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Removing Loose Fill Attic Insulation

BillHartmann's picture

A while back someone said that they setup a shop dust collector and used it pull out all of the old loose fill insulation in their attic.

Today on Hometime Syndicated* they are finishing off an attic space for a new MB. The floor had been previously insulated with cels. They had to restructure some of the floor and make room for plumbing. The home owner use a leaf blower to suck it up and put in a trash can lined with trash bag.

* Hometime Syndicate is a relatively new series that was made just for commerical TV. The projects this year are the kind that an "experience DIY" might tackle. In all of them the HO has done some of the work and it this one it appears that they are doing a majority of the work.

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #109929, reply #1 of 15)

Of course they are! Whop else would want to handle that stuff twice?


Excellence is its own reward!



Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #109929, reply #2 of 15)

i hired a local insulation company to remove all the old insulation...worth EVERY PENNY.

(post #109929, reply #3 of 15)

i once rebuilt a restaurant kitchen after a fire. the attic was full of celluose that was  smoke damaged. i subbed the removal to insulation contractor ---he sucked it right into his truck---never regretted subbing that one

(post #109929, reply #4 of 15)

When I redo bathrooms, very often I reuse the stuff after I've done the vent and new drywall plus wiring if required. I normally use a rack to pull it back and then rack it back after.  Try to stay as far away as possible.

I'm all here....... 'cause I'm not all there!

(post #109929, reply #5 of 15)

That would be me. FWIW, this is my first time here since Boingo was born on the 10th. So much for free time, and I've been on a 3 wk leave from work.

Anywho, I used a Jet DC650 connected with 10 ft of 4" hose to a vortexing trash can lid on a 30 gal galvanized can, then 10 more ft of 4" out the other side of the lid and a reducer down to 2.5" so I could use combinations of shop vac hose and wands to reach the corners. I eventually replaced the bottom bag on the jet with a 42 gal contractors bag. I ended up pulling out just over 1000 lbs of insulation/crud. I would vacuum until the can was full, which resulted in about 10% going through the second tube and into the bag under the Jet. I could get two cans into a 42 gal contractors bag, and I'd swap the bag on the jet out about every 10 cans. It is a fuzzy memory now, but I ended up hauling about 40 bags of the stuff to the dump, somewhat more than they dealt with on hometime. Also, I figured out that with all the junk in it, this insulation weighed around 5 lbs a cubic ft. Not exactly the same as fresh cellulose. Also, with the system I had, I could put the lid on the trash can and carry it through the house to transfer it into garbage bags. Out of the 1000 lbs I removed, I'd guess only a few ounces was lost on the way from the third floor to the driveway.

I was very pleased with how the system worked. So much so that I did both the work I wanted to do in the Fall and the work I wanted to do next Spring. I replaced the rockwool with faced r19 in the joists (full dim 2x6's), and then layered r19 unfaced perpendicular to that. I considered cellulose, but several logistical factors made that less practical, mostly I had no idea how it would work out when I started and with fiberglass I could suck and replace a few joists at a time. Also, cellulose requires two people, and a 7 month preggo wife isn't the best assistant. As I had planned to buy a DC anyway, the only extra cost was $25 for the vortexing lid and $20 for the trash can.

(post #109929, reply #6 of 15)

late to the thread...

>>i hired a local insulation company to remove all the old insulation...worth EVERY PENNY.

why?  My house has celluluse insulation, over the years previous occupants let animals (possums, raccoons) live in the attic so lots of animal feces dried up.  Doesn't smell but the overall insulation sucks, big problem is there is 1/3 in the middle of attic covered with t&g pine boarding for walkway (old house, stick-framed roof) and I don't think it is well insulated in middle.  it is hit and miss all over.  I've thought about redoing the job, so curious why you were happy to get rid of old.


(post #109929, reply #7 of 15)

FWIW, first, I did it myself and didn't hire anyone.

Do you have cellulose or loose rock wool? I thought I had cellulose until I looked at it closely, yes, it was THAT dirty. It varied in depth from 4 to 6 inches. I thought about blowing new cellulose over it, but I figured it was best just to get rid of it and replace with new. With my system, I was able to remove insulation underneath part of the floor in the refinished third floor area as well.

(post #109929, reply #8 of 15)

I am just compleating a projec that I needed to blow insulation in at different stages of the project. So the evolution of the homie solution was a black and decker leaf hog. The unit matched up with standard 2+1/2" sears shop vac hose. I used Certenteed Insulsafe 4, man I can't tellyou how nice it is working with this stuff/clean/no itch ect ect. It looks like down when your done. I also insulated every floor cavity2x8x22'. stuff the hose in then blow and back it out as you go. The pruff was to inspect a couple of bay aeras and it did a great job. I just can't say enough about the flexability this gave me. Also the leaf hog has a 2year warrentee so this helps. Plus as a remodeler I'm on about my 10th shop vac so I got a gazzillion hoses.


(post #109929, reply #9 of 15)

From Murphy's laws of combat operations, #6 "If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid." Just think of how many juty-rigged tools eventually ended up as big time money makers. One of my anesthesiologist buddies used to watch as orthopedic surgeons agonized over putting in screws, so he came up with a pistol gripped Yankee screwdriver that was just the ticket and made beaucoup bucks licensing his invention. As for your idea, while it may not have helped me remove the insulation, I might have been more likely to go with cellulose if I'd had a way to apply it effectively in small quantities. I did my project as I had time, in 1-6 hr stretches on about 4 consecutive weekends, and the cost and time of renting the insulation blower for 8 or more different sessions would have been way too expensive, plus those blowers require two people, and I assume your system only requires one.

(post #109929, reply #10 of 15)

It would have been nice to have a helper but as a one man band that song just doesn't play. The property that I'm working on is 1920s so it needs all kinds of extra effort to get it insulated. You are right on about the cost of renting in small pieces ect This just gave me alot of options. In the attic space I would blow about half a bag and then have to repositon the hose but it worked out just fine. The other point of the certinteed insulation is that the standard blowers for celulose don't break up the fiberglass from clump form very good so it takes a different blower to do that. The impeller on the leaf hog really airates it great. Plus if your not famillier with this stuff at first you think uggg fiberglass but it's not at all like what you think. Hard to believe I can get excited about insulating.

 The other part of this project required working with existing 2x4 roof rafters, so to get some good R values I used 3" isocysp sp sp R-22, had to cut and fit each  rafter bay, so slow but did a good job.


(post #109929, reply #11 of 15)

 >>Plus as a remodeler I'm on about my 10th shop vac so I got a gazzillion hoses

What problems do you run into on shop vacs / why do they die?  I had one die a few weeks ago, and replaced it.  It only lasted 9 months.  Seemed like the switch assembly went.  Still under warranty so got off cheap but irritating.  Shop-Vac brand.

Also the posts early in this thread about removing old cellulose and replacing, why did people find the need to do this? I am contemplating this decision, need to insulate better.


(post #109929, reply #12 of 15)

Well being a remodeler and a rental property kinda guy they evetually just fade.All of them are sears shop vacs started off with the 16 gal but after 2or 3 went with the 8 gal unit, just a little easier to work with. They go long enough but the noise still drives me nuts. I always have ear plugs in my watch pocket so I endure. Plus there are 4 still floating around jobs and such, oh and one in my basement for a hole house vac,oh and one in the shed still in the box unused. Never know when you might  need to replace one. Or perhaps it's really just a sign of vacume neurosis (what ever that is).

 As far as why some of the folks like to start fresh by removing the old I'm not sure? I beleave that rock wool was some of the best per inch stuff going. If you can get over how disgusting it is to work around. But if your arn't doing anything where it is I would just leave it. Which is what I did on this projects attic space. It had 3+1/2" in most areas, now there's 2+feet of insullfill on top of the rock wool.


(post #109929, reply #14 of 15)

My rock wool had the remnants of about a half dozen roofing jobs in it, plus all the loose aggregate from tear downs. I probably had a few hundred pounds of colored sand and loose nails in that attic. And since there are plans do eventually do something to various 2nd floor rooms, I figure now was the time to get rid of it. Also, I had major concerns over what old knob and tube wiring might have still been buried up there. I really didn't want to bury it any deeper. In the removal I did locate a couple of old live circuits which had just been taped off. Near as I can figure, the original 1910 house went to an up-down duplex around 1950. All of the original 1st generation K&T wiring was on about 4 circuits. On both the N and S sides in the attic I found the remnants of a knob and tube riser that serviced all the ceiling lights on that side of the house. I suspect that around 1950 the 2nd floor K&T was cut off in the attic, and two circuits of 2-wire cloth braid were added to power outlets and lights in each half of the upstairs. I confirmed the identity of the those cut and taped K&T circuits before nutting and taping them in a J-box. These circuits were also put on arc-faults with the service upgrade. I also removed a number of runs of cold K&T which had been cut-off but never removed. Some days I feel like an electrical archeologist. While I haven't done anything about it yet, I recently noticed that there are 3 holes in the back outside wall about 15 ft up. I'm curious as to whether this was where power came into the house, or perhaps where overhead wires once ran out to the garage. One thing is for sure, opening up a wall is never a trivial exercise around this joint. Also, at some point I need to pull down some duct flashing in the basement as there appears to be a live wire or two running though joists spaces used as cold air returns. Well, the wire bleeps hot, but I'm not sure if it is a real or false reading.

As near as I can tell, this house started out with 4 different K&T circuits for the whole place. One circuit for the first floor lights, one for ALL the outlets on the first floor and the basement lights, and one circuit each for outlets and lights in 1/2 of the second floor. Criminy, I have more capacity than that now in just the kitchen, but I suspect they didn't have toaster ovens and microwaves back then. ;-)

(post #109929, reply #15 of 15)

Yep been there done that. Then again we don't see near the number of house fires caused by electrical problems/overloads. We have  come a long way in a short time. No doubt it's nice to get all that crap cleaned up. I always say a happy house makes for a happy owner. When we tore off 4 layers of roofing on my hse I could just hear the sigh of relief by the house to get those loads off. Yep that's pretty much the definition of house neurosis.


(post #109929, reply #13 of 15)

In the case that I was talking about they had to do some restructuring under the floor and also run some plumbing runs.

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe