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How to Install Ceiling Insulation

styrofoam insulation

If you are a hands-on homeowner with a DIY approach to most things, taking on the insulation of your home should be a fun project. While it is always good to learn new skills for the upkeep of your home, this is an area you need to do with care and knowledge before you dive in headfirst. Let’s take a look at what you need to know in terms of how to install ceiling insulation for a successful project.

Understanding R-Values
There are few things to know when it comes to how to install ceiling insulation. Before looking at types of insulation, it is important to start with a strong understanding of R-value. R-value is a way of rating insulation based on how well insulation resists heat transfer. The R-value can vary based on the type of material used, as well as other factors such as the thickness and density of the material. Insulation is meant to decrease the amount of heat entering from outside in the summer and trap heat inside the house when the weather is cold. In order for it to achieve this end result, the R-value needs to be evaluated carefully. Higher R-values offer better performance than lower R-values. Does this mean you should always go with the highest R-value you can find? Not necessarily. In fact, the Department of Energy recommends different insulation levels and R-values based on the climate zone of your region to help increase energy efficiency. It is also worth noting that the suggested R-value will depend on the location you are installing it as well as the regional climate. For example, an R-value may differ when used in ceilings than when it is used in walls. You should also consider the R-value in relation to other products currently being used for insulation in the ceiling.

Types of Insulation
Aside from understanding the right R-value for your regional climate, knowing the different types of insulation is key. It is also important to note that insulating any part of the home, whether the ceiling or the walls, will require more than one type of insulation to get the job done. Proper insulation is always done in layers. Here are the most common types of insulation:

Loose Fill
This type of insulation is made of fiberglass or cellulose and is blown or sprayed into place using air-powered equipment. It is well-suited to harder-to-reach areas such as attics and wall cavities.

Insulation Batts
These are pre-cut sections of either fiberglass or wool insulation that can be used in attics, ceilings, and walls. They are designed to offer easy handling and can be used between framing.

Cross Linked Polyethylene
Chemically cross-linked foam is an extremely fine-celled foam, ideal for projects and applications that require thicker foam. This strong and reliable foam works well commercially as thermal insulation, construction expansion joints, and industrial gaskets. 

Foam Board Insulation
Polystyrene (EPS) rigid panels are also an excellent insulator due to its high thermal resistance (R-value). They can be used in nearly any insulation area of the home as sheathing solutions to reduce heat conduction through structural aspects such as wood frames or steel studs.

How Much is Needed
To get a starting point on how much insulation you will need for the job, you should start by checking if there is already insulation in place. This will allow you to determine which type of insulation is best to add as an additional layer to the existing insulation solutions already in place. If there is no insulation in the area, you will need to choose several different types to create the required layering effect. Either way, you should measure the area where the insulation will go by both width and depth and use that to guide you on how much to purchase.

Installation Tips
Wear a face mask, gloves, and long pants when working on this project. When working with insulation, there is always the potential for irritation. If you breathe in particles or dust, it may irritate your airway. If the material rubs against your hands or legs, it can also cause skin irritations. You should always be careful when working with any type of insulation to avoid any issues.

Always work with someone else. When insulating a ceiling, you are likely working on a ladder or going up in the attic, depending on your ceiling. Either way, you definitely want to have a work buddy on hand. Not only can they be of assistance in getting the job done, they also act as a safety measure in the event of an accident. You don’t want to fall off a ladder home alone and be unable to move for hours. Always work with someone else.

Choose the right adhesive for the material. The type of insulation you choose will usually determine the adhesive or method you use to secure it. For instance, some solutions can be stapled or nailed in place while others need the use of adhesive glue, and others such as loose-fill do not need anything at all.

Remember, insulating one area only won’t cut it. If you are looking to improve the insulation in your home, it is important to remember that you have to insulate with the big picture in mind. If you insulate the ceiling, but leave the walls without proper insulation, you are still losing heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. If you want to start with the ceiling first and then work your way to the walls as the next project, do so, but always remember that proper insulation is a whole house need and not just certain areas.

Fill in gaps with spray foam or foam strips. Spray foam comes in handy when trying to reach harder to reach areas. It can be sprayed near gaps in the ceiling to reduce heat conduction. When looking at your whole house approach, foam strips can be used on doors, windows, and other areas where there are small gaps for air to enter or escape. This will help with overall insulation to help make the most of your project.

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