Up in the attic, you could find fiberglass blow in (sort of like snow), fiberglass batt insulation (big blocks of insulation), vermiculite chips (not good), and anything from newspapers to the inside of sleeping bags.
The majority of homes have blown-in fiberglass insulation. I feel this is the best option. Normally it will give you the best coverage and is cheaper and easier to install. You can blow more in after the fact to increase the r-value and they use a reverse vacuum to shoot it up into your attic. You can even rent the machines and do it yourself if you don’t mind being in the attic, which is my least favorite place to spend time in the house. Just make sure you get it all evenly distributed (a small rake helps to even it out) and the insulation should stay all fluffy like snow. Don’t walk on it and try not to disturb it to ensure even coverage.
If you see small channels through or on top where it is packed down may mean you have some friends hanging out in the warm space and make sure you take care of them as soon as you can.
There are other types of blow-in insulation including cellulose or paper. Cellulose is heavier so will pack and sit lower. You will use a smaller amount of this insulation so normally is a bit cheaper. I’m not a fan of a chemically treated paper product in the attic space, if I had a choice I would choose another product.
Batt insulation is fairly easy to make sure it's covering all the areas as it doesn’t pack down as a fiberglass blow-in could. It is harder to get all the nooks and crannies like the blow-in would but coverage is still great. Some have a paper backing and others are just a big piece of insulation. Same deal as the fiberglass blow in, if you need more then you put more on top of it.
If you are missing insulation in your attic you will have a cold spot in your ceiling which with the warm air in your house hitting the cold spot will cause moisture. That moisture could cause mildew or the other m-word which neither is good. You normally won't have your insulation disturbed in your attic, again because it is not a fun place to hang out but if you have a new pot light installed or someone doing work up there you need to make sure that they put the insulation back around where they were. Skylights have batt insulation around them as well which is normally tied with a cord and can slide down in time. Your attic hatch should have a piece of batt or Styrofoam insulation glued to it as well which comes up quite a bit.
All of these issues are very common and fairly inexpensive to fix, even blowing more insulation into your attic for better coverage isn’t too much extra to do.
Vermiculite insulation is another story. Vermiculite insulation is chip-like insulation normally shiny on one side. Vermiculite now is an assumed asbestos product and needs to be removed. When it is disturbed, the cancer-causing product gets into the air and you can breathe it into your lungs. If an inspector or you find this it needs to come out.
There are many companies that will come and remove it for you and give you a clear air quality test. The companies will seal the space off and vacuum it out and dispose of it properly but it is expensive to have done. After it is removed you are welcome to put a blow in fiberglass or batt in its place and you are back in business.
Sometimes you will have it hidden with batt or blown in over top so be careful. I have also seen that someone has cleared the first little bit around the attic hatch and until you go in a few feet and see what surprise is hidden. I have found vermiculite in many houses and although there is a solution to every problem, just know the costs first.
Inspectors are worth their weight in gold here and with their infrared thermal imaging cameras they can catch more than you or I for sure. I have seen photos of large spaces of missing insulation, even on new builds.
Sometimes areas just get missed which will cause you issues before you know it. I have also had it show water leaks and even rodent urine in attic areas.
Get an inspection.
By now you know that attics are my least favorite places in the house to go but once it's checked out you just need to poke your head up there every year or two to make sure no rodent activity, leaks from the roof, and that your bathroom and kitchen vents are still attached.
*This blog made available by The Jim Grieve Group is for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of real estate, not to provide specific real estate advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no Realtor-client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent real estate advice from a licensed professional Realtor.