The cost to remove old insulation from attic spaces will vary based on the type of insulation, where you live, and whether it’s a single service or part of a replacement project. To that end, a very basic price range for insulation removal is $1 to $2 per square foot.
When determining whether or not insulation removal is worth the cost, determine the type of insulation currently in your home, if it needs to be completely replaced or simply added to, and if it contains any hazards or toxins that may spread during removal.
If your attic insulation isn’t doing its job, getting it in tip-top shape is a critical investment that can reduce your heating and cooling costs while improving your home’s comfort. While you may want to remove your attic insulation yourself, it is highly advised to leave this job to the professionals. Let’s figure out whether you need it removed, and what goes into estimating the cost.
How Long Does Attic Insulation Last?
There are many factors involved in pricing an attic insulation removal project, but the first question is: do you actually need your insulation material removed?
When attic insulation hits the top of your to-do list, it’s often because you’re feeling the signs that your home is under-insulated, whether that’s higher than normal electrical bills or a persisting draft. Usually, the fix is adding more home insulation on top of what’s already there, rather than removing it.
When basic home maintenance is taken care of, modern types of attic insulation don’t require frequent replacement. However, insulation in older homes may need a makeover, especially if it is damaged insulation or filled with harmful chemicals. To that end, let’s take a look at the life expectancies of certain types of insulation:
- Spray foam – Spray foam insulation lasts up to 80 years. It’s air-tight, mold-resistant, and does not absorb moisture. If it requires removal, it’s generally due to pests or damage from construction activities.1
- Fiberglass – Can last 80 to 100 years, but may begin to fail after 15 to 20 years. It can be damaged by moisture as well as gravity over time. Its effectiveness is dependent on it staying light and fluffy. Unless it is water or pest-damaged, it’s generally safe to leave in place while adding insulation on top, as needed.
- Mineral wool – Lasts 30 to 80 years, depending on its variety and base material. It’s also prone to moisture and mold growth. New insulation can be applied over it if it’s dry and undamaged.
- Cellulose – Lasts 20 to 30 years, but will begin to degrade after about 15 years. Cellulose insulation is vulnerable to moisture and mold. If dry and undamaged, insulation can be applied on top of existing attic insulation as needed.
When Does Attic Insulation Need to Be Removed?
Separate from whether your insulation is nearing the end of its life expectancy, some types of insulation need to be carefully and thoroughly removed based on damage. Plus, some older types of insulation can be potential hazards to your and your family’s health due to the presence of asbestos and other chemicals.
In general, there are four reasons why you may need to remove and replace your attic’s existing insulation.
#1 Removal Due to Hazardous Types of Insulation
While owners of newer homes needn’t be concerned, attic insulation in an older house may need removal since many homes were insulated with types of insulation that pose safety hazards. These include:
- Vermiculite – If your home contains vermiculite insulation, the safest option is to have it removed by asbestos abatement professionals. Although the EPA recommends testing and only requires certified asbestos abatement if the results are 1% or higher asbestos. Even at lower amounts, regular insulation removal methods will produce airborne asbestos in your home so you’ll need to take the proper safety protocols, such as isolating the area.2
- Balsamic wool – Made from cedar tree shavings, balsamic wool insulation was popular in mid-20th century home construction but is now known to contain carcinogens.
- Cellulose – Made from recycled newspaper, older cellulose insulation may pose a fire hazard.
Since drafty homes are often corrected by adding insulation on top of existing insulation, your home may contain hazardous insulation under the newer coverings. A professional inspection can help you find whether or not you have potentially hazardous insulation in your home.
#2 Removal Due to Water or Mold
Insulation materials are designed to resist humidity and moisture, but an unattended water leak can lead to mold. The presence of mold in your insulation is a danger to your family’s health and is another circumstance that warrants professional removal. Spores of mold within your old attic insulation may cause:
- Digestive problems
#3 Removal Due to Pest-Infested Insulation
Animal urine and droppings create a toxic environment that will impact your home air quality over time as well as break down both insulation and structural materials. Rodents and insects can also tunnel through and eat into attics and insulation as they nest and proliferate.
If there is significant evidence of pest infestation, you may need complete insulation removal to return your attic to a clean and safe state.
#4 Removal Due to Other Damage
Though durable, insulation becomes vulnerable when it is punctured or begins to break down to open up space between points of insulation.
For instance, if your roof was poorly installed, it can send wood chips into the insulation. These holes allow both moisture and dirt into the insulation, which compromises its ability to repel moisture and creates an environment where mold can grow.
How to Tell if Your Attic Insulation Needs Removal
There are signs to look for in your attic that will help you figure out whether your insulation needs removal and replacement.
Grab a flashlight and take a look in your attic space. You may need removal if you can identify:
- Crumbling insulation – Your old attic insulation may be expired and need replacement if it crumbles when touched or has other signs of damage due to aging.
- Moisture – If you can see visible water leakage or damage, or you can smell or feel the moisture in the air, you may need the removal of insulation and mold treatment.
- Mold – Mold may or may not be visible to the eye. You may see it as black spots or streaks on the insulation. (For fiberglass insulation, black coloration might be dirt that is accumulating based on the presence of an air leak.)3
- Unwanted guests – If you can see or smell evidence of animal waste, nests, or tunneling, you may need to remove current insulation and possibly repair any damage to the structure from pests. This may not be a surprise to you if you’ve already heard the pitter-patter or chewing of these pests when the house is quiet.
However, the best test is going to be a professional inspection and report. A professional can help identify any potential problems that you may not be able to easily see, smell, or hear yourself.
How Is Attic Insulation Removed?
Inspecting and preparing the attic space for insulation removal is a critical first step to this process. If there is significant infestation or contamination to clean up and protect the rest of the house from, your removal rate will reflect that.
Depending on the type of insulation or damage, removal can be done by machine or by hand. However, bagging insulation and removing it by hand is more time-intensive, and thus more expensive.
Some things to consider when deciding whether to use a machine or remove the insulation by hand include:
- Contaminated insulation – If it contains materials such as wood chips, insulation must be bagged and removed by hand.
- Batt insulation – Batting must be rolled up and taken out by hand.
- Blown insulation – Machine removal involves vacuuming blown insulation with an industrial device that keeps the insulation contained until after it leaves the home.
How to Estimate Your Attic Insulation Removal Cost
So how much does it cost to remove attic insulation? As we noted at the beginning of this article, the average price range for attic insulation removal is $1 to $2 per square foot. Costs can range upward if the condition of the insulation is particularly poor. When pricing your specific project, factors that affect the quote include:
- Amount of insulation – Your price per square foot may be impacted by just how much insulation is currently present. For instance, if previous homeowners have already added blown-in insulation over fiberglass batting, that will require more labor to remove.
- Removal process – Does the current insulation require removal by hand or can it be vacuumed out? Generally, by-hand removal will cost you extra since it requires more labor and usually takes more time.
- Vacuum truck access – If machine removal is used, the process will involve running a six-inch-diameter hose through your attic. The hose is connected to a vacuum device in a truck outside your home. If this is not possible due to space issues, then your attic may require removal by hand rather than a machine.
- Attic access – How easy or difficult will it be for workers to enter and move through your attic space? Will they encounter pillars, pipes, debris, or other obstructions? This can affect both the methods used and the amount of labor involved in your job.
- Presence of hazards – If hazards such as mold, asbestos, or animal waste are present, removal may need to be done by hand and may require additional steps and safety considerations, such as quarantining the house for a designated period of time.
How Attic Construction Professionals Can Save You Money
Removing insulation that contains mold, animal feces, or asbestos requires careful handling to protect the workers and prevent contaminants from spreading through your home during removal.
Even if you’re planning to DIY the replacement process, the removal is best handled professionally—enlist Attic Construction for the job.
If you’re considering attic insulation changes, we invite you to call us today to schedule a no-strings-attached attic inspection. One of our inspectors will come out to evaluate the current state of your attic and determine what is needed to keep your home clean, safe, and properly protected.
- Home Inspection Insider. How Often Should Insulation Be Replaced? https://homeinspectioninsider.com/how-often-should-insulation-be-replaced/
- Family Handyman. 5 Things You Need to Know About Vermiculite. https://www.familyhandyman.com/article/things-to-know-about-vermiculite/
- Ted’s Energy Tips. What does it mean if your fiberglass insulation is black? https://tedsenergytips.com/2011/03/25/black-insulation/
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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