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Advise for working in the attic

NoQuarter's picture

My attic is covered in ~ 16-18" of blown-in grey colored insulation. I need to get in the attic for various projects and am trying to prepare for what I need to be successful.


While getting in there, It seems there are several things I should try to accomplish:


1) Inspect for leaks (any tips?)


2) inspect for air loss from the rooms below into the attic around pipes, electrical boxes, etc (any tips?)


3) Installing a few new light fixtures


4) Replacing a bathroom fan/exhaust


So.. how should I go about working in the attic, moving insulation out of the way, getting across the ~20-30' distance through/over the insulation, etc?


Thanks for any tips! I really dread going in there :(


Jim


 


 

(post #115239, reply #1 of 14)

That grey stuff is cellulose insulation.


I am going to be flip, hire a tradesman.

(post #115239, reply #2 of 14)

I've found that a child's snow shovel works well for moving cellulose insulation about. You might be able to use a full-sized snow shovel if there's enough headroom.

Air leaks occur mostly at walls, but also at ceiling fixtures. The types of air leaks that can occur at walls:

-- Gaps between drywall and the top plate of the wall framing
-- Gaps around pipes and wires
-- Occasionally, gaps in framing where a partition wall meets another wall in a T

Another big thing to watch out for is any sort of coffered ceiling. Typically the coffer framing is installed before any of the wallboard and so there's a major hole in the ceiling communicating with the stud cavities. These areas may be stuffed with cardboard to keep the insulation from falling through, but that's rarely sufficient to prevent airflow.

Finally, check around flues, chimneys, and bath exhaust fans, etc.

As for moving through the attic, the best solution is a catwalk, but anything you install must be elevated sufficiently to allow at least 7 inches or so of insulation beneath. Otherwise it's whatever planks or whatnot will work for you.


It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way. --Rollo May


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #115239, reply #4 of 14)

DanH,


Thanks for the tips on where to look for air leaks and it seems like a catwalk project needs to happen first.


Jim

(post #115239, reply #3 of 14)

NoQuarter,


I had to do the same thing last year to add more insulation, run TV/cat6/phone cables to each room, change outlet box to ceiling-fan-rated box, change bathroom ceiling fans and vents, etc. etc.


As other poster mentioned, using a catwalk is the way to go.  It will allow you to walk around and give you a place to sit and work.  I ran 2x4s perpendicular to each truss.  I placed them inside the "V" where the diagonal webs meet.  These 2x4 ended up being a little less than 8 feet apart.  I could then use 2x10 planks to span the 2x4's.  I used about eight 2x10's and can move them wherever i need to work. 


I also worked in the fall or spring.  Working in the summer is impossible.   

(post #115239, reply #5 of 14)

Hey Chucky thanks for info. Your description on how I may be able to go about the catwalk really helps.


 


I was thinking of doing the work at night when it is cooler but at the rate I will be ready to get on this I should be well into fall weather so the timing should be just about right.


:( This is me dreading the number of forgotten tools and supplies and the number of trips I am sure to take into and out of the attic.


Jim

(post #115239, reply #6 of 14)

Yeah, I lost my old 12V drill up in the attic for about 8 months.


It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way. --Rollo May


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #115239, reply #7 of 14)

here is a pic of my catwalk.  I just went up to take the picture and I found my utility knife which I forgot up there since last fall!


(post #115239, reply #8 of 14)

Thanks for the pic. Congrats on the new knife too!


 


I have about a 2'x2' opening in my son's closet to get in my attic. I couldn't imagine a casual decision to go take pic of it for some dude on the Internet :). Step1 - empty his closet (gack!) Step2 - remove the closet shelving step 3- climb in tiny opening which is at farthest point in house from anything important.


I guess I should schedule a recon of the area again and make a catwalk plan.


It sure looks like you did an ultra good job of smoothing over that insulation after installing the catwalk. It looks like it was just blown in.


 


Jim

(post #115239, reply #9 of 14)

Access to the hatch was easy.  nothing to move.  I wouldn't have done it otherwise :-)


Make sure you can actually get a 2x10x8ft up there before you put in too much work!


FWIW, i too had planned to work on evenings during the summer but when it's 30C during the day, it was uncomfortable up there at least until midnight.


 

(post #115239, reply #10 of 14)

So I will put in my 2 cents.


Locate all ceiling fixtures and fans from below. Focus on those. You may be hard pressed to inspect every wall for e.g. wire penetrations. Plumbing vents may be easy to locate and seal, too. Don't forget a fireplace or furnace flue ... the gap there can be substantial ... check w/ the BO to determine what is allowable to seal and insulate around it. Try to focus on the big ticket items, maybe and leave the rest.


One option is to rent a cellulose blower and suck a bunch of it out rather than move it around ... then blow it back when you are done.


Catwalks. Can use plywood over your trusses if going perpendicular. Even 1/2 or 5/8 will give you a make do catwalk. You can put the cat walk on the bottom cord ... then bury it w/ insulation ... you can still use it ... just need to mark it so you know where it is. Or if you have room ... put horizontals on the truss diagnonals and place the catwalk across them. It can be as little as 12" off the ceiling and stay exposed (you compromise your 16+" little doing this). If you have to go parallel ... You could cut lengths of 2x4 like the one guy suggested .... place say 30 inch lengths across the trusses at 24"oc ... then screw plywood to it ... leaving you 7" of insulation under and whatever you want over. 2x catwalk material is overkill IMO ... and simply difficult to manuever, but in some cases it may fit the bill better. Even 3/4 plywood will provide good support and you can cut it to the width you need.


I'd make sure you put a good platform around the opening for access/egress and to act as an access staging area (tools, etc.) ... getting over the insulation box around the access is often awkward. Make sure that box is made of sturdy plywood. Don't forget to seal/insulate your access door (e.g. weatherstripping)! It can be a big source of heat loss.


Nasty job ... don't forget a good respirator and good light! Plenty of cans of foam. Recessed lights ... IC rated.

There ain't NO free lunch. Not no how, not no where!

(post #115239, reply #11 of 14)

"One option is to rent a cellulose blower and suck a bunch of it out rather than move it around ... then blow it back when you are done.One option is to rent a cellulose blower and suck a bunch of it out rather than move it around ... then blow it back when you are done."{

There may be a specialised unit that will do that. But most blowers intake from a hopper and it would be very difficult to take that hopper into the attic and turn it upside down and try and use it as a vac.

The do make insulation removal vac's.

http://www.meyervacuums.com/insulation_removal_vacuums_insul-vac8.htm

When I hve seen them used they used a 4' x 6' sausage bag and the insulation was not reused.

But I guess that they could be discharged into a large container.

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A-holes. Hey every group has to have one. And I have been elected to be the one. I should make that my tagline.
. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #115239, reply #12 of 14)

I think the ones I've used had a reversing switch ... blow or suck.

There ain't NO free lunch. Not no how, not no where!

(post #115239, reply #13 of 14)

Catwalk, that's a new term to me. I've always called it a rat run.

(post #115239, reply #14 of 14)

"Catwalk, that's a new term to me. I've always called it a rat run."

Depends on what kind of livestock you keep in your attic.

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A-holes. Hey every group has to have one. And I have been elected to be the one. I should make that my tagline.
. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe