DIY: 3 Attic Insulation Methods to Seal in Savings

It’s a dirty, dark, and dingy job, but it’s also the easiest and cheapest way to save mega money on your energy bills. Adding insulation to your attic and making the attic hatch airtight with weather stripping can reduce your year round energy use from 20 to 60 percent, saving you hundreds a year. Now that’s some serious cash in the attic!

If your attic is anything like mine was, you’re probably losing expensive winter warmth and summer cooling through that seemingly innocuous square hole in your ceiling.

attic insulation ladders dog

To stop your attic from draining your wallet, try these three easy methods to seal in LOTS of savings. These easy do-it-yourself home improvement projects cost under $100 dollars together, take only a few hours, and could save you thousands over the years you own your home. Sounds like a good investment to me. Smile.

1. Insulate Your Attic Hatch with Weather Stripping

Pick up some simple weather stripping at your local hardware store for around $5 and seal up the drafts and air leaks adding to your energy expenses. In my home I used heavy duty weather stripping to insulate between the attic hatch door and the hatch itself to seal the gap where energy escaped. I was amazed with how much cool air leaks from this point costing me big bucks.

This money saving tip works best in older homes as newer homes should already have a sealed attic. So check your attic first before hitting the hardware store. Here’s how to do-it-yourself and make your attic airtight with weather stripping:

1. Remove attic hatch. After you have purchased some inexpensive weather stripping (photo below), grab a step ladder and remove the hatch from your attic.

attic insulation ventilation

Our attic hatch is located in the ceiling of an upstairs hallway. Yours may be in a closet, in a room, or you may have a separate attic entrance altogether. You might want to wear a hat to prevent insulation from falling on your head.

attic hatch doors

2. Measure twice, cut once. Grab a measuring tape, a pencil, and a sense of humor and measure the length of the gap in your attic. Some people apply the weather stripping to the hatch itself while others apply to the inside area of the ceiling. (I applied it to the ceiling.)

attic ventilation

Take your measurement and cut that length from your roll of weather stripping.

attic insulation foam

3. Remove adhesive and apply. Repeat. Gently remove the adhesive backing from your weather stripping and apply it to your attic hatch.

attic insulation

Repeat to seal all four edges of your attic hatch.

4. Replace attic hatch. Carefully replace your attic hatch, placing it on top of the weather stripping. You’ll instantly notice that the draft is gone and the air leaks are sealed.

attic hatch

You may need to sweep the floor and clean up any loose or fallen insulation.

2. Add a Foam Gasket

If your attic hatch is not already insulated on the back, grab a piece of foam board insulation at your hardware store for a few bucks to really seal the leaks in your attic. This foam board adds insulation to the back of your hatch and really seals the deal on savings. Just cut the foam board to size and attach with adhesive, making sure the attic hatch still opens easily.

foam gasket attic insulation

I had an extra piece of fiberglass insulation, so I just placed it on top the hatch door before closing it.

3. Add More Insulation to Your Attic

Adding insulation to the attic of an older home can cut your energy expenses by 10 to 15 percent a year. This do-it-yourself project may cost more than $100, depending on how much insulation you need in your region of the world to stay warm or cool.

Before adding more insulation to your attic, you’ll need to know the R-value of what currently exists. The R-value (or RSI value for metric countries) indicates how well something resists the transfer of heat. The higher the RSI or R-value of a material, the more it will resist heat.

To find your R-Value, measure the thickness of your attic’s insulation.

measure attic insulation

For example, to achieve R-40, you need around 34 cm (13.5 inches) of fiberglass insulation. For R-50, you need about 43 cm (16.75 inches). In our attic we have a mix of fiberglass with cellulose fill on top totaling 16 inches in most areas.

The trick with R-values is the needed or required amount differs from region to country depending on the weather. To stay warm at night, check the required R-value in your area to make sure you’re getting as much insulation as you need. There’s no sense adding 5 inches of insulation to your attic if you live in the tropics. ;)

Check the R-value for your country:

When we went from eight inches of fiberglass insulation to 16 inches, we qualified for a $300 rebate from the Government of Canada’s ecoENERGY program. There’s nothing like sealing in savings, staying warm in the winter, and collecting a rebate at the same time. ;)

attic insulation attic ventilation

So try one, or all three, of these attic insulation methods to save hundreds each year in energy costs. Your dog may just approve. ;)

Got any attic insulation or attic ventilation tips to share?

Your two cents:

  1. NtJS May 29th, 2009

    Blown-in cellulose is an easy and inexpensive way to insulate. We went from about 2 inches to 14 inches and saw a huge swing in our energy consumption.

  2. Kerry May 30th, 2009

    @NtJS We also added insulation to our attic this year and have seen HUGE savings in our warming and cooling costs. Going from 8 to 16 inches was inexpensive and the savings add up for as long as we own our home. The attic insulation was very cheap and has also cut down on air leaks. I was shocked when I learned how expensive a poorly sealed and insulated an attic can be.

    If you live in a warm or hot climate, sealing an attic can substantially save on your air conditioning energy bill.

  3. Four Pillars May 31st, 2009

    I think the attic is definitely the most important area to insulate.

    I need to do the hatch work you’ve described….I’ve been meaning to do something and now I have some instructions!

  4. Kerry May 31st, 2009

    It’s easy. I’ll send Pivo over to help. ;)

  5. FupDuckTV June 1st, 2009

    You don’t want to add too much celluluse cause it can absorb moisture. If you have too much it can actually losen and crack the jibsome boards overtime. I wouldn’t go over 18 inches worth.

  6. Carol June 1st, 2009

    Very good instructions for insulation but its the photos of Pivo that really captivate! His (her?) face is full of expression. Thanks for the smile.

  7. Kerry June 1st, 2009

    @FupDuckTV Great point FupDuck! Attic ventilation is very very important!

    @Carol I agree with you on the dog! Pivo is truly the star of this blog…I just write here. ;)

  8. Kren October 15th, 2009

    We have about 10″ of cellulose right now. What should be put over top of it? Please tell me the cellulose doesn’t have to be taken out!

  9. Mike February 21st, 2010

    I started the insulation process, however my approach is slighty different. I wanted to use the attic also as a storage area, so I first added additioanl 2X6′s perpendicular to the existing ones. I replaced some of the existing insulation with the itch free fiberglass I found at home depot – this has a vapor barrier insome areas. where I did not need to replace, i added a 2 -4 mil plastic sheet as a vapor barrier, and added another 6″ of fiberglass insulation over the new or orgiginal, between the new 2X6′s. Plywood sheets cut in half (2′ x8′) wre then screwed oto the upper joist for a flat storage area. Since my hatch included pull down stairs that fit within a casing, I cannot follow the insulation suggestion you shared for the hatch. Bsed on what I have read about a product called BAttic, I will be adding some plywood over the stairs (yes, it will clear the stairs, with insulation mounted on topp of them.

  10. Ghostryder May 28th, 2010

    While not entirely clear from your photos, it appears as though you have no vapour barrier on your attic hatch. Without it you could be in for mold problems in the future. I found that our attic hatch was not properly insulated so I put vapour barrier on the back, then insulated using pink board, several layers glued together until I had about 8″ of insulation. I couldn’t put any more than that otherwise I would not be able to open the hatch.

  11. Bruce July 4th, 2010

    There is insulation known as “spider insulation” where an adhesive is blown in with the fiberglass, allowing it to adhere to the existing insulation and structure. How effective this is I don’t know but I am checking in to it. Our problem is wind through the attic; the wind actually picks up the large insulation blankets and moves them! Thus we can’t blow in or dump in loose fill fiberglass or cellulose. And the attic configuration doesn’t lend it to using more batts.

    A tip…if using batt insulation over existing insulation and you have a kraft paper backing, be sure to slash the backing to prevent moisture buildup. Most people use unfaced batts but I do know where people used faced batts thinking the kraft or foil facing would be an “extra” and were sadly mistaken. Instead of keeping the moisture out, it kept it in!

  12. Steve July 4th, 2010

    Adding an adhesive insulation to the underside of the top part of your attic/roof will stop a huge amount of energy loss even before it reaches your attic.

  13. bentheengineer July 4th, 2010

    I have added two solar powered exhaust fans to my roof. Keeps the attick amazingly cooler. On sunny days, when the ceiling used to be very warm to the touch. No more. They really work. About $200 each, afternoon to install. No wiring required.

  14. Alan July 5th, 2010

    Cellulose is a great insulator, but not for the long haul. It breaks down and condenses over a short period of time and becomes less effective. Also, since it’s a paper product, rodents like to next in it. White fiberglass is best. Also, the attic gets HOT, so even in warm climates, a good amount of insulation needed to keep the barrier between the hot attic and the air conditioned home.

  15. Granite Slab Countertops October 15th, 2010

    After reading this post I can say that the writer has done a lot of research and has put all the facts and figures together in his content. It is one of the most credible posts, I have come across. Great job!

  16. Doug Mackenzie September 6th, 2012

    Add some insulation (“Styrofoam”) to the back of the attic hatch – it’s normally just a piece of plywood which has no insulation value at all. Any home improvement store sells sheets of Styrofoam – measure the size of the hatch and get a piece of foam that will fit, the thicker the better since it has a higher R-value. Usually they are sold in larger pieces than you’d need, so to cut it just place the hatch on top of the foam and cut around it with a utility knife to fit. (You might need to go over a few times to cut through the foam.) Attach it to the back of the hatch with glue that is compatible with foam – some types of glue will actually melt the foam so read the directions on the container.
    Let is sit for a few hours (or overnight) for the glue to set, then reinsert the hatch and weatherstrip. You can also add removable caulking to completely seal any air movement – it can be peeled cleanly away if you need to enter the attic later.

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