Attic insulation plays a crucial role in making a home cozy and comfortable. It maintains indoor temperature resulting in decreased power bills. However, exposed attic insulation is not exactly aesthetically pleasing and can get damaged over time. Furthermore, some insulation types including spray foam must be covered for fire safety purposes.
If you simply want to prevent damage and accidental contact to exposed insulation in the attic, you may put up plywood, drywall, or a thin board to keep the material concealed and protected. Another great solution would be a house wrap or kraft paper that’s breathable enough so moisture won’t get trapped within the insulation.
It is important to choose the proper material to cover almost any kind of attic insulation. Your choice can greatly affect your home’s safety, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the insulation material.
A Simple Guide for Covering Exposed Attic Insulation
Here is a step-by-step guide for covering exposed insulation in your attic.
Step One: Inspect the Existing Attic Insulation Material
Check your current attic insulation for any damages, possible holes, air leaks, mold growth, and other potential issues. Make sure these are repaired before covering the insulation to prevent further damages in the future.
Step Two: Measure the Attic Headroom and Insulated Area
Since most building codes require you to follow a minimum headroom area, the current headroom size of your attic matters when choosing an insulation cover. Thick materials to cover the insulation may not be advisable if you barely have headroom allowance left.
Use a tape measure to get the length of each insulated wall. This will help you determine the size of the attic insulation cover you need.
Step Three: Choose the Proper Insulation Cover
Do not use another type of insulation material to cover your existing attic insulation. This may result in vapor issues and loss of insulation efficiency. If you plan to do so, it would be most ideal to consult with an insulation contractor for recommendations on what would match your current insulation type. Folding, compressing, or doubling your insulation material may change its R-value, hence decreasing its efficiency.
To cover exposed attic insulation, you may opt for a piece of drywall, plywood, house wrap, or even kraft paper. Your choice depends on the type of insulation you currently have in the attic. Choose one that meets building code standards.
For instance, the 2006 IBC (International Building Code) requires an approved thermal or fire barrier ½-inch gypsum wallboard or an equivalent to cover foam plastic insulation.
It is included in the policy of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance or SPFA that all spray polyurethane foams installed inside buildings must be covered with a thermal or ignition barrier. Therefore, while you have a choice to leave other insulation types uncovered, if you have a spray foam insulated attic, you must have it covered immediately upon initial application.
Step Four: Begin the Installation of Insulation Cover
For kraft paper or house wrap insulation cover, simply follow the measurements you took earlier so you can precisely cut the sheet rolls to the right length. Use a staple gun to attach them from end to end, top to bottom.
It is best to overlap end sections instead of leaving insulated areas uncovered. There should be no gaps in between stapled sheets.
For plywood or wallboard materials, you may use a nail gun to attach them to the walls from end to end. Ideally, the insulation is covered with kraft paper or house wrap before installing boards to ensure there are no gaps or openings left behind.
Do not cover vents during this process. Sufficient ventilation is highly important in attic areas.
Is it safe to install an attic insulation cover on my own?
Any time you will be working with insulation, make sure you are wearing proper safety gear. Some insulation materials can be toxic and hazardous to your health. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Dust masks, gloves, and eye protection are also highly recommended.
Safety should be your priority when covering your exposed insulation in the attic. Some areas in the attic are prone to become fire and health hazards. If you have some handyman experience and believe you can handle this job on your own, remember that it is still ideal to consult with a licensed insulation contractor to ensure these issues are addressed.
Can I cover insulation with plastic?
Plastic is not recommended as an insulation cover. Plastic is not breathable and may trap condensation within the insulation, walls, and ceilings. Trapped moisture can easily cause damage to the insulation material. It may also result in decreasing the integrity of your home’s structure.
More importantly, plastic is not an effective thermal or fire barrier. It is not safe. If you will be covering exposed attic insulation, you might as well follow the materials recommended by the International Building Code.
Whether or not you frequently use the attic, covering exposed attic insulation may come to mind. After all, it is natural that most of us want to keep our home safe, beautiful, and well-maintained. If you do a great job, the attic might even be good-looking enough to become an extended living space.
Just remember that working with insulation material requires utmost care and proper precautionary measures must be observed. Make sure that the cover you choose would not affect your insulation’s current R-value and won’t become a fire hazard.
When in doubt, contact an insulation contractor for assistance. They can inspect the attic, recommend the right cover material, and possibly even install the insulation cover for you.