Have you noticed a recent increase in your energy bill or changes in your home’s climate? If you’re spending more on electricity, or if you’re having trouble maintaining a consistent temperature throughout your home causing you to conduct more summer or winter attic maintenance than normal, it might be time to take a long-overdue peek into your attic.
If the insulation coating the floor of your attic is very flat, brittle, or smelly, that indicates old insulation, and it’s time for a replacement. But, how easy is removing attic insulation?
In this article, we’ll explore every step and tool you’ll need to complete a successful old attic insulation removal and clean up. But, the process of fixing an under insulated house can be intimidating—and, in some cases, even dangerous. If your attic is off-limits for DIY projects, we’ll also provide the steps you’ll need to hire a qualified professional for insulation removal service.
DIY Attic Insulation Removal
Removing attic insulation is a labor-intensive, multi-step process that’s usually reserved for professionals. If you plan on braving the project alone, make sure to set aside ample time, prepare to invest in quality tools, and follow our step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Determine Your Insulation Type
Before you dive headlong into a DIY attic insulation removal project, you’ll need to determine what kind of insulation is in your attic. There are three major home insulation types, and they’re usually easily identifiable:
- Blanket insulation, also called batt or roll insulation, will be dispersed around your attic in one layer. It’s usually affixed with paper or foil backing (which you may have to lift up from the attic floor to see, depending on the product used), and is most commonly made of fiberglass—a fluffy substance that’s usually pink. If you try to pick up a piece of insulation in your attic, and the product comes up off the floor in large, long sheets placed between the joists, you have blanket insulation.
- Loose-fill insulation, or blown-in insulation, can be made from a variety of materials, but you’re most likely to encounter fiberglass, cellulose, or mineral wool. When professionals install loose-fill, they use professional-grade blowing equipment to ensure even, thorough coverage of your attic floor. If you try to pick it up, and you can only pull away small clumps of fiber at a time, you have loose-fill insulation.
- Spray foam insulation is a relatively new technology that you’re unlikely to encounter in older homes with aging insulation. It’s most commonly used in new construction and extensive renovations, and you won’t be able to pick it up or pull it away from your attic floor. It’s made from a specialized combination of foam and expanding chemicals that adhere to your attic floor, and insulation professionals use specialized equipment for this type of insulation installation.
As these descriptions might indicate, not all insulation material and products are created equal—including their difficulty to remove.
For DIYers, batt insulation will be the easiest to remove, since it doesn’t require specialized insulation installation or removal equipment. Loose-fill insulation will be more difficult and labor-intensive to remove, and you might need to use more specialized equipment—like a shop vac—to remove it. Spray foam insulation should only be removed by professionals with access to commercial-grade equipment and safety gear.
Step 2: Gather Materials
Once you’ve determined your insulation type, it’s time to gather the materials you’ll need for removing your attic insulation. These include:
- Safety gear, including
- Nitrile, latex, or thick cloth gloves
- Eye protection, like eyeglasses or lab goggles
- A facemask rated N95 or higher
- Bags for proper disposal, which you can request from your local waste facility
- Disposable putty knives
- A portable attic fan
- A broom
- Slipcovers for your shoes
- Clothing with full skin coverage or disposable coveralls
- A shop vac or similar high-powered, wet/dry vacuum
- Pest prevention implements, like
- Rat poison
- Rodent and insect traps
- Roach, ant, and wasp-killing spray
Each item on this list is crucial to successful insulation removal, and you shouldn’t start the process until you secure them all.
Step 3: Prepare Your Attic—And Your Home
You’ll need to clear your attic of stored items, valuables, and obstructions before you begin removing insulation.
Clear a space in your home where you can temporarily house anything that you usually store in the attic. While you have everything downstairs, it might be a convenient time to organize these items to lighten your load, decrease the time you’ll spend reloading the items into the attic, and identify any signs of potential pest infestation.
Once your attic is empty, clear a path from the attic to the front door to prevent trips and falls and create as expeditious a route to the outside as possible. As you complete the removal, you’ll want to frequently relocate your insulation bags to the outdoors to prevent odors and dust buildup inside.
Step 4: Remove Your Insulation
After donning your safety gear, your foot slipcovers, your coveralls, and your headlamp, it’s time to haul the rest of your supplies to the attic and climb up the ladder. There are three general steps for completing a successful old insulation removal:
- Gather up the largest, easiest-to-remove pieces first.
- Scrape tough areas with putty knives to completely free all insulation from the floor.
- Spot-check, sweep, and vacuum up any additional dust or debris.
While removing the existing insulation, keep the following in mind:
- Begin running the fan before you start to increase airflow and prevent dust inhalation.
- If your gloves tear, replace them—insulation can irritate your skin.
- Watch your head to prevent bumps and other injuries.
- Safely climb up and down the ladder—fall injuries are very common in construction.
- Maintain situational awareness by using your headlamp and working without music.
- Don’t overfill your disposal bags to make them easier to transport outside.
Step 5: Eradicate and Prevent Pests
Unfortunately, insulation is a prime habitat for pests resulting in contaminated insulation. You’re likely to find at least minimal evidence of pest infiltration, so keep your pest control tools at the ready throughout the insulation removal process.
After you complete the removal, implement pest control safeguards to prevent future infestations. Seal up potential and existing entry points, clean up pest droppings and debris, and leave traps and poison unattended for a few days to round up any straggling unwelcome visitors.
If you’re squeamish about insects and rodents, DIY attic insulation removal isn’t for you. Instead, bring in insulation service reinforcements.
Step 6: Prepare for New Insulation
In addition to pest control, you’ll need to complete a few other steps before replacing the insulation in your attic:
- Sweep, dust, and wipe all surfaces in your attic.
- Replace any blown-out light bulbs and complete any necessary HVAC, structural, or electrical repairs while you have access to the attic floor.
- Make an even larger path to move installation materials and equipment up to the attic—the more space, the better.
The type of insulation you want to install will determine whether or not you can complete the process yourself. While batts require careful, precise measurements to ensure full coverage, they’re the only insulation type that doesn’t require specialized equipment to install.
Seeking Professional Help for Attic Insulation Removal
If a DIY attic insulation removal project isn’t in your wheelhouse, hiring an attic insulation professional will ensure that the project is completed swiftly, safely, and correctly. To find a professional, follow these steps.
Step 1: Gather Estimates
Requesting estimates is a typical step in the process of searching for construction-related professionals. For attic work, most companies will require an in-person consultation before issuing a price estimate, so prepare to host a few house calls in your search for the right team.
Most experts recommend seeking at least three estimates. Gathering a variety of quotes can help you compare:
- Customer reviews
- Estimated project timelines
- Companies’ levels of professionalism
Cost is only one element of the quote collection process. The best possible company for your project is one that has a good reputation in the industry, suggests a reasonable timetable, and displays trustworthiness and professionalism.
Step 2: Prepare for Removal
After you choose an attic professional and sign a contract, it’s time to prepare your attic for insulation removal. Luckily, preparing your attic for professional work is much less labor-intensive than prepping for a DIY removal. Simply make sure to:
- Create a clear, wide path from the attic to the nearest exit door
- Move items stored in your attic to a temporary location
- Ensure that your attic ladder is in safe, operable condition
- Create a plan for keeping your kids and pets out of the way
After following this minimal prep work, you can sit back and relax while a team of qualified professionals transforms your attic.
Step 3: Clean Up and Enjoy!
While your professional attic insulation removal team should clean up most of the project-related debris, you’ll still have some light attic clean up to do after they complete the removal.
There’s no way around it—construction is a dusty process. But, with a quick sweep, dust, and surface wipe, your home should be back to normal in no time.
After cleanup, make a plan for replacing your attic insulation if you haven’t already. Whether you choose to DIY or consult with a professional, the project isn’t really complete until your home is properly insulated.
Attic Construction: Providing Professional Attic Services for Over a Decade
Removing attic insulation isn’t a DIY project for the faint of heart. But, whether you decide to take on the labor-intensive, dirty process yourself or rely upon the expertise of attic professionals, you’ll be one step closer to an orderly, well-insulated attic space.
If you’re seeking attic professionals who value safety, timeliness, and excellent value, look no further than Attic Construction. We’ve been providing attic cleaning, rodent-proofing, insulation removal services, and so much more since 2011, and our team’s professionalism and quality of work are second to none.
Instead of strapping on coveralls and preparing for a dusty DIY project, call Attic Construction for a free consultation.
- US Department of Energy. Types of Insulation. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/types-insulation
- Insulation Contractors Association of America. Best Practices. https://www.insulate.org/bestpractices.pdf
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fatal and non-fatal falls, slips, and trips in the construction industry. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/fatal-and-nonfatal-falls-slips-and-trips-in-the-construction-industry.htm
- Texas Association of Builders. Consumer Information. https://www.texasbuilders.org/about-us/consumer-information.html