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Old 03-15-2012, 08:57 AM   #1
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


We are buying our first house and while I wouldn't call it a fixer'upper it IS 26 years old and has 26 year old house problems (So I imagine I'll be asking quite a few questions in the next few months).

We won't close on the house until the end of next month but once we do I need to move fast on the attic before the summer heat kicks in.

During the Home Inspection it was clear that the attic insulation is poor. Over the flat ares of the ceiling (floor of the attic, ceiling of the house) there is just 4-5 inches of loose insulation, some of it even missing in places.
A majority of the attic is taken up by the vaulted ceiling. The insulation looks pretty thin and slightly compressed (and missing in a couple vertical section). If the attic was all flat and with the loose insulation it seems like it would be an easy thing to get just some more blown in but where I am stuck is with the vaulted ceiling. What do I do to improve that without having to rip out the existing insulation. Can I just lay some new insulation over the top? It will be pretty difficult to reach the top of the vaulting because of the slant.

Also, for the flat areas of the attic can I just buy more loose insulation and put that on top of the existing to bring it up to 12 inches or so?

Texas Summers are hot hot hot so I want to try to get something done in the attic before the heat sets in.

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Old 03-15-2012, 09:16 AM   #2
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


How steep is the pitch.

Many vaulted ceilings can be blown if they are not that steep and the insulation will somewhat bridge itself and lock into position.

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Old 03-15-2012, 09:18 AM   #3
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


I forgot to take a picture and the home inspector only took closeup shots but Its definitely 45+ degree angle, if I were to guess it would be somewhere between 90 and 45 degree angle.
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:29 AM   #4
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


You say "attic". Is this conditioned space, or just empty? I am wondering why the roof needs to be insulated. If the roof is insulated, the floor does not need to be. If the attic won't be used for living space (conditioned) then maybe you should look at taking the insulation out of the roof and putting it down as more for the floor, vent the attic, and seal that attic away from the conditioned space. BTW: A 26 yr old house should not really have many "issues" if it was built well. You may be pleasantly surprised.
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:49 AM   #5
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


Its just empty space. The roof doesn't need insulation, the vault does. Attached is kind of what it looks like inside the attic. Its not to scale.
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Old 03-15-2012, 12:05 PM   #6
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


Oh! I see now. There is a mesh that you can use when dense packing cellulose insulation, but I don't know if it would work for that situation. You may want to talk to a cellulose blower about doing that; net it, fill it, and be done. Maybe you could even blow cellulose in at the bottom and build your way up; dunno if it would stay put. Absolutely air seal the conditioned space below where you insulate.
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Old 03-16-2012, 09:30 AM   #7
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


Can I put batting over the top of the existing (3-5in deep) loose fill insulation on the flat parts of the attic? In this case the batting would have to be inbetween the joists because the loose fill doesn't come to the top.

Then lay batting across the joists where the current batting already in place on the vaulted sections (since in that case the current batting appears to come to the top of the joist)?

I am not sure about the "air sealing" it there are not many holes going up to the attic and I'm not totally sure how I would find them all. I am trying to figure out what is going to give the biggest immediate improvement and what items are diminishing returns (helpful but take hours to achieve only minor improvements).

Buying, cutting, and laying down batting seems totally possible for me. I am NOT a handy man and not really a DIY'er. I work on computers... So I'm looking for improvements I can easily do with my current limited skillet.

Also, assuming I laid down all this extra batting, is that going to mean that should I want to install a radiant heat barrier later on its going to be a big pain (because the batting comes above the joists... I think I'm pretty much answering my own question though)?

Is it worthwhile to do the radiant heat barrier in an old attic like like this? Or is my best return on investment (least amount of hours for most amount of effect) going to be batting?

Sorry, SO many questions. I've got the new home owner nerves!
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Old 03-16-2012, 01:06 PM   #8
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


Leave the batts at the store. They are a P Poor solution unless they are covered w/ cellulose. You can never get them tight and the air gaps will minimize what they do. They will be better than nothing, though, and if pumping in cellulose bothers you, then lay the batts down and then pump a few inches of cellulose over top. It will fill the gaps pretty well. Either pump in cellulose yourself (watch some videos on youtube; it ain't rocket science, or computer science, in a ceiling) or hire it. If you hire it, hire it all; getting a crew there is part of the expense, so a small job is more spendy per cubic foot. Do the best you can at locating penetrations into the attic; electrical boxes for lights, the people access door, pipes, etc, and caulk or spray foam them shut. Air sealing is very important; it is cheap to find cracks and zap them. Radiant barriers need to be kept clean and they need an air space to be effective. Greenbuildingadvisor.com has a blog on radiant barriers; something like "Radiant Barriers. A solution waiting for a problem." I forget, but the essence was "luke warm" about them.
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Old 03-16-2012, 10:26 PM   #9
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


"I am not sure about the "air sealing" it there are not many holes going up to the attic and I'm not totally sure how I would find them all. I am trying to figure out what is going to give the biggest immediate improvement and what items are diminishing returns (helpful but take hours to achieve only minor improvements)." -------

Easy for anyone to do and almost immediate improvement: air seal the crawl space, and attic to keep that cold air you already paid for inside the house. As the attic air is exhausted, replacement air is supplied somewhere (stack effect). Closest would be any wiring/plumbing holes in top plates of the rooms below. Pipe chases are notorious for air leakage because they usually follow the plumbing stack to the basement/crawl, close them off. http://www.wag-aic.org/1999/WAG_99_baker.pdf

I agree with JK, above. Get some electrical outlet foam covers to help stop the pressurized colder air from being forced into the walls/ceiling fixtures. Air leakage pathways: http://www.conservationtechnology.co...eakagePathways

Finding existing attic leaks from rooms below: http://www.finehomebuilding.com/PDF/Free/021105092.pdf

Is your HVAC unit/ducting in the attic?: http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...e-humid-south/

And all at once: http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...control_ed.pdf

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Old 04-11-2012, 08:14 AM   #10
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


I managed to get some pictures while doing our pre-final walkthrough (found the seller still has items to complete or risk having the contract violated).

This is what I've got for the attic. You can see the sloped area and then raised areas, and the lightly insulated flat areas. Also, the HVAC ducts are just laying on top, will they be able to just blow insulation right over that?

Also, I noticed that other than the gable vents at the two ends of the attic there is nothing else up there for ventilation, nothing under the eves, they are sealed up, so I guess that means they can just blow the insulation pretty much all over the place? Also, no recessed lighting as far as I can tell.
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling-attic1-medium-.jpg   Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling-spring2012-101-medium-.jpg   Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling-spring2012-103-medium-.jpg   Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling-spring2012-098-medium-.jpg   Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling-spring2012-099-medium-.jpg  

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Old 04-11-2012, 08:16 AM   #11
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Old Poorly insulated Attic w/Vaulted Ceiling


Also, see that gable vent at the very very far end? The one that looks like a bear to get to? Apparently the screen is broken there, so critters are making nests and such. I need to find something to fix that with, but since the gable is so huge I'm not sure how. Just staple some fine mesh chicken wire maybe?

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