An unavoidable reality of trying to get attic access when there’s blown insulation is that there is always some risk attached to your movements.
There are precautions you can take to help protect yourself from any harm. But damage to the attic insulation itself is inevitable, regardless of how you go about getting into the attic, whether it’s through an access hatch or a vent in the exterior wall.
At this point, everything you do is about damage control or limitation. Whether the type of insulation is spray foam, fiberglass batts, or something else, moving blown attic insulation around in your attic will reduce its R-value. Therefore, the key is to be as careful as possible.
This article will detail what you can do to safely access an attic with blown insulation.
When working in attic spaces with blown-in insulation, it is sometimes better to consider the WHEN as opposed to the HOW. No part of this job will be pleasant, but you can at least try and make an attic environment with blown-in insulation a little easier to navigate.
If you are not really up to it after reading some of our suggestions, it would probably be best just to hire an electrician to deal with blown attic insulation. It is the kind of work that they do every single day.
If you have the cash to splash, you could get an insulation contractor to remove and reinstall your attic insulation once you finish your work. But that should really be a last resort.
When To Work In An Attic With Blown Insulation
The best case scenario would be to access your attic during the cooler fall and winter months, preferably on a day when it has been either cloudy or raining a little. You can also try to work it in closer to nighttime if it can’t wait.
You will likely find that a summer afternoon is the worst time to try and access an attic with blown-in insulation, although the extent of the discomfort will depend on where you live. An attic will invariably be hot and uncomfortable, regardless of what time of the day it is.
Still, during the course of the day, all of the heat beating down on the roof will absorb into the attic and build up to a sweltering, uncomfortable temperature.
If you try to access an attic with blown-in insulation late on a summer afternoon, you will expose yourself to the risk of dehydration and heat stroke. Even trained technicians have been known to die from heat-related causes in attics.
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Dress for the Occasion
You should wear something like a Tyvek suit before accessing an attic with loose insulation.
While this is primarily for its protective qualities against fiberglass insulation, a Tyvek suit is also recommended because it’s more comfortable in an otherwise uncomfortable attic environment.
When you wear a Tyvek suit in an attic, you will have better flexibility and freedom of movement, which you will need when dealing with blown attic insulation.
There are many hazardous particles you might accidentally inhale in your attic. Therefore, you should also enhance your protection before entering an attic by wearing a suitable respirator mask that will shield you from dangerous things like mold, dust, and even fiberglass batts.
You should also wear a pair of quality gloves and goggles before entering the attic with blown insulation. The key is to cover as much of your body as possible before even trying to navigate the attic.
Move It Out The Way And Re-Spread It
A compelling feature of blown insulation is that it compresses pretty easily, which means you can get away with simply moving as much of it as possible out of the way and re-spreading it when you are done.
The best way to move the blown insulation in attics out of the way is to use something simple, like a side-sweeping broom or a snow shovel.
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Can You Walk In An Attic With Blown Insulation?
Yes, you can walk in an attic with blown insulation. But you should take a few precautionary measures before trying to pull it off.
How To Walk In An Attic With Blown Insulation
When you finish all the prep work required to successfully access your attic, the next step is finding your footing. You’ll need to do this in a way that protects your body from injuries and your insulation from damage.
Get Some Extra Lighting
While this should probably have been a part of the prep work, it is never too late to ensure that you have enough portable (or accessible) lighting with you before trying to access an attic, especially one with blown insulation. A flashlight or headlamp will usually suffice.
However, even when you do have that extra lighting at your disposal, navigating an attic with blown insulation can be tricky. Fortunately, a few simple tips can help make this job a little easier.
Look Up To The Roof
If you aren’t entirely clear on where the ceiling joist or rafter tie is by looking directly in front of you, look up towards the roof and inspect the alignment of the rafters that way. The same principle applies when you aren’t sure where the lower chord of the roof truss is.
The only difference with a roof truss is that you will have much less space to work with, which could actually be a benefit under these circumstances as it forces you to take smaller steps.
Either way, you will at least know where the ceiling frame is more precisely. At this point, take a broom or a plastic rake to remove the insulation so you can create a path.
When you have a clearer view of where your pathway should be, start walking carefully by placing the instep of your boot on the ceiling joist first. Once you establish your footing, you can transfer your weight onto that foot (and entire leg) before taking the next step with your other foot.
Become A Night Crawler In The Attic
If you are clear on the spacing between the rafter ties or trusses, you can actually cut out some plywood or something similar to place on the beams. Make sure that they are the correct size first.
Once you have cleared away a few inches of insulation, you can strategically place as many boards as you need in your pathway and just crawl through the attic instead. This will also put a lot less strain on the beams because the panels will much more evenly distribute your weight.