If you remember your basic science, then you will recall that hot air rises. Warm air in the home will rise to the ceilings and continue floating upward to the loft and out of the house if the loft isn’t properly insulated. Insulation prevents warm air from escaping during the winter and cool air for gaining a quick exit during the summer. It also helps reduce cooling and heating bills.
If the loft floor is unheated, install a plastic vapour barrier between the joists. This reduces the passage of water vapour into an insulated space. Blow in loose-fill insulation. Another option is to install insulation batts with a paper or aluminium barrier already attached, and face that barrier down into the rafters. Roll the batts toward the centre. Use a stick to squeeze the batts into tight spaces. Maintain a clear area above eave vents. Keep insulation at least 3 inches away from recessed light fixtures that illuminate the room below and from metal flues.
If the loft is used as living space, use batts with vapour barrier on the heated walls. The barrier should face in toward the heated space. To install in a sloped ceiling, work from the top down. Staple the flanges of batt facing to the front edges of the rafters. Do not staple them to the sides of the rafters, which would create unwanted areas of non-insulated space. Butt the batts together at joints. When you come near cross beams, cut the batts at the proper angle to keep insulation flush against the beam.
Insulate the Roof
Insulate a roof with batts, or you can use rigid foam boards. In either case, the vapour barrier needs to face down toward the inside of the house if you heat the house most of the time. If you live in a very warm and sunny climate and use air conditioning most of the time, the barrier faces out toward the roof and hot sun. Leave a 2-inch space between the insulation and roof sheathing to stimulate air flow. In extreme hot and sunny areas of the country, another option is to add a layer of shiny foil beneath the roof shingles when you replace them. This will deflect heat away from the structure and help keep the loft cool.
Insulating a loft saves energy and money. Choose insulation with a high R-value which measures how heat transfers through the material. The recommended R-value for lofts is R-38 or about 10 to 14 inches, depending on insulation type. Fiberglass rolls or cellulose (loose fill) are types of insulation used in lofts. Cellulose is recycled newsprint treated with a fire retardant and fiberglass is thin fibres of glass. For safety, choose a brand that is formaldehyde free.
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