Insulation is a necessary component of your home’s structure and serves multiple functions such as keeping your home at a regular temperature, sealing your home from air leaks, and protecting the structure from mold and mildew. When deciding whether to DIY or hire a professional for your insulation installment, it’s important to understand the overall scope of your project. Keep in mind that there are several types of insulation to choose from including fiberglass or blown insulation, as well as options that contain fire or moisture barriers. Some insulation types are fairly easy to install, and some require more technical skill and knowledge. Before you go and purchase insulation for your DIY project, understand the pros and cons of tackling this project.
Before you begin your project, understand exactly what needs to be done. Very often a project like this may seem straightforward however, it’s a smart idea to understand all the various aspects before jumping into DIY. If your home is older and requires insulation replacement or additions to your insulation, you may need to have the following jobs done:
- ordering new, energy efficient insulation with the correct R-value, size and type
- removal and disposal of old insulation
- inspect for mold, mildew or animal infestation
- inspection of attic structure, make repairs if necessary
- seal around lights or vents
- baffle installation around eave vents or other areas
- repairs to walls or other structural elements
- possibly make changes to HVAC or mechanical system
- understand current building codes
- understand energy efficiency codes
- have the correct tools for proper insulation
If you have recently added on to your home, or are building a new home, adding insulation should already be part of the scope of work. If you are performing the construction yourself, then insulation will be a part of the building process. Same goes for if you’ve hired a professional. You’ll want to do your homework and make sure you are installing the right type of insulation for your region and using a product that works within your budget.
When to hire a professional
Installing insulation can be as easy as blowing in new insulation into an attic space or as difficult as needing to make major repairs to an attic or crawlspace. Homeowners wanting to add insulation to their home are generally motivated either by the age of their home or by the fact that they are tired of paying for higher heating and cooling costs. It may be wise to first hire an energy efficiency expert to assess your home and make note of the actual areas of heat loss. By doing this first, it will help you determine the insulation priorities and understand the bigger picture of energy efficiency loss in your home. Although insulation is a huge part of keeping your home warm and snug in the wintertime, heat can escape from many locations in the home.
A professional insulation expert will have the skills and knowledge to know how to properly insulate the home in your region. For example, some areas should have a radiant barrier in addition to insulation. Additionally, once a professional is working in the area to insulate (like the attic), they may discover other issues that should be taken care of like fixing air leaks or protecting against mold. Attics can be very dangerous areas of the home as well: the flooring may not be easily walkable and there are often wires, mechanical vents or sharp nails to watch out for. A pro will have the expertise to quickly assess how to best insulate the home and understand the potential dangers as well. Keep in mind that your insulation project may require special equipment to complete the install such as scaffolding.
Pros of hiring an insulation contractor
One of the main reasons hiring an insulation installer is efficiency. A professional is capable of performing highly technical work with a more likely outcome of a successful job completed. When working with a contractor, decide upon the overall scope of work, the schedule, and an insulation budget . Your first meeting should include an in-person inspection of the areas to be insulated so that an accurate picture of what needs to be done can be discussed. Being clear in your communication will help make working with a pro efficient.
Inspections and permits
Hiring a contractor will make sure that all necessary permits and are taken care of and that your insulation project is completed to current building codes. When meeting with a potential insulation installer, ask to see their license as well as proof of bonding and insurance. When walls are opened up and electrical wiring or plumbing is exposed, it’s important to have an insulation inspection conducted by someone who knows what they are doing. Permits should be obtained for major insulation jobs if the project includes structural changes or possible mechanical changes. Keep permits on file with other home repair or renovation receipts; potential home-buyers may request proof that work has been completed properly.
Lower energy costs
A well-insulated home can result in lower energy bills, greater comfort and will help mitigate common issues such as mold or ice dams. When a home is properly insulated, heat will stay in during the winter months and cool air will distribute equally through rooms without escaping through cracks. Along with insulation, all potential heat-loss elements (doors, windows, seals, etc.) can be upgraded to help reduce energy costs.
Home health and hazards
When wondering if you should hire a professional or DIY, it’s always a smart idea to consider the health of your home and any potential hazards. Asbestos can be found in insulation products. If your home is older than 1975 you’ll want to hire a licensed asbestos professional to test your old insulation. Asbestos is most hazardous when the fibers are moved or disturbed, as in a remodeling project. (Read more about asbestos here.) When purchasing new insulation, you’ll want to consider the various new products on the market and decide upon a product that works best for your region, your home and your budget.
Cons of hiring a contractor
There is really no downside to hiring a professional to complete your insulation project. Although a skilled professional may cost more than you doing the work yourself, a professional may be able to complete the job faster and better. Every homeowner has a different skill set and those who are well-skilled in construction and building may be able to source the appropriate materials themselves and complete the work without issue. But if you have little to no experience, and don’t want to put in the time to learn, then hiring a pro will be the best way to add value to your home. If your insulation project is small, this may be a great opportunity to learn the basics of insulation installation.
If you are concerned about high labor costs, consult multiple contractors to gather an estimate of what your project will cost. Setting a budget for your project and knowing an approximation of payments prior to hiring a professional will help you better allocate your spending. Other issues may arise, such as structural problems, which may lead to extra costs. Additional work can quickly add up in home improvement projects, so be prepared for the unexpected in both your schedule and budget. While hiring a contractor can sound expensive for a project you may think you can complete on your own, ultimately a professional will be better off insulating your home for the sake of time, money, and success.