Loft Insulation Guide

Things you need to know when insulating your loft

Attic insulation has become a necessity now days, especially bearing in mind that lofts are often transformed into dwelling, residential places where some basic living conditions must be fulfilled in order of enabling normal and enjoyable residence. One of the primary concerns is maintaining a constant temperature, that is preventing the cold air from penetrating in during the winter and hot air during the summer, which can only make your loft unbearable to stay in. The most common solution is proper insulation that can not only protect your loft from undesired external temperature effects, but also make a significant impact and contribute to the overall energy efficiency of your home. This is why there are some things you need to know when insulating your attic and we provide some of the answers right here.

Basics and precautions

Before choosing and installing proper attic insulation, there are some things to consider and some precautions that must be taken into account. First off all, you must understand some potential problems that could occur in this type of insulation and some basic ways to prevent and overcome such problems. It is important to try to avoid thermal bypass that can occur at the eaves, then to avoid placing heavy objects on top that can crush air pockets between the fibers and reduce overall insulation effectiveness. Another great problem when insulating your attic is condensation, which could be avoided by proper ventilation across the roof, usually from eaves to eaves. Finally, it is very important to prevent air leakage from the rooms below, traveling through some ceiling penetrations (like wiring or light fixtures).

You need to ask yourself some questions and try addressing some issues, since some things, if not dealt with prior, can cause many problems later on. Firstly, you need to have an easy access to your attic, which will not only make the insulation process easier, but can also do you good later on. You can opt for installing a loft hatch, made out of different kind of materials available in the market today, like tough plastic or timber. Always consult a professional before installing a hatch, since this may involve some ceiling joists cutting that could weaken your roof structure. Another important thing is to examine and estimate the state your roof is in, that is does it need some repair work done, since poorly protected roof or the one that is damaged can affect and reduce your overall energy performance. Previously stated is also applicable to pipe work or wiring, as well as potential cracks and holes within your ceiling that should be dealt with before the work can begin, since any additional work performed later can damage your insulation. Finally, make sure to properly insulate water tanks and pipes, but avoid insulating right below the water tank, otherwise you risk the water freezing during the winter. On the other hand electric cables should not be covered with insulation material, since this can create a risk of cables overheating and causing fire.

If you already have some insulation in your loft, it is important to check its depth, since the prescribed depth depends on the applicable regulation. Namely, the UK insulation regulations changed, so the recommended depth was once up to 100 mm and later on up to 200 mm. If your insulation is below 100 mm, it is likely that it was installed back in the 1970s and should be disposed off. Today the recommended depth, when mineral fiber (glass or rock wool insulation) is used, is between 250 mm and 270 mm. This depth is achieved through double-layered insulation, where approximately 100 mm insulation is placed between the joist and the 170 mm is laid across and over the joists.

Finally, depending on the insulation types, always make sure to take some precautions when working with these materials, such as using appropriate protective equipment, like gloves, protective suits or goggles, make sure that your skin is adequately covered and protected, always work in a well ventilated space, try keeping the loft hatch closed when performing the work and make sure to properly dispose of any insulation waste.

Loft insulation types

Blanket insulation

One of them is using batt or blanket insulation, which includes the use of mineral fiber, that is rock, glass or sheep wool fiber insulation, which is the most commonly used material. The basic advantage of this loft insulation type is that it is basically a DIY job and is particularly suitable for accessible spaces insulation. On the other hand, make sure to take the previously mentioned precautions, since some materials can cause skin irritations and bear in mind that these insulation materials can be to bulky and not always suitable for insulating small and tight places. Before installing insulation, make sure that the loft space is cleared up and that all the wiring is previously taken care of. After measuring the floor space length, this insulation material is laid between the joist, starting from the eves to the center of the loft, when the material is cut and pushed down the joists edges. The process is then repeated from the opposite side again to the center of the loft. Another layer can be placed across and over the joists so the overall insulation reaches the recommended depth of 270 mm. If you need to adjust the length of the insulation material, use scissors to cut it into right size and avoid any stretching or tearing which could damage the material and affect its thermal performance. Also remember to properly insulate the loft hatch as well by fixing a piece of insulation material on the top of the hatch.

Sheet or board insulation

Another way to insulate your loft is by using sheet or board insulation which includes the use of rigid boards in insulation, such as PIR, phenolic or polystyrene boards, cut to the right sizes. Their basic advantage is that the use of available wood boards is a more eco-friendly solution, they are especially applicable in loft conversions and have substantial performance, but can be more expensive than the alternatives. This type of material is placed between the roof rafters, but always leaving some space between insulation and roof tiles in order of providing needed ventilation and thus avoiding condensation.

Loose-fill and blown-fiber materials

Finally, loose-fill and blown-fiber insulation are based on the use of lightweight materials like mineral wool, cellulose fiber or cork granules, which could be good solution when adding insulation to the existing attic one or in hardly accessible spaces but with a risk of coming loose when there is draft. It is not a DIY job, but should be handled by certified professionals. The insulation material is poured between the joist in loose fill insulation, that is blown and spread between the joist in blown-fiber insulation, making sure that there are no uncovered holes or cracks in the ceiling.