Builder hands wearing glove insulating wooden house with mineral wool

Should You Remove Old Insulation?

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If you have old, ineffective insulation in your attic, walls, or crawlspace, you may be wondering if it’s worthwhile to remove and replace it. In many cases, insulation removal can improve energy efficiency and provide better performance.

When to Consider Removing Insulation

Here are some signs it may be time to remove old insulation:

It’s Settled or Compressed Over Time

Insulation materials like fiberglass batts can settle and compress in walls or attic spaces, leaving gaps that allow heat loss. If insulation is compressed to less than its rated thickness, it won’t provide the rated R-value.

Moisture Damage or Rotting

Older insulation may have moisture damage or rotting issues if it has absorbed water over time. Wet insulation loses R-value and needs to be replaced.

Rodents or Pests

Signs of nesting or droppings mean rodents have made a home in your insulation. Their activities can disturb and compress insulation. Pest infested insulation should be removed and replaced.

Improper Original Installation

Insulation that was not correctly installed originally can leave gaps and air pockets. Improper installation negatively impacts insulation performance.

New Building Projects

If you’ll be doing renovations or upgrades like rewiring or roof replacements, existing insulation will need to be removed first before new insulation can be properly installed.

Options for Removing Insulation

If your old insulation needs to go, what are your removal options?

DIY Removal

  • Removing insulation yourself is labor intensive but can save on costs.
  • Use proper protective gear like gloves, long sleeves, eye and respiratory protection.
  • For fiberglass batts, score lines to cut batts into manageable pieces for easy removal.
  • Remove in sections and discard debris as you work to keep the space clear.
  • Use caution when using ladders to avoid falls.
  • Once removed, carefully sweep and vacuum any remaining fibers and debris.

Professional Insulation Removal

Hiring professional insulation contractors to remove old insulation offers benefits like:

  • Faster removal since pros have the right tools and equipment.
  • Safer process when using lifts for high ceiling or hard to reach insulation.
  • Proper disposal – old insulation may need to go to special landfills.
  • Licensed and insured crews.
  • Potential for accessing rebates or tax incentives.

What Goes In After Insulation Is Removed?

Once you have removed the old insulation, it’s time to prepare the space and install new insulation.

Air Sealing

Sealing air leaks before installing new insulation ensures optimal efficiency. Use caulk and spray foam to thoroughly seal:

  • Penetrations like pipes, wires and vents
  • Gaps around windows, doors and attic hatches
  • Top and bottom wall plates
  • Junctions between walls, floors and ceilings

New Insulation Installation

Work with insulation contractors to select the right new insulation for each space:

  • Blown-in cellulose or fiberglass for attics
  • Mineral wool batts for unfinished walls
  • Rigid foam boards for finished walls or difficult to insulate areas
  • Spray foam insulation for rim joists or uneven cavities

Follow local building codes for required insulation levels based on your climate zone. Get all permits and inspections for new insulation installation.

Improve Other Areas

Removing old insulation provides an opportunity to upgrade other components like:

  • Increasing attic ventilation
  • Installing moisture barriers
  • Upgrading to ENERGY STAR rated windows or doors
  • Sealing ductwork

This will maximize energy savings from your new insulation.

Enjoy the Benefits

While removing old insulation can be a big project, the results are worthwhile. You will benefit from:

  • Improved energy efficiency – reduced heating and cooling costs
  • A more comfortable home year-round
  • Better air quality and less dust in your living space
  • Higher resale value with properly updated insulation

Taking the step to remove and upgrade insulation provides long-lasting benefits for your home and family.

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