Handyman | Tom Breshears on attic insulation and storage

Updated: 2012-12-09T02:37:35Z


Special to The Star

Q. I want to lay a plywood floor in our attic. The blown insulation currently is about 6 inches above the rafters. Should I pack it down to lay the plywood or remove the excess and leave the rest unpacked? I have heard it diminishes the insulating effect to pack it down.

Also with the temperature soaring in the attic in the summer, is there anything I should not store there? I want to store Christmas tree and decorations, patio furniture, etc. (I’ll leave the candles out).

A. You are correct that packing down the insulation reduces the effectiveness. It is the air that is trapped in the fibers that does the insulating, not the fibers themselves. If you decide to remove the insulation above the top of the ceiling joists you will really cut back on your insulation in that area of your home — 6 inches is the equivalent of R-19. Most homes have 2-by-6-inch ceiling joists, which will leave you with only an R-19 in that area — that’s about half of what is recommended. Also, unless you plan to have your new storage space climate-controlled, the temperature extremes can be hard on many materials that will be stored.

As far as storage in your attic is concerned, again, most homes have 2-by-6-inch ceiling joists, which are not really capable of supporting much of a load. Over the last few years the codes concerning decking and storage in an attic space have really changed. It was common practice to have some attic storage, but energy and safety concerns have made it more problematic to use it for storage. This is not to say that it can’t be done, but there is more to it than just putting down decking. I recommend you speak with a licensed contractor to make it safe and code compliant.

Tom Breshears is a partner in Buffalo Constructors, a remodeling and restoration firm serving metropolitan Kansas City.

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