Sunday, December 18, 2011

Attic Improvements

Wearing my full personal protective equipment (PPE) with the new opening to the attic in the background

This my attic before I insulate, the existing insulation is flush with the joist and about 6 inches deep.


It has been about a year since I did any home improvement projects so I have been trying to decide what I wanted to work on.  Most of my past projects have been things that are seen and appreciated such as paint, trim, and appliances.  But this time I am taking on the unseen, the attic.

The Department of Energy recommends a minimum of R-38 insulation in the attic of existing homes with electric baseboard heat in Seattle.  My attic currently has about 6 inches of loose fiberglass insulation which equals approximately R-15.  My plan is to boost this number significantly by adding a full covering of R-30 fiberglass batts.  It is unlikely that I will recover the cost in my electric bill anytime soon, but at least I can have the satisfaction of knowing that after 65 years this house will for the first time have sufficient insulation overhead.  I have read that 60-70% of homes are under-insulated.

Once the new insulation is in place it will be very difficult to access the attic.  Today I took the opportunity to complete some prep work.  The first step was to add a new access door to the attic from the attic over the garage.  This will allow me to bring in the new insulation without having to take it through the house.  I also took time today to seal any gaps in the ceiling around wires and light fixtures, this will help ensure that I am not loosing any heat due to convection.  Finally I took on the very nasty job of brushing down 65 years of cobwebs.  while there might not be any benefit in doing this it sure makes the attic a more pleasant place to work by reducing the creepy factor.  All I need to do now is install a missing gable vent and I will be ready to insulate.

The first photo I posted is me decked in full PPE with a full face respirator.  This might seem like overkill, but I don't think so.  The existing fiberglass insulation is some nasty stuff and when you start shuffling it around it can get airborne.  I have learned from my medical training that you shouldn't take any chances when it comes to your lungs and the little alveoli that make it possible for us to breath.  Unlike our skin and other parts of our bodies, alveoli are basically incapable of regenerating thus it is very important to protect the ones you have.  I also taped my latex gloves to my tyvec suit. I was hot but I'm not itchy now.

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