Old attic with wooden furniture

Attic Insulation Removal: What Goes into the Process?

If you can’t recall when your attic insulation was installed or augmented, it may be time to consider removal. Insulation can often be supplemented rather than replaced, but removal is a must if there are signs of water damage, mold, or infestations. Additionally, older insulation and insulation that’s dirty, damaged, or past the end of its life expectancy may need to be replaced. Not only will this help improve the energy efficiency of your home, but it will also reduce utility bills as well. 

While you can remove your attic insulation yourself, it may pose risks to your and your family’s health. A team of skilled professionals can remove existing insulation in a single day and is able to accurately gauge dangers and weaknesses in your attic environment. 

Let’s take a look at the stages of attic insulation removal, starting with figuring out what type of insulation you have and what condition it’s in.

1. Identifying Your Insulation

Not exactly sure what type of insulation is keeping your house temperature regulated? With a quick visual inspection, you can usually determine what kind of insulation you have. You may also be able to tell whether you need to add additional insulation or if it has tell-tale signs of needing removal and replacement.

To plan attic insulation removal, you need to consider both its format and its base material. Common types of attic insulation are: 

  • Batt and roll – Often pink or gray, batting insulation is also known as blanket insulation. It’s created from flexible fibers formed into layers that are cut to standard widths and laid flat between joists in your attic. It’s most often made from fiberglass, but its base material can also be mineral wool, plastic fibers, or even cotton or sheep’s wool.1
  • Blown-in – If it looks loose and lumpy, you’ve got blown-in, or loose-fill, insulation. It’s often made from cellulose (gray and dull), fiberglass (white with a slight shine), or rock or mineral wool (colors range from white to brown or gray).2
  • Spray foam – You can find hand-held spray foam in cans at your local hardware store to fill in small leaks and holes, but spray foam insulation is also installed commercially with pressure sprayers. It has a rigid surface and is often yellow-beige in color.
  • Combo platter – Because the insulation is often augmented over time, you may have multiple types in your attic. One common mix is blown-in on top of batt and roll. So, you may need a little gentle excavation to determine your insulation’s true identity. 

If your inspection results in a “none of the above” answer and you live in an older home, you could have a dated type of insulation that contains chemicals or asbestos. As such, this type of insulation, which includes vermiculite and balsamic wood, should be removed immediately.3

2. Inspecting the Attic

Once you’ve determined what kind of existing insulation you have, the next step is evaluating its condition and the presence of any hazardous materials. This includes looking for: 

  • Water damage or mold
  • Rodent or other pest infestation
  • Punctures, tears, and signs of aging or shrinkage in the insulation
  • Foreign objects like wood chips or nails mixed in with the insulation 
  • Asbestos or hazardous chemicals from outdated insulation materials 

While a quick visit to your attic can help uncover some of these issues, a professional inspection is critical to ensure potential hazards are correctly identified.

3. Creating a Removal Plan

The removal process is either done by hand or machine, which determines the attic insulation installation cost and time it’ll take to complete the process. 

Removal by machine requires a high-powered vacuum with a large-diameter hose that can make its way up into the attic. This is the most efficient method, and can be used when you have: 

  • Blown-in insulation with no foreign objects in it
  • Accessibility within and to the attic for worker movement and vacuum hose insertion
  • No hazards present (such as mold, animal waste, asbestos, or chemicals)

Workers will need to remove and bag old insulation by hand if you have: 

  • Batt and roll insulation
  • Foam insulation
  • Blown-in insulation with construction detritus or other materials mixed in
  • Health hazards that can be further stirred up in the air by vacuuming
  • Attic areas with too little space or too many obstructions for vacuuming

Hand removal generally costs more because it requires more time and labor.

How Long Does Attic Insulation Removal Take?

For a 1,500-square-foot attic, professional removal of blown-in insulation without hazardous complications can take as little as 4 to 6 hours to complete. However, the time it takes to remove attic insulation is generally dependent on a variety of factors, including:

  • Attic size and access
  • The degree of obstructions, such as ducts, pipes, pillars, or debris
  • Type of insulation
  • The volume of insulation needed to be removed
  • Removal method (by hand takes longer than vacuum)
  • Presence of hazards

Health and Safety Considerations

Even in the best of cases, removing old insulation involves dealing with airborne fibers that are harmful to skin, eyes, and lungs. As such, workers must abide by standard safety precautions when removing insulation, which consist of: 

  • Wearing protective gear like coveralls, heavy gloves, goggles, and respirators
  • Sealing off the rest of the house during the insulation removal
  • Draping and adding a protective covering to surfaces where a vacuum hose runs
  • Taking frequent breaks in warmer months to avoid heat exhaustion while suited up 
  • Washing arms, hands, and face in cool water to discourage fiberglass absorption

Additionally, if asbestos is found in the attic, an asbestos abatement provider will have their own stringent health and safety practices to avoid any health concerns. 

How Professional Attic Insulation Removal Can Help You

A trusted team of experts can provide you with thorough attic evaluation, skilled insulation removal, meticulous hazardous material mitigation, and exhaustive clean-up and disposal methods to ensure your insulation is dealt with properly. 

At Attic Construction, we specialize in attic insulation removal and installation, so you don’t have to go far to make sure your home is in tip-top shape. Call us today to schedule one of our inspectors for a no-strings-attached attic assessment. 

We’ll help you take the first step toward a healthier and more comfortable home.

Sources: 

  1. Buildipedia. Blanket (Batt and Roll) Insulation. http://buildipedia.com/knowledgebase/division-07-thermal-and-moisture-protection/07-20-00-thermal-protection/07-21-16-blanket-insulation/blanket-batt-and-roll-insulation
  2. The Spruce. What Does Asbestos Insulation Look Like? https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-identify-dangerous-asbestos-insulation-4119906
  3. Family Handyman. 5 Things You Need to Know About Vermiculite. https://www.familyhandyman.com/article/things-to-know-about-vermiculite/

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Great work! Our attic went from totally disgusting to pristine.  They are courteous and professional and clean up after themselves.

-Karen L. Santee, CA

Andrew was very informative and helpful during the whole process. Excellent communication and his team did a great job. He came on Sunday and the work was done and completed by Tuesday. Highly recommend to anyone who is looking for a fair prices and great service.

– Joey E. San Diego, CA