Is it better to remove old attic insulation before adding new?

Homeowners and business owners who have their properties insulated know the benefit of it. Really, anyone paying heating or cooling bills on a property could consider upgrading their insulation to enjoy more comfort and lower their energy bills even further. 

But if you’re planning to upgrade your insulation, you may begin to wonder if you will need to remove the old attic insulation to install the new materials. Can you install the new attic insulation on top of the old one? Which is the most convenient and practical option? We care about your insulation needs and have the correct answer for that! Read on. 

Should you remove old attic insulation before installing new?

You’ll rarely need to remove the old insulation before setting the new one unless you need it removed, and don’t mind the extra costs associated with removal. Removing your old insulation takes additional time and labor, so it’s typically a waste of money unless you have a sufficient or personal reason.

Whether to chuck it or insulate right over it is a matter of why. In other words, it depends on a lot of things and situations. It’s best to understand when and when not to remove the old insulation

When must you remove the older attic insulation?

There are a few instances when removing old insulation is the right thing to do. Failure to do so will have more tangible consequences, and you might not enjoy all the benefits of the new insulation as much. You might be forced to bring the whole thing down later on, which will waste considerable amounts of money and time. In the worst-case scenario, you might also have to repair your home. Here are some valid reasons why doing away with your older attic insulation is the best decision. 

When replacing current insulation with spray foam

Spray foam is one of the best insulation materials today. Its R-value is unmatched, but to enjoy the benefits of spray foam insulation, you have to dig deeper into your pockets. Luckily, you’ll likely be able to recover all that in terms of energy savings a few years later. 

Before installing spray foam, the pre-existing insulation must go! But why? Because spray foam insulation creates an ultra-tight air seal and penetrates every corner and tiny space, providing a tight barrier. Spray foam is sprayed and expands to create that barrier, and it cannot do so if there’s old insulation in the way.

A professional insulation contractor will use the right tools to remove the older attic insulation without damaging your home. They will use a powerful vacuum to suck up the leftovers from every nook and cranny before installing spray foam insulation. 

When there’s mold

Unfortunately, mold thrives in indoor environments, including attics. Mold can develop on your attic insulation for a variety of factors, namely;

  • Improper venting/ventilation
  • Humid climates
  • Leaks from cooling and heating systems
  • Extreme storms

If your current attic insulation is infested with molds, removing it will save you a lot of stress. The insulation becomes less effective, and the mold might damage other attic components. Besides, laying another insulation material on mold-infested insulation is not advisable. 

Most importantly, mold exposes your family to health risks such as severe allergic reactions and respiratory issues. If mold grows on your attic insulation, you’ll be forced to remove it and install a new one.

If there are toxic materials in the older insulation

If your insulation has not been changed for years and was installed in the 1970s or earlier, chances are that it contains asbestos. Asbestos is a highly harmful material that can cause severe damage to your lungs if inhaled, especially when being removed. 

Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of contracting asbestosis or mesothelioma, among other severe health conditions. Symptoms can show up as long as 20 to 30 years later after exposure. We usually recommend having a trained professional remove this type of insulation before installing a new one. Our professionals have the necessary protective gear to get the job done and keep you safe. 

After rodent or pest invasion

Rodents and other pests love making their home out of yours, especially inside loose-fill insulation and fiberglass batts. Infestations are most common in older homes, especially those with weak spots in the attic exterior. The most notorious intruders are;

  • Mice and rats: These rodents make your attics their temporary or permanent home to seek refuge, especially in the colder months. They also attract predators such as vipers. 
  • Raccoons and squirrels: These are the largest animals that use your attic spaces as a home, especially during the warmer months, to protect their newborns. 
  • Bats: Bats live in caves, but where there are none, they turn the dark spaces and places in your attic into their comfort place. 
  • Insects: Hornets, wasps, and termites turn your attics into nesting spaces. 

If your insulation has turned into a condo for these animals, then it would best to remove it before adding new insulation because;

  • They already damaged the insulation
  • They’ve left droppings and urine, which can be harmful to your health
  • Nests will be left behind

Before adding any new insulation after removing the current insulation, have a professional sanitize and disinfect the area. Opt for an insulation replacement like spray foam that helps deter some of these animals. 

If there’s any water damage

Water solves many global issues, but if it goes anywhere near your insulation materials, it becomes a problem. If you experience a roof leak right into your attic, you should check your insulation. 

We already talked about mold, but there are other water-related issues. It causes your insulation to lose effectiveness, and instead of offering a solution, the insulation worsens things. Waterlogged insulation slows down heat transfer in your attic. 

If it happens, you’ll have no other option but to remove the soggy insulation. However, you can remove the affected area or patches and save money. You can then add new insulation on top. 

When you DON’T need to remove the old insulation

You don’t have to remove your old insulation if you don’t have a reason to. Our contractor will look at it and let you know whether it needs to go. If your insulation is not affected by elements like the ones we talked about earlier, then it’s okay if you don’t pull it down. Besides, adding new insulation over the old insulation doubles will most likely give you the upper hand in terms of insulation benefits. Here’s why you don’t need to worry about removing the existing insulation to add a new one.

You’re installing batt or rolled insulation

Batt and rolled insulation can be laid on top of the pre-existing insulation. Whether made from cellulose or fiberglass, the insulation will retain excellent R-values and serve your needs. However, they should be safe from mold, moisture, and rodents. 

If your older insulation is misaligned, removing them could be easier, or it could be re-aligned to deliver the insulative properties. Our qualified contractors will see how to resolve the problem. The “lift and fill” method is one of the most common solutions. Lift and fill is when our technicians lift the batt or roll and blow loose-fill underneath to create a cushion that fixes the issue. 

You’re adding loose-fill insulation

You don’t need to remove the pre-existing insulation when adding loose-fill insulation. Also, no harmful chemical reactions result from mixing these two types of insulation. In fact, adding loose-fill insulation on an old one increases your home’s R-value. You save money by not having to remove the old insulation and a reduced monthly energy bill. 

Of course, our contractor must check the old insulation and determine whether it is in sound condition and can be reused. If it’s not in good shape, let’s say it has mold, and animal waste, then the best advice would be to remove it. 

How long does the insulation in your attic last?

According to the International Association of Certified Inspectors, the lifespan of attic insulation is about 80 years or more, depending on your insulation material of choice. Spray foam, for instance, can last over 80 years or longer if installed well. Cellulose, rock wool, and loose fill will last over a century if rodents don’t tamper with the insulation. 

However, after the installation, it doesn’t end there. The insulation will need essential maintenance, which you can do as a homeowner, depending on the complexity of the insulation material. You can call a contractor for most of the complicated maintenance work. Ignoring essential maintenance shortens the lifespan of your insulation. Additionally, many homes are constructed with less than the recommended amount of insulation. Then, if you add on to your home from there, your insulation could be seriously lacking for your square footage. 

Attic insulation should be durable and humidity and weather-resistant. Still, most insulation can be damaged by water or mildew and mold if left unattended. Puncture to the surface can make the insulation ineffective. Cellulose, fiberglass, and other batt insulation can fall and create “blank spots” which harbor mold growth. The more they get dirty, the less effective they become. 

I like to DIY. Can I add new insulation all by myself?

There is a right way to add new insulation, whether adding it on top of the old one or after removing it, and of course, many wrong ways too. Reading online might make you feel like you got it figured out, but the truth is, installing insulation is not easy. A DIY job might waste your money and time. 

If you can avoid doing it all wrong and hire a professional to do it instead, it will save you money, and you’ll have working insulation. Getting things right is also cost-effective. We always advise homeowners to hire a local company to evaluate the attic and offer installation services. 

Think of the R-Value!

While considering adding new insulation, the R-value should be one of your concerns. In fact, if the old attic insulation’s R-value is lower, then you’ll have a reason to get rid of it. The R-value represents the heat resistance of the insulation material. The higher the R-value, the higher the resistance. Spray foam offers the highest R-value of up to R-7 per inch if you go with the closed-cell option. 

The main reason why people replace their insulation is to get a higher R-value. The benefits of insulation include lower energy use which also increases the value of your home. However, the level of the R-value depends on how carefully and professionally your contractor has installed the insulation.

While you should figure out which insulation material works best for your home, you should also consider other essential factors like environmental impact and soundproofing. You also ensure the product complies with your home state’s standards. Our company complies with the standards set by the state of Georgia. 

How often should attic insulation be replaced?

Even though attic insulation may last for over 80 years, its effectiveness reduces with age. Experts usually recommend replacing it after 15 years to deliver the same level of insulation. In 15 years, the attic insulation can degrade due to several factors, including moisture, heat, humans, and animals. 

Minor damage might require a repair, but if you experience roof leaks or storm damage, it will weaken your insulation, especially if it’s batt. Also, HVAC condensation leaks, ventilation problems, and wet insulation from improperly vented bathroom fans can damage your insulation. When this happens, you might be forced to replace the entire insulation. 

People also can damage insulation. Attics are empty spaces where you can store your personal items without considering their effect on the insulation. Heavy items can compress fluffy insulation, and as insulation becomes compressed, the R-value is lowered. You might have to replace the whole insulation or compressed sections to regain the right R-value. Undisturbed attic insulation will last over 80 years or more. A disturbed one will not!

Hire a professional for your attic insulation installation

Doing home improvement projects on your own can be economical and rewarding, but when it comes to insulation, you should get a professional to do it, especially if you haven’t done it before. Insulation removal is difficult, especially if your attic is infested with rodents and insects. Our contractor will eliminate the rodents and ensure they can’t continue getting into your attic. 

Nothing insulation, including attic insulation, has ever been impossible for us. At Ideal Insulation, we work tirelessly to serve your insulation needs. Whether you need your old attic insulation removed and a new one installed or new insulation installed over the old stuff, we are always a call away from turning your wishes into a reality on insulation matters. Reach out today!

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