Adding Insulation in the Attics

Most flippers focus on sexier upgrades such as renovating kitchens and bathrooms, but there is something to be said for spending some money on hidden (but necessary) features such as adding attic insulation. This is especially true if you’re flipping your own house (or just tackling home improvement projects in general), as new attic insulation is an upgrade that can pay for itself in the span of just a few short years.

If you’re dealing with an older house, the odds are great that the attic insulation is lacking, and that your heating and cooling costs are higher than they should be. Older attic insulation deteriorates and settles over time (and can be eaten or scattered around by critters such as rats, squirrels, or raccoons) and typically doesn’t have the same insulating capacity as today’s insulation products.

As far as a general rule of thumb as to whether you need to add more insulation in your attic, if you poke your head in the attic and can see any rafters peeking up out of the existing insulation, it’s time to add more. As far as the technical lingo, recommended attic insulation is usually R-38 to R-44, which equates to about 12 inches of actual insulation.

You’ve got various options these days as far as the actual insulation product you use, including the familiar pink fiberglass insulation as well as cellulose and newer insulating foam products. There are pros and cons to all the various insulation products, so you’ll want to poke around and do some research as to what you feel is best for your particular home. You’ll also have to decide whether to go with traditional insulation batts (that comes in the big rolls) or a blown in insulation product. Both essentially work the same and again, both have pros and cons.

There’s nothing technically difficult or tricky about installing new insulation, so it’s definitely a DIY project that any homeowner can tackle. That is, if you don’t mind working in hot, dirty attics, often in cramped quarters, carefully avoiding falling through your ceiling, likely covered in itchy fiberglass fibers. It’s not a project for everyone but, as mentioned, it’s not particularly hard, just not much fun. Installing batts yourself is pretty self-explanatory, but most home improvement centers rent machines for installing blown-in insulation yourself (often basically renting the machine to you for free if you buy the insulation there).

If you do decide to hire the job out, expect to pay anywhere between $750-$1,500 for an average sized house of about 1,500-2,000 sq. ft. Like anything home renovation related, that cost can vary depending on where you live, how accessible your attic is, the amount and type of insulation to be added, how much space there is to work in it, etc.

While adding attic insulation isn’t a sexy home upgrade, it can definitely save you money in the long run, and can also help to set a flip project apart from other houses on the market, if you can point to various energy efficient upgrades you’ve made such as new windows, insulation, and appliances, as more and more buyers are looking for such things when looking for a home.

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