Adding Attic Insulation – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

Installing Insulation in the Attic

I think I’m finally ready to do something about adding to my attic insulation.  How do I begin and how much do I need?

– John P.  Arnold, MO

The cold weather is bringing many questions such as yours.  Checking your attic insulation for the correct R-factor is easy to do, and adding additional insulation is also easy.

With a flashlight and tape measure, go in to your attic and measure the depth of the insulation.  If it is a loose fill cellulose, you multiply the depth of insulation by 3.5.  So, if your depth is 8”, you have an R-factor of 28.  Iif you have a fiberglass batt (fiberglass that has been rolled out), multiply by 3.2 per inch.  So, if you have rolled fiberglass insulation, and it is 8” deep, your attic has an R-factor of 25 (3.2 x 8).  Most experts would recommend having an attic R-factor between 40  to 50.

If you need to add more insulation, there are basically two types of insulation to choose from.  One is to use a loose cellulose type, which requires a blower (and is usually rented free with a certain number of bags of insulation).  However, this also requires a second person to help with the blower.  The other  type of insulation that is readily available is the fiberglass batts.  This type can be done with one person.

If using the loose cellulose, the blower is placed outside and a hose is run through the house up to the attic, where someone will be dispensing the insulation as it comes through the hose.  The person outside has the job of filling the hopper with the insulation.  If you are wanting to increase the R-factor of your attic by 20, you’ll need to add about 6 inches more.  The person in the attic does need to be careful of distributing the insulation in an even method, so that there aren’t any raised piles.  They also need to be sure not to get the insulation too close to the perimeter, where gaps are needed for proper air flow.

If you’re going to use the fiberglass batts, be sure to use the “unfaced” insulation.  This is the type that does not have a Kraft paper on one side.  This paper serves as a moisture barrier, but since you already have one on the insulation when the house was built, adding a second barrier will only collect moisture, so be sure NOT to use the fiberglass insulation which has one side with Kraft paper.  Laying the batts down is simple, but be sure to lay them perpendicular to the existing rolled insulation, or across the floor joists.  In both cases, be sure to wear long sleeves, have a respirator mask and gloves, along with some sort of utility knife (if using the batts).

After adding insulation, you will probably notice the difference is the summer as well as the winter.  There are many other things you can do to seal your attic and home, but this will help the most.

Time: About 4 hours for an average attic
Difficulty:  Easy
Materials:  Gloves, respirator mask, utility knife, proper insulation (and blower if needed), flashlights or light stand, measuring tape.

How To Fix Cracked Caulking – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

Caulking Crown Molding

I’ve recently noticed that the crown molding in my home has a gap at the top where it was caulked. It hasn’t done this before.

-R. Q., St. Louis

After crown molding is installed, it is caulked at the top and bottom, to hide the gap. Occasionally, this may need to be recaulked. The changes in temperatures will cause the caulk to expand and contract, especially if this area is along an outside wall. In addition, if the caulk has been there for a number of years, it just may be time to recaulk the area.

In some cases, if the gaps are minor, the caulking can just be touched up, or applied over the old caulk, without having to remove any of the caulk. This makes the job much easier. In applying new caulk, it is best to use a caulk with silicone, as it will stretch somewhat, helping withstand the temperature variations. If your current caulk is white, you may not need to touch the area up with paint after the caulk is applied. However, if the crown molding is a different color and the caulk was painted, you’ll need to make sure that you use a paintable silicone caulk.

If you have to remove the old caulk, begin by laying a drop cloth on the floor, then use a razor knife to cut the old caulk out. Be careful not to cut into the drywall or the crown molding itself. Once the caulking is out, you’re ready to add new caulk. If you haven’t caulked before, a word of caution: apply a minimal amount of caulk when you begin. Applying too much caulk (cutting too much off the caulk tube nozzle) will create a mess and will cause more work at the end, along with the job not looking professional. After the caulk is applied, run your finger along the joint to smooth it out. Although this may not be clean and fun, this finishing touch is what makes the job look good.

Let the caulk dry, and if needed, you’re ready to paint the caulk. If you’re not great at painting such a small line, consider using an artist’s brush. It can make things much easier and neater.

Materials: Caulk, caulk gun, paper towels, razor knife, step ladder, drop cloth
Time: Between ½ hour and 2 hours per room
Difficulty: Easy