Attic insulation is more important than many homeowners realize. Without this crucial insulation in your attic, your home would be less comfortable, and your power bills would probably skyrocket.
Despite this, many attic spaces have exposed insulation that can contribute to logistical and health risks.
Since there are health and other safety concerns with insulation, you should cover up any of this material that is exposed in your attic with wood, plywood, or drywall to avoid contact. Breathable kraft (paperboard/cardboard) paper is also ideal for this.
Below, we give more detailed info about why you should cover exposed attic insulation and how to do so.
Why is there Exposed Insulation in my Attic?
Knowing what to do about exposed insulation in an unfinished attic is crucial because it can affect your loved ones and your pocket. If you have just recently become aware of this issue in your attic space, you might ask yourself why it was left that way.
Insulation in places like basements and attics is often left exposed because these areas are seldom used. Most people only use their attic for storage. Exposed insulation is therefore not an issue since they rarely go in there.
The previous owner might also have wanted to expose insulation for purposes like adding more insulation later.
Whatever the case may be, leaving insulation exposed can be dangerous.
Does Exposed Insulation Pose a Danger?
Exposed insulation is not as uncommon as you might think, primarily if one mainly uses the attic for storage.
Exposed insulation does not typically pose a danger if people seldom go in there and don’t stay for long periods of time. However, it does become a significant danger if the attic is used often or as a living space.
Exposed insulation in an attic is an even more serious concern if children regularly use the space to play. Small kids will be curious about this material. Often, they can mistake it for cotton candy or other foods and touch or eat it.
Other than health concerns, exposed insulation may indicate that your attic isn’t at its maximum energy efficiency because its indoor temperatures are less consistent from things like heat loss. Covering the insulation will trap heat and cool air, providing maximum energy savings.
Various types of insulation are used for attics, such as spray foam and foam boards. But the most commonly used one is fiberglass batt insulation. Fiberglass insulation is easily identifiable by the fact that it resembles cotton candy.
Fiberglass insulation is cheap, easy to install, and lightweight, making it much more popular than other alternatives. But it’s dangerous to inhale or ingest. Some of the risks of exposure to fiberglass batt insulation include:
Fiberglass batt insulation can irritate your skin and eyes to various degrees. Because this insulation has tiny glass fibers, it can cause a lot of damage. You do not even have to touch fiberglass batt insulation to be at risk since its particles are light enough to travel through the air.
The tiny particles in fiberglass insulation are lightweight and can become airborne. Accidental contact with your lungs, throat, and nose can irritate these organs, causing breathing difficulties and other distress.
While fiberglass insulation has not been proven to cause cancer, the possibility of it doing so has been raised many times.
Most notably, the National Toxicology Program’s 11th “Report on Carcinogens” and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have raised concerns about direct contact with the material.
How to Cover Exposed Insulation in Attic
There are various ways to cover exposed insulation in an attic. You can use a piece of wood, plywood, drywall, or even just cardboard to get the job done. Which material you use depends on you and your budget. The most important thing is to cover the insulation effectively so there is no physical contact with it.
Here is a step-by-step guide to help you cover exposed attic insulation.
Put On Safety Gear
You are going to be working in close proximity to insulation. As we mentioned above, many insulation materials pose health and safety risks. Therefore, it is imperative that you put on protective clothing, a dust mask, gloves, and eye protection.
Conduct an Inspection
After putting on safety gear, you should check the insulation and surrounding area for any damage or hazards that aren’t up to building codes.
If the area has mold or needs any other repairs, you will have to get these out of the way first. You also need to check for electric wire.
Measure the Exposed Area
Use a measuring tape to determine the size of the wall cavities that you want to cover. Knowing the exact measurements will allow you to get the right amount of additional insulation to cover up the original material while minimizing costs.
Of course, getting a little more than you need never hurts, just in case.
Choose the Material
As we discussed above, you can cover exposed attic insulation with kraft paper, a piece of plywood or wood, or drywall.
Even though any of these materials will cover attic insulation effectively, you should consider the price, the look, and how long you expect the cover to last. If the attic is going to be used as a living space, drywall is generally the best choice.
Install the Cover-Up Material
If you only use kraft paper, cut it according to your measurements. Use a staple gun and as many staples as necessary to attach the Kraft paper properly, making sure not to leave any uncovered areas.
If you choose to use more rigid material like plywood, a nail gun will be necessary to secure it from wall to wall. It would be even better if you first applied kraft paper and then used a piece of plywood over it. Just make sure that none of this material covers any vent ducts.
You do not necessarily have to cover attic insulation if you seldom go in there. However, considering this material’s possible health hazards, it is a good idea. Following the above advice, you can easily get your attic up to building codes.