Installing Insulation – Tools and Tips

  • ITS Hand Tools
  • 8 years ago

It’s estimated that up to 25% of the heat lost from our homes leaves through the roof. With energy bills rising and winters getting colder, adding insulation to your home is not only environmentally-friendly, but it will keep your family comfortable and could significantly reduce your heating bill.

The type of space you’re working in will determine the best type of material for the job, and that in turn will influence the tools required and the cost. Synthetic materials and wool tend to work the best – try and go for non-flammable materials if you can. Attics and walls are the most common areas to insulate in a home which is what we’ll focus on here. The key thing to bear in mind is to leave as few gaps as possible, as even a small opening can still result in substantial heat loss.

Insulating attic space

Fiberglass wool is a very popular way of insulating attics. It’s sold either on the roll or in pre-cut batts, which will save you some time and effort but will still need to be cut to measure. The ideal thickness of the insulation is 270mm, so you will probably need to put down more than one layer. Remember that compressing the material reduces its effectiveness, so cross-laying batts is the preferred technique.

An uncomplicated installation should require just a few hand tools. You’ll need a utility knife with several blades, tape-measure and a straight-edge to cut the wool into the required lengths. A putty-knife will be useful if you’re working around cables, windows or doors so that you can press the material into cracks after filling with expanding foam. And of course the most essential kit when working with nasty substances such as fibreglass is your safety clothing – goggles, kneepads, gloves and a breathing mask should be worn at all times, and you’ll want to wear clothing that gives your skin maximum coverage to avoid itching for weeks afterwards. To reduce moisture vapours you’ll need to cover the insulation with plastic sheeting so a heavy-duty staple gun is needed – using reflective material if you can get it will save even more heat.

If your attic is in use, for example as storage or living space, then you’ll have to board over the insulation once it’s laid. If the thickness of the batts is greater than the existing joists then you’ll need to extend the joists first. Power tools such as electric drills and screwdrivers will be vital at this stage.

To avoid over-heating, lay electrical cables on top of the insulation, and always leave at least 75mm around any light fittings.

Last but not least, remember to attach a strip to the attic hatch.

Insulating wall space

With walls there are several methods and materials too numerous to go into here, but one popular technique is to blow in loosefill insulation, which incidentally is also a good alternative for attics if they are of an unusual shape, and requires only a rake to smooth it between the joists.

Again, tools required are not too numerous. You’ll need a power tool to cut a hole in the wall to begin with, and then you just need to fill the space. You can hire a specialist machine, called a hopper, but if you’re doing this yourself then a good option is to use a standard garden leaf-blower such as a McCulloch or Ryobi which also act as a vacuum. You’ll want a large hose attachment – if the one on your machine isn’t large enough this can be easily created from a length of discarded drain-pipe. Then insert the hose into the hole, wrap a rag round the edge, and suck up your material, which can be anything from cork granules to cellulose fibres to recycled paper, from the bag, and blast it in. Remember density is the important factor here, so get as much in there as you can. Then just seal up the wall, sand down and re-paint, and enjoy your toasty warm home!