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Insulation Upgrades: How Retrofitting is Done


Adding insulation to an existing home is a great way to improve interior comfort. It’s also a fantastic way to save money on utility costs, reducing harmful environmental emissions in the process. By adding insulation to the attic spaces, crawl spaces, and wall cavities of your home, you can slash heating and cooling costs. Some older homes may not have enough insulation to keep temperatures comfortable. Over time, insulation may settle, leading to inefficient situations inside the home. Restoring insulating properties with new insulation is a fairly straightforward process through retrofitting.

How is insulation added to existing homes? Let’s take a look at several ways to boost the R-value of your older home.

Insulating Wall Cavities

Believe it or not, many older homes, especially in warmer climates like Southern California, may have little or no insulation in the walls. Of course, this can lead to wasteful air leaks and excessive utility costs. To retrofit older homes with no insulation in between wall studs, an insulation expert will drill small holes between each stud near the top of the wall to access the cavities inside the wall. These holes are usually around three to four inches in diameter. Then, blow-in insulation (cellulose, fiberglass, or recycled fabric) is added to each wall cavity, filling the empty spaces. When the cavities are filled, the holes at the top of the wall are patched, mudded, and painted. In no time, you won’t’ even know there were holes at all! What you will notice are more stable interior temperatures and a quieter home.

Insulating Attic Spaces

Insulating attics is inexpensive and easy, even for the do-it-yourselfer. Renting insulation blowing equipment is possible; with a few bags of recycled cellulose insulation, you can raise the R-value inside most attic spaces to the recommended level of R-49 for just a few hundred dollars. Blow-in insulation can be added right over the top of existing batt or blanket insulation. Or, if you prefer, you can replace the fiberglass batts between ceiling joists. Professional insulation installers will ensure that any air spaces are filled and that ventilation is not blocked. Typically, a professional will place air baffles to allow for proper attic ventilation before adding blow-in insulation.

Spray Foam Insulation

Professional insulation contractors may opt for expanding spray-on foam insulation. Popular in new construction, the foam is sprayed on between wall studs before drywall is added. It can also be used in older homes, boosting insulation values in crawl spaces, attics, and underneath elevated homes. Often, older insulation is removed before the spray foam is added. This is typical in attic installations; the insulation batts between ceiling joists are removed and discarded, then the spray foam is added to the interior side of the roof. Expanding foam seals air leaks and cracks, providing incredible efficiency and helping to reduce utility costs.

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