Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them.
This month, we learn about insulation issues with Brea Mason at Pacific Rim Insulation Inc. in Friday Harbor.
Q1: Attic insulation is priority No. 1 for homes (hot air rises after all!). There are lots of options for insulating attics (e.g., spray foam, blown-in fiberglass/cellulose, batten insulation, etc.). Can you please let us know some pros and cons in material choices and overall advice for insulating attics?
There are many different choices for insulating your attic spaces. If you have an existing house, with a nice clean attic and are looking to increase your insulation, I really like to use blown-in fiberglass insulation. It fills in all the gaps and cracks you may have and sets down a nice blanket to cover it all up. I think getting an attic to an R50/R60 provides great resistance from the outside elements in our area. On new homes you have many options, but we have been installing closed cell foam with batt insulation combo in quite a few homes. It makes your roof a non-vented system, so no worries that you don’t have enough air-flow behind your insulation.
Q2: What’s your favorite type of insulation and why?
My favorite type of insulation would be rockwool, or closed cell foam. Rockwool is so versatile, good for sound, gives you an R23 on exterior walls, is fire protectant, and is an overall very dense product—which means better resistance (or R-value). Closed cell foam is my other favorite because of the sealing power it has as well as its high R-value per inch (R6.9 per inch). On older houses with 2×4 exterior walls you get an R21 and 11 percent sheer power, so that is a win-win.
Q3: An amazing statistic is that up to 30% of heated air can be lost through a ceiling attic access hatch that isn’t insulated and weather-stripped. Do you have any high-impact recommendations homeowners can employ to improve thermal efficiency and save money?
I think a lot of people don’t know if their access hatch has any insulation on it at all. We always build a dam of insulation around the hatch and then install insulation to the back side of the access cover. You can hold the insulation with twine or you can cut a piece of rigid insulation and glue it to the back of the hatch. Weather stripping is so important! Around light can covers, electrical outlets and attic access hatches. We are always trying to stop the air from infiltrating.