Fittest loser
Article posted: 2/3/2013 5:01 AM

How to insulate your attic access opening

text size: AAA
By James Dulley

Q. I just moved into a new house and I went up into the attic to store some holiday decorations. There was no insulation on the access cover or seals around it. Shouldn't the cover be insulated and sealed?

A. The opening cover seldom is sealed and insulated, but it certainly should be. Often just an old scrap piece of plywood or drywall is cut somewhat close to the correct size and placed in the opening. Its insulation value is less than R-1 and it leaks like a sieve.

Advertisement

Since the attic access opening is often located in the ceiling inside a bedroom closet, the air leakage and heat loss (or heat gain during summer) are seldom noticeable. Wind direction can create a negative pressure in the attic, so with the access opening in the attic floor, even more conditioned air can be drawn from the house.

The simplest fix for this energy loss is to attach insulation to the top of the cover and weatherstripping under it where it rests on the lip of the ceiling opening. Insulate it to the recommended code ceiling R-value for your area. Adding more insulation above this level will not help appreciably.

The lip often consists of just pieces of molding nailed to the sides of the opening. You may have to pry a side or two of it loose and reattach it so it is somewhat even. If it is very uneven, it will be difficult to get a good seal under the cover, no matter how compliant the weatherstripping is.

In my own house, I first nailed a piece of half-inch drywall to the plywood cover to give is some additional weight. Next, I glued a few layers of -inch polystyrene foam sheets on top of it. I used four layers to get three inches of foam insulation.

The next step is to attach adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping to the top edge of the lip around the opening. Use as thick a foam as you can find to accommodate any out-of-level edges. The weight of the plywood and drywall should be adequate to compress the foam weatherstripping.

If you plan to go up into your attic often and want to install pull-down stairs or ladder, or your attic currently has one, you should buy a special insulated cover for the attic access opening. You could attempt to make one yourself, but its weight may be hazardous to open and manage when you are on the stairs.

One of the least expensive options is a heavy duty cardboard box. It is collapsed when you receive it, but it is easy to open and assemble. Once assembled, you attach your own insulation to the top and sides. It is very lightweight and easy to handle when completed.

Two other efficient options are a lightweight large rigid foam domed cover and a flexible zippered insulated cover which is attached to the attic floor for a good seal. The zipper provides for easy access to the attic.

The following companies offer attic entrance products: Atticap, (781) 259-9099, www.draftcap.com; Attic Tent, (877) 660-5640, www.attictent.com; Battic Door, (508) 320-9082, www.batticdoor.com; Calvert Stairs, (866) 477-8455, www.calvertusa.com; and Rainbow Attic Stairs, (203) 322-0009, www.rainbowatticstairs.com.

Q. My husband uses the garage to watch football games with one of his buddies. He tried a small propane heater, but the fumes smelled bad. What is a good heating option for the garage?

A. If there are going to be only two people in the garage watching TV, using two electric radiant heaters should work. They won't heat all the air in the garage, but someone sitting in front of a heater will be warm.

If they want to heat the entire garage area, a direct-vent propane heater installed in an outdoor wall will eliminate the fume odor issue. These heaters are also energy efficient and operate quietly with a thermostat.

• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit dulley.com.

Comments ()
We are now using Facebook comments to offer a more inclusive, social and constructive discussion. Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.

This article filed under

Latest Video

MostViewed

Today
Yesterday
Most Commented
Top Jobs

    View all Top Jobs Place a job ad

    MarketsReport

    DHExtras

       
    • Newspaper next section - Newspaper next section Report card checker - report card checker
    • Dh innovation award 2 - Dh innovation award 2 Zillow /real estate page
    • Discuss refer On Guard series
    • Newspaper archives -- Monday or anyday Mike North

    FacebookActivity

    BusinessDirectory

    Connect with a business or service in your area fast. First select a town, then enter a search term or choose one of the listed popular searches:

    Don't see your town listed? Visit our full directory to begin your search.