run efficiently and safely!
6/25/2019 09:03:04 am
It's good to know that attic insulation needs to be removed when it was taken water damage. My house was hit by a storm last week, and my roof started to leak. I think the insulation may have been damaged by the dripping water as well, so I'll be looking into my options for getting it removed in the future.
7/9/2019 06:48:56 pm
My sister wants to make sure that the attic in her home is well-insulated because the electrical bills are shooting up. It was explained here that the insulation should be removed when it's damaged by water due to leaks. Furthermore, it's recommended to hire a professional insulation company for quality services.
8/26/2019 09:08:06 am
I like that you said that room pressure balancing is important to help avoid outside air coming into your home. Someone told me that insulating your home would help keep the air temperature balance. Thank you for helping me learn more about airflow in your room, and how to keep it the way you wanted.
1/8/2020 10:17:40 am
For most homeowners, insulation is an afterthought. I like the helpful info you supply for your articles. Thanks for sharing a smart thought.
2/5/2020 08:08:30 am
I agree that the attic should be disinfected if you have rodents because they can spread a lot of diseases. You don't want to have a dirty attic. My insulation has been pretty much destroyed by rats so I'm going to have to get it replaced.
2/3/2021 08:46:46 am
Could you please share your recent experience about having your insulation removed (due to rat infestation) and new insulation blown in . I'd like more infomation about who I would call and what it all entails. Thanks. I need to have this done now.
2/3/2021 09:33:57 am
Hi Nancy, if you are in Phoenix we can help you. If you are out of the state, look for insulation removal companies. Thanks for reaching out
Thank you for taking the time to mention that the cost of insulation removal could be about $1.50 for sq ft, and I will keep this in mind. My husband told me that it is a tie to hire an insulation contractor that could help us out to replace some of the old products we have in our home right now. I will make sure that I share this article with him so we have something to compare the local services we find to.
7/27/2020 09:21:36 pm
I agree with you that we should always seek professional help with removing insulation especially when the attic size is more than 500 sq ft. My husband is thinking of changing the insulation in our attic to closed-cell spray foams because it's more green and energy-efficient. I will definitely let him know about hiring professional help with our attic insulation.
2/24/2021 05:10:17 pm
It's good to know that you only need to remove your insulation if it is damaged by water or rodents. I think there is a problem in my attic thought because the insulation doesn't seem to be working. Maybe a professional can go look at it for me and tell me if the insulation is still good or not.
3/3/2021 08:00:01 am
It is interesting that this post shared that foam roofing system installation is important to be done by professionals. I appreciate that this post shared that a foam insulation is benefit to seal of the ventilation in the attic. I will definitely remember this tip and I hire a professional contractor.
4/25/2021 06:15:37 pm
Wow Great Tips !
4/25/2021 09:39:41 pm
This article is great. Thank you for sharing this with us.
4/25/2021 10:12:50 pm
Cool post. Thank you for sharing.
Very much like whatever else in your home, your upper room protection will not keep going forever. On the off chance that you imagine that it's an ideal opportunity to supplant it, the initial step is evacuation. While this can be a tremendous endeavor for property holders, knowing the right methods and safety measures can make it a smooth interaction.
12/10/2021 08:27:42 am
I appreciate that this post reminded us that it is important to have our attic disinfected following an insulation removal. The other day my neighbor shared that he needs to have his attic insulation replaced. I will definitely consider hiring a reliable contractor to help get to job done.
7/26/2022 05:13:49 am
Basically, new ductwork frequently conserves energy, minimizes noise and allows people to breathe more comfortably. If you’re thinking about replacing ducts or installing other heating and cooling equipment,.
12/1/2022 01:51:44 am
Thank you for mentioning that if a rat has been in an area, a trail of droppings will follow them, and that insulation must be removed and the attic sanitized before installing new insulation. My father claims that rats have damaged the factory's insulation. I will request that he locate blown-in attic insulation services to repair and replace the insulation.
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